Though much of the East Coast is still a ruin, Hurricane Sandy did not dampen enthusiasm at the weekend box office. Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph was the easy winner with $49.1 million from 3,752 locations. In half as many venues, Paramount’s Flight beat all pre-release projections with its $25 million launch. And while Argo continued to exhibit amazing staying power in third, Universal’s The Man with the Iron Fists was less impressive. The martial arts debut earned an estimated $8.2 million from 1,868 runs for fourth place.
|4.||The Man with the Iron Fists||$8,200,000||$8.2|
|8.||Paranormal Activity 4||$4,300,000||$49.5|
|9.||Here Comes the Boom||$3,600,000||$35.5|
|10.||Silent Hill: Revelation 3D||$3,300,000||$13.8|
With overall grosses down last week before the Hurricane even hit, it seemed likely that this weekend’s box office would be another of Sandy’s casualties. But the storm seemed to have no effect on attendance and overall grosses rose by approximately 23% over 2011 when Puss in Boots was on top. And while it surprised many that the East Coast’s ‘Frankenstorm’ did not dampen enthusiasm, the film that ultimately claimed first place on November’s first frame was a no brainer.
For weeks Disney has been hyping Wreck-It Ralph as this year’s must-see holiday film. And if it seems a little early to start courting holiday audiences, remember that Disney was the studio that pioneered the “Christmas starts on the first week of November” approach when it released A Christmas Carol on this weekend back in 2009. That film got off to a disappointing start ($30 million) but saw decent holds as November progressed – just not decent enough to justify its $200 million price tag, unfortunately.
With no obvious connection to the holiday season, Wreck-It Ralph avoided the fate of A Christmas Carol and opened as a hit. The PG-rated title’s $49.1 million estimate now ranks as the highest debut in Disney Animation’s history (Pixar not included), topping the $48.7 million of Tangled from November 2010. The film’s positive reception from audiences and critics (84% on Rotten Tomatoes) also bodes well for Ralph’s Thanksgiving plans. With Hotel Transylvania on the wane and Rise of the Guardians still two weeks off, Wreck-It Ralph should have no trouble staying in the game for the rest of this month.
Aside from serving as a reference point for Wreck-It Ralph’s success, 2009’s A Christmas Carol has another connection to this weekend’s box office. That film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also helmed this frame’s second big debut: Flight. Zemeckis had little to celebrate after the release of Carol, of course, but things with Flight are shaping up differently. Going into this weekend it looked like the film would struggle to top $20 million. Instead, the drama starring Denzel Washington earned over $25 million and did it in only 1,900 locations – giving Flight a slightly higher per-screen average than Wreck-It Ralph.
After scoring a surprise first-place finish a week ago, Argo declined just 15% this weekend. So far, the period drama has earned over $75 million domestically – slightly ahead of the total that director Ben Affleck’s last feature, The Town, had earned by its fourth weekend.
Finally, the R-rated The Man with the Iron Fists debuted with just $8.2 million from 1,868 locations. Though that was in line with studio expectations, when combined with a less-than overwhelming CinemaScore of ‘C+,’ it looks like Iron Fists has little chance at becoming a box office heavyweight. At least the film, directed by RZA but “Presented by” Quentin Tarantino, cost just $15 million to make – setting its bar for financial success relatively low.
Outside the US the big box office news of the past week has centered on Skyfall. The 23rd film in the long-lived Bond franchise and the third to star Daniel Craig as 007, has already earned over $100 million overseas including its near record-breaking debut of $32.4 million in the UK. Naturally, the worldwide buzz has heightened anticipation for the film’s American debut next weekend. In 2008 Quantum of Solace launched with an impressive $67.5 million so that is the number Skyfall will be aiming to beat.