SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: It’s another good start for 2012 domestic box office complete with surprises like a snowstorm in the Midwest and East. (The snow effect on Chicago, always in the Top 5, caused it to rank only 13th Friday.) The weekend overall looks like $125M, up as much as +30% from last year. Despite expanding to 662 runs, The Artist which was Saturday night’s Producers Guild Awards and last weekend’s Golden Globes winner and now Academy Awards frontrunner is still doing very quiet business with a $2.3M weekend and $12.1M cume going into its 9th week in release. How come all this marketing help isn’t pushing The Weinstein Co gross higher even if this is a French black-and-white silent movie? Here’s my take on this weekend:

1. Underworld Awakening (Screen Gems/Sony Pictures) NEW [3,078 Theaters]
Friday $9.3M, Saturday $10.2M, Weekend $25.2M

What is there more to say about a fourquel to a franchise that was one of the modern-day godmothers to today’s ruthless vampires and werewolves overpopulating films and TV series? Sony Pictures/Screen Gems’ latest Underworld Awakening is playing better than its previous installment, which is rare for franchises domestically. But co-creator Len Wiseman’s franchise is still very healthy — he produced and had a hand in the scripting of Awakening. Most importantly it was presented in 3D and IMAX for the first time. (Sony is distributing the film worldwide with the exception of the UK and France.) Also #3 lacked star Kate Beckinsale who skipped the franchise’s previous and came back. Now Awakening is the #2 opener in the series that’s popular primarily because the 38-year-old Beckinsale still looks hot in leather and spandex even after waking up from a forced 12-year hibernation. It’s also always a good sign for this kind of genre movie when Saturday’s grosses go up from Friday’s even if it’s weather-related. The horror actioner garnered an ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences and won the weekend easily. “Right where we wanted to be and in this crowded market pretty great,” a Sony exec emailed me. As for marketing, it’s pretty much formulaic after making four of these.

viewing public
3 years
When I first heard about "The Artist" I couldn't wait to see it. Now that it's been...
Jer
3 years
JaySmack - If you take a second to set your tantrum aside, you might realize that you...
Jer
3 years
Wait... you say its the first Lucas production that neither he not Spielberg directed.... then cite 2...

2. Red Tails (LucasFilm/Fox) NEW [2,512 Theaters]
Friday $6M, Saturday $8.6M, Weekend $19.4M

Hollywood studios were stunned by how well this George Lucas banner film Red Tails did in matinees Friday. Until they discovered that the Lucasfilm/Twentieth Century Fox marketing inside the African-American community resulted in busloads of midday filmgoers for the Tuskegee Airmen’s true story. Despite fears that this pic appeared frontloaded, it went up a whopping +40% from Friday to Saturday. It boasted an ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences even if historians and critics chide this film as a whitewash. Directed by Anthony Hemingway (Treme), it had a stream of other writers working on it over the years but John Ridley (who also has story credit) and Aaron McGruder received screenplay credit. Rick McCallum and Charles Floyd Johnson received full producer credit. It took Lucas from 1988 to 2009 to get this pic in production, and he’s been bitter in interviews about turndowns from major studios. Reports say he covered the cost of production with his own money, then provided another $35M for distribution. In an interview on The Daily Show this month, Lucas claimed the majors balked at the all-black cast and predicted no overseas market for the film. Interesting that in the cast Terrence Howard in Hart’s War and Cuba Gooding Jr in an HBO film have portrayed Tuskegee Airmen previously.

3. Contraband (Universal) Week 2 [2,870 Theaters]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $5.8M, Weekend $12.3M (-49%), Cume $46.3M

Bad weather hurt all the holdovers by inflating their Friday to Friday drops. Working Title/Universal’s R-rated thriller Contraband was last Martin Luther King weekend’s big winner with an opening of $28.8M. It would have fallen even less than -50% without the severe storm. With a $25M budget, Universal tapped first time director Baltasar Kormakur to remake a film he starred in and produced — enabling Working Title to produce Contraband with scope and action for cheap and set its highest-grossing opening ever. This Mark Wahlberg starrer (his first leas role since The Fighter and he also produced) should get to $75M and possibly $100M domestic. I’m still surprised by how well this pic is doing considering how generic it looked in its TV ad campaign.

4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,630 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.7M, Weekend $10.2M, Cume $10.9M

Warner Bros’ Oscar-buzzed 9/11 emotionfest Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close expanded in its 5th weekend into 2,630 theaters Friday after playing in only 6 theatres in 3 markets (NY, LA, and Toronto). The strategy was to ensure the takeaway is “uplifting rather than depressing” in the words of one WB exec who acknowledged that the critical response has been “polarizing”. Its ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences will aid its good word-of-mouth. The studio aimed the pic at a predominantly female audience and positioned it “as a moving, hopeful, emotional journey with an incredible ensemble cast and brilliant performances”. Besides Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, it had pedigreed director Steven Daldry and writer Eric Roth who adapted Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel. Following a limited opening on Christmas Day, the marketing campaign has continued with a strong national TV buy on pretty much everything from NFL playoffs, morning shows, and mid-season premieres. Trailers ran on both broad and indie fare to appeal to the widest possible audience. The campaign now is focused on additional high-profile opportunities including prominent placement on the new Kindle Fire.

5. Haywire (Relativity) NEW [2,439 Theaters]
Friday $2.8M, Saturday $3.8M, Weekend $8.6M

I felt Haywire was marketed very poorly considering the big talent behind and in front of the camera. But it’s shocking to see a Steven Soderbergh-directed film receive a rare ‘D+” CinemaScore from audiences. So what the hell happened here? This pic was getting some great buzz last year and insiders were telling me back then it was Oscar-winner Soderbergh’s “most commercial film in years”. AFI Fest debuted it at a “Secret Screening” in November. It was written by The Limey‘s Lem Dobbs. It starred talent like Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and introduced mixed martial arts star Gina Carano. (She performed her own stunts.) One thought is that maybe action movies like this shouldn’t be made on the cheap for a production budget supposedly just $23M because audiences want more whizbang than just cool quotient. (Relativity claims that after foreign sales and tax rebates from shooting on location, its risk was mitigated to a $1.5 million net investment before P&A.) The movie was greenlit before Relativity began self-distributing movies. And I do know Soderbergh and the studio got into some nasty arguments over release dates and music choices and other stuff. In the end Relativity had low expectations and projected Haywire to open to only $8M domestic “which keeps us on track for profitability across ancillary distribution channels including our Netflix deal, home entertainment, television and digital sales,” one of the studio’s execs tells me. No doubt this pic will start the usual debate about how women can’t lead action movies. But, ahem, Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld Awakening is the #1 movie this weekend.·

5. Beauty And The Beast 3D (Disney) Week 2 [2,625 Theaters]
Friday $2.1M, Saturday $4M, Weekend $8.3M (-53%), Cume $33.2M

Last MLK weekend, Disney’s holdover Beauty And The Beast 3D earned $23.5M which broke the all-time industry January animation opening record. That’s even more impressive when you realize it costs next to nothing to put these Disney vault pics onto a new platform. Like Contraband‘s, the Friday-to-Friday drop was exaggerated because of the winter storm.

Here’s the rest of the Top 10:

7. Joyful Noise (Warner Bros) Week 2 [2,735 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $5.8M (-47%), Cume $21.7M

8. Mission: Impossible 4 (Paramount) Week 6 [2,519 Theaters]
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $5.7M, Cume $197.5M

9. Sherlock Holmes 2 (Warner Bros) Week 6 [2,485 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $4.6M, Cume $178.4M

10. The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Co) Week 4 [1,076 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $12.6M