Box Office


For the first time in, like, forever most of the Oscar frontrunners for Best Picture have either made $100 million or are barreling towards that as we speak. Box office for “adult fare” has been off the charts this year and IS THE STORY of 2012. Any reporter not talking about the money and Oscar this year is not doing his or her job; much of the complaints over the past several years is that Oscar movies don’t make money anymore. Well, they’ve already made a shitload of bread, this, BEFORE Oscar nominations.  I myself have never seen a year like this one and I think it has a lot to do with the big studio movies stepping up and providing, for once, really great movies again.

1. Lincoln – at an astonishing $143 million, Lincoln has now topped both The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, and if it wins Best Picture it will be the highest grossing since Return of the King in 2003. How far can Lincoln go? It’s hard to say but Oscar nominations will certainly give it a bump.

2. Argo – at $110 million, Argo is still hanging in there and can only benefit from nominations. Whether it can catch Lincoln remains to be seen.

3. Django Unchained – at $106 million, Django clocked in at number two in its second week of release and looks to be a very strong earner.

4. Les Miserables – at $103 million its earned enough coin now not to be called a flop, no matter what happens to it.  Will it get to $150? $200? No one knows yet what this film’s fate will ultimately be.

5. Life of Pi – at $91 million, Life of Pi is proving that strong word of mouth really can drive box office even without any well known stars.  It’s a wondrous film and one that people “out there” are talking about.

That could be your Best Picture five but there are still two that are playing in limited release making hard core bucks while doing so:

1. Silver Linings Playbook – it’s at $34 million and still in only 745 theaters but word of mouth will keep ticking that upwards and all it needs is one big win (like the PGA or SAG ensemble) to drive that baby northward.

2. Zero Dark Thirty – it’s only at $4 million but its per theater average is off the hook, $45 thousand this weekend.

The real box office story this year, other than all of these $100 million babies in the running, is Lincoln. For a movie that was supposedly “a history lesson” and “homework” and “boring” to the target demo it sure is leaving everything else in the dust. At least so far anyway. Les Miserables and Django Unchained might pass it, since they zoomed to $100 mil in just two weeks.

Wowzer for all three of these box office stories. The first, Les Miserables hits $18 mil for its opening. That makes it the second highest opener on Christmas, behind Sherlock Holmes and the highest grossing opener for a musical ever. Django Unchained, in more theaters, came out with less of a take, at $15 million.  But Les Mis really had the Must-See thing in its favor, especially over the Christmas holiday. Zero Dark Thirty is doing insane per theater numbers, $82 thou per theater average last weekend and is continually averaging around $23 thou every day.  It’s only in a few theaters now.

And Lincoln astonishes at $120 million. This, for a supposedly talky movie about ideas?  That’s fairly alarming in all respects, to me anyway.

Since Christmas falls on Tuesday this year, the usual sources of box-office savvy have been more cautious with forthcoming weekend predictions and it’s not easy to find estimates for the weeklong haul. Nikki Finke is down sick (get well soon!) so we don’t have the benefit of the inside track she taps for ticket-sales estimates. Although a holiday release holds hugely important financial potential, historically actual Christmas Day earnings don’t come close to Friday openings for summer blockbusters — which can top $70 million in a single day. On Dec 15th The Hobbit broke the record for a December Friday with $37M. Business Week has put together a list of the Top 10 Christmas Day opening and the numbers surprised me as much as some of the titles.

1. Sherlock Holmes (2009): $24.6 million
2. Marley and Me (2008): $14.4 million
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): $11.9 million
4. Bedtime Stories (2008): $10.6 million (*groan*)
5. Ali (2001): $10.2 million
6. Catch Me If You Can (2002): $9.9 million
7. Aliens Vs. Predator — Requiem (2007): $9.5 million
8. Dreamgirls (2006): $8.7 million
9. Valkyrie (2008): $8.5 million
10. Patch Adams (1998): $8.1 million

The Dreamgirls figure is especially pertinent to this year’s expectations. I’ve heard teeth-gnashing reports that theaters in Manhattan screening Les Mis were already sold out hours ago for today’s showtimes. You’d have to kill someone to get a seat to Les Mis. (Email me for a hit list). It’s no backhanded compliment to say Les Mis could beat Marley and Me and clock in today with a Christmas opening north of $15M.

What are your predictions for the Top 5 earners this Christmas? My guesses after the cut.

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This past weekend Lincoln increased its theater count and as a result passed Argo to become 2012’s highest grossing of the Oscar contenders so far. Still to come, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. The Hobbit broke box office records in its opening, and The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers remain the year’s highest grossing films overall.

The big question with Django Unchained is whether the recent mass shootings will impact the box office at all, or if audiences will still have a taste for the bloodbath that is Django Unchained. Similarly, Zero Dark Thirty’s scenes of torture could prove off-putting to some, especially (apparently) women. But as of yet, no one knows anything. Good word of mouth and Oscar buzz for both films could drive them to strong box office returns.

The Dark Knight Rises – $448,139,099
Skyfall – $272,366,000
Lincoln – $107,898,000
Argo – $104,930,000
Flight – $89,448,000
Life of Pi –  $69,559,000
Looper -$66,300,000
Moonrise Kingdom – $45,512,466
Silver Linings Playbook – $16,954,000 (still in 371 theaters)
Beasts of the Southern Wild – $11,249,128

The Oscar best picture race has lit up the box office this season, something that hardly ever happens. The reason is that the domestic films this year out of the major studios have all been good.  Four movies upcoming with all probably be, at the very least, $100 million babies: Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, The Hobbit.

This weekend’s box office put Ben Affleck’s Argo over the $100 million mark. How are the Oscar contenders doing? Lincoln is probably the most impressive of the bunch, having made so much money so fast in fewer locations. Strong word of mouth is driving its box office upwards and it could end up being the highest grossing of the Best Picture nominees.

The Oscar contenders that had the highest per theater average were Rust and Bone, $12,000, Silver Linings Playbook, at around $9,000, Hitchcock with $8,000, Lincoln, at around $6,000. Anna Karenina hanging in there with $5,000, and Life of Pi, with $4,000. Life of Pi matches, give or take, the two number one movies at the box office this weekend, Twilight and Skyfall.

Argo $101,005,000
Lincoln $83,698,000
Flight $81,527,000
Life of Pi $48,361,000
Moonrise Kingdom $45,512,466
Silver Linings Playbook $10,991,000
Anna Karenina $4,084,000



Argo isn’t just a Best Picture frontrunner amid the Oscar pundit circles; it is that rare word of mouth film that people “out there in the world” are talking about. Why, because it delivers in so many different ways. It doesn’t hurt that we are in the midst of an election season that has shades of Argo threaded throughout. You might think that would keep people away but the opposite turns out to be true.  In the end, though, Argo is entertaining and that is perhaps the most important reason why it’s got legs. It has made $60 million so far and will have no problem getting to $100 million, making it Ben Affleck’s biggest hit and one of the biggest hits of Oscar season and of the year.

The Town: $92 million
Gone Baby Gone: $20 million

The stats, according to

1 Argo $12,355,000 -25% 2,855 -392 $4,327 $60,780,288 3 Warner Bros.
2 Hotel Transylvania $9,500,000 -27% 3,276 -108 $2,900 $130,436,341 5 Sony / Columbia
3 Cloud Atlas $9,400,000 2,008 $4,681 $9,400,000 1 Warner Bros.
4 Paranormal Activity 4 $8,675,000 -70% 3,412 0 $2,542 $42,632,365 2 Paramount
5 Silent Hill: Revelation 3D $8,000,000 2,933 $2,728 $8,000,000 1 Open Road

Bravo to Cloud Atlas for hitting number three that close to the number 2. Sure, people will want to think of it as a bomb but here is a giant effects movie with a big heart that isn’t a sequel, a remake, or formula-driven dreck. I hope it makes back its money. Viewers will discover Cloud Atlas slowly, over time.

The Hunger Games opening weekend tally adds up to $155M domestic + $58.7M international for a total of $213.7M worldwide. Third biggest opening of all time. Deadline digs into the marketing strategy:

What made Lionsgate’s promotional campaign for The Hunger Games so unusual and probably effective was that the studio stuck to the rare strategy of not showing any footage of the games themselves in any marketing materials. So all that staggering amount of interest in this film was incited with no one having actually seen even a hint of over half the movie… Between the release of the first Hunger Games trailer in November 2011 and January 2012, the number of Collins’ books sold nearly doubled. By the time of the film’s opening, Hunger Games was on over 50 magazine covers… The studio estimates its TV on-air promotions and sponsorships reached over 102 million people in America.

(Side note: My moviedate and I got seated late so we missed most of the trailers. We were there in time to see the audience appear somewhat mystified by the preview featuring 19th-century evildoers — then express their approval in a roar of laughter and applause when the title came up, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was clear that many people around us were hearing about that movie for the first time. Always a mild surprise when I realize the entire country doesn’t hound trailer sites like some of the rest of us do. When a film has as much saturation as The Hunger Games, everything attached to it gets a boost. I’m curious to hear which trailers — or other ads — got the best reaction at the screening you attended.)

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As we head into the Producers Guild tomorrow, it’s a good time to look at how our contenders, or those we think will be contenders, or might be contenders, or who could be contenders are faring in this Oscar season. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will become the highest grossing Best Picture contender behind The Help (and Bridesmaids if you want to count it). It just hit the $90 mil mark and should hit $100 mil without blinking. Oscar nominations, if there are any, can only help the Dragon Tattoo but it will also do just fine without them.

1. The Help – $160 mil
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – $90 mil
3. Moneyball – $75 mil
4. War Horse – $67 mil
5. Midnight in Paris – $56 mil
6. Hugo – $54 mil
7. The Decendants – $47 mil
8. The Artist – $9 mil

Of course, The Artist hasn’t yet gone wide like the other films have, so it’s not a fair contest that way. But also, the only thing worth noting here is how much bloggers underestimated Dragon Tattoo and its current heat. It’s got word of mouth buzz. The producers don’t judge films on box office, really, and the thing is – it’s hard to use that as a measure of success. But I do like it that The Help and Dragon Tattoo are films with strong females in them – yet in every other way they’re opposite each other.

Ziyad Abul Hawa has done another spectacular job crunching the numbers to rank the year’s top movies up through the final weeks of summer.

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DreamWorks/Disney holds tight to the #1 spot at the box-office as The Help cleans up for the 3rd week in a row. An estimated $18 million for the 4-Day Holiday Weekend and a total of $122 mil in one month.

There’s a pre-order page already up on Amazon for the anticipated pre-Christmas release of DVD and Blu ray in editions of 3 flavors — $21, $28 and $31.

Shame the Harry Potter series is ending just when it’s beginning to catch on. Deadline is reporting an astonishing haul of $43.5 million from midnight screenings, a healthy head-start on what’s shaping up to be a $180 million weekend in the US alone.

Domestically, $45 million has been collected already in pre-sales for this opening North America weekend, including $27M for tonight’s 3,000+ midnight screenings which could reach $40M alone. Internationally, $43.6 million has been added from the 24 of 59 countries where the franchise finale opened Wednesday… What these numbers mean is that Warner Bros is on track to break its own Dark Knight domestic opening 3-day weekend record of $158M. Helped by Harry Potter – Part 2’s higher 3D ticket prices, the new pic could reach $180M. “Midnights and Friday will be huge,” a rival studio exec tells me. “The only question will be how front-loaded they are and where they end up. A lot of the international openings Wednesday were records so the total foreign will be huge as well.”

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Yesterday someone somewhere bought a ticket for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and pushed it past the $1 Billion mark in worldwide box-office earnings. It’s now the 8th film in history to gross over $1 Billion and the second film in the Pirate series to do so.

It’s Walt Disney Studios’ 4 title to earn $1B, the 3rd Disney film in less than 18 months to gross $1B globally, the biggest international opening ever, and the #3 film of all time at the international box office. It also crossed the $500M international threshold in a record-setting 14 days, and crossed the $800M global threshold in only 20 days, the second fastest ever to reach this milestone. Pic set a new industry speed record by crossing the $700M global threshold in only 16 days. It’s Disney’s biggest international release ever, and the biggest Pirates of the Caribbean installment in 58 territories as well as the highest-grossing Disney film ever released in China and Russia. (Deadline)

Among other things, these numbers serve as scientific study testing the effectiveness of Johnny Depp by removing Keira Knightly and Orlando from the formula in a control experiment. Results appear to be conclusive. Depp is the only active ingredient.

Meanwhile studio researchers are baffled at their failure to confirm the theory that pairing Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts can create any sort of electricity. For the second time in a row, that hypothesis has been disproved, as Larry Crowne is set to come in a distant 4th this weekend with a fizzling $13 mil in holiday earnings. However, there’s encouraging news to support Hollywood’s widespread belief that box-office success is inversely proportional critical acclaim, since Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon is on the fast track to scoop up over $400 million worldwide by July 5th. Likewise, Hangover II has passed the half-Billion dollar mark, collecting $526 mil in a global gotcha! Undeterred, industry alchemists who concocted Arthur and You Highness have concluded that their movies “didn’t suck enough” and remain determined to try harder next time.

“Comprehension is not a prerequisite of cooperation.” ~ The Matrix

From the Avon Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut, via @NextProjection on Twitter.

Don’t let your mouth write checks your ass can’t cash
Don’t take your ass to movies your head can’t process.

Super 8 ticked up above most estimates to earn $37 million its opening weekend. Deadline notes that District 9 pulled in a nearly identical sum of 37.3 mil in 2009. Some may say, sure, but District 9 was rightly famous for the bang-for-the-buck Neill Blomkamp achieved with a modest $30 mil budget. But you may be surprised to learn JJ Abrams was equally frugal, delivering Super 8 for around $50 million.

One thing I noticed at the Friday matinee screening — adults outnumbered teenagers in the audience by about 2:1. Not surprising, since the Super 8’s ’70’s setting is only nostalgic to those born before 1979. And most teenagers would rather see movies with adults behaving like 12-year-olds instead of the other way around.

X-Men First Class bring its 2-week total to $98 mil, and The Hangover Part II becomes the highest grossing movie of 2011, earning $216 million in just 18 days.

Very Small Array charts a steady 50-year decline in the quality of films moviegoers want to see most. Steepest nosedive occurs at the end of the 1970’s when the American New Wave suffered a backlash, studios pulled the plug on rebel directors, a decade of film-schooled artistry was ending, and the era of the modern marketing blockbuster began. If this graph looks like the EKG of a sick patient in critical condition, last night’s premiere episode of “FilmPulse” is another troubling symptom:

If you actually watch some of the movies from the ’70’s that are considered classics like Bullitt and The French Connection, they’re incredibly boring to people our age because we saw The Matrix when we were 10.

I keep hoping to hear this thing is an elaborate parody.

The King’s Speech is making a boatload of cash at the box office. According to Pete Hammond, the film is so gangbusters in the UK it is as big as Avatar was last year. It is hitting big not just with the Brits but over here as well. It’s already up to $77 mil and shows no sign of slowing down. Meanwhile, True Grit is up to $150 million. Black Swan is at $90 million. Incredible for this kind of film. The word of mouth on the street right now is for these three films so it’s no wonder they are cashing in. This is what the Oscar race was designed to do: bring bodies into theaters. The Coen brothers film is officially a phenomenon and is the dark horse in the Oscar race, I might add.

In our latest podcast, Marshall Fine brings this up – wondering if True Grit might end up being the alternative to people who didn’t like either The Social Network or The King’s Speech (you know, like the one guy in the film composing branch who supposedly didn’t like it).

The King’s Speech will continue to soar, passing $100 mil without breaking a sweat.

BP BO sm

Adding up the weekend box-office estimates for the top Best Picture contenders, we find True Grit vaulting into 3rd place with a long trail ahead yet to ride. (Run, Little Blackie, run!) Wasn’t expecting too many surprises when I drew up a chart for the most successful BP hopefuls, but found a few anyway. Nice to see Shutter Island is Scorsese’s biggest worldwide box-office earner ever (and expect The Invention of Hugo Cabret to surpass that a year from now.) Check the numbers after the cut, and make your own happy discoveries.

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california gold piece

Friday’s box-office numbers for True Grit tipped it into the #1 spot, and Deadline says the final tally for New Year’s Weekend has the Coen brothers’ biggest opener nearly tied for the top spot with Fockers 3.¬† Perhaps the most interesting stat is True Grit’s stamina. While Little Fockers fell 15% from last weekend, True Grit held fast with a minuscule dip of only 1.4% from its Christmas premiere.

Also worth noting 2 other contenders earning well in their 3rd week of release: The Fighter weighs in at #8 with a cumulative take of $45 mil, and The King’s Speech (expanding to 700 screens) stands at #9, for a cume of $23 mil.¬† In its 4th weekend Black Swan glides in at $45 million. (up +35% from last weekend.)

True Grit looks set to pass the $100 million mark as early as Wednesday.

It is time to once again take stock of the big money makers so far this year. Why does it matter? Because it does. Looking back through Oscar history and it’s clear that if there is one commonality, it’s that popular films that are also well-reviewed tend to do well in the Best Picture race, but particularly when there are ten nominees.

The King’s Speech looks to be doing well so far, along with 127 Hours. Black Swan will likely do decently. But most of them will probably not reach the heights of the following:

1. Toy Story 3 – $414 million
2. Inception – $292 million
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 – $220 million
4. How to Train Your Dragon – $217 million
5. Shutter Island – $128 million
6. The Town – $90 million
7. The Social Network – $89 million

Not a lot has changed, really, since the last time we did this. But a few questions remain – like can Harry Potter take down Toy Story 3 (I think probably not), and any film released between now and the end of the year come close to these films in terms of box office? If any can, True Grit probably can.


Here are the studio grosses from Poor Secretariat. I don’t know what happened there. To me it seemed like a no-brainer. We can put the stories about Social Network not doing well at the box office to bed, I think. It might lose out next weekend, but two weekends in a row for a talky drama with only one star? Great word of mouth working there. And talk about legs, The Town at number 5 still? It’s made $73 million so far.

1 The Social Network $15,500,000
2 Life As We Know It $14,635,000
3 Secretariat $12,600,000
4 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole $7,015,000
5 The Town $6,350,000

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