WINNER OF THE WEEK: Marlon Wayans. Sure, Zero Dark Thirty was the actual chart-topper this week, earning an estimated $24.0 million during its first weekend of wide release. But that was to be expected. What no one expected was that Wayans' modest horror spoof A Haunted House would beat the more muscular Gangster Squad for second place. The low-budget (reportedly, just $2.5 million) indie release opened on 2,160 screens and was expected to earn around $10 to $13 million, but it scared up an estimated $18.1 million. That's good news for Wayans, Haunted House's co-writer and star, who helped pioneer the modern horror spoof subgenre 13 years ago with Scary Movie. Guess his formula still works.
LOSER OF THE WEEK : Gratuitous violence. Even though Gangster Squad opened on 1,000 more screens than Haunted House and was expected to debut with around $18 million, it ended up premiering at Number Three with an estimated $16.7 million. The big-studio crime drama earned just $5,385 per screen, compared to $8,412 per screen for Haunted House. Why the lackluster performance? The movie earned generally poor reviews, on top of six months of bad buzz. (Originally scheduled for September, the movie was notoriously shelved after the Aurora massacre, and a scene involving a shoot-up in a movie theater was snipped out.) Also, star Ryan Gosling may be more of a draw on Tumblr these days than at the multiplex; his last exercise in stylish mayhem, 2011's Drive, didn't attract a wide audience either.
Meanwhile, last week's champ, Texas Chainsaw 3D, plummeted eight spots to Number Nine and took in just an estimated $5.2 million, down 76 percent from its debut. That's a steep fall, even for a horror retread with weak word-of-mouth.
ACADEMY REWARDS: They say it's an honor just to be nominated, but it's often lucrative, too. Among the movies nominated for Academy Awards on Thursday that are still playing in theaters, most enjoyed the vaunted Oscar bounce, adding screens and seeing a boost in business over last week's take. Leading the pack, of course, was ZDT, which took advantage of the nominations by expanding on Friday from 60 theaters to nearly 3,000, so the film did about 800 percent better than last weekend. In its tenth week of release, Lincoln added 126 screens (for a total of 2,027) and took in an estimated $6.3 million, up 17 percent from last week. Silver Linings Playbook earned an estimated $5.0 million, up 38 percent from a week ago (it added 65 venues to play on 810 screens). The 14-week-old Argo nearly doubled its release to 621 screens and was rewarded with an estimated $1.2 million, up 57 percent from a week ago. Amour, playing on three screens before, is on 15 screens now and saw a 352 percent rise in sales, to $271,000. And nominated documentaries Chasing Ice and Searching for Sugar Man saw modest bounces as well. Even the French film Rust and Bone, which failed to earn an anticipated Best Actress nod for Marion Cotillard, saw a bounce, doubling its theater count to 79 and taking in an estimated $198,000, up 21 percent from last week.
In fact, the only nominated movies that didn't see a bounce were The Impossible (which added 236 screens, for a total count of 808, but saw an 8 percent slump in sales), Django Unchained (it came in fourth on the chart with an estimated $11.1 million, down 44 percent from last week, even though it added a marginal two screens to the 3,010 it already had), and Les Miserables (it came in at Number Five with an estimated $10.1 million, down 37 percent from last week, when it had 23 fewer screens than its current 2,927). It's hard to explain Impossible's slide, but as far as Django and Les Miz, they were already big hits before the nominations, both inching toward $150 million totals. Their current declines are typical for movies in their third week in theaters. Of all the nominated films in recent release, they're the two that didn't really need a bounce.