WINNER OF THE WEEK: Oscar. It’s pretty rare to see movies that have been in theaters for four or five months suddenly spike in sales, but that’s the magic of Hollywood’s most prestigious
marketing tool award. Most of the nominated films saw the biggest bounce in business during this year’s extra-long nomination season, but there’s still money to be milked after last Sunday’s awards ceremony. According to studio estimates, Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Actress win was good for another $5.9 million this weekend for Silver Linings Playbook (at Number Eight, the only Best Picture nominee still in the top 10), for a total of $115.5 million after four months. Best Director winner Life of Pi added another 54 screens (for a total of 626) and another estimated $2.3 million, for a 15-week total of $116.9 million. Best Picture winner Argo increased its theater count by a fourth (to 985 venues) and took in another estimated $2.2 million, for a total of $132.8 million over five months. For Django Unchained, which won Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz) and Best Original Screenplay, a boost in theater count by half (to 983) led to another estimated $1.0 million, for a total of $160.3 million after 10 weeks. Among the major nominees and winners, only Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Amour, and Les Miserables did less business than last week.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Magic beans. Sure, Jack the Giant Slayer was far and away the champ, debuting in first place with an estimated $28.0 million. Given that it cost $200 million to make, however, that’s not a good number. By comparison, mega-flop John Carter, which opened at about this time last year, managed a $30.2 million opening before topping out at $73.1 million With next weekend’s Oz the Great and Powerful nipping at its heels, Jack won’t really have time to grow legs.
This weekend’s other new wide releases underperformed as well. Party comedy 21 and Over had been expected to score sales in the mid-teens from spring-breakers, but it premiered with an estimated $9.0 million, good for third place. In fourth, horror sequel The Last Exorcism Part II, which had been predicted to open at about $10 million, debuted with an estimated $8.0 million. And submarine drama Phantom nearly sank without a trace. It was supposed to open on 2,000 screens, but it mustered just 1,118 and an estimated take of $465,000, outside the top 20. With a per-screen average of $416, that means only three or four paying customers attended each screening.
None of these movies seems to have the legs of, say, Identity Thief, which is the first 2013 movie to cross the $100 million mark. In its fourth weekend, it finished at Number Two and earned another estimated $9.7 million. Rounding out the top five, Snitch snatched an estimated $7.7 million, for a 10-day total of $24.4 million.
THE TIDES OF MARCH: When did March become summer’s Mini-Me at the box office, anyway? Would-be blockbusters like Jack, Oz, and this month’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation would once have been saved for summertime, leaving March as part of the long box office dead zone between Christmas and the beginning of May. But then, three years ago, Alice in Wonderland stunned the industry with a March opening and a $334.2 million haul. March 2011 saw such blockbuster candidates as Rango and The Adjustment Bureau (which did well) and Sucker Punch and Mars Needs Moms (which did poorly). And then last March saw such smashes as 21 Jump Street and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, modest fantasy hits Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror, and a little movie called The Hunger Games. So now, for better or worse, studios think they’ve found a second summer, a time of the year when expensive fantasy and sci-fi pics and ambitious animated features can succeed. Which is good, if you’re a studio executive looking for prime real estate beyond the traffic-choked warm-weather months. Maybe not so good if you’re a movie fan who enjoys the hard-to-pigeonhole fare that used to emerge as sleeper hits in March but may now be crowded out of the marketplace.
One last gasp, maybe, is Stoker, the English-language debut of Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. The South Korean director’s thriller opened this week on just seven screens (it expands to 20 next week), but it averaged a huge $22,689 on each of them, for a total estimate of $158,822. Maybe it doesn’t hurt that Stoker’s leading lady is Mia Wasikowka, who became the queen of March with her starring role in Alice.