WINNER OF THE WEEK: Jessica Chastain. The flame-haired actress owned the top two spots on the box office chart this weekend and helped drive an estimated $45.7 million in ticket sales from Friday to Sunday. (For the full four-day holiday weekend, it’s a projected $54.6 million.) As the star of Mama, she enjoyed a Number One debut with an estimated $28.1 million (and a projected $33.2 million through Monday). Meanwhile, Chastain’s Zero Dark Thirty was Number Two with an estimated $17.6 million weekend (or $21.4 million for the full holiday). Her Mama success is especially impressive considering that pundits predicted a three-day opening below $20 million. You could credit the star’s increased buzz after her Best Dramatic Actress Golden Globe win for ZDT last Sunday (more on the Globes’ effects, below), but Mama wasn’t really sold as a Chastain vehicle. Rather, it sold to horror fans on the strength of producer Guillermo Del Toro’s name, not to mention its PG-13 rating at a multiplex otherwise full of more restrictive R-rated movies. Given the initial successes of Texas Chainsaw 3D a couple weeks ago and of spoof A Haunted House last week, January is starting to look like the new October, a hospitable month for horror.
LOSERS OF THE WEEK: Aging Action Stars. Mark Wahlberg owned this same weekend last year with Contraband, which enjoyed an opening almost identical to Mama ($28.5 million). This year, however, the 41-year-old’s thriller Broken City barely broke into the top five, debuting with an estimated $9.0 million (a projected $10 million or so by Monday), about half what experts had predicted. (It came in a hair below Number Four movie Gangster Squad, which lost nearly half its sales since last weekend’s debut and earned an estimated $9.1 over three days, just over $10 million for the holiday weekend.)
Still, that’s a lot better than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, which premiered at Number Ten and scored only an estimated $6.3 million for the weekend ($7.4 million through Monday), less than half the $14 to $16 million it was expected to earn in its first three days. It didn’t help that both movies were competing against each other (and Gangster Squad) for the same older male audience. Still, it’s hard not to conclude that the 65-year-old is having a hard time reviving his career after a decade away from the screen. We’d be making jokes about the aptness of his current movie title if Schwarzenegger weren’t an unstoppable cyborg who should never be counted out. He’ll be back.
‘GOLDEN’ NUGGETS: As with the Oscar nominations, many films enjoyed a Golden Globes bounce after winning prizes or even being featured prominently at last Sunday’s awards ceremony. The biggest bounce beneficiary was Silver Linings Playbook, which followed Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Actress in a Comedy prize by finally opening wide (adding 1,713 screens for a total of 2,523) and seeing a 126 percent rise in sales. It leaped seven spots to Number Three on estimated earnings of $11.4 million ($14.2 million over the four days). Life of Pi added 499 venues (for a total 1,256) and earned an estimated $3.4 million, up 26 percent from last weekend. Argo added 135 screens (for a count of 756) and saw sales rise 95 percent to an estimated $2.4 million. Wreck-It Ralph added 836 theaters (it now has 1,312) and sold an estimated $1.3 million in tickets, up 97 percent. Foreign Language winner Amour added 21 screens (for a total of 36) and saw a rise of 61 percent to an estimated $413,000. Quartet, playing on just two screens a week ago, is now on 32 and saw a 579 percent rise to an estimated $320,000. And nominated Rust and Bone doubled its theater count to 168 and saw a 32 percent rise to an estimated $247,000.
Not every Globe honoree enjoyed a bounce; some saw a modest decline. ZDT lost 28 percent of last week’s business. Django Unchained lost 25 percent. Les Miserables lost 19 percent. Lincoln lost 15 percent, even though it added 147 screens (for a total of 2,174 venues). The Impossible added 78 theaters (for a total count of 886), but it earned an estimated $2.53 million, nearly identical to last weekend’s tally. Some of these movies have been out longer than others, but all of them seem to have peaked. Of course, if they hold out long enough to remain in theaters through the Oscar ceremony on February 24th – and they win some trophies – they could see yet another awards bounce.