WINNER OF THE WEEK: Frozen. It’s rare enough for a movie to return to the Number One spot at the box office a month after vacating it. It’s also rare for a seven-week-old movie to outdistance a strong newcomer, as Frozen did with new release Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. And it’s rarer still for a movie in its sixth week of wide release to earn an estimated $20.7 million; only Avatar and Titanic, in the sixth week of their respective releases, have done better. Finally, it’s rare for a movie to earn more than $300 million in North America; Frozen is less than $3 million shy of that milestone, and within days, it should become the fourth 2013 film to cross it (the others were Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Despicable Me 2).
Other holdovers doing well included The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was in third place with an estimated $1t6.3 million and a four-week total of $229.6 million. The Scorsese sausage fest The Wolf of Wall Street was fourth with an estimated $13.4 million, but David O. Russell’s faux-Scorsese American Hustle was just a hair behind, with $13.2 million. (That’s so close that by the time final numbers are released on Monday, Hustle and Wolf could swap slots on the chart.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. Although “loser” is a really relative term for a movie that cost a reported $5 million to make and opened in second place with an estimated $18.2 million. Predictions for this one were all over the place; some experts expected the horror spinoff to earn as little as $17 million; others expected it to do as well as $24 million and to beat Frozen. That it opened near the lower end of the range of guesstimates isn’t necessarily bad news. For one thing, the movie, with its largely Latino cast, was marketed heavily toward the Spanish-speaking audience that made a sleeper hit out of Instructions Not Included last fall. Plus, the film was sold as a spinoff, rather than a sequel to, the popular PA franchise; the next actual sequel, Paranormal Activity 5, is due in October. So the fact that it didn’t do as well as, say, Texas Chainsaw 3D (which opened with $21.7 million on this same weekend a year ago) doesn’t mean the franchise is in trouble; PA5 will be a truer test of whether or not the well has run dry. As a cheap and already profitable experiment in niche marketing, The Marked Ones could have done a lot better, but it doesn’t really give Paramount much reason to complain.
2013 IN REVIEW: Over the year just ended, North American moviegoers spent a record $10.9 billion on tickets, just a hair (well, an $83 million hair) above the record set in 2012. That doesn’t mean more people went to the movies, however; a lot of that can be accounted for by a slight rise in ticket prices (which averaged $8.05 in 2013, up 9 cents from the previous year). It was a good year for animation (Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Monsters University, The Croods), a decent year for raunchy R-rated comedies (The Heat, We’re the Millers, Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III, This Is the End), a bad year for young-adult sci-fi /fantasy franchises that were not The Hunger Games (The Host, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments, Percy Jackson, Ender’s Game), and a surprisingly okay year for big stars (Will Smith, Tom Cruise) who made post-apocalyptic movies few Americans wanted to see (After Earth, Oblivion), but whose foreign fanbases saved them from ruin. Gravity aside, it was not a good year for 3D, but Hollywood kept making spex-rental movies anyway because foreign audiences still like them. (As with Will Smith and Tom Cruise movies, whether Americans like them is now irrelevant.) It was a year when the two biggest surprise hits were about a group of larcenous magicians (Now You See Me) and the guy who poured coffee for seven presidents (Lee Daniels’ The Butler). Most of all, it was a year when Hollywood had its risk-averse blockbuster production-and-marketing formula down to a science (except when it didn’t, as with such megabombs as The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., and 47 Ronin.) Nine of the top 10 movies, and 14 of the top 20, were sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, or adaptations of fairy tales or graphic novels – the sort of movies everyone claims to be sick of but goes to see anyway. So expect more of the same in 2014 and beyond.