WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Supernatural dudes. It’s hammer time, and you can’t touch Thor: The Dark World, this weekend’s only new wide release and by far the top-grossing movie, debuting with an estimated $86.1 million. That’s well above the $65.7 million earned by the original Thor two and a half years ago, and with a global total already of $327 million, there’s no reason to think this sequel won’t surpass the 2011 Thor‘s worldwide haul of $450 million. As with the smashing success of the recent Iron Man 3, the sales for The Dark World suggest that 2012’s goodwill-generating The Avengers has extra long coattails. Of course, good word-of-mouth (measured by an A- grade at CinemaScore) and surcharges from 3D and IMAX helped.
Meanwhile the time-traveling hero of About Time expanded his courtship of Rachel McAdams into wide release during the film’s second week, from 175 screens to 1,200. The result was a nearly 400 percent boost in revenue, to an estimated $5.2 million, and a leap from 13th place to ninth. In ten days, the romantic comedy has earned $6.7 million.
You’d think a female-skewing romantic comedy would be smart counterprogramming against a superhero movie (indeed, 62 percent of The Dark World moviegoers were male), but it wasn’t necessary. In fact, in a very close race for second place on the chart were two guy movies and one kids’ movie, all holding up well from last weekend. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa held onto second place with an estimated $11.3 million, down a modest 44 percent from last week, for a three-week total of $78.8 million. Cartoon Free Birds flew up one spot to third place on an estimate of $11.2 million, down just 29 percent from last week, for a two-weekend total of $30.2 million. At Number Four, slipping one spot, Last Vegas claimed an estimated $11.1 million, a decline of just 32 percent, for a 10-day total of $33.5 million. (All three movies are close enough that they may yet switch rankings when final sales figures are released on Monday.)
As these three holdovers demonstrated, nearly everyone did well this weekend. Total box office was up about 30 percent from last weekend, thanks to Thor, which brought new people into the multiplex and then found other titles for them to watch if The Dark World was sold out. This seems like one of those cases of a rising tide lifting all boats …
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Ender’s Game. … unless two of the boats are on a collision course, and one torpedoes the other. Would-be blockbuster sci-fi adventure Ender’s Game was apparently the one movie hurt by The Dark World; no surprise since they were trying to fill the same niche in the marketplace. Last week’s box office champ, it plummeted 62 percent this week to an estimated $10.3 million, dropping to fifth place. Its total after 10 days is just $44.0 million, not really the numbers you want to see on a movie that cost $110 million to make. Even the overseas take, usually enough to save these sorts of pictures when they flop at home, is meager this time, just $9.1 million so far. Lionsgate/Summit has hesitated to announce a sequel (Orson Scott Card wrote several Ender’s books), and with numbers this dismal, a sequel will probably never happen.
BOOKS AND BIKES: The top art-house debut was The Book Thief, based on the 2007 best-seller about a German girl who, during World War II, hides stolen books and a Jewish refugee from the Nazis. Opening on just four screens, it earned $108,000, or $27,000 per screen, the highest average of any film currently playing. (Thor averaged $22,418.) Somewhat less muscular was the opening of The Armstrong Lie, Alex Gibney’s documentary about Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, which opened on five screens with $30,904. That’s $6,181 per screen, respectable for a documentary.
Expanding this week were other art-house favorites and Oscar hopefuls. In its fourth week, 12 Years a Slave expanded into wide release and earned an estimated $6.6 million, good for seventh place on the chart and a total to date of $17.3 million. Robert Redford’s solo act All Is Lost more than doubled its theater count to 401 and added an estimated $1.2 million to its gross, which is now $2.9 million after four weeks. Matthew McConaughey’s AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club expanded from nine screens to 35 and earned an estimated $629,000, or an impressive $17,971 per theater. (Its two-week total is $985,000.) And lesbian romance Blue Is the Warmest Color doubled its screen count to 71 and took in another estimated $254,000, for a three-week total of $754,000. Not too shabby for a three-hour French-language film with an NC-17 rating. Watch for these movies to continue jostling for attention as they continue to expand to wider release during the final weeks of 2013 awards consideration.