Texas Chainsaw 3D topped the box office this weekend with a robust $23 million. That's a bit behind the $33 million opening haul for The Devil Inside, but it's still easily the top horror debut for January. Moreover, the picture earned more, even adjusted for inflation, than the last go around, the painfully underrated Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (retrospective essay). The 2003 remake took in $28 million way back in October 2003 ($36 million in today's dollars, not even accounting for the whole 3D bump), but this under-hyped and frankly somewhat undersold quasi-sequel to the original 1973 film was never going to reach those heights. Said Platinum Dunes remake was exceedingly well-marketed, with a pioneering trailer (think how often it gets ripped off 10 years later), and it basically kicked off the return of the hardcore horror film (along with the mostly ignored Wrong Turn from that May). Of course, the best weapon a new horror January film has is the October release of a new Paranormal Activity sequel, as it's a piece of prime demo-friendly marketing. The Devil Inside attached its trailer to Paranormal Activity 3 back in October 2011 while Texas Chainsaw 3D had its trailer viewed by those attending Paranormal Activity 4 this October. Of course, the fourth entry made about half what the third one did, so that probably didn't help.
That this under-marketed film was still able to kick up a solid opening is proof of the franchise's long-standing popularity with genre fans (this is the seventh entry in 40 years), or maybe just the fact that we haven't had a horror film since October. Point being, if I'm a studio head, I'm going to make darn-sure that I have a horror film to open the first weekend in January so I can attach my trailer to Paranormal Activity 5. Still cheap horror is cheap horror, and this may bring about a new franchise for Lionsgate, especially if it doesn't utterly collapse in weekend two ala Friday the 13th in 2009 and A Nightmare On Elm Street in 2010. That it earned a C+ (halfway decent for a horror film and well above the "F" earned by The Devil Inside last year) and had a halfway decent (for a horror sequel/remake/reboot) 2.3x multiplier portends a probable continuation in a couple years. It played 52 percent female and 64 percent under 25 years old. Oddly, 1 out of 3 attendees under 25 years of age stated a primary reason for attending the film was due to the starring role of musical artist Trey Songz. I have no idea who that is, meaning I'm officially old. I did not see the film, opting to skip those Thursday night at 10:00pm screenings. But fellow critic Aaron Neuwirth did so and immediately warned me to stay far far away, so as thanks for that I'll link to his review (he *was* right about Pitch Perfect after all).
The major expansion this weekend was for Matt Damon's Promised Land. Gus Van Sant's well-reviewed 'fracking is bad but it's complicated...' morality play earned just $4.6 million for the weekend. Chalk it up to being mostly buried during the frenzied Oscar season. Frankly, this could have been a probable winner as the 'adult movie of choice' later in the year, but the the film needed to come out early in the year in order to qualify for and capitalize on the Oscar nominations that it won't get. Adults were busy catching up on higher-profile (and arguably more appealing) Oscar bait like Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Lincoln. The Impossible suffered the same fate as it expanded to 572 theaters this weekend, choosing to be a small fish in a big pond rather than a small fish in a mostly-empty pond. The somewhat controversial true-life disaster drama took in an okay $2.7 million ($4,825 per screen). Sure the picture may pick up an Oscar nomination for Naomi Watts, but is that worth fighting for crumbs? Next weekend's (at long last) expansion of Zero Dark Thirty is a bigger question mark. The film expanded to 60 screens this weekend and wracked up $2.75 million for its troubles (a frankly massive $45,000 per-screen average). Will the film's relentlessly wrong-head torture controversy help the film or hurt it? Will audiences think they're getting the next Black Hawk Down?
Other than that, it was strictly holdover news, of which there is little. The Hobbit continues to pace ahead of Fellowship of the Ring while potentially catching up to The Two Towers (it actually had a bigger fourth weekend - $17.5 million - than the other three Lord of the Rings films, but the somewhat different release date may play a part in that). With $263 million domestic, $300 million is now pretty much a lock. Of course, with a worldwide total racing towards $800 million (now at $777 million), few will care if the prequel ends up somewhat trailing the prior Lord of the Rings totals. Django Unchained had a pretty terrific second weekend, ringing up $20 million (-33 percent) and crossing the $100 million mark in record time for a Tarantino picture. It's at $106 million already, assuring that it will surpass the $120 million domestic haul for Inglorious Basterds. It's already the fifth-biggest western of all time and it should pass Wild Wild West ($113 million) next weekend and Rango ($123 million) soon after. Tarantino is now officially one of the few directors, along with James Cameron, Chris Nolan, and Steven Spielberg, who is more valuable as a name-above-the-title marquee attraction than any actor he might cast in his pictures.
Les Miserables is falling a little harder, with "just" $16 million in its second weekend (-41 percent), but it's still huge as far as musicals go. At around $103.6 million after two weekends, it's just above of the $103.2 million total for Dreamgirls and around $15 million from unseating Hairspray ($118 million) as the fifth biggest musical ever. With surefire Oscar nominations and at least one guaranteed win (Anne Hathaway), it's got a shot at taking out Chicago for the biggest grossing musical of all time sans re-release. Grease's $188 million total made up of several rereleases, although its $159 million original 1978 gross would equal about $550 million today (and The Sound of Music's $156 million total would equal about $1.1 billion today). It also has $184 million worldwide. Jack Reacher isn't going to make it to $100 million, although $85 million is possible (it's at $64 million) and a strong overseas performance could still get us that much anticipated Jack Reacher: Malick Attack that we all desperately want. This Is Forty has $54 million and has now outgrossed Funny People while Rise of the Guardians may just make it to $100 million domestic after all (it's at $97 million), while inching towards $300 million worldwide (it's at $262 million). Not a smash by Dreamworks standards, but not an epic flop either. Oh, and Wreck It Ralph crossed $300 million worldwide too.
That's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the wide expansion of Zero Dark Thirty and the wide release of The Gangster Squad and the Wayans Brothers horror spoof A Haunted House. Until then, do read my entire '2012 in review' wrap-up, which includes 11 essays in all.