Film critic at Mendelson's Memos, Valley Scene Magazine
Weekend Box Office: Ben Affleck's Argo Tops New Releases as Taken 2 Repeats as Number One
With five new wide releases, it was a traffic jam at the box office this weekend, but the surprisingly robust Taken 2 still held court at the top. Despite being a watered-down rehash of the first film, audiences only somewhat deserted the action sequel. It's down 55% for a $22 million weekend, which is horrible compared to the first film's 16% second weekend drop, which ironically ended with a $20 million second weekend. The first film had $53 million after ten days while Taken 2 has $87 million, or a bit above what Taken had after its third weekend ($87 million). The second film will surely match the first film's $145 million domestic total and it's already flying far higher overseas this time around. So yes, we'll likely see a Taken 3: The Takenest in two-three years' time. The top debut film was Ben Affleck's Argo. The picture earned a rock-solid $20 million, or just below the $26 million opening of Affleck's The Town just over two years ago (the earlier film had a sexier cops/robbers plot and tabloid-friendly movie stars). The $44 million R-rated political drama is a perfect example of 'what can grownups see at the theater these days?' and it's good to see they turned up. Most importantly, the film had a stunning 3.38x weekend multiplier, all-but unheard of these days for a live-action film, meaning that word of mouth and legs for this one should be huge whether it becomes an Oscar contender or not.
Doing just fine just behind Argo was Sinister, the Summit horror film that earned a solid $18 million. That's a touch below the $20 million Screen Gems comfort zone, but the well-reviewed and buzzed about picture had an R-rating instead of the usual SG PG-13. It's theoretically going to get clobbered by Paranormal Activity 4 next weekend, but there is a token chance that it could hold its ground as a solid original against a 'Oh, this again...?' sequel, a la Insidious versus Scream 4 early last year. To be honest, I can't tell you much about the marketing because I avoided every trailer and TV spot as horror film marketing tends to be more spoilery than other genres. But the (estimated) $5 million Ethan Hawke chiller is already hugely profitable whether it holds up against the Paramount horror franchise or not. The next opener was Kevin James' "Let's remake Warrior as a comedy!", otherwise known as Here Comes the Boom. Despite being among the better films of last year, Warrior pretty much bombed at the box office ($13 million), so it's slightly heartwarming that this terribly-reviewed variation didn't do very well either. $12 million is either a mediocre opener (it's Kevin James's lowest debut as a lead) or an outright bomb depending on the costs (I can't locate the budget at this time). The film played 52% male and 68 under-25 among audiences over 12. Among the 12-and under set, it played 60% boys and 50% under 10. Nothing much more to see here folks.
There were two other smaller-scale wide releases and neither of them did all that well. The superb Seven Psychopaths was a marketing nightmare, as you can either give away the film's central post-modern construct or basically advertise a bunch of legendary screen kooks (Walken, Rockwell, Harrelson, etc.) behaving badly. CBS Films understandably chose the latter, and a predictable $4.2 million debut followed. But the biggest problem is that if you're a grownup heading to the multiplex, you already have somewhat more mainstream fare like Argo, Taken 2, or Looper. It's the double-edged sword of having so many adult-skewing films in wide release: the biggest fish at the moment eats all the rest. Alas, for what it's worth, it's among the best films of the year and Christopher Walken deserves an Oscar nomination that he probably won't get. Don't feel guilty if you saw Argo instead, but do check out Seven Psychopaths when you get the chance next weekend. The last wide release was the 1,001 screen debut of Atlas Shrugged Part II. The film earned the same $1.7 million as the last film did despite opening on 700 more screens. We can laugh at the film all we want, but let's be honest. Among the faithful, this thing will sell and rent forever. In the very long run, both of these films will make their money back.
For box office news on the older films, read the rest at Mendelson's Memos.