Weekend Box Office (January 3 - 5, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND As many parts of the country were freezing over, the box office was busy being conquered by Frozen as the Disney megahit reclaimed the number one spot in its sixth frame of wide play and came within striking distance of the triple century mark. Only one new film opened with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones scaring up a respectable second place showing. With little incoming competition, holiday holdovers for the most part held up well although grosses did get affected for all films by the winter storms especially in the northeast and midwest. But despite weather issues, overall spending was roughly even with the first weekend of January from both last year and 2012.

Moviegoers kept flocking to multiplexes to see the singing sisters of Arendelle as Frozen slipped only 32% to $19.6M, according to final studio figures, which was good enough for first place. All six of its wide weekends have had sales above $19M. The animated smash has grossed an eye-popping $296.7M to date and may smash through the $300M barrier on Tuesday with much more cash to come.

With competing studios doing an awful job of programming other compelling animated offerings this winter, the road ahead is still mostly wide open for Frozen to take advantage of. January 17 sees the debut of the month's only new toon The Nut Job which may not be a huge rival making all of January a great play period for Disney to see its cume rise. Word of mouth and repeat business have been solid. Reaching the $360M domestic mark seems likely and surpassing the $367.9M of Despicable Me 2 is still possible which would make Frozen the toon champ from 2013. The fact that it is not a sequel speaks even more to the incredible performance.

Overseas movie fans have been going gaga too for Anna and Elsa with the global tally crushing the $600M mark this weekend. The frame saw an estimated $52.5M from international markets boosting that cume to $342.1M and the worldwide haul to a sensational $639M. Look for the $700M barrier to come crashing down next weekend with Frozen on a trajectory to reach $900M and beyond with openings in Japan and China still to come.

Opening in second place was the horror franchise flick Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones with $18.3M from 2,867 locations for a decent $6,398 average. It was a sharp drop from the opening of the last film in the franchise - 2012's Paranormal Activity 4 - which bowed to $29M. However, the new chapter presented a new cast and was released in January instead of the fright-friendly month of October.

Compared to other R-rated horror films opening in early January, Marked Ones debuted on the low end of the usual range. High teens and low 20s are common for this time of year for this type of film. This new saga took a bold turn by presenting a mostly Latino American cast with its Southern California setting. Given the expected erosion that a scary movie franchise would see in its fifth film, the non-Halloween release date, and some sales being lost to the winter storms, the opening weekend of Marked Ones was commendable.

The CinemaScore grade was a C- which is lousy even by horror movie standards. Paranormal Activity 4 scored a C and the prior pic earned a C+. The gender split was even and 68% were under 25. With a low $5M production cost, and a marketing spend that was probably more than that, Marked Ones should still end up being another profitable chapter in the series. Its overseas opening this weekend brought in $16.2M from 13 markets for a $34.5M worldwide launch with Russia, Brazil, and many other Latin American territories to open next week. Paramount may need to juice up excitement to keep the franchise relevant this October when Paranormal Activity 5 is unleashed.

Following its three-week reign atop the box office charts, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug fell to the bronze medal position with $15.7M. Its 46% decline represented the worst drop in the top ten while the domestic total rose to $229.1M. Released by Warner Bros., Smaug did rank number one on the international chart with $58.2M this weekend from 62 overseas markets. That drove the cume to $528.1M and the worldwide haul to $757M with Japan and China still to open in late February. Compared to last winter's An Unexpected Journey, the new Hobbit saga is running 13% behind domestically and 8% behind globally. Getting to $1 billion is still a possibility, though.

A pair of star-driven Oscar hopefuls followed with nearly identical grosses. Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street inched ahead with $13.2M, off only 28% from its first weekend. Paramount's 12-day total is $63.1M and the legendary filmmaker is well on his way to scoring another Leo-driven $100M hit. Sony's American Hustle grossed $12.4M, off 34%, for a total of $87.9M on its way to the century club as well.

Will Ferrell scored the seventh $100M hit of his career with Anchorman 2 which dropped 46% to $10.6M lifting the cume to $108.7M for Paramount. Disney followed with Saving Mr. Banks which slipped 35% to $8.7M while Fox's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty followed with $8M, off 37%. Cumes stand at $59M and $45.5M, respectively.

In its seventh weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still ranked in the top ten pulling in $7.1M, off 30%, propelling the domestic cume to a staggering $407.1M. The Katniss series is now the first movie franchise in history to score $400M+ grosses on each of its first two installments. On Monday, Catching Fire should surpass the $408M of the first Hunger Games and by mid-week it will exceed the $409M of Iron Man 3 to become 2013's highest-grossing North American film. Fire currently sits at number 15 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and its worldwide tally has risen to $830M.

Rounding out the top ten was a movie that did not make the list last weekend when it opened - Grudge Match. The Stallone-De Niro comedy eased only 24% to $5.3M and put its 12-day gross at a lackluster $24.8M for Warner Bros.

Three less popular films opening on Christmas Day saw big tumbles on their second weekends. Universal's big-budget bomb 47 Ronin fell 49% to $5.1M for a weak $32.7M to date for Keanu Reeves. Mandela dropped 53% to $1.1M giving The Weinstein Co. only $7.1M to date. Justin Bieber fans lost faith in Believe which grossed $573,566, down a disastrous 71%, for a puny $6M total to date for Open Road.

Awards hopefuls kept chugging along as they awaited the Oscar nominations on January 16 which could give some a major commercial boost with broader audiences. Inside Llewyn Davis took in $1.1M, off only 14%, for a $6,913 average and $6.9M cume for CBS Films. Warner Bros. held in 47 sites for Joaquin Phoenix's Her with $772,765, up 19%. The average was a solid $16,442 with the sum at $3M. It expands nationwide next weekend.

Paramount's Nebraska slipped 16% to $618,248 with a mild $2,576 average and $7M total. The older-skewing story is just what Academy members often like so a Best Picture nomination could result. The Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts pic August: Osage County showed some weakness dropping 22% to $139,915 from five theaters in its second weekend. The average from platform release was a sturdy $27,983, cume is at $481,684 for Weinstein.

The top ten films grossed $118.9M which was up 2% from last year when Texas Chainsaw 3D opened at number one with $21.7M; and off 1% from 2012 when The Devil Inside debuted in the top spot with $33.7M.

Compared to projections, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones opened close to my $17M forecast.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Legend of Hercules opens.

# Title Jan 3 - 5 Dec 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Frozen $ 19,575,525 $ 28,596,319 -31.5 3,318 7 $ 5,900 $ 296,691,729 Disney
2 Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones 18,343,611 2,867 1 6,398 18,343,611 Paramount
3 Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug 15,675,220 29,031,732 -46.0 3,730 4 4,202 229,059,642 Warner Bros.
4 The Wolf of Wall Street 13,230,353 18,361,578 -27.9 2,557 2 5,174 63,125,467 Paramount
5 American Hustle 12,404,207 18,718,811 -33.7 2,518 4 4,926 87,923,123 Sony
6 Anchorman 2 10,633,959 19,662,532 -45.9 3,407 3 3,121 108,713,472 Paramount
7 Saving Mr. Banks 8,694,891 13,453,533 -35.4 2,110 4 4,121 58,958,280 Disney
8 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 8,001,717 12,765,508 -37.3 2,922 2 2,738 45,470,954 Fox
9 Hunger Games: Catching Fire 7,051,309 10,061,479 -29.9 2,143 7 3,290 407,139,699 Lionsgate
10 Grudge Match 5,325,423 7,021,993 -24.2 2,856 2 1,865 24,835,480 Warner Bros.
11 47 Ronin 5,057,215 9,910,310 -49.0 2,690 2 1,880 32,687,680 Universal
12 Walking with Dinosaurs 3,740,592 7,276,172 -48.6 2,560 3 1,461 31,344,185 Fox
13 A Madea Christmas 2,912,311 6,887,194 -57.7 1,474 4 1,976 50,227,277 Lionsgate
14 Philomena 1,442,960 1,767,560 -18.4 607 7 2,377 19,586,311 Weinstein Co.
15 Inside Llewyn Davis 1,078,455 1,248,958 -13.7 156 5 6,913 6,890,805 CBS
16 Mandela 1,055,769 2,240,745 -52.9 1,010 6 1,045 7,061,587 Weinstein Co.
17 Her 772,765 649,673 18.9 47 3 16,442 2,987,741 Warner Bros.
18 Nebraska 618,248 737,731 -16.2 240 8 2,576 7,003,296 Paramount
19 Believe 573,566 2,007,567 -71.4 1,037 2 553 5,963,482 Open Road
20 The Book Thief 529,211 614,094 -13.8 329 9 1,609 19,091,819 Fox
Top 5 $ 79,228,916 $ 114,370,972 -30.7
Top 10 118,936,215 167,837,974 -29.1
Top 20 136,717,307 192,103,609 -28.8
Top 20 vs. 2013 136,717,307 141,929,691 -3.7

Last Updated: January 6, 2014 at 9:10PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 6:40pm ET.

©1997 - 2014 Box Office Guru