Weekend Box Office (January 17 - 20, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Kevin Hart and Ice Cube delivered the laughs with their new comedy Ride Along which broke the record for the biggest Martin Luther King holiday opening ever. The Universal hit grossed $48.6M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday frame, according to final studio figures, and a sensational $41.5M over the three-day portion. That beats out the old records of $46.1M and $40.1M set in 2008 by Cloverfield. In fact, it would also break the record for the biggest debut in all of January which the low-budget sci-fi pic also has held.

Cube has enjoyed numerous box office hits over the past two decades, but Ride Along's success can be attributed more to Hart who gets second billing here. The fast-rising funnyman boasts an enormous fan base (almost 10 million followers on Twitter) and his stand-up comedy concert films have done gangbusters over the past couple of years. His supporting turn in Think Like A Man certainly helped that film open to a stellar $33.6M but with Ride Along, he has his first real lead role in a major studio release. Also helping to sell it were an intriguing concept (guy must impress his fiancée's cop brother) and a powerful marketing push. Hart even announced surprise pop-ins at various theaters over the weekend actively engaging his audience.

Studio research showed that the audience was 57% female, 54% 25 and older, and 80% black or Latino. Over four days, the average was a staggering $18,260. Reviews were mostly negative, but Ride Along did not enter the marketplace as a fine work of art. It was sold as a funny two-hour good time at the movies and paying moviegoers got exactly what they expected as evidenced by the solid A CinemaScore grade. It also marked the first time in seven years that a film led by a black cast topped the MLK weekend box office. 2007's Stomp the Yard was the last one.

Over the last two decades, numerous films led by black casts have generated muscular openings and a large number have shattered industry expectations. But only a few have opened to $30M+ and rarely have they gotten to $40M+, especially when they are not sequels. It opened better than all but one of Will Ferrell's hit comedies. Hart hopes to strike again next month with his next comedy About Last Night which opens on Valentine's Day.

Universal controlled the number two spot too with last week's champ Lone Survivor which dropped to $25.9M over four days for a healthy cume to date of $76.7M. The last studio to take the top two spots on the box office chart on the same weekend was, interestingly enough, Universal last June when it opened The Purge on top bumping Fast & Furious 6 into second place.

Opening well in third was the new animated comedy The Nut Job with $25.7M from 3,427 locations for a good $7,499 four-day average. Kids looking to move on from the monster hit Frozen have had almost nothing for them since Thanksgiving. They responded here and Open Road now has a toon hit on its hands with two more weeks of no new competition until the February 7 debut of The Lego Movie.

Paramount suffered a troubling start for the latest reboot of its spy franchise with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opening in fourth with $18M across four days marking the worst opening ever in the Tom Clancy series which includes fives films across nearly a quarter-century. Averaging a soft $5,325 from 3,387 locations, the PG-13 film debuting Chris Pine as the fourth actor to play the title character just did not create much excitement with moviegoing audiences. The last film in the franchise was 2002's The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck which bowed to a strong $31.2M that summer.

Looking at the Friday-to-Sunday opening weekend gross of only $15.5M, Shadow Recruit even fell below the $17.2M of the first Jack Ryan film The Hunt for Red October from March 1990 for the lowest in franchise history. That film with Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery debuted in only 1,225 theaters and ticket prices were half of what they are today. The new pic even offered 300 runs on higher-priced IMAX screens. Reviews for the new $60M-budgeted Ryan were mixed and the CinemaScore grade was a lackluster B. Despite the casting of Pine, teens and young adults took no interest and the film did best with older males who have many other big films competing for their attention, especially Wahlberg's Lone Survivor which has been overperforming. Studio research showed the audience was 52% male and a whopping 85% over 25.

Disney's runaway smash Frozen cracked the all-time Top 30 list this weekend after its $16.1M take in its eighth round of wide release. That boosted the total to $336.7M putting it right at number 28 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list right ahead of Spider-Man 3's $336.5M from 2007. A $24.6M gross overseas this weekend lifted the international take to $426.5M and the global tally to a stellar $763M on its way to breaking $800M next weekend.

With its incredible starpower and awards buzz, American Hustle led all the newly minted Best Picture Oscar nominees with $11.8M for a hearty 19% jump over the Friday-to-Sunday portion despite losing 425 theaters. Over the past seven days, the Sony release won the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy, the Best Acting Ensemble prize at the Critics Choice Awards, and the top SAG honor for best cast. Add in the great reviews and ample star wattage and Hustle has the most mainstream commercial appeal among the top Academy Award nominees at this moment. Cume to date is $117.6M and $150M+ is possible.

Not scaring up too much cash was the new horror entry Devil's Due with $9.1M from 2,544 locations for a mild $3,595 average. The Fox release earned poor reviews and received a big thumbs down from the paying public with its D+ grade from CinemaScore.

It didn't earn a Best Picture nod from the Academy, but August: Osage County's two big acting nominations for superstars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts helped it stay in the top ten, as did a doubling of screens. The Weinstein Co. pic took in $8.8M, up 3%, for a total of $19.4M so far. Best Picture nominee The Wolf of Wall Street slipped 20% to $8.4M giving Paramount $91.1M. Disney's Saving Mr. Banks missed out on a top nomination and suffered a larger fall dropping 40% to $4.9M and $76.1M overall.

Below the top ten, Oscar nominees for Best Picture all tried to turn those nods into extra box office gold with some expanding and seeing higher grosses and others staying in roughly the same theaters but posting great holds. Among those not expanding, Her declined by 25% to $4.8M, Philomena dipped 9% to $1.5M, and Nebraska held steady with $1.1M. Modest cumes are $15.8M, $24.3M, and $9.7M.

Three contenders that opened in October and mostly concluded their runs returned to national release this weekend with their studios mounting re-expansions. Gravity rose to 944 locations and grossed $2.3M, 12 Years A Slave was in 761 sites and made $2M, and Captain Phillips took in $650,523 from 903 playdates. Totals are $258.7M, $41.1M, and $105.8M. While much attention is put on extra box office a film collects after earning key Oscar nods, it needs to be noted that these films must spend additional funds in order to play this game during awards season and stay in national release. Additional weeks of national advertising is not cheap.

The top ten films grossed $177.3M over four days which was up a healthy 41% from last year's holiday when Mama opened at number one with $32.1M; and up 38% from 2012 when Contraband debuted in the top spot with $28.5M.

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Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when I, Frankenstein opens.

# Title Jan 17 - 20 Jan 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Ride Along $ 48,626,380 2,663 1 $ 18,260 $ 48,626,380 Universal
2 Lone Survivor 25,929,570 37,849,910 -31.5 2,989 4 8,675 76,739,691 Universal
3 The Nut Job 25,700,000 3,427 1 7,499 25,700,000 Open Road
4 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 18,034,726 3,387 1 5,325 18,034,726 Paramount
5 Frozen 16,068,552 14,728,118 9.1 2,979 9 5,394 336,699,913 Disney
6 American Hustle 11,764,995 8,302,205 41.7 2,204 6 5,338 117,596,186 Sony
7 Devil's Due 9,145,358 2,544 1 3,595 9,145,358 Fox
8 August: Osage County 8,801,086 7,158,265 22.9 2,051 4 4,291 19,390,356 Weinstein Co.
9 The Wolf of Wall Street 8,370,423 8,839,220 -5.3 1,930 4 4,337 91,147,021 Paramount
10 Saving Mr. Banks 4,870,715 6,556,216 -25.7 2,449 6 1,989 76,115,012 Disney
11 Her 4,832,192 5,345,477 -9.6 1,729 5 2,795 15,831,619 Warner Bros.
12 Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug 4,540,164 8,022,353 -43.4 1,815 6 2,501 249,360,009 Warner Bros.
13 The Legend of Hercules 4,154,895 8,868,318 -53.1 2,104 2 1,975 15,130,546 Lionsgate
14 Hunger Games: Catching Fire 3,019,819 4,383,208 -31.1 1,328 9 2,274 418,019,611 Lionsgate
15 Anchorman 2 2,578,890 5,838,849 -55.8 1,731 5 1,490 122,510,239 Paramount
16 Gravity 2,307,261 419,092 450.5 944 16 2,444 258,717,930 Warner Bros.
17 12 Years a Slave 1,969,329 270,760 627.3 761 14 2,588 41,073,627 Fox Searchlight
18 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 1,651,471 4,302,846 -61.6 1,037 4 1,593 55,447,289 Fox
19 Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones 1,602,244 6,284,630 -74.5 1,569 3 1,021 31,535,352 Paramount
20 Philomena 1,549,543 1,385,067 11.9 505 9 3,068 24,312,027 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 134,359,228 $ 78,587,771 71.0
Top 10 177,311,805 112,448,084 57.7
Top 20 205,517,613 136,681,051 50.4
Top 20 vs. MLK 2013 205,517,613 157,470,090 30.5

Last Updated: January 22, 2014 at 11:30AM ET

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