Weekend Box Office (March 1 - 3, 2013)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The big-budget fantasy epic Jack the Giant Slayer opened at number one at the North American box office, however its weak performance hardly justified the enormous production and marketing costs invested into the fairy tale actioner. Other new releases were also soft in their debuts as moviegoers showed little excitement over any of these new titles. March came in like a lamb as the Top 20 grossed only $103M, down sharply compared to the first weekend of this month from each of the last three years.

The year's first mega-budgeted tentpole entry failed to create much of a stir as Jack the Giant Slayer bowed to $27.2M from 3,525 locations for a moderate $7,717 average, according to final studio figures. The gross for the Warner Bros. release included higher ticket prices from 3D screens including 317 IMAX venues which accounted for 12% of the gross. With a reported production budget in the $190-200M range, plus a massive war chest for marketing costs, Jack was a huge gamble costing more than many summer blockbusters. Outside of action sequels and anything James Cameron feels like making, few original films carry budgets like this.

Giant Slayer even opened worse than last March's mega-priced 3D action offering John Carter which debuted to $30.2M on its way to $73.1M domestic and $284M global. It led to huge corporate loses and executive departures for Disney. Universal's 2D Battleship, also with a gargantuan budget, opened to $25.5M finishing with $65.2M from North America and $303M worldwide. Jack the Giant Slayer now joins those two and will need phenomenal overseas numbers to make the math work. The other two duds did 74-79% of their global grosses from offshore markets.

Delayed from its Summer 2012 release date, the Bryan Singer-directed Slayer was stuck in a no man's land. The PG-13 film was too violent for younger children who would be the ones most interested in the subject matter. But the source material was too lame for older kids and beyond who are ok with this type of effects-heavy adventure violence. Reviews were mixed and audiences polled by CinemaScore gave it a decent B+ grade. Studio data showed that the audience was 55% male and 56% over 25.

The beanstalk tale opened in ten Asian markets this weekend and grossed $14.3M led by Korea's $4.8M. Most other major markets will open later this month closer to Easter school holidays. Reaching a $300M worldwide gross will be very hard.

For the fourth weekend in a row, the runaway hit comedy Identity Thief ranked among the top two films nationwide, this time dipping only 31% to $9.7M. The Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman pic became the first 2013 movie to break the $100M mark and has now banked an impressive $107.4M to date for Universal. Despite bad reviews, regular mainstream moviegoers have been eating up this funny twosome with Thief on track to end with over $130M. The studio will be looking to reteam these actors in a sequel as soon as it can.

Another R-rated comedy followed in third place. The wild party pic 21 and Over debuted with $8.8M from 2,771 theaters for a mild $3,159 average. With no stars, but a promise of a raunchy good time, the $13M film played to a young adult audience as 73% of the crowd was under 25. Males and females were evenly split. The Relativity release was flat from Friday to Saturday and earned a B grade from CinemaScore. Reviews were generally weak.

Dwayne Johnson's action drama Snitch dropped a respectable 41% in its second weekend to $7.8M. The Lionsgate release has collected $24.5M in ten days and should finish with $40M+.

Horror sequel The Last Exorcism Part II from CBS Films opened in fifth to a soft $7.7M. Averaging $2,862 from 2,700 sites, the PG-13 fright flick came in with less than half of the $20.4M opening of its predecessor from August 2010. That film was hated by audiences earning a D CinemaScore so not much demand was there for a follow-up. But the supernatural series is super cheap to produce so another chapter made sense. Part II fared slightly better with audiences earning a C- grade - the low end of normal for fright flicks.

The Weinstein Co. saw its 3D animated entry Escape From Planet Earth hold up well against the opening of Jack. The space toon fell 38% to $6.6M pushing the total to $43.1M. Faring well again was the romance pic Safe Haven which slipped 40% to $6.3M for $57.1M to date for Relativity. Fresh off her Oscar win for Best Actress and week-long flow of publicity, Jennifer Lawrence saw her awards hit Silver Linings Playbook post another terrific hold off less than 1% to $5.7M in its 16th weekend of release. The Weinstein Co. has banked an impressive $115.3M to date.

Bruce Willis suffered another bad blow to his franchise-stretching action vehicle A Good Day to Die Hard which tumbled 55% in its third round to $4.6M for $59.7M to date for Fox. Worldwide is $222M with 73% from overseas. Rounding out the top ten with $3.5M was the alien horror pic Dark Skies which dropped 58% in its sophomore session. The ten-day cume is just $13.4M for The Weinstein Co.

The submarine thriller Phantom starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny was dead on arrival posting one of the worst openings ever for a film launching in over 1,000 theaters. The R-rated pic from RCR Distribution grossed an industry estimated $470,000 from 1,118 locations for a disastrous $420 average. That comes out to roughly four tickets sold per showtime all weekend long.

Nicole Kidman's new thriller Stoker from acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook enjoyed a solid platform release grossing $160,547 from only seven theaters for a $22,935 average. That was an impressive performance in such a weak marketplace. Next weekend will see no new markets open, but expansions in existing markets of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto. Reviews were generally good for the filmmaker's English-language debut. Opening day and date in Korea, Stoker debuted to $1.7M there.

Oscar nominee War Witch debuted in two Manhattan houses and opened to $8,714 for a $4,357 average. That is a sturdy performance for a film already available on VOD and iTunes. The multi-platform release will see Los Angeles opening next week followed by 30 more markets for the theatrical run. Reviews have been exceptionally strong.

The two biggest Academy Award winners parlayed their Oscar statues into extra box office revenue this weekend thanks to extra publicity...and screens. Best Picture champ Argo increased its theater count by 23% and grossed $2.1M, up 15% from last weekend. Despite being available on home entertainment platforms, the Ben Affleck hit still found takers from those who want to experience it in a movie theater. The Warner Bros. cume climbed to $132.7M.

Winning the most Oscars of any film including Best Director, Life of Pi saw its theater count go up 9% and its weekend tally surge a sturdy 48% to $2.4M. The Fox smash has now grossed $117M domestically and a sensational $594M worldwide - 80% from international markets.

Contrary to media reports, there is no normal Oscar bump as every year's winner is in a vastly different situation at that moment in time. Varying greatly are screen expansions, added marketing dollars, video availability, and age of theatrical run. Last year, The Artist boosted its theater count by 82% on the weekend after winning Best Picture and saw its weekend gross climb 25%. A year earlier, The King's Speech had a 6% dip in theaters and a 15% decline in weekend box office. Looking only at a film's percentage change on the weekend after the ceremony does not tell the full story.

The top ten films grossed $87.8M which was down 40% from last year when The Lorax opened at number one with $70.2M; and down 23% from 2011 when Rango debuted in the top spot with $38.1M.

Compared to projections, Jack the Giant Slayer was on target with my $28M forecast. 21 and Over and The Last Exorcism Part II both opened below my respective predictions of $14M and $12M.

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

Check the list of Oscar Winners and Grosses.

Watch Paperman, the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Oz the Great and Powerful and Dead Man Down open.

# Title Mar 1 - 3 Feb 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Jack the Giant Slayer $ 27,202,226 3,525 1 $ 7,717 $ 27,202,226 Warner Bros.
2 Identity Thief 9,706,145 14,017,085 -30.8 3,230 4 3,005 107,433,250 Universal
3 21 and Over 8,754,168 2,771 1 3,159 8,754,168 Relativity
4 Snitch 7,768,391 13,167,607 -41.0 2,511 2 3,094 24,478,730 Lionsgate
5 The Last Exorcism Part II 7,728,354 2,700 1 2,862 7,728,354 CBS
6 Escape From Planet Earth 6,619,827 10,682,037 -38.0 3,110 3 2,129 43,106,877 Weinstein Co.
7 Safe Haven 6,278,530 10,454,713 -39.9 2,951 3 2,128 57,072,013 Relativity
8 Silver Linings Playbook 5,723,010 5,750,866 -0.5 1,836 16 3,117 115,302,649 Weinstein Co.
9 A Good Day to Die Hard 4,572,486 10,165,633 -55.0 2,589 3 1,766 59,696,527 Fox
10 Dark Skies 3,468,553 8,189,166 -57.6 2,313 2 1,500 13,365,240 Weinstein Co.
11 Warm Bodies 2,578,256 4,825,388 -46.6 1,930 5 1,336 61,937,930 Summit
12 Life of Pi 2,375,609 1,605,366 48.0 626 15 3,795 117,018,625 Fox
13 Argo 2,103,342 1,827,165 15.1 985 21 2,135 132,659,727 Warner Bros.
14 Quartet 1,781,526 1,125,886 58.2 725 7 2,457 11,181,316 Weinstein Co.
15 Side Effects 1,748,144 3,357,039 -47.9 1,112 4 1,572 28,072,453 Open Road
16 Zero Dark Thirty 1,300,719 2,230,084 -41.7 722 11 1,802 93,574,801 Sony
17 Lincoln 985,237 1,481,081 -33.5 652 17 1,511 180,071,293 Disney
18 Django Unchained 976,930 971,655 0.5 983 10 994 160,268,937 Weinstein Co.
19 Beautiful Creatures 951,310 3,608,333 -73.6 1,075 3 885 18,557,744 Warner Bros.
20 Wreck-It Ralph 572,229 645,870 -11.4 352 18 1,626 187,388,935 Disney
Top 5 $ 61,159,284 $ 58,487,075 4.6
Top 10 87,821,690 84,217,867 4.3
Top 20 103,194,992 97,679,592 5.6
Top 20 vs. 2012 103,194,992 162,515,152 -36.5

Last Updated: March 4, 2013 at 4:35PM ET

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