Box Office Report: “Witch Hunters” Win Quiet Weekend, Violence Bombs

When box office analysts and everyday cinephiles cite January as a “garbage dump of a month”, let this weekend be the perfect example of why. Despite the presence of three new nationwide releases – the revisionist fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the comedy anthology, Movie 43, and the latest Jason Statham action vehicle, Parker – not one film managed to debut past the $20 million mark, and, even worse, each of the three releases were widely panned by critics. Since the box office is typically sluggish during the opening months of the year, this weekend’s quiet box office results are hardly surprising, but three box office bombs in one weekend is still quite a blow nonetheless. For a full box office breakdown, including the current top 10 movies in America, continue reading:

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Top 10 Movies (January 25-27)
1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – $19 mil
2. Mama – $12.8 mil
3. Silver Linings Playbook – $10 mil
4. Zero Dark Thirty – $9.8 mil
5. Parker – $7 mil
6. Django Unchained – $5 mil
7. Movie 43 – $5 mil
8. Gangster Squad – $4.2 mil
9. Broken City – $4 mil
10. Les Miserables – $3.9 mil

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Opening atop the charts, the 3D blood-fest Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters grossed a mediocre, though still somewhat surprising $19 million in its debut. For a film that was shot in 2010 and has been moved around the release schedule quite a bit (it was originally supposed to open a year ago, meaning the studio didn’t have much faith in the project to begin with), these debut numbers aren’t terrible at all, but it seems the decision to wait to release the film until Jeremy Renner’s movie star presence boosted a bit was a bit of no go. Though he had big summer roles in The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, Renner is still nowhere close to being a bankable star and the under $20 million debut for Witch Hunters proves this. If anything, these strong-than-expected-but-still-not-impressive numbers can be attributed to the film being released in 3D and IMAX, where surcharges boost the total price of admission. It’s probably not all Renner’s fault either – the film didn’t seem all that great from the CGI heavy trailers and absurd plot –  and with a production budget estimated around $50 million, this revisionist fairy tale will have to rely on foreign grosses to break even.

In 7th place, Movie 43 fared much, much worse. Supervised under the creative control of Peter Farrelly, the anthology comedy, which stars almost half of Hollywood – Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Anna Farris, Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Kate Winslet, Chloe Grace Moretz, Seth MacFarlane, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, etc. – bombed with a paltry $5 million debut. Even worse, the film was demolished by both critics (Richard Roeper’s review, in particular, was quite condemning) and audiences, who issued the film a horrific “D” CinemaScore. Luckily, the movie was only financed for $6 million and, therefore, won’t be a huge financial loss, but for a movie that stars so many A-listers, this small debut is quite the box office catastrophe.

The bad news continued for Jason Statham, who can’t seem to catch a break these days despite being the most talented action star of this generation. It seems every year Statham has a beginning-of-the-year flop, and with a weak $7 million, this year that flop is Parker. Even with the presence of Jennifer Lopez (starring outside her rom-com comfort zone), Parker was marketed as just another Statham flick and failed to breakout of his low grossing wheelhouse, though$7 million is even low in Statham terms (yikes!). Interestingly, Parker marks another 2013 male-oriented action movie that has failed at the box office, following in the footsteps of Gangster Squad, Broken City, and The Last Stand, all of which took big stumbles and dropped over 50% this weekend.

While many are attributing the lack of interest in violence-oriented films with the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, it appears, from a box office standpoint at least, that audiences aren’t being scared away from violence but are just choosing action movies more selectively; in other words, people don’t just want meaningless explosions anymore, they want violence to be handled carefully and have it actual matter to the story. This trend is evidently seen in the low grosses of many of the action-heavy 2013 releases (all of which bombarded the viewers with nonsensical action in their trailers and ads) compared to the prosperously sturdy box office legs of Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Probably the bloodiest and most violent of all the current movies, Django dropped a miniscule 35% in its 5th weekend and earned another healthy $5 million dollars, pushing its total just under $150 million. See my point? Because Tarantino knows how to use violence in order to get across themes and character development, audiences embrace his films despite the fact that they are extremely bloody. What it ultimately comes down to is how a film is using its violence and action, and if violence is being pushed as some flashy, super-spectacle event (as it was in the marketing of The Last Stand and Gangster Squad), it appears the 2013 moviegoer won’t be all that interested, and for good reason! If anything, this latest box office trend suggests that the movie going public is getting smarter in its choices and hopefully this leads to more conscious and moral action films.

Perhaps the only box office silver lining this weekend was, in fact, Silver Linings Playbook, which dipped a slim 7% and earned $10 million in its second weekend of nationwide release. With clear positive word of mouth and a recent SAG win for lead actress Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings should have no problem holding well during the weeks leading up the Oscars and it should gross near or surpass the $100 million mark. Mama, the Guillermo del Toro produced horror film that topped the box office last weekend, fell to the #2 spot, dropping 54% for a weekend take of $12.8 million. Since Mama is a horror film, the over 50% drop was expected and is quite healthy for the genre (in comparison, Texas Chainsaw 3D dropped over 80% in its second weekend two weeks ago). Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, and Lincoln all performed nicely as well, using their recent Oscar momentum to drive business. Of all the nominees, Lincoln should be especially commended, for in its 12th weekend of release it dipped only 29% and lifted its total gross to $167 million, an astounding feat considering the film is a dialogue heavy, two-and-a-half-hour biopic.

Did you go to the movies this weekend? What did you see? Let us know!

Article by Zack Sharf

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