Hollywood B.O.: Crappy New Releases, Fall Break, Make 'Argo' Winner
The big box-office success story this weekend isn't that “Paranormal Activity 4,” the franchise's third sequel in three years, finished first at the box office with a $30 million take. That's actually a poor showing for that series. The first sequel, in 2010, opened at $40.5 million (with an overall $84 million gross), while the second sequel, last year, opened at $52 million (for a $104 million overall gross). So in comparison, “4,” on track for $60 million, is a failure.
No, the big success story is that “Argo,” Ben Affleck's grown-up thriller about rescuing hostages in Iran in 1980, finished in second place with $16.6 million. Why is that a success story? Because in its second weekend it dropped only 14.6%. Among superwide releases (3,000 or more theaters), that's the 26th-lowest drop ever.
It's actually even better than that. Because most of the 25 movies ahead of it benefitted less from word-of-mouth than suffered from release date: They were released the week before Christmas, when they did so-so business because everyone was superbusy, then held or did better the week after Christmas, when everyone wanted to be with their relatives without actually talking to them.
So if you eliminate the week-before-Xmas movies? The second weekend of “Argo” is now 11th.
But some of these 10 movies are week-before-Thanksgiving movies. Same deal. So if you eliminate mid-to-late November films? “Argo” is now 6th.
The remainder are kids' movies—“Shrek,” “Puss in Boots,” “Brother Bear,” “Flushed Away,” and “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause”—which have longer shelf lives than other genres.
It's fairly unprecedented, in other words, for “Argo” to be doing what it's doing.
On the other hand, a lot of movies this weekend had low drop-offs: “Hotel Transylvania” (-21.7%), “Pitch Perfect” (-24.4%), and “Here Comes the Boom” (-28.1%). What's going on?
In many school districts around the country, this is “fall break” weekend, something we didn't have when I was growing up, in which students take Thursday and Friday off. So it was a type of holiday weekend. Just not one most of us notice. And I guess it made a slight dent at the box office. Slightly.
More, the new wide-release movies this weekend, “Paranormal” and “Alex Cross,” Tyler Perry's stab at action stardom, stunk, garnering ratings of 8% and 0%, respectively, from the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
So if you were parents who celebrated “fall break” by getting away from your kids for a night, and you're smart, the choice was pretty clear. Alex What? Paranormal Blah-blah? Hey, I heard the Ben Affleck movie is good. Let's go.
Ben Affleck in Iran in “Argo.”
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