Box office report: ‘The Artist,’ ‘A Dangerous Method’ & ‘Hugo’ score while ‘My Week with Marilyn’ wavers

Four of the leading contenders for Best Picture at the Oscars opened over Thanksgiving while several more continued the early part of their runs. Below is an in-depth look at their box office performance.

The Artist” (The Weinstein Co.)
$210,000 for three days (FSS) in four theaters; PSA (per screen average): $55,000
For a French black-and-white silent film to open with these numbers is pretty remarkable. But since we’re talking about a Best Picture favorite, some comparisons are in order. “The King’s Speech” opened on the same post-Thanksgiving weekend last year in four theaters as well, earning $355,000 for a PSA of $89,000. “The Artist” is initially at 60% of that, although it is screening in Manhattan at the single-screen Paris Theatre. 

With “The Artist” having mostly great reviews, huge hype and excellent placement, these figures should be regarded as promising, but not necessarily great yet. They do not indicate how deep the interest is beyond these key theaters and don’t yet indicate the power of word-of-mouth, which is going to be crucial.

Two years ago, the Weinsteins opened “Nine” on the pre-Xmas weekend (not quite as prime a date as post-Thanksgiving) in four theaters. With slightly lower average ticket prices, it did $257,000 for $64,000 PSA. It failed to deliver as it went wider.

Bottom Line: Decent opening, but not yet indicative of anything like the success of previous BP winners like “Slumdog Millionaire” or “The King’s Speech.”

A Dangerous Method” (Sony Classics)
$182,000 for FSS in four theaters; PSA $45,500 ($241,000 over five days)
This is quite credible and honestly a bit above expectations. Director David Cronenberg‘s last two films — “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises” — opened in around 15 theaters in September with a PSA of around $36,000 (usually, the more screens, the lower the PSA). Those films ended up at $31 and $17 million, respectively.

Bottom Line: That the PSA of “A Dangerous Method” is as close to “The Artist” is a bit of a surprise, and indicates that this film — likely with an added appeal as it expands because of its subject — has some life to it. I still don’t see it as an Oscar player unless it gets some early boosts from those groups announcing awards in the next couple of weeks.

Hugo” (Paramount)
$11.3 million for FSS ($15.3 million over five days) 
Those who judged this film by its opening day gross on Wednesday now need to eat at least a little crow. Opening at only just over 1,200 theaters (i.e., a third as many as most of the rest of the top films), this has shown the most improvement and ended up fifth for the weekend. While its gross was boosted by the higher cost of 3D admissions, it demonstrated adult appeal against a staggering group of kid-friendly alternatives and a bias against 3D. The excellent reviews and, of course, Scorsese’s name have elevated this film. 

Bottom Line: The trick is going to be expanding and finding room (in 3D) in the incredibly intense environment coming up in the next few weeks. While it is far too early to project what course it will take, it is fair to say the film has outshone expectations and now has a fighting chance (particularly when the likely strong European grosses come along) of success.


My Week with Marilyn” (The Weinstein Co.)
$1.8 million for FSS on 244 screens PSA $7,400
With additional theaters added Friday to the initial ones Wednesday, I assume Weinstein went as wide as they did rather than a narrow platform (this is a strange number of theaters for a launching) because the holiday weekend does boost grosses and they figured they were likely to get decent word-of-mouth even if the grosses themselves weren’t that impressive. This definitely looks better than it did after the Wednesday opening.

Bottom Line: Can it sustain these figures at key theaters and then be able to justify a rapid expansion of any sort? The jury is clearly out on this. It has risen to “OK” based on the weekend, but it is by no means looking like a success. The film needs awards attention quickly. First up, the NYFCC and NBR this week.  

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The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight)
$7.2 million on 433 screens; PSA $16,500
This has been a fairly aggressive opening (obviously having George Clooney as the lead helps immensely) but so far, so good. This film along with “Hugo” are hurting “Marilyn” as the films to which specialized/adult audiences are going. This is an excellent performance for the depth in the marketplace it already has. “The Descendants” has cleared its first hurdle – it has presence in the market, justifies expansion, and can expect to hold through early January and beyond. With the likely awards citations ahead and being a prime contender, there is every reason to think this has a chance of eventually clearing $100 million.

J. Edgar” (Warner Bros.)
$5 million on just under 2000 screens; $29 million total.
This is, at best, just getting by. WB will be able to hold on to most screens for a fourth week, which means a total of about $34 million by the time SAG/GG noms come along to possibly keep this going along in some locations through the holidays. This is clearly not performing up to hopes, and with that possible collateral damage to Leonardo DiCaprio’s awards chances.

The Skin I Live In” ($2.4 million), “Martha Marcy May Marlene” ($2.6 million) and “Take Shelter” ($1.5 million) all showing no sign of being able to sustain themselves much longer. “Martha Marcy” in particularly is a big disappointment.

No figures yet for the little movie that could — “Melancholia” — but it is likely its theatrical supplement to its VOD haul will be decent for the weekend. Possible awards wins this week would be a major boost.


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