Box office report: Steven Spielberg gets mixed results with ‘War Horse’ and ‘Tintin’

Christmas  is a major day for movies, but it is usually not the definitive one; that comes over the next week . This was a phony three-day weekend, with Christmas Eve (Saturday) being the usual weakest day. Dec. 26 and 27 often tell us much more as early word-of-mouth (WOM) and a more diverse audience are evident. That said, the numbers we have, combined with results for those films already open, reveal much. In a year where the adult audience has fallen precipitously, there are far too many quality films fighting for the same people. (These numbers reflect only the actuals for Friday-Sunday, not the estimates for today. I will do a multi-day update on Thursday because of the significance of the weekday figures.)

War Horse”  (Buena Vista)
For 1 day: $7.5 million in 2,376 theaters; PSA (Per screen average): $3,200
Much comment so far about how much better this did than predicted. Credit effective Disney spin for downplaying expectations; though solid, these are hardly eye-popping grosses. The numbers are decent, but considering it was a holiday, its one day gross extrapolated over a normal three-day weekend would be part of a less than $25 million take. This looks more like a film with potential than a proven success.


Some Xmas Day comparisons: “True Grit” last year did $10.4 million on 3,047 screens (it opened three days earlier). “It’s Complicated” in 2009 did $7.2 million on 2,887. In 2008, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” did nearly $12 million on 1,988. All three ultimately passed $100 million domestic, as this now seems capable of reaching, although this almost certainly had a much higher budget.

Fun fact: The last Best Picture winner to open on Christmas Day was “The Sting” (1973). This predated wide-releases; it opened exclusively in key downtown theaters in big cities on that date.

Bottom line: This looks like it will rival and possibly surpass “The Descendants” as the most viewed Oscar contender during the voting period, and has a chance to enhance its awards chances based on the initial returns. But it is too early to assume that it is a break-out hit. The next few days will go a long way to determining its longer-term appeal.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”  (Warner Brothers)
For 1 day: $71,000 in 6 theaters: PSA: $11,900
This opening can’t be called anything but mediocre, with the suggestion but not certainty of trouble ahead. A platform opening at or just before Christmas for a prime Oscar contender is usually limited to one or two films each year, so there aren’t a lot of ready comparisons. The 12/25 PSA is indeed the best of all of these in recent years (although higher ticket prices exaggerate any gap), but so were expectations for this film.

Of the nine other such openings in the last seven years, only “The Bucket List” ended up with anything resembling broad market success, ultimately grossing $93 million even without any Oscar attention. This film’s debut more closely resembles last year’s “Somewhere” which opened in similar theaters and had a PSA of $8,100 on Xmas Day. That film ended up with grossing less than $2 million. The closest PSA – indeed it would be higher at today’s prices – was “The New World” ($10,200 in 3 theaters) which went on to make just under $13 million.

Bottom line: The carefully laid out plan for this was an extended platform with a wide national release timed to respond to the initially anticipated major nomination haul. At this point, Warners may need to readjust or they might just hope the public in the initial runs responds better to this than the critics did, then hope that enough Academy members feel the same./p>

The Adventures of Tintin”  (Paramount)
For 3 days, $9.7 million in 3,087 theaters; PSA: $3,100; Cumulative: $17.7 million
Whether it is the lack of familiarity with the character, further evidence of resistance to 3D ticket prices or a disconnect by a major director and the intended younger audience, this looks like it won’t hit the domestic $100 million gross that six other animated features did this year. It has only been grossing about 2/3 as much as the third “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” even with premium 3D ticket prices.

Bottom line: This is not a slam dunk to win Best Animated Feature.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”  (Sony)
For 3 days, $12.7 million; PSA: $4400; Cumulative: $21.1 million
Expected to rank at or right below the top for the weekend, its performance since Wednesday has been disappointing. Perhaps the R rating so far has been a factor, and the film may rebound, but the 3 day total is only a little better than what director David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” did on its (opening) Christmas Day two years back.

Bottom line: This unexpectedly may struggle to hit $100 million domestic and will need to depend on much better grosses to make back its expensive cost. Oscar chances as well as planned sequels would both seem to be in question.

“Pina”  (IFC/Sundance Selects)
For 3 days, $62,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: $20,700
Opening in three dedicated “art” theaters in NY (one in Brooklyn) rather than broader venues that produce usually higher grosses (it opens in LA along with the rest of the country in January), this niche 3D documentary about a German choreographer opened not quite at the level of IFC’s previous 3D specialized hit “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” but well enough to show real potential ahead.

Bottom line: As both Germany’s foreign language submission and on the documentary feature short list, this has a chance to grow beyond its more narrow but intensely interested base. With few other new January releases in the broader market, this has potential to be one of IFC’s bigger releases (aided of course by 3D not being part of its video-on-demand (VOD) presentation ahead.

In the Land of Blood and Honey”  (Film District)
For 3 days, $19,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: $6,300
Even if the reviews had been stronger (this is at a lowly 56 at Metacritic so far) this Serbian war movie would have been a tough sell, but though it is playing a top theaters, it is one of the worst Christmas platform openings ever.

Bottom line: The soon to be closed Film District will have a hard time sustaining this for full shows into the second week, let alone expect to see much further enthusiasm for this film.<

“Albert Nobbs”  (Roadside Attractions)
“The Flower of War” (Wrekin Hill)
Two more one-week NY/LA qualifying runs with no grosses reported.

PREDICT OSCAR NOMINEES: Will ‘War Horse’ Win Best Picture?

Log your predictions in all top Oscar races. Compete against experts!

Continuing/Expanding films
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”  (Focus) – week 3
For 3 days, $717,000 in 53 theaters (+ 37); PSA: $13,500; Cumulative: $1.8 million
The underreported story of the season — that this rather than “The Artist” is the top specialized/art house performer — continued again this weekend as both films expanded into new markets. And this comes despite not having any sort of awards’ presence and a much smaller advertising expenditure so far. Sources indicate that in theaters  at which both films are playing, “TTSS” is outgrossing “The Artist” (as well as in some cases “The War Horse” and other award contenders) often by a substantial margin.

Bottom line: Focus smartly aimed this at an early wide expansion (January 6) aimed less at depending on the next wave of awards news and more at finding a week where a fresh, well-reviewed adult film will stand more on its own. This might end up helping find awards attention where it counts – the Academy.

The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 5
For 3 days, $883,000 in 167 theaters (+ 150); PSA: $5,300; Cumulative: $2.4 million
This is the first time we are seeing grosses for this film outside of its initial NY/LA openings as it moves beyond a platform/exclusive pattern because of the prime holiday situation. The results? Once again, a mixed bag, particularly considering the amount of money Weinstein is spending to get these grosses. This played in more than three times as many theaters as “TTSS,” yet its total gross is only about 20% higher. And any comparison with Xmas weekend grosses for past Oscar winners launched in a similar way — most recently, “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire” — show this performing at a much lower level so far.

Bottom line: The reality that this has by its nature a more limited appeal remains. But the film is now in something of a possible danger zone, where unless it shows better WOM than it has so far, it could start falling off and send the wrong message to Academy voters, who usually are aware of how the public is responding to a major best picture contender that is in current release.

The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 5
For 3 days, $2.1 million in 813 theaters (- 65); PSA: $2,600; Cumulative: $32.3 million
This showed the first signs of weakness so far in its impressive run, most likely due to its appeal almost entirely being to older moviegoers and its not being fresh in the market. It also surprisingly lost some theaters.

Bottom line: This should continue a steady pattern of business for the next week, but it is going to plateau. A $100 million total and being the top grossing Best Picture contender currently playing is no longer as likely as it looked before.

My Week with Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 5
For 3 days, $558,000 in 602 theaters (+ 358); PSA: $900; Cumulative: $7.0 million
No getting around that this near-doubling of theaters is a disaster. The weekdays will help a bit, but Weinstein is going to have to fight to hold on to full shows and even holding over at all in the intensely crowded marketplace continuing through next weekend.

Bottom line: With Weinstein opening “The Iron Lady” limited this Friday, they might be taking this as a sign of where their best hopes of winning Best Actress lie. “Marilyn,” particularly considering the marketing costs so far, is quite disappointing.

Young Adult” (Paramount) – week 3
For 3 days, $1,750,000 in 987 theaters (+1); PSA: $1,800; Cumulative: $7.2 million
This weekend confirms this is not going to achieve the grosses of Jason Reitman’s earlier “Juno” and “Up in the Air.” It is far better than “Marilyn,” but at this point that’s about the best that can be said for it.

Bottom line: Even if Theron does get a Best Actress nomination (not at all certain), this won’t be able to sustain most of these screens until then.

A Dangerous Method” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 5
For 3 days, $197,000 in 58 theaters (+ 41); PSA: $3,400; Cumulative: $1.0 million
Short and simple: this is playing in about as many theaters as “TTSS,” and its PSA is only about 25% as good.

Bottom line: Its initial NY/LA openings showed real promise, but this is a clear case of a good film being hurt badly by too much competition.

Carnage” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2
For 3 days, $58,000 in 7 theaters (+ 2); PSA: $8,300; Cumulative: $176,000
The best that can be said is that it is doing a bit better than “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”

Bottom line: Last week’s opening grosses already indicated this film was in trouble. This week confirms that.

Shame” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 4
For 3 days, $126,000 in 50 theaters (-1); PSA: $2,500; Cumulative: $1.5 million
Not exactly Xmas weekend fare, this should pick up a bit this week. But again, being hurt by too much competition.

Bottom line: Another film that will have to stretch to sustain this level or close until Michael Fassbender’s hoped for Best Actor bid.

Hugo” (Paramount) – Week 5
For 3 days, $2.1 million in 1,236 theaters (- 1,296); PSA: $1,719; Cumulative: $43.8 million
There is some good news for “Hugo” as its 3 day gross fell less than half despite losing more than half of its theaters, with many of those remaining not even having complete shows.

Bottom line: This is a make or break week for this film. If it shows some sign of life in the next few days, it increases its chances of staying on screen until the nominations, and might indicate that a reluctant adult public is slowly warming to the film, though likely too late to guarantee a chance at a profit.

More News from GoldDerby