Box Office Showing Signs of Grey
By John Hamann
January 29, 2012
Liam Neeson managed to beat Groupon and Living Social this weekend, as The Grey took on discounted tickets for Sam Worthington's Man on a Ledge and Katherine Heigl's latest cinematic disaster, One for the Money. This is also post-Oscar nomination weekend, so the box office was looking for upticks from films like The Descendants, The Iron Lady, The Artist, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Look out for Neeson, though – he's currently hot and a known quantity. Neeson has appeared in 11 films that have grossed more than $200 million worldwide throughout his career.
Our number one film of the weekend is The Grey, a film with a questionable title, great premise, good reviews, and an attention-getting star in Liam Neeson. The Grey earned a solid but not spectacular $20 million this weekend from 3,185 venues. It had a venue average of $6,279, and earned a B- Cinemascore. The Grey got started on Friday with a $6.5 million take, and turned that amount into a 3.07 multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross), which indicates a solid weekend for the actioner. With a lot of other male-driven films in release, distributor Open Road should be very pleased with the result. The upstart distributor paid $8 million plus a commitment to spend $25 million on prints and advertising, a figure they should recoup given this opening weekend, should The Grey have a opening-to-total multiplier of about 3.5. Unknown, Neeson's last actioner, had an opening-to-total multiplier of 2.9. Bigger studios can often rely on overseas grosses to pad profit, but in this case, Open Road owns only the domestic rights.
Last weekend, Underworld Awakening opened on the same weekend as its predecessor. This weekend, The Grey chooses the same weekend as Neeson's smash Taken, which opened on January 29, 2009. Taken opened to an okay $24 million, but earned six times that amount domestically, turning in $145 million stateside, and another $81 million overseas. Since Taken was released, Neeson did voice work in the English version of Ponyo (a really good film, but a domestic flop; it did earn $200 million worldwide); had a smaller role in Clash of the Titans (almost $500 million worldwide); appeared in the domestic disaster The A-Team ($77 million stateside, $177 million worldwide); voiced Aslan in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ($400 million worldwide); and went back to his singular action style in Unknown. Unknown was no Taken, but that one still managed a healthy $63 million stateside and $136 million worldwide. Neeson is a very quiet superstar, especially at the worldwide box office, likely due to his appearances in films like Schindler's List, as well as healthy franchise work in Chronicles of Narnia, Batman Begins, and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (the series went in the tank as soon as his character died).
For The Grey, this is a solid start, considering Neeson's draw in other parts of the world. Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, director Joe Carnahan has delivered a solid – albeit somewhat existential – film that critics and for the most part audiences seem to like. At RottenTomatoes, The Grey is a decent 77% fresh, with 98 critics out of a possible 128 finding something to like. "Top Critics" weren't as kind, as that score was only 63% fresh. For Open Road Entertainment, this will finish as a better result than their only other release, Killer Elite, which bombed with a $25 million gross stateside against a budget of $70 million.