Weekend Forecast for January 11-13, 2013

By Reagen Sulewski

January 11, 2013

Remember when we were in Crazy, Stupid, Love? That was fun.

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Although it's not the only thing to talk about this weekend, what most people will be watching at the box office is the consequences arising from Thursday's Oscar nominations, and the subsequent expansions and re-releases of contending films. Perhaps ironically, it's one of the films that's seen its hopes damaged most that should lead the way.

Zero Dark Thirty received just five nominations on Thursday, with at least one significant omission in director, which leads many to think that the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is now on the outside looking in, at least as far as the Best Picture race goes. Of course, that's a separate issue to its box office prospects, which remain high thanks to incredible limited release earnings – and of course, a Best Picture nomination is still a Best Picture nomination.

The film, directed by Kathryn Bigalow, details the nearly 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks through the lens of a CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) who has spent her entire career hunting for the leader of Al Qaeda. Following leads around the world, she's finally able to collect enough evidence to present her case and get a SEAL team to... well, you know how this went. The story is more about how the world's most wanted man was tracked down despite his incredible secrecy and his location in the most hostile-to-the-U.S. location in the world.


The whys and hows of that process were not always pretty, and maybe at times kind of awful and/or contrary to basic values. The film has taken significant criticism over what appears to be a pro-torture stance (others say the film's view point isn't quite so cut and dried) as well as some possible shenanigans about how some of the classified information involved into the hunt got into the film. I find it difficult to believe that people would care about the latter, though the former is a bit more of an issue. I expect that to be more an issue going forward for word-of-mouth rather than its “opening weekend”. And I'm certain there's a potentially significant part of the audience who wouldn't have a problem with it, or might even approve.

Films about the War on Terrorism and 9/11 have proven to be a tough sell, with audiences generally feeling that these films are trying to lecture them. Zero Dark Thirty is a little different on that front, in that it's a procedural with a “happy” ending. It's also been sold fantastically, with the trailer finishing with a clip of that stunning night raid on bin Laden's compound. More to the point, we already know that there's an audience for this.

In three weekends of limited release, it's already brought in a little over $5 million – last weekend putting up a gaudy $44,000 per screen average at 60 venues. This weekend it gets close to 3,000 venues, and after modifying for both the expansion and the Oscar nominee factors, this should mean about a $21 million opening weekend, in one fell swoop surpassing the domestic total of Bigalow's previous war film The Hurt Locker.

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