Unloved by the Academy, Zero Dark Thirty Is the People's Choice
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
January 13, 2013
Needless to say, Open Road Films is going to be extremely pleased with the performance of A Haunted House. The movie had a minuscule $2.5 million budget, following the pattern of the films it mocks (Paranormal Activity, all of the various exorcism movies of the past couple of years), meaning that it's easily going to turn a profit even if it falls off a cliff next weekend. Considering that this movie stars Marlon Wayans, Cedric the Entertainer, Anchorman's David Koechner, and a bunch of other people no one knows, it's extremely impressive that the upstart distributor (The Grey, End of Watch) was able to parlay this product into such a stellar result. Open Road will probably have to be happy with the money they got this weekend, though, because A Haunted House has been savaged by critics (10% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and its B- from Cinemascore-polled audiences shows there's not much enthusiasm for it from everyday movie-goers, either.
Gangster Squad's fortunes probably changed on July 20, 2012 in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. The trailer for the film highlighted the climactic action scene, which showed characters from the film shooting submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. At this point, the trailers were yanked from theaters and the film was pushed from its September 7, 2012 release date in order to accommodate re-shoots that would relocate that scene and change the context. From this point on, Warner Bros. seemed uneasy about promoting the project, and the move to push the opening to January 11, 2013 is evidence of this fact, particularly since it's generally later in January before audiences really warm to new releases as opposed to Oscar nominees and other awards bait.
On paper, Gangster Squad appeared to have everything going for it. Ruben Fleischer, the man behind Zombieland, was the director, and the film was chock full of big stars. The cast list includes such heavyweights as Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte, lending it the appearance of a movie that might have been meant for Academy Awards attention (note that every single one of those gentlemen have previously been nominated for an Academy Award; Stone was part of last year's SAG-winning cast of The Help). The budget for the film is reported to be $75 million, and there's not a chance Gangster Squad gets there domestically, because word-of-mouth is not on its side. Only 34% of critics at Rotten Tomatoes endorse the film, while it received a B+ Cinemascore from opening night audiences (not terrible, but not glowing, either).
Fourth and fifth go to a pair of movies that have seen their fortunes tied together even if their subject matter couldn't be more different. Django Unchained and Les Miserables both opened on Christmas Day and have more or less been right beside each other in the rankings ever since. This weekend, even with the theoretical boost they should have received from their Oscar nominations, both films fell fairly significantly, likely because they had already been doing well throughout their release.