Mama Rocks, Arnold Flops
By John Hamann
January 20, 2013
This is NOT a good weekend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the former governor gets no love at the weekend box office. However, Jessica Chastain and the Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend keep a strong January rolling.
The real star of the box office this weekend is Jessica Chastain, last weekend’s Best Actress Golden Globe winner for Zero Dark Thirty. This weekend Chastain appears in an entirely different film, the horror flick Mama. It appeared as if it would only have to contend with last weekend’s winner, Zero Dark Thirty, for the top spot. Chastain is in the process of blooming into a superstar, and this weekend will only add to a resume that includes The Debt, The Tree of Life, The Help, Madagascar 3, and Lawless - and these films all came out within the last year and a half.
Our number one film over the MLK weekend is Jessica Chastain’s Mama, the dark horror film from Executive Producer and all around weird guy Guillermo del Toro. Universal opened Mama at 2,647 venues, and it earned $28.1 million over three days, with another decent day to come tomorrow, on the holiday Monday. Mama cost only $15 million to make, so this will be a profitable venture for Universal and del Toro, and only serve to keep Chastain’s name in the headlines as she moves toward Oscar glory.
Mama received better notices than the typical horror flick; for once, it seems some thought went into a true scary movie. Critics didn’t hate it. At the time of this writing, Mama has received 51 positive reviews and 29 negative at RottenTomatoes, good for a 64% fresh rating. Audiences also appear to be digging Mama, as it earned a B- Cinemascore, which isn’t bad for horror. This is a nicely scheduled, smartly made picture, which benefited from a decent marketing campaign. For Executive Producer del Toro, this is his first return to horror since Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, another scary movie that got decent reviews (but flopped at the box office). Surprisingly, between horror films, del Toro served as Executive Producer on a handful of kids movies, like Rise of the Guardians, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots. With the del Toro brand, Mama should make at least $50 million domestically and another $25 million overseas.
Chastain’s second punch in this weekend’s top two comes with Zero Dark Thirty, which expanded last weekend and took the number one spot with $24.4 million. This weekend, the shine comes off a little, as Zero Dark Thirty won little at last weekend’s Golden Globes, beyond the win for Chastain, of course. Couple that with ongoing chatter about the torture in the film, and the gross this weekend becomes $17.6 million, a dip of 28% - despite having the holiday Monday prop that drop up. With Chastain having the one-two punch at the box office this weekend, the title will continue to be bandied about in the press, giving it even more free marketing. The question everyone asks me is whether ZDT will be a $100 million earner in North America. My answer is that it still appears to be close, but will need some decent holds over the next two weekends to do it. Its gross so far is $55.9 million.