Weekend Wrap-Up

Box Office Plummets Thanks to Awful Openers

By John Hamann

January 27, 2013

He's just trying to help separate these Siamese twins.

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It’s the post-Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and the openers suck. So what else is new?

The weekend following the extended January weekend is notorious for serving up critically reviled movies, and this one is no different. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Parker, and Movie 43 join a historically bad weekend where openers have included Red Tails, Legion, The Tooth Fairy, Extraordinary Measures, Inkheart, Meet the Spartans, The Hitcher, and Are We There Yet? – and that’s just going back seven years. These late January weekends have a neon sign on the calendar that says “DUMP HERE,” and studios do just that. The openers have an average rating at RottenTomatoes of 18%, and audiences caught on.

Our number one film, unfortunately, is one of those titles. The top film at the box office is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Paramount’s $50 million, R-rated update on the Grimm fairy tale. With TV shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm being popular right now, this would seem like a natural winner. It did win, but it came in about $6 million below its tracking estimate, earning $19 million from 3,372 venues this weekend. It was expected to earn $25 million plus, but the Jeremy Renner/Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) horror/fairy tale failed to draw a big audience. Renner hasn’t been in a film without a built-in audience since The Town, where he supported Ben Affleck, instead going for pre-positioned roles in The Avengers, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Bourne Legacy. Obviously, audiences weren’t ready to buy him as the grown up Hansel, and the fact that this one was held back from reviewers prior to release was the death knell. Studios should know by now they are better off getting bad reviews than no reviews.


Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was supposed to be released in March 2012, after production began a year earlier in March 2011. The film was delayed, and in the age of the Internet, this is just as bad as not screening a film for critics. Released in 3D, Hansel & Gretel even had the admission mark-up going for it; nonetheless, it failed to cross the $20 million mark. The marketing was poor and the reviews (once they started to come out) were worse, with only six positive reviews out of a possible 37. The makers of Hansel & Gretel seemed to have a list of what not to do with their property, and hit every item. Still, with only a $50 million budget, and already a following overseas (it made $8.6 million in Russia alone last weekend), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters won’t cost Paramount too much.

After a huge MLK long weekend at $32 million, Mama’s box office trend settles into traditional horror, as the spooker falls 55% from its $28.4 million three-day total last weekend. In its follow up weekend, the Jessica Chastain horror title earned $12.9 million from 2,682 venues for Universal, a studio that’s been on a bit of a roll, releasing Pitch Perfect ($107 million worldwide, $17 million budget), This is 40 ($70 million worldwide, $35 million budget), and Les Miserables (approaching $300 million worldwide, $60 million budget) over the last few months. With the $15 million Mama, Universal is only the distributor, but given the film’s $48.6 million gross so far, Universal will do just fine with Mama as well.

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