While a poor start to the year doesn't necessarily doom the year as a whole, things aren't looking good so far in 2013.
Total domestic box office in February came in at around $617 million, which makes it the lowest-grossing February since 2002. That figure is off a massive 24 percent from last year's record-setting $818 million, and also down over 10 percent from 2008-2010.
The terrible performance is a result of weak holdovers from January combined with a February slate made up mostly of underperformers. There was only one major hit (Identity Thief) and two minor ones (Warm Bodies and Safe Haven), and that just isn't enough to keep the box office afloat in comparison to a record-setting 2012. Identity Thief led the way in February with an excellent $97.7 million through its first 22 days. It took first place on its first and third weekend, and nearly beat A Good Day to Die Hard on its second one. From its clearly articulated, relatable premise to its broadly-appealing leads (Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy), the movie feels like it came off some kind of "comedy hit" assembly line, and Universal is reaping major rewards so far. Identity Thief will wind up being the only movie from the first two months of 2013 to pass $100 million at the box office, and it's on pace to wind up with close to $120 million.
After a solid $20.4 million debut over Super Bowl weekend, zombie romance Warm Bodies held up well in the following weeks and ended the month in second place with a very solid $59.4 million. The movie won't be able to match Zombieland's $75.6 million, though it is on pace to beat last year's Super Bowl winner Chronicle ($64.6 million). Overall, Warm Bodies is undoubtedly one of 2013's few success stories so far. A Good Day to Die Hard took third place in February with $55.1 million through 15 days. In comparison, the last Die Hard movie had earned $90.4 million through the same point. With awful reviews and middling word-of-mouth, the fifth Die Hard movie has also been falling like a rock, and will be lucky to wind up with more than $70 million by the end of its run. That will make it the lowest-grossing Die Hard movie ever, and the least-attended one by half. It will make up for this a bit overseas, where it still has a chance of matching its predecessor's $250 million, but it's hard to think of this as anything but a disappointment.
In fourth place, Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven earned a very good $50.8 million through the end of the month. It's tracking ahead of recent Sparks movies The Last Song and The Lucky One, and should close near $65 million.
Rounding out the Top Five, 2012 holdover Silver Linings Playbook added $37.3 million in February. The movie is a huge success story for The Weinstein Company; after struggling to market it in November, they made a last minute decision to go with a gradual roll-out that took advantage of word-of-mouth and awards recognition. As a result, the movie has slowly made its way to a $109.6 million total, and will wind up with at least $125 million by the end of its run.
The rest of the box office was fairly underwhelming. Escape From Planet Earth earned a fine $36.5 million, though that's due more to family audiences being neglected than to anything inherently interesting in the movie. With $26.1 million, director Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects managed to out-gross his early 2012 effort Haywire ($18.9 million), though it's still not a very good figure to end your big screen career with. Snitch had a decent $13.2 million opening late in the month, but it needs to hang on well to ultimately get a pass. Finally, Dark Skies disappointed with just $8.2 million in its opening weekend, and will likely take a sharp dive in accordance with genre norms.
Through the first two months of the year, the domestic box office has earned $1.44 billion. That's off 12 percent from last year, 21 percent from 2010 and 19 percent from 2009. It did at least improve two percent over 2011, though that's really not saying much.
Five of the top six titles so far in 2013 are all 2012 holdovers; in comparison, last year only one movie (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) in the Top Six was from the previous year.
Based on this awful startand the fact that the March slate can't possibly equal last year's recordit's looking like 2013 is going to have a very tough time matching 2012's $10.84 billion record.