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Weekend Report: 'Prisoners' Kidnaps Top Spot on Slow Fall Weekend

by Ray Subers
Prisoners
 

 
September 22, 2013

In spite of its difficult subject material, kidnapping drama Prisoners easily took first place at the box office this weekend. Meanwhile, 3D dance movie Battle of the Year tanked.

The Top 12 earned $73.1 million, which makes this one of the slowest weekend yet this year. Still, this is typically a quiet time at the box office, and this haul is only a bit off from the same weekend last year.

Prisoners opened to $20.8 million from 3,260 locations this weekend. That's in the same general range as Warner Bros. similarly-timed dramas The Town ($23.8 million), Contagion ($22.4 million) and Argo ($19.5 million). WB clearly recognizes that there's a market for adult-oriented movies at this time of year—the audience for Prisoners was 72 percent over the age of 25.

The release date wouldn't have mattered much, though, if Prisoners didn't look appealing, which was a huge possibility given the movie's heavy story and bleak visual palette. Instead of shying away from the story, though, the marketing made it clear that this was a high-stakes race against time to find two missing girls. The very primal fear of having your children taken away is clearly something many parents can relate to, and the marketing made sure to put the desperate father (played by Hugh Jackman) front-and-center. It also helps that there was clear ambiguity as to what happened to the girls, and the opportunity to try to solve the "whodunit" mystery is an appealing one.

Aside from skewing older, exit polling also showed that the audience was pretty evenly split between men (48 percent) and women (52 percent). Audiences polled on Friday gave it a "B+" CinemaScore, though that improved to an "A-" on Saturday.

The real story for Prisoners is how it holds up in the long-run. It has good word-of-mouth, though it also faces tough competition in early October. Based on other similar movies at this time, it's likely that Prisoners winds up with between $70 and $80 million, though it's possible that it goes a bit higher.

Coming off one of the best weekends ever in the month of September, horror sequel Insidious Chapter 2 plummeted 66 percent to $13.8 million. For the horror genre, that fall isn't terrible, though it still guarantees that Insidious Chapter 2 won't wind up anywhere near director James Wan's July hit The Conjuring ($136 million and counting). To date, Insidious Chapter 2 has earned $60.2 million, which is more than the first Insidious made in its entire run.

In third place, Luc Besson's The Family fell 50 percent to $7 million. Through 10 days, the action comedy has grossed a fine $25.6 million.

Despite only adding 45 theaters, Spanish-language family comedy Instructions Not Included remarkably increased 11 percent to $5.4 million this weekend. So far, the surprise hit has earned $33.96 million, which ranks fifth all-time for a foreign language movie. By next weekend, it will pass Pan's Labyrinth ($37.6 million) to claim fourth place.

Opening at 2,008 theaters, 3D dance movie Battle of the Year rounded out the Top Five with a terrible $4.6 million. That's one of the lowest openings ever for a dance movie: it's less than half of last year's Step Up Revolution, and it's also below legendary flop Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights ($5.8 million).

A handful of factors combined to take Battle of the Year out of the running this weekend, the biggest of which is the fact that the dance movie craze peaked at least five ago. Also, the movie lacked star power—while Chris Brown does have over 13 million Twitter followers, that's mostly for his music (and, of course, his well-documented behavior issues). Sony seemed to recognize that the movie didn't have a ton of potential, and as a result the marketing campaign was fairly light.

The audience was 60 percent female and 55 percent were 21 years of age and older. They gave it a very good "A-" CinemaScore; in comparison, it's only scoring six percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, it's unlikely that this hangs out in theaters very long, and a final total somewhere between $10 and $15 million is likely.

Playing at 318 IMAX locations this weekend, the 3D re-release of 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz took ninth place with $3.09 million. That's way above previous 3D re-release Top Gun 3D ($1.97 million), and also above last September's IMAX re-release of Raiders of the Lost Ark ($1.67 million).

Sex addition comedy Thanks for Sharing opened to $540,281 from 269 theaters. That's a bit less than Roadside Attractions' Girl Most Likely, which debuted to $694,447 a few months ago (though it was playing at 82 additional theaters). With middling reviews, it's likely that Thanks for Sharing also falls off pretty quickly and ends up with less than $2 million total.

Playing at four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, Enough Said earned $232,800 this weekend. That translate to an average of $58,200, which is a major improvement over writer/director Nicole Holofcener's last movie, Please Give ($23,625). The fact that this features one of James Gandolfini's final performances likely had a positive influence; Fox Searchlight is aggressively expanding the well-reviewed movie in to between 180 and 220 theaters next weekend.

Ahead of its nationwide debut next weekend, Ron Howard's Rush opened at five locations in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $187,289. A $37,458 per-theater average is fine, though considering the strong reviews (around 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and Howard's pedigree it probably should have done a bit more. Ultimately, the real story here is how the movie performs when it expands in to 2,200 theaters next weekend.

Around-the-World Roundup


The foreign box office was dominated by a few family movies. The Smurfs 2 led the way with $14.1 million; it added $5.3 million in its second weekend in China, and opened to a solid $2.8 million in Italy. To date, The Smurfs 2 has earned $238.4 million overseas.

DreamWorks Animation's Turbo fueled up with $12.4 million this weekend, a huge part of which came from its $9.8 million debut in China. It also opened to $1.4 million in Australia. Both of these debuts are fine, though neither are big enough to save this major disappointment—so far, Turbo has only grossed $91.6 million overseas.

Despicable Me 2
added $10.3 million from 41 markets this weekend. The animated sequel had a strong $6.3 million debut in Japan, and will likely play well there over the next few weeks (animated movies tend to have excellent holds in this market). Despicable Me 2 has now earned $493.3 million overseas; including its domestic tally, it's made an incredible $854 million worldwide.

Elysium
continued its solid foreign run with $10.3 million this weekend. It opened in Brazil ($2.6 million) and Japan (just under $2 million). To date, the Matt Damon sci-fi flick has earned $157.6 million.

The Conjuring
also extended its remarkable run this weekend. The movie added $10.1 million, around half of which came from a great $5 million debut in South Korea. So far, the horror hit has earned an excellent $149.2 million overseas, and is on track to close with over $300 million worldwide.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

Forecast
'Prisoners' to Capture Adult Audiences This Weekend


This Weekend in Past Years:
• 2012 - 'End of Watch' Narrowly Beats 'House,' 'Curve'
• 2011 - 'Lion' Remains 'King,' 'Moneyball,' 'Dolphin Tale' Go Extra Innings
• 2010 - 'Wall Street' Sequel Yields Solid Returns
• 2009 - Blue Skies for 'Cloudy,' Hazy Starts for 'Surrogates,' 'Fame'
• 2007 - 'Resident Evil' Infects Top Spot
• 2006 - 'Jackass' Slams Into Top Spot
• 2005 - 'Flightplan,' 'Corpse Bride' Give Rise to Lively Weekend

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