Box Office Report: 'Die Hard' Wins Holiday With $37.5 Million but Still Falls Short

 Frank Masi, SMPSP

Bruce Willis' A Good Day to Die Hard succeeded in winning Presidents Day weekend, but it still came in below expectations to find itself in a relatively close race with the Nicholas Sparks film adaptation Safe Haven and holdover Melissa McCarthy comedy Identity Thief.

Die Hard, from 20th Century Fox, grossed $29.3 million for the four-day holiday frame, putting its five-day debut at $37.5 million, missing the $40 million to $45 million that tracking services had predicted. The action pic is faring much better overseas, where it has earned north of $80 million.

Universal's R-rated comedy Identity Thief -- teaming McCarthy with Jason Bateman -- wasn't far behind Die Hard in North America and remained a potent competitor in its second outing, grossing $27.9 million for an 11-day domestic total of $75.1 million (the comedy has earned nearly $75 million internationally).

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Relativity Media's Safe Haven, opening opposite Die Hard on Valentine's Day, took in $25.2 million over Presidents Day weekend for a stellar five-day debut of $34 million -- $10 million more than expected and underscoring author Sparks' popularity. The romantic drama came in No. 3.

Animated 3D family entry Escape From Planet Earth, opening Friday, grossed a solid $21 million to come in No. 4 for The Weinstein Co.

Beautiful Creatures, based on the popular YA book series, failed to find much of a foothold in its debut. The Alcon movie grossed $8.9 million over Presidents Day for a five-day debut of $11.5 million. The movie lost younger females to Safe Haven, as well as to fellow YA film adaptation Warm Bodies, which placed No. 5 with $10.3 million in its third frame for a total $51.5 million.

On the Fox lot, there's sure to be plenty of conversation as to why Die Hard fell short of expectations domestically. Dismal reviews likely hurt the film, since the franchise's fan base is older and more influenced by a critic's opinion (65 percent of the audience was older than 25). Those who did turn out gave the film a solid B+ CinemaScore, however.

In A Good Day to Die Hard, Willis' McClane travels to Moscow to rescue his son (Jai Courtney), a CIA operative who's in some nasty trouble.

Another hindrance might have been the film's R rating. Live Free or Die Hard, which reinvigorated the franchise in 2007 after opening to $48.4 million, was rated PG-13.

There also has been a glut of R-rated action pics fronted by veteran stars. Die Hard has fared the best by far, considering that Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand and Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head bombed in the past month.

"John McClane is kicking butt on a worldwide basis," said Fox president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. "He's still got it."

Roughly 300 Imax theaters contributed $4.3 million of Die Hard's  total domestic gross, or 10 percent, while other large-format screens contributed 8 percent.

Fueled by younger female moviegoers, Safe Haven received even worse notices than Die Hard but is more review-proof. The romantic drama also drew a B+ CinemaScore. More than 70 percent of those buying tickets were females, while 68 percent of the total audience was younger than 25.

Safe Haven was directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Julianne Hough as a young woman who returns to her hometown only to be gripped by a dark secret from her past, even as she falls for a stranger (Josh Duhamel).

"Nicholas Sparks as a faithful audience," Relativity president of distribution Kyle Davies. "He's consistently creating great stories that really connect to his audience. We did better than expected and were No. 1 on Valentine's Day, which is tailor made for one of his movies."

Adaptations of Sparks' novels include Dear John, The Notebook and Message in a Bottle, all of which topped $100 million at the worldwide box office.

Escape From Planet Earth is the first theatrical feature from Rainmaker Entertainment. Its voice cast is led by Brendan Fraser, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry and Sarah Jessica Parker. William Shatner plays the evil alien Shanker.

"We're very happy with the performance of the film," said Erik Lomis, head of distribution for Weinstein Co. "We took advantage of a gap in the schedule in terms of family product."

Directed and scripted by Richard LaGravenese, Beautiful Creatures is the latest film property to be based on a young-adult book series. The film stars Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich and is being distributed by Warner Bros. via its deal with Alcon. Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis also star in the film based on the first book in the Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

The movie centers on Lena Duchannes (Englert), whose special powers have long kept her separated from others. Moving to a new town, she quickly captures the attention of Ethan Wate (Ehrenreich), but their budding relationship is threatened by an ancient battle between good and evil.

Among holdovers, Oscar contender Silver Linings Playbook will cross the $100 million mark on Monday in a victory for Harvey Weinstein and his team.

At the specialty box office, Gael Garcia Bernal's No opened to a notable $94,742 from four theaters for a location average of $23,686. The Chilean film, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S., is a contender for the best foreign-language film Oscar.

Below are estimates for the four-day Presidents Day weekend at the domestic box office.

Title, Weeks in release/theater count, studio, four-day weekend total, cume (*denotes Oscar best picture nominee)

1. A Good Day to Die Hard, 1/3,553, Fox, $29.3 million, $37.5 million

2. Identity Thief, 1/3,141, Universal, $27.9 million, $75.1 million

3. Safe Haven, 1/3,223, Relativity, $25.2 million, $34 million

4. Escape From Planet Earth, 1/3,288, The Weinstein Co, $21 million

5. Warm Bodies, 3/2,897, Summit, $10.3 million, $51.5 million

6. Beautiful Creatures, 1/2,950, Warner Bros., $8.9 million, $11.5 million

7. Side Effects, 2/2,605, Open Road, $7.8 million, $20.6 million

8. *Silver Linings Playbook, 14/2,202, The Weinstein Co., $7.6 million, $100 million

9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 4/2,103, Paramount/MGM, $4.2 million, $50.4 million

10. *Zero Dark Thirty, 9/1,522, Sony/Annapurna, $3.6 million, $88.5 million

Twitter @PamelaDayM

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