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Box Office Report: Neeson's 'Grey' Nabs $20 Mil, Moviegoing Continues to Pick Up

The Grey Liam Neeson Still - H 2012
Open Roads Film

UPDATED: Beckinsale's "Underworld: Awakening" beats Heigl's new action-comedy "One for the Money"; Oscar best picture noms "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "Descendants" make top 10.

Liam Neeson's The Grey--cementing the actor's relatively new-found status as action star--raced past expectations to gross $20 milion in its debut at the domestic box office.

The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan, led another good weekend at the box office. So far, 2012 revenues are running nearly 10 percent ahead of 2011 as moviegoing continues to pick up the pace.

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Open Road Films, a joint venture of AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, is distributing The Grey, about a group of men stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash (the cast also includes Frank Grillo and Dermot Mulroney). The $25 million pic was produced by Liddell Entertainment and Scott Free Productions for about $25 million.

Audiences gave the action-thriller a B- CinemaScore, with males making up 60 percent of the audience. Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested the film would open in the low to mid teens.

Open Road paid roughly $5 million to acquire The Grey, only the second movie the independent distributor has relased after Killer Elite. Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg said the movie's opening is a sizeable victory, considering his company spent far less than a studio would on marketing costs (he declined, however, to say what the marketing budget was).

"Liam Neeson is a true movie star, and our marketing department hit it out of the park," Ortenberg said.

Ortenberg said the movie's R rating prevented it from matching the opening of Neeson's two recent action pics, Taken ($24.7 million) and Unknown ($21.9 million).

Fueled by older women, Katherine Heigl starrer One for the Money also beat expectations in grossing $11.8 million, although it lost the No. 2 slot to Screen Gems holdover Underworld: Awakening, which earned a strong $12.5 million in its second outing.

One for the Money--based on the popular Stephanie Plum detective novels by author Janet Evanovich -- was fueled by fans of the book, i.e., older females. Females made up 79 percent of the audience, while 74 percent were over the age of 25. The pic received a B- CinemaScore.

"We're very pleased," Lionsgate's David Spitz said. "These were definitely fans of the book."

Lionsgate raised eyebrows among some of its rivals when pacting with Groupon to offer discounted tickets for One for the Money. Roughly 20 million Groupon members were offered the chance to buy one ticket for $6, and $12 for two tickets.

Groupon sold 225,000 coupons, although there are no figures yet as to how many were actually redeemed this weekend, since they are good for the entire run of the film. Generally speaking, if all the tickets were redeemed, it would equal about $1.8 million in box office revenues. However, when Lionsgate offered a similar Groupon promotion for The Lincoln Lawyer, only about 75 percent to 80 percent of the coupons were ever redeemed at theaters.

Lionsgate president of distribution David Spitz said the promotion was invaluable, since Groupon offered the deal to some 20 million members--raising the profile of the movie.

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As with Underworld: Awakening, the George Lucas-produced Red Tails did strong business in its second weekend, grossing $10.4 million for a domestic cume of $33.8 million. Awakening has now earned $45.1 million, a franchise best at this point in its run.

Red Tails took the No. 4 splot, followed by the weekend's third new film, action-thriller Man on a Ledge, starring Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks. The Summit Entertainment pic grossed a so-so $8.3 million. However, the pic scored the best CinemaScore of the three new films, a B+. 

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradin produced Man on a Ledge, about a hard-living police negotiator (Banks) who tries to talk down an ex-cop and fugitive (Worthington) who is standing on the ledge of a New York high-rise. Much of the film's $42 million budget was covered through foreign presales, according to Summit.

Summit president of distribution Richie Fay said the movie performed within expectations. "We were up 43 percent on Saturday, indicating great word of mouth," he said.

One twist -- Lionsgate and Summit dated Man on a Ledge and One for the Money long before Lionsgate bought Summit (the marriage was consummated earlier this month). Normally, one company wouldn't date two films on the same weekend.

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Summit also offered discounted tickets for Man on a Ledge via Living Social.

Among the nine Oscar best picture contenders, Warner Bros.' Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close generated the most business, grossing $7.1 million from 2,630 theaters for a cume of $21.1 million. The film, opening in six theaters on Christmas Day, waited until Oscar noms before expanding nationwide.

Fox Searchlight's best picture contender The Descendants saw a nice Oscar bump as it added more than 1,400 theaters to its run, grossing $6.6 million from 2,001 locations--the biggest weekend gross since the film's opening--for a domestic cume of $58.8 million and coming in No. 8.

Awards frontrunner The Artist moved up the chart to No. 12. From the Weinstein Co., the pic also expanded this weekend, grossing $3.3 million from 897 theaters for a cume of $16.7 million.

A Separation, nominated for an Oscar for best foreign langauge film (Iran), scored a strong location average of $9,051 in grossing $281K from 31 locations for a cume of $893K. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film in the U.S.

Wim Wenders' Pina, nominated for best documentary, also continued to shine, grossing $185K for a cume of $1 million and location average of $5,286 IFC/Sundance Selects is handling the film domestically.

Roadside Attractions' Albert Nobbs--which scored Glen Close an Oscar nomination for best actress--debuted to $772K from 245 theaters for a location average of $3,145. The pic has grossed a total of $893K including earnings from an awards qualifying run.

Weekend/Domestic Box Office Jan. 27-Jan. 29

Title/Weeks in Release/Studio/Theater Count/Three Day Weekend Total/Cume

1. The Grey (1), Open Road Films/3,185, $20 million

2. Underworld: Awakening (2), Sony/3,078, $12.5 million, $45.1 million

3. One for the Money (1), Lionsgate/2,737, $11.8 million

4. Red Tails (2), Fox/2,573, $10.4 million, $33.8 million

5. Man on a Ledge (1), Summit/2,998, $8.3 million

6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (6), Warner Bros./2,630, $7.1 million, $21.1 million

7. Contraband (3), Universal/2,650, $6.5 million, $56.4 million

8. The Descendants (11), Fox Searchlight/2,001, $6.6 million, $58.8 million

9. Beauty and the Beast (3D) (3), Disney/2,145, $5.3 million, $41.4 million

10. Haywire (2), Relativity/2,441, $4 million, $15.3 million