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Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen‘s road-trip comedy The Guilt Trip debuted to an unimpressive $1.1 million at the North American box office on Wednesday as Streisand returned to the big screen in a lead role for the first time since The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996.
From Paramount and David Ellison‘s Skydance Productions, Guilt Trip came in No. 2 behind Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which took in $6.3 million for a six-day domestic cume of $106.5 million.
Wednesday’s biggest headline was Kathryn Bigelow‘s controversial hunt-for-Osama bin Laden pic Zero Dark Thirty, which opened to a record-breaking $124,848 in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the top showing of all time for a limited release debuting on Wednesday outside of The Lion King. Sony is distributing the critically acclaimed film domestically.
Zero Dark Thirty, which expands nationwide Jan. 11, was No. 1 in all five theaters, including ACM Century City and the ArcLight Hollywood.
The third new movie opening Wednesday was Disney and Pixar’s 3D rerelease of Monsters, Inc., which debuted to $777,000 to come in No. 4. With all kids out of school as of Friday, traffic is expected to pick up.
Paramount was anticipating a slow start for Guilt Trip, which is expected to post a five-day debut of $7 million to $8.5 million.
Normally, that would spell death for a studio film, but year-end holiday titles often see unusually high multiples because of people being off of work and out of school. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is particularly strong. Conversely, films opening the weekend before Christmas generally don’t score huge openings because people are distracted by shopping and other preparations.
In 2007, Warner Bros.’ comedy P.S. I Love You opened to $6.5 million during the Dec. 21-23 weekend. The film cumed $53.7 million, an eight multiple; usually, a three or four multiple is considered good.
Box-office observers are waiting for the weekend before making any final pronouncements about Guilt Trip, but the comedy is facing several key challenges. Directed by Anne Fletcher, it only received a B- CinemaScore.
And two more studio comedies have yet to open: Universal’s R-rated This Is 40, directed by Judd Apatow and opening Friday, and Fox’s Christmas Day entry Parental Guidance, rated PG. Guilt Trip is rated PG-13.
Paramount has two more films opening Friday: the Tom Cruise starrer Jack Reacher and Andrew Adamson’s Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, executive produced by James Cameron.
And opening opposite Parental Guidance on Christmas are Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained and Universal’s Les Miserables, directed by Tom Hooper.
With eight nationwide releases between Dec. 19 and Dec. 25, the 2012 year-end holidays are the most crowded ever at the box office.
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