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The domestic box office enjoyed another strong weekend as Screen Gems’ Underworld: Awakening and George Lucas‘ Red Tails topped the box office with $25.4 million and $19.1 million, respectively, driving revenues up by more than 30 percent despite wintery weather in the Midwest and East.
Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, did far better than expected. Lucas spent 20 years pursuing the project, and recently revealed he couldn’t get any studio to finance the film because of an all-black cast. He finally decided to put up the money himself, and spent $58 million on the production budget and another $35 in distribution costs.
Fox, which handles Lucas’ Star Wars films, is distributing and marketing Red Tails, which received a glowing A CinemaScore.
Underworld Awakening, the fourth outing in the Kate Beckinsale vampire-werewolf franchise, benefited greatly from being released in 3D, with IMAX accounting for 15 percent of the grosses. The horror action pic, which received an A- CinemaScore, out-grossed two of the three previous titles in the series, unusual for a fourth installment.
Threequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycons debuted to $20.7 million in January 2009, a franchise low. The original Underworld opened to $21.8 mllion, followed by $26.9 million for sequel Underworld: Evolution.
“Kate in the of Selene is just a force to be reckoned with,” Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said. “This film may be the best received of the franchise.”
Overseas, Underworld: Awakening was just as impressive, grossing $13.4 million from 36 territories, including a $5.4 milion debut in Russia–more than 7 times the opening of Underworld: Evolution, the top performer in the series. Worldwide, Awakening debuted to $38.8 million.
Underworld: Awakening, co-produced by Sony and Lakeshore Entertainment for $70 million, is a much-needed with for Clint Culpepper’s Screen Gems. Males made up the majority of the audience, or 55 percent, while 60 percent of those buying tickets were over the age of 25.
Likewise, Red Tails is a victory for Lucas and Fox. The cast of Red Tails includes Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard. Recently, the producers and cast were recently at the White House for special screening of the film, along with director Anthony Hemingway.
“The weekend was up 31 percent and the primary reason is this original true tale of heroism and valor. It’s a true American story,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s executive vice president of domestic distribution.
Red Tails did well throughout the country and across all demos, although theaters in African-American markets did especially well. The top grossing theaters were in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Males made up 51 percent of the audience, while 66 percent were over the age of 25. Red Tails was soft in Canada, where black-themed movies often underperform.
Results for the weekend’s other new films were mixed.
Stephen Daldry‘s post-9/11 drama Extremely Loud, starring Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, came in No. 4 as it expanded nationwide, grossing $10.5 million from 2,630 locations. The film, receiving an A- CinemaScore, has been playing in only six theaters since Christmas Day, and has now grossed $11.2 million domestically.
Warners executive vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein said he expects Extremely Loud to keep building. “We’re intentionally moving very slowly,” he said.
Universal’s Mark Wahlberg starrer Contraband outperformed Extremely Loud in its second weekend, grossing $12.2 million for a 10-day domestic cume of $46.1 million. Contraband fell 50 percent.
Steven Soderbergh’s upscale action film Haywire opened to $9 million after scoring a dismal D+ CinemaScore.The Relativity Media pic, coming in No. 5, cost a modest $23 million to make, with much of its budget covered through foreign presales.
Headlining Gina Carano as a female covert operative, Haywire also stars Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Chaning Tatum and Michael Douglas. Haywire received a D+ CinemaScore. Males made up 55 percent of the ethnically diverse audience.
Haywire opens in a handful of foreign territories this weekend, including Russia and the U.K. Alliance is distributing the movie in Canada.
Among holdovers, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol has now earned $534 million worldwide, while Warners’ Sherlock Holmes–Game of Shadows has grossed $439.6 million. At the domestic box office, Ghost Protocol placed No. 8 for the weekend, followed by Game of Shadows and Sony’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher, grossed $3.8 million for the weekend for a domestic cume of $94.8 million. Overseas, it has now earned $70.8 million for a global total of $165.5 million. Box office observers believe the film could ultimately earn $300 million globally.
At the awards box office, the Weinstein Co.’s The Artist–which continues to rack up wins, including the top PGA honor Saturday night–added more than 400 theaters to its run, bringing the total location count to 662. The black-and-white silent film grossed $2.4 million to come in only No. 17, and putting its domestic cume at $12.1 million.
Erik Lomis, president of distribution for the Weinstein Co., said the black-and-white silent film is distinct in that it builds slowly.
The Weinstein Co. also is handling Meryl Streep starrer The Iron lady, which stayed at No. 10 over the weekend, grossing $3.7 million from 1,076 locations for a cume of $12.6 million.
Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants grossed $2.5 million over the weekend from 560 locations for a domestic total of $51.3 million. Next weekend, following Oscar nominations on Jan. 24, Descendants will be playing in more than 1,200 theaters. Overseas, where the George Clooney pic has begun rolling out, the film grossed $6.2 million over the weekened, including first place finishes in Spain and Australia. The international cume is $9.9 million.
Iranian film A Separation, from Sony Picture Classics scored the top location average of the weekend, grossing $182,577 from 13 theaters for an average $14,044 and cume of $554,000. IFC/Sundance Selects’ Pina also continued to do strong business, grossing $120,000 from 10 theaters for an average $12,000 and cume of $756,000.
Tilda Swinton starrer We Need to Talk About Kevin grossed $77,000 from seven theaters for an average $11,000 and cume of $188,000. Oscilloscope is distributing the film.
The Weinstein Co.’s Coriolanus debuted to soft results, grossing an estimated $60,000 from nine theaters for a location average of $6,667.
The Metropolitan Opera’s The Met: Live in HD once again scored strong numbers on Saturday as the live transmission of The Enchanted Island grossed $1.8 million from 850 screens in North America. Overseas, the live transmission was seen by 77,000 moviegoers on 650 screens in 40 countries.
Weekend/Domestic Box Office Jan. 13-Jan. 16
Title/Weeks in Release/Studio/Theater Count/Three Day Weekend Total/Cume
1. Underworld: Awakening (1), Sony/3,078, $25.4 million
2. Red Tails (1), Fox/2,512, $19.1 million
3. Contraband (2), Universal/2,870, $12.2 million, $46.1 million
4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (5), Warner Bros./2,630, $10.5 million, $11.2 million
5. Haywire (1), Relativity Media/2,439, $9 million
6. Beauty and the Beast (3D) (2), Disney/2,625, $23.5 million, $33.4 million
7. Joyful Noise (2), Warner Bros./Alcon/2,735, $6.1 million, $21.9 million
8. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (6), Paramount/2,519, $5.5 million, $197.3 million
9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (6), Warner Bros./2,485, $4.8 million, $178.6 million
10. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (5), Sony/1,907, $3.8 million, $94.8 million.
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