your box office explained

Your Box Office Explained: Four Films Take in More Than $20 Million

Still of Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in The Vow
Photo: Columbia Pictures

This Weekend’s Winners: Screen Gems’ ersatz Nicholas Sparks title The Vow (No. 1 with $41.7 million) and an update of Three Days of the Condor from Universal Pictures in Safe House (No. 2 with $39.3 million) both opened huge. But the real surprises came from the strong openings for Warner Bros.’ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (No. 3 with $27.6 million) and Fox’s 3-D rerelease of Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace (No. 4 with $23 million); both were allegedly franchises with bright futures behind them. Credit Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the Ingredient That Wakes Up Franchise Flavor — producers, feel free to take our suggestions on the franchises he can revitalize next.

This Weekend’s Losers: No one! In fact, this marked the first time in movie history that four films grossed more than $20 million during a regular, run-of-the-mill, non-holiday weekend. So if you bought a ticket, give yourself a round of applause, too: You helped make this the sixth consecutive weekend of positive box-office returns for 2012. Now, let’s get you cracking on that AIDS prophylaxis, you superstar!

How It All Went Down: Take that, branded entertainment: We can’t help but feel ebullient that in what’s largely been an era of ever-more-reductive intellectual property, there’s not an action figure, board game, toy, or even a comic book gloating in wings hoping to take credit for the weekend’s hits.

To be fair, though, with the female lead from The Notebook and the male lead from Dear John, The Vow was essentially Transformers for teen girls: Almost three quarters (72 percent) of its audience was female (with the remaining 22 percent males with wood under their fingernails, from being dragged off the porch) and well more than half (55 percent) was under age 25, making it the highest-grossing opening weekend in the history of Screen Gems.

For Safe House, its money was made at the other end of the spectrum: As you’d expect for a rated-R picture, nearly two thirds (62 percent) were over 30, but what was surprising was that it appealed almost evenly among the usual fault-line categories of sex and race. A little more than a third of its audience was black, a little less than a third was white, and 23 percent was Latino.

And then there’s the matter of Mysterious Island. We’d profess to being bewildered that Jules Verne is now one of the hottest writers in Hollywood, but as we noted last fall, the public domain is now where Hollywood’s private enterprise is at. What’s truly noteworthy — but hardly mysterious — is that Warner Bros. locked it all down correctly: Not only did it bother to get the larger-than-life story right, but it did the larger-than-life 3-D right (a whopping 88 percent of tickets were in 3-D or IMAX), landed the right larger-than-life star, and finally, just plain sold the hell out of it. 

Record-Breaking Four Films Take in More Than $20 Million