As for those other factors, sometimes your best marketing weapon is your last hit film. Why did Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief open with $32 million in February 2010? Well mostly because its moody and effective (IE - misleading!) teaser played in front of every set of eyeballs who happened to see Avatar. The second release from Paramount's Insurge label (ten micro-budgeted genre films being given wide release) had a snappy and creepy little trailer that just happened to play in front of pretty much every print of Paranormal Activity 3 last October. That film opened to $53 million and eventually grossed $104 million, so an effective trailer targeting just the very demographics that would rush out and see such a film counts as a genuine gift. So you had pinpoint marketing targeting the very demographics who would be drawn to your picture, plus the inherent appeal of religious horror pictures, plus the fact that it was the week's lone new release and the first 'real' horror film released since October, and you had the recipe for a breakout opening. As it stands, it's the fourth-biggest debut for a supernatural horror film (behind Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 2, The Grudge, and The Ring Two), and the third-biggest debut in January history. Where it goes from here is frankly irrelevant. The film cost $1 million to make, so even if it drops like a rock due to being infamously terrible (as expected, it had a terrible 2.1x weekend multiplier), it still gets to $50-60 million and counts as probably the most profitable film of 2012. So if you bought a ticket this weekend and feel used and abused, cheer up! You just helped Paramount cover the marketing/distribution losses for the Hugo ($52 million and help in the funding of the next Young Adult ($14.7 million).
The rest of the news involves holdovers. The major expansion was for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which finally opened semi-wide (809 theaters) and grossed $5.8 million. The picture has been doing scorching limited-release business all last month, and its solid expansion following that is further evidence that the film would have been a more serious Oscar contender had it been released earlier in the year, if not even just its original November 18th release date. Its cume of $10.4 million is gravy on its already successful $25 million foreign take. It and Young Adult (another inexplicably ignored Oscar contender with $14.7 million thus far) are outpacing more likely Oscar contenders like My Week With Marilyn ($10.4 million after two months of semi-wide release), Shame ($2 million, alas handicapped by the NC-17), and The Artist ($7.1 million). But an earlier release and more high-profile box office performance would have possibly netted Gary Oldman the Oscar nomination he so richly deserves. Considering that we were coming off a holiday weekend, the drops for the mainstream holdover films are all shockingly small, giving credence to the theory that much of The Devil Inside's audience consisted of people who otherwise wouldn't have seen a movie this weekend. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol earned another $20 million (-31%) in its fourth weekend of play, putting the Brad Bird franchise entry at $170 million, or within an earshot of the original entry's $181 million domestic gross. Its $20 million weekend is nearly double any other fourth weekend in the franchise and would still be the film's biggest third weekend even if you didn't count the 500-screen IMAX preview. Worldwide, the film just surpassed the $457 million worldwide gross of Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is making a college try of trying to catch up to the original's $209 million cume following a 1/3 smaller opening weekend ($40 million versus $62 million) four weekends ago. The sequel is at $157 million, which is just $8 million away from where Sherlock Holmes was at this exact weekend two years ago. Now the sequel had an extra seven days to make that money, but it is almost keeping up the same pace as the original. Worldwide, the film is speeding towards $300 million. The first film made $500 million worldwide, and the comparative cost ($120 million for part II versus $90 million for part I) means that the second entry will be a smash even if it only makes it to $400 million. If Warner Bros. can make Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem Was Not Quite As Final As We Thought for under $140 million, then they should go right on ahead. Not quite gaining ground as well is Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked. The third entry now sits with $101 million and still trails its predecessors by $70-90 million. Still, the film cost just $75 million and will end up with at least $250 million worldwide, so if they can keep the budget under $80 million, Fox can certainly get away with Alvin and the Chipmunks: IN SPACE if they so choose.
And that's it for this weekend. I may be a bit late next weekend do to responsibilities, but we'll see how Disney fares with its second major 3D re-release, Beauty and the Beast (IE - Stockholm Syndrome: the Movie), while Mark Wahlberg tries another R-rated action picture (I love trashy B-movie action films, but Contraband looks boring even to me) and Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, and Keke Palmer headline the religious-gospel drama Joyful Noise. Until then, please check out my year-end wrap up HERE, as well as my three '2011 in box office trends pieces HERE, HERE, and HERE.