Even though February is the shortest month of the calendar year didn’t mean it was completely short on movies. Nevertheless, according to Box Office Mojo, February 2013 was down over 24% from the February before. Ouch! In the final month of the slow winter season a few big names and awards-season carryovers made their mark this past month, but only three February releases get called winners. Nothing was blockbuster-huge, but several got their chances at your local west side Chicago movie theaters. Let’s take a look at the box office winners and losers from February 2013!
BOX OFFICE WINNERS
Identity Thief— The first of three February box office winners overcame dismal reviews thanks to the wide appeal of Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. Both performers have their unabashed fans that come out to send Identity Thief to a big $34 million+ #1 debut. While A Good Day to Die Hard stole a week, Identity Thief leapfrogged it to go back to #1 last weekend. When you are #1 for two of the months four weeks, you get called a winner. That $93.6 million total will pass $100 going into March and plenty of R-rated comedies haven’t been able to do that.
Warm Bodies— While it didn’t come close to the golden $100 million level, the teen-favored Warm Bodies comported itself strong with a good #1 debut over Super Bowl weekend and a strong total that is close to $60 million. While that’s not anywhere near Twilight-like numbers, its nearly double its $35 million budget. Watch Nicholas Hoult bring a little post-Warm Bodies bump to Jack the Giant Slayer as it opens March. (my full review)
Safe Haven— No matter the topic or poor reviews, Nicholas Sparks-based novel adaptations continue to sell. They build-in fan audience and date movie crowd puts these movies over. While its $50 million+ gross is nowhere close to Sparks’s peak performances with movies, Safe Haven will double its budget and then some. That’s enough to be a winner.
Oscar-nominated carryovers— All of the major Oscar competitors continued to rake in grosses during February, long after their initial theatrical runs, thanks to the awards buzz. Folks kept coming out to see Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained. Finally, after two straight months in the loser and middle sections of this monthly column, Silver Linings Playbook (my full review) crossed the $100 millions plateau to join Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, and Django Unchained. Zero Dark Thirty has totaled just over $91 million and will likely fall a little short of the century mark. The top grosser of the bunch is Lincoln‘s $179 million and counting. (reviews are linked)
Lesser-known award contenders— The Austrian foreign film Amour, winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, has only played at fewer than 400 screens (by comparison the blockbusters can hit 4,000) but has earned a respectable $5 million. That’s a fortune for a foreign film. The same goes for Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet, skewing to the artsy crowd. It has earned over $8 million. Those may not be big numbers, but they are victories and almost enough to pass an entire Sylvester Stallone film (See LOSERS section later).
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE
Escape From Planet Earth— With very little marketing or hoopla, the under-served family and kid audience reached out and gave Escape From Planet Earth a chance, despite the sub-par reviews. It’s meager $36 million and change gross is nearly enough to match its $40 million budget. That’s a Hollywood push at the box office blackjack table.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters— The same blackjack push goes for Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton’s fairy tale romp. It’s $53 million+ gross stateside is enough to equal its $50 million. While it may have been a wash here in the U.S., the movie is playing strong internationally, where its grand total gets raised to over $163 million. It’s a winner out there, just not here.
TOO SOON TO TELL
Snitch and Dark Skies— It’s only been one week for these two, so a full judgment can’t be made. However, the forecast isn’t looking too hot for either one of them. Even a WWE Championship belt around Dwayne Johnson’s waste couldn’t push Snitch to a #1 debut. Dark Skies fared worse, landing in sixth place with just $8 million. We’ll give them more time, but a short leash.
BOX OFFICE LOSERS
Bullet to the Head, Stand Up Guys, and Parker— Clearly, nobody likes older actors from the 80’s and 90’s unless they are in The Expendables franchise together or stealing scenes in bigger and younger stars’ movies. Sylvester Stallone’s solo Bullet to the Head, the Pacino-Walken-Arkin team-up Stand Up Guys, and Jason Statham’s actioner Parker were all dead on arrival at the winter box office. Only Parker made over $15 million, which is paltry for Statham, while the other too scored under $10 million. Talk about a trio of belly flops!
A Good Day to Die Hard— I know fans of the series don’t want to hear this, but A Good Day to Die Hard goes down as a box office loser financially for the United States. Budgeted with more explosions than you can count at nearly $100 million, the fifth entry in the aging franchise couldn’t hold its #1 spot for more than a week (getting passed by Identity Thief and Snitch) and has only earned $52 million in two weeks. That’s barely half of its budget. Even if it finishes around $75 million, that’s a loss for something that was supposed to be a sure-fire $100 million blockbuster. Bruce Willis and the gang will saved by the international grosses, where it is extremely popular and has earned quadruple what it has made domestically. (my full review)
Side Effects— Steven Soderbergh is the kind of director that is more into making great movies that scoring box office victories, but, like quarterbacks in football, greatness is measured by championships. Side Effects was a no-go with audiences in February, especially on the heels of his surprise Magic Mike success. No Channing Tatum bump here. The $25 million+ total so far is only a third of even what Soderbergh’s similarly-toned Contagion made two years ago. With rumores of Soderbergh’s retirement, this is a bit of a sad finish to go out on. Maybe he can bring Clooney back and make that Out of Sight sequel we all want for a last hurrah. (my full review)
Beautiful Creatures— The special-effects-heavy romantic fantasy fit for the CW Network couldn’t get off the ground. Like Warm Bodies, it wasn’t going to make Twilight-level numbers, but just $16 million versus a $60 million budget makes you a loser. I think Warm Bodies beat it to the teeny-bobber punch and had a more engaging story for audiences. Audiences couldn’t even notice the Oscar winners and nominees like Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Viola Davis with a shopping mall marketing campaign aimed squarely instead at the unknown pretty faces in the lead roles. With so-so to positive reviews, I think this one missed its chance to score.
Thanks for following my Examiner page this month and I hope you enjoyed all my writing and reviews during this past winter season and the Oscar season. Stay tuned to March and April’s releases at your local west side Chicago theaters. I’ve recently posted my full 2013 Spring Movie Preview right here on this page. Enjoy the warming weather and warming movies!