Weekend Report: 'The Grey' Leads the Pack

by Ray Subers
The Grey

January 29, 2012

With a clear premise and a popular actor operating within his wheelhouse, The Grey delivered upstart distributor Open Road Films their first number one debut this weekend. Meanwhile, One For the Money had an okay opening that exceeded most expectations, while Man on a Ledge was the latest mid-range Summit movie to underperform. Overall box office was at over $126 million for the weekend, which is up nearly 16 percent from the same time period last year.

The Grey devoured $19.7 million this weekend. Among star Liam Neeson's recent action movies, The Grey opened lower than Taken's $24.7 million and also a tad below Unknown ($21.9 million). Those were both PG-13, featured robust marketing from their big-time distributors, and were essentially cousins of the Bourne series. For The Grey to even come close to those movies speaks both to Mr. Neeson's drawing power and the importance of having an interesting, easily conveyable story (in this case, it was "Liam Neeson fights wolves!"). According to distributor Open Road, the audience was 54 percent male, and there is no CinemaScore data available.

Last weekend's winner Underworld Awakening dipped 51 percent to $12.35 million. That's a stronger hold than any of the previous Underworld movies had, and its $45 million total through 10 days is also a franchise best.

One For the Money took third place with $11.5 million. That's lower than star Katherine Heigl's Killers ($15.8 million) and Life as We Know It ($14.5 million), and also less than Lionsgate's last Groupon-promoted movie The Lincoln Lawyer ($13.2 million). Even though it's a fairly unimpressive debut, it's far from the trainwreck that was being forecasted by many analysts ahead of the weekend. That was odd, though, considering author Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels are extremely popular among older women. Exit polling bears this out—the audience was 79 percent women, and 74 percent over the age of 35 (36 percent were between the ages of 35 and 40). They awarded the movie a poor "B-" CinemaScore, though, so it's unlikely it will hold up as well as The Lincoln Lawyer in the long run.

According to a Lionsgate spokesperson, the initial Groupon e-mail blast reached 20 million people, most of whom were female (85 percent of Groupon's users are women). While official figures aren't available, exit polling indicated that 34 percent of One For the Money's audience had heard about the Groupon promotion, and 11 percent actually bought their tickets through the service. Out of the people who did use the promotion, 93 percent of them indicated that they would not have attended the movie otherwise. Some rough math based on these figures suggests that the "Groupon bump" probably didn't amount to much more than $1 million.

In its second weekend in theaters, Red Tails fell 45 percent to $10.4 million. Through 10 days, the World War II Tuskegee Airmen flick has earned $33.75 million.

Man on a Ledge rounded out the Top Five with $8 million debut, which is a bit lower than star Sam Worthington's The Debt ($9.9 million). Plenty of factors aside from Worthington contributed to this disappointing debut, though, with the most noteworthy one probably being its muddled marketing effort. Trailers and commercials jumped between Worthington out on the ledge and a corresponding heist in a nearby building, with the vague indication that the whole thing was part of some kind of revenge scheme. A confusing premise like that really can't compete with Liam Neeson fighting wolves, and so Man on a Ledge wound up the loser. It did put up solid exit polling numbers, though—the audience was split evenly between men and women, and was 56 percent under the age of 25. They awarded the movie a respectable "B+" CinemaScore, meaning Man on a Ledge might not be completely dead yet.

Continued with a look at the Oscar bump for 'The Descendants' & more >>

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