Chronicle and The Woman in Black both over-performed on Friday, though Chronicle wound up with a slight lead. Big Miracle wound up more in line with low expectations, though it could save face up against the Super Bowl on Sunday. The Top 10 was up 29 percent from the same Friday last year, indicating that this weekend should be the latest in a positive 2012 trend.
With an estimated $8.65 million, Chronicle flew to the top of the box office on Friday. That opening is lower than most found footage movies, though without supernatural horror elements it never really had a chance of matching The Devil Inside or the Paranormal Activity series. It did mark a slight improvement over similar superhero-in-high-school movie Kick-Ass ($7.66 million), which had much, much more hype going in to its debut. Based on past male-oriented Super Bowl weekend releases like Taken and From Paris with Love, Chronicle should end up with over $20 million for the three-day frame.
The Woman in Black wasn't far behind in second place with an estimated $8.3 million. That's above last year's PG-13 Super Bowl horror movie The Roommate ($6.4 million), but off from 2006's When a Stranger Calls ($9 million). Still, it's nearly double the opening of The Back-Up Plan ($4.26 million), which is distributor CBS Films' previous high mark. The movie's audience was 59 percent female and 47 percent under the age of 25, and overall it received a "B-" CinemaScore.
Conventional wisdom suggests that since The Woman in Black's audience skews female, it will hold up better than Chronicle throughout Super Bowl weekend and could finish in first. However, the performance of comparable horror movies doesn't seem to bear out this theory. The Roommate and When a Stranger Calls, for example, were noticably more front-loaded than Taken and From Paris with Love; horror movies tend to do a disproportionate amount of their business on Friday, and all the Super Bowl does is level the playing field a bit more than usual. It looks like The Woman in Black will wind up right around $20 million, which should be slightly below Chronicle.
If both Chronicle and The Woman in Black finish with over $20 million, it will be the first time in history two movies have opened above that mark over Super Bowl weekend.
Last weekend's winner The Grey fell 52 percent an estimated $3.09 million. Its eight-day total is $28.3 million, or about $6 million behind Liam Neeson's Unknown.
Big Miracle debuted in fourth place with an estimated $2.3 million, or less than half of Dolphin Tale's $5.1 million opening day. That movie was playing in 65 percent more locations and had a 3D boost, though, so Big Miracle's gross looks worse than it actually is. Universal is expecting that moms and girls will keep the movie going strong through Sunday, and are therefore estimating a $7.9 million weekend tally.
One For the Money plummeted 58 percent to $1.73 million. That steep drop is much worse than The Lincoln Lawyer's 28 percent slide, suggesting that the Groupon deal isn't paying off quite as well in the long run this time around. The Katherine Heigl action comedy has now earned $16.1 million.
Man on a Ledge actually had the lightest drop among last weekend's new releases: the Sam Worthington vehicle eased 40 percent to an estimated $1.5 million. Even with that admirable hold, though, the movie has so far made a paltry $11.8 million.