As widely expected, the final weekend of February was another dour one, which brings to an end an extremely disappointing month at the box office.
With Sunday's Academy Awards serving as a distraction for many moviegoers, newcomers Snitch and Dark Skies both got off to middling starts. As a result, 2013's first major hit Identity Thief moved back in to the lead in its third weekend.
The top 12 earned $88.3 million this weekend, which is down 22 percent from the same weekend last year.
Identity Thief fell 41 percent to $14 million this weekend. Through 17 days, the Jason Bateman-Melissa McCarthy comedy has earned $93.6 million, which makes it the highest-grossing movie of 2013 ahead of Django Unchained ($90.5 million). By Friday, Identity Thief will become the first 2013 movie to pass $100 million, and it should have little difficulty matching director Seth Gordon's Horrible Bosses, which ended its run with $117.5 million.
Snitch opened in second place with $13.2 million from 2,511 locations. While that's on the low end for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, it is at least better than his gritty 2010 actioner Faster ($12 million in its five-day start). It's also a vast improvement over recent tough-guy flops Broken City ($8.3 million), Parker ($7 million), The Last Stand ($6.3 million) and Bullet to the Head ($4.5 million).
Considering the fact that it did so much better than these comparable 2013 titles, it's tough to be too hard on Snitch. It is clear, though, that Johnson's wheelhouse is family movies and ensemble fare, and he probably won't be able to break out of that without help from his own major franchise (next Summer's Hercules could help). It's also worth noting that his next three moviesG.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain & Gain and Fast & Furious 6are all less-reliant on him, and will all put up much stronger numbers.
Snitch's audience was 53 percent male (a surprisingly low figure) and 57 percent over the age of 30. They awarded the movie a "B" CinemaScore, which suggests it won't ultimately hold up too well against the plethora of releases on the way in March.
Escape From Planet Earth jumped from fourth place to third place this weekend thanks to an impressive hold (off just 33 percent). The sci-fi animation flick added $10.7 million for a 10-day total of $34.8 million, and is on its way to a final tally well north of $50 million.
Safe Haven fell 51 percent to $10.5 million. Through 11 days, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation has earned $47.9 million, and will ultimately close ahead of The Last Song ($63 million) and The Lucky One ($60.5 million).
Last weekend's winner A Good Day to Die Hard plummeted 59 percent to $10.2 million, which was only good for fifth place. The fifth Die Hard movie has grossed just $52 million so far, and is on pace to be the lowest-grossing entry in the 25-year-old franchise below the original movie's $83 million. Still, it's performing well overseas, and should ultimately be a financial win for 20th Century Fox.
In sixth place, Dark Skies opened to a weak $8.2 million from 2,313 locations. That's way off from producer Jason Blum's Insidious ($13.3 million), and also lower than The Weinstein Company's 2011 sci-fi horror bomb Apollo 18 ($8.7 million). These movies tend to be very front-loaded, and with a "C+" CinemaScore and direct competition from The Last Exorcism Part II next weekend it's likely that this will be the case with Dark Skies as well.
It's worth noting that The Weinstein Company currently ranks second for the year in studio market share with over $220 million. Their previous best year was 2011 with $296 million, which is a figure they should be able to pass once Scary Movie 5 opens in April.
It was another great weekend for the Oscar nominees. Silver Linings Playbook led the way with $5.75 million, which is a drop of just eight percent from last weekend. To date, the romantic comedy hit has earned $107.2 million. Meanwhile, Best Picture winner Argo held in 12th place with $1.83 million despite reaching DVD/VOD this week; so far, Ben Affleck's Iranian hostage crisis thriller has tallied $129.6 million.
Overall, the nine Best Picture nominees have now earned $944 million for an average of just under $105 million.