Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand" may have been… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )
Arnold said he'd be back. It turns out moviegoers don't want him back.
Former California Gov. Schwarzenegger's return to the big screen this past weekend was a bomb, as "The Last Stand" grossed an estimated $7.2 million from Friday through Monday. That's his lowest box office debut since 1986's "Raw Deal." Accounting for ticket price inflation, it was likely the 65-year-old's worst opening ever.
It was a bad weekend for A-list men in general, as the Mark Wahlberg-Russell Crowe political thriller "Broken City" opened to a not-much-better $9.5 million.
The overwhelming hit of the holiday was the low-budget horror movie "Mama," which stars Jessica Chastain and opened to a surprisingly strong $33 million.
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It was also a good weekend for movies that won Golden Globe awards last weekend. Ticket sales for best dramatic picture winner "Argo" surged 80% on a three-day basis, while grosses for best comedy/musical "Les Miserables" were down only 22%.
Playing nationwide for the first time, "Silver Linings Playbook," whose star Jennifer Lawrence also won a Globe, took in a solid $13 million over the four-day weekend. After nine weeks in limited release, the total domestic gross for the comedic drama that also stars Bradley Cooper is $57 million, an impressive figure for an inexpensive and occasionally dark movie.
In particularly good news for the Weinstein Co., grosses at theaters that played "Silver Linings" last weekend declined only 11%, a sign that word-of-mouth is strong. The studio's president of distribution Erik Lomis said that with a roughly even male-female split, the movie seems to be drawing a large date-night audience.
Award winners "Lincoln" and "Django Unchained" also continued their remarkable runs, with box office receipts down only 14% and 30%, respectively. The total gross for "Lincoln" is now $161.9 million; "Django" is up to $131.8 million.
Lionsgate's bet that Schwarzenegger was ready for a comeback after a decade in politics proved a miscalculation, as the approximately $45 million production posted the worst opening for any movie over the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend since 2007.
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The audience for the over-the-top action picture was mostly male and over 25, meaning they were likely fans of the star's prior work.
As with all of its productions, Lionsgate pre-sold the movie in international markets, in this case collecting about $25 million from distributors who believe prospects for "The Last Stand" might be better overseas.
Universal Pictures spent about $15 million producing "Mama," which means the film is a hit out of the gate. Its success was attributed in part to producer Guillermo Del Toro's prominent role in marketing, which helped to bring a large Latino audience into theaters. The movie overperformed in markets with significant Latino populations: "It was huge in Texas," noted Universal domestic distribution president Nikki Rocco.
The executive also attributed the movie's success to its PG-13 rating, which helped it serve as counter-programming against the large number of R-rated movies, including this weekend's other two new pictures and many of the Golden Globe winners.
An estimated 63% of audiences for "Mama" were under 25, and 35% were under 17.
Independent company Emmett/Furla films financed "Broken City" for about $35 million, with marketing support from New Regency Productions. The drama's box office chances were likely hurt by poor reviews, which made the well-regarded awards movies still in the market more appealing.
All three new films were liked, if not loved, by audiences. "Broken City" and "The Last Stand" garnered an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore, while "Mama" got a B-.
Total ticket sales were up just 1% for the four-day weekend from one year ago at $165 million, according to Hollywood.com.
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Movie review: "The Last Stand"
Movie review: "Mama"
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