"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," starring Gemma Arterton… (David Appleby )
"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" easily took No. 1 at the box office this weekend, but it was a Pyrrhic victory as all three new films had unimpressive starts.
The revisionist, action-heavy fairy tale starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton debuted to a soft $19 million, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures. The Jason Statham action vehicle "Parker" and wacky ensemble comedy "Movie 43" both bombed, launching to $7 million and $5 million, respectively.
Total box office receipts in the U.S. and Canada were down 13% from the same weekend a year ago, according to Hollywood.com.
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The only good news was for some of the returning Academy Awards contenders. "Silver Linings Playbook" enjoyed an extraordinarily small drop of 7% from last weekend, indicating that word of mouth is very strong in its second weekend of nationwide release. The dramatic comedy starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence took in $10 million and brought its total gross in the U.S. and Canada to $69.5 million.
The $21-million production is shaping up to be a huge hit for Weinstein Co., despite its struggle to stay in the race for a best picture Oscar.
Ticket sales for "Zero Dark Thirty" declined 38% to $9.8 million, continuing the impressive run for the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and bringing its domestic box office total to $69.9 million.
Going into the weekend, most in Hollywood had expected "Hansel & Gretel" to open closer to $30 million, and even Paramount expected it to come in at more than $20 million. The audience was older than pre-release surveys had predicted, with 57% of ticket-buyers over 25. Fifty-five percent were male.
Ticket sales jumped 38% from Friday to Saturday, indicating that box office may have been depressed somewhat by bad weather on Friday. Opening-day audiences gave the movie a solid grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
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Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer spent roughly $50 million to produce "Hansel & Gretel," which was originally supposed to be released last March but was delayed.
The studios' financial hopes for the 3-D movie rest largely overseas, where "Hansel & Gretel" has so far grossed $35.8 million from 20 markets, with Russia leading the way. It will roll out elsewhere gradually over the next few months.
There appears to be less hope of eventual success for the backers of "Parker," which cost about $30 million to make. Financed by a number of companies, rights in the U.S. and Canada were acquired by independent distributor FilmDistrict.
Those who went liked "Parker," giving it an average grade of B+.
The movie marks the lowest opening for Statham since the 2009 flop "Crank: High Voltage." For costar Jennifer Lopez, it's the worst launch since the 2003 fiasco "Gigli."
"Movie 43" cost only about $6 million to make, but given the costs of releasing and marketing a film nationwide, the opening numbers still mark a disappointment for independent studio Relativity Media.
The unusual movie is a series of intertwined comedy vignettes that features 12 credited directors and a cast including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Emma Stone.
But audiences were not impressed by the creative risk, assigning it a CinemaScore of D.
Overseas, "Skyfall" enjoyed a solid start in China, taking in $35.4 million in its first full week. That's only slightly more than "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," which had the added challenge of opening on the same day.
But in good news for the latest Bond movie, already a $1 billion-plus blockbuster around the world, there are no other openings of competitive American movies until "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" on Feb. 22.
Meanwhile, "Django Unchained" continued an unexpectedly strong international run on its second weekend, grossing $42.9 million and bringing the foreign total to $111.5 million. It enjoyed a big opening in Australia and held very well in European countries including Germany, France and the United Kingdom.