Box Office Guru Wrapup: Moviegoers Heat Up to Warm Bodies

Super Bowl weekend was ruled by the adorable undead as the zombie romantic comedy Warm Bodies opened at number one leading a dull frame with lackluster ticket sales. The Big Game routinely crushes ticket sales on Sunday weakening weekend numbers and studios either avoid programming any good films, or use it as an opportunity to counter-program to young women - the demographic least affected by America's biggest sporting event. The Top 20 sank to just $82M, down a sharp 31% versus last year.

Delivering a solid opening weekend, Warm Bodies easily topped the chart with an estimated $20M debut averaging a commendable $6,655 from 3,009 theaters. The PG-13 film about a zombie who develops feelings for a human gal offered an interesting new twist on the decades-old genre and connected with young women. The rating helped especially since six of the next seven films on the chart were rated R. Warm Bodies played to a 60% female audience and 65% were under 25. This demographic has been mostly turned off by the barrage of action films over the last few weeks but responded to something more appealing. The CinemaScore grade was a decent B+ for the Summit film and reviews were very positive.

Paramount's chart-topper Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters fell 53% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.2M giving the studio $34.5M after ten days. A $50M final seems likely for the $50M-budgeted actioner. Academy Award contender Silver Linings Playbook once again enjoyed the best hold in the top ten taking in an estimated $8.1M for a slim 14% decline. The Weinstein Co. has now amassed $80.4M.

Down 49% in its third round was the supernatural thriller Mama with an estimated $6.7M and $58.2M to date for Universal. Sony's Oscar contender Zero Dark Thirty followed with an estimated $5.3M, sliding 45%, to $77.8M thus far.

The unlucky streak for action movies continued as audiences steered clear of the new Sylvester Stallone flick Bullet to the Head which crapped out in sixth place with an estimated $4.5M from 2,404 theaters for a dismal $1,872 average. For the aging action hero it was his worst opening for a wide release in over three decades and fell below the dreadful debuts in recent weeks for his Expendables co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham who anchored The Last Stand ($6.3M opening) and Parker ($7M), respectively.

Stallone successfully rebranded himself in recent years with Rocky Balboa, Rambo, and the two Expendables hits. But Bullet featured no beloved character that audiences were familiar with plus no known co-stars to help bring in the loot. The audience skewed older male as studio research showed that men made up 60% of the crowd while 81% were over 25. The CinemaScore was a disappointing B-.

Parker followed in seventh with an estimated $3.2M tumbling 54% in its sophomore frame. The FilmDistrict release should end with just $18M. The rest of the top ten was filled up by a trio of blockbuster Oscar nominees for Best Picture with decent holds considering it's Super Bowl weekend. Quentin Tarantino hopped over the $150M mark for the first time with Django Unchained which grossed an estimated $3M, off 39%, for a $151M cume for The Weinstein Co. Former front-runner Lincoln dipped 38% to an estimated $2.4M while the musical Les MisÚrables collected the same amount after a 43% decline. Disney has banked an impressive $170.8M for the Daniel-Day Lewis hit while Universal has taken in $141.5M with rival Best Actor contender Hugh Jackman.

Among other nominees for Hollywood's top trophy, awards season juggernaut Argo took 11th place in its 17th weekend of release with an estimated $2.1M after jumping up 16% after adding 47% more theaters to the run. Ben Affleck's hostage crisis hit has won all three top guild awards from the PGA, SAG, and DGA and is now in a commanding position as Oscar voting begins. However, it does lack the Best Director nomination which has been such a critical component for most - but not all - Best Picture winners. Argo will now follow the path of one of two films. 1995's Apollo 13 won the same three guild titles only to lose the Best Picture Oscar to Braveheart. It also had no Academy nod for Director. But 1989's Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture without even earning a Best Director nomination. One of these rare cases will repeat itself this year.

Fox's Life of Pi, another of this year's Best Picture contenders, dropped 30% to an estimated $1.8M upping the total to $106.1M. The French-language film Amour expanded screens by 47% and watched its weekend gross inch up 6% to an estimated $497,000. Sony Classics has collected $2.5M so far. By Oscar night, seven of the nine Best Picture nominees could be over the $90M mark. That should drive TV ratings higher since so many of the contenders have been seen by so many people. This year's crop has a substantial amount of mainstream appeal.

Oscar winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin failed to draw in any sales for their new old-timers dramedy Stand Up Guys which flopped with an estimated opening weekend of just $1.5M, according to estimates. The Lionsgate release averaged a weak $2,276 from a moderate release in 659 locations and attracted lackluster reviews.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $64.9M which was down a sharp 26% from last year when Chronicle opened at number one with $22M; and down 5% from 2011 when The Roommate debuted in the top spot with $15M.

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