Analysis: The Weinstein Company's decision to delay the wide release on David O. Russell's dark comedy is paying dividends at the box office
“Argo” may have seized the awards momentum with its Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild wins over the weekend, but the box office mojo — what's left of it for the Oscar contenders — is with “Silver Linings Playbook.”
The Weinstein Company's oddball comedy and Sony's “Zero Dark Thirty” are the only Best Picture Oscar contenders that still have significant play left. “Silver Linings Playbook” was still adding screens this past weekend — 118, giving it a total of 2,641 — and took in $10 million over the three days.
That's a terrific hold — off just 7 percent from the previous weekend — and raised its overall domestic total to more than $70 million. That comes one week after it shot up by 114 percent after going wide and into 2,523 theaters on Jan. 18.
“We think we have $25 million to $35 million left” to make at the box office, the Weinstein Company's head of distribution Erik Lomis told TheWrap Monday. “It's clear the word of mouth has caught on for this picture.”
Besides being included in the Best Picture discussions, Jennifer Lawrence's two recent Best Actress wins, at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, have gone a long way toward raising consciousness about the film outside of New York and Los Angeles, where it opened 11 weeks ago.
Since that time, it's been a gradual platform rollout for the David O. Russell-directed dark comedy. It's been a financial success for some time, since its production budget was only around $21 million, and two decisions made along the way working out very well at the box office. The biggest was to shift the date of the film's wide release from Nov. 21, just before Thanksgiving, to after the Oscar nominations on Jan. 10. The second decision was to expand on the second weekend, rather than the first weekend, after the nominations came out.
Now, with the other Oscar contenders fading at the box office, “Silver Linings Playbook” still has some steam. It wasn't easy when the other Oscar contenders were out there and scoring — and surprising well — at the box office. But
“We hung in there,” Lomis said, “and now we're in good shape and we think we're in a great position to build.” He said that company would try to pick up 30 or 40 more screens for “Silver Linings” this week, and that the focus would turn to the South and Midwest, where word of the film is still spreading.
'We did some surveying specifically in small towns this past weekend and the numbers were really encouraging,” he said. The film received an 80 percent recommend, Lomis said, from audiences that broke down 60 percent female and primarily in the 25-49 age group. “That's right in the wheelhouse of where we think we can grow with this picture.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” like “Silver Linings Playbook,” is also showing some staying power. After putting up an eye-popping $24 million in its first weekend of wide release on Jan. 11, it's dropped 35 and 38 percent over the past two weeks while staying in 2,946 theaters. The $9.8 million it took in over the weekend upped its domestic total to nearly $70 million, but the controversy over its portrayals of torture has subsided, and the lack of a big awards win isn't helping.
While the Oscar contenders have lost some box office momentum, they should play steadily up until the Oscars on Feb. 24. The studios' marketing and distribution units did a great job finding their films' audiences early. “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Life of Pi,” “Django Unchained” and “Les Miserables” have far exceeded pre-release expectations, but they've all peaked domestically.
“Lincoln” and “Argo,” for example, were both expected to top out at around $60 million domestically. “Lincoln” passed that back in November and now stands at $167 million. DreamWorks' historical drama is rolling out in foreign territories for Fox now, while domestic distributor Disney dropped 265 screens last weekend to 1,909 locations. It still took in $3.8 million, a not-bad 29 percent drop from last week, but fell out of the top ten.
“Argo” has been in the marketplace the longest of the Oscar contenders, having been released back on Oct. 12, and after 16 weeks is largely played out. It did get an Oscar nomination bump, albeit a small one, rising 59 percent and then 117 percent in the two weeks following the announcement, after adding 319 locations and then 135 the next week to peak at 756. But Warner Bros. dropped it to 635 theaters and it took in $1.8 million — just a 19 percent drop from last week — over the past weekend, raising its overall U.S. total to $117 million.
"We know there's a lot of interest in this movie and we're trying to pick up 50-60 theaters," Warner Bros. executive vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein told TheWrap Monday. "But remember, we're pretty much played out and we'll be bringing the picture back into theaters where we've already played. That said, if I can get 100 more theaters, I'd be really excited."
“Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino's highest-grossing film ever, is having its most significant box-office impact overseas now. Weinstein lowered its domestic screen count by 509 locations over the weekend and had it in 2,007 theaters, down from a high of 3,010. It still took in $5 million, but that was overshadowed by the $42 million it brought in for Fox in its second week overseas.
Of course, all of the studios are biding their time, hoping for that best of all box office boosts, a Best Picture Oscar.