Make no mistake, the domestic box office is now officially in a big year-to-year hole.
Coming into the weekend down over 25 percent from last year, Friday's box office totals were even weaker than expected, with even the No. 1 film, Warner's Farrelly Bros.-directed R-rated comedy "Hall Pass," missing tracking and grossing only $4.6 million, according to studio estimates.
The weekend's other wide opening, Summit's Nicolas Cage dark fantasy film "Drive Angry," also missed weak pre-release forecasts, opening to an estimated $1.6 million Friday.
Overall, the domestic market is off about 12 percent from the same weekend last year, a $106.6 million frame which was led by weekend No. 2 of the Martin Scorsese thriller "Shutter Island."
The gap between Oscar weekend 2010 will be much wider, however, with that first-week-of-March frame, which was led by the opening of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," generating $185.9 milllion.
With the Academy Awards expected to keep folks out of the multiplexes on Sunday, the total box office this weekend probably won't even total $100 million … and it'll probably be led by a G-rated Disney holdover, "Gnomeo and Juliet," which is in its third weekend. It finished with $3.2 million and is pacing to win this entirely weak frame with just over $13 million.
Yep, things are bad right now for the domestic motion picture business.
Here's Friday's top 10:
"Hall Pass" ($4.6m)
"Just Go With It" ($3.3m)
"Gnomeo and Juliet" ($3.2m)
"I Am Number Four" ($3.1m)
"Jutin Bieber: Never Say Never" ($2.7m)
"Big Momma's: Like Father, Like Son" ($2.0m)
"The King's Speech" ($1.9m)
"Drive Angry" ($1.6m)
"The Roommate" ($625k)
Down over 25 percent year-to-year, the domestic box office will not be looking to catch up this weekend, with moviegoers pre-occupied on Sunday with the Academy Awards.
Warner/New Line's Farrelly Bros. comedy "Hall Pass" is predicted to lead the domestic market with a gross of $16 million-$18 million, with one other film, Summit Entertainment's Nicolas Cage dark-fantasy 3D thriller "Drive Angry" also set to open widely (and not that well).
Last year on Oscar weekend, the domestic market managed to do quite nicely for itself, thanks to the huge $116 million opening of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."
Opening in 2,950 theaters, this weekend's predicted No. 1 film, the R-rated "Hall Pass," probably won't come close to that threshhold, however.
Still, as Warner distribution president Dan Fellman noted, "We'll own the 17-34-year-old crowd," with the film likely scoring with the same young-male audience that lifted Warner's recent Todd Phillips R-rated comedies, "The Hangover" and "Due Date," to openings of well over $30 million.
Not that the Farrellys have been on a winning streak of late, with their last three films — "Heartbreak Kid," "Fever Pitch" and "Stuck on You" — all failing to open to more than $14 million.
Eviscerated by critics (32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), "Hall Pass" stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as middle-aged guys who get a one-week break from marriage from their exasperated wives.
Meanwhile, Summit acquired U.S. rights for "Drive Angry" from Millennium/Nu Image, which spent a repoted $75 million to shoot the film.
Summit will release the movie at 2,223 U.S. and Canadian theaters — 2,061 of which will show it in 3D. The movie is expected to gross only around $9 million-$11 million in its first weekend.
Disney's G-rated "Gnomeo & Juliet" is expected to once again take second place at the box office, with the CG-animated film coninuing to take advantage of a scarcity of kiddie fare at the box office.
The movie featuring lawn gnomes acting out Shakespeare has grossed nearly $60 million domestically in two weeks of release.