Updated: The Grey Devours Box Office with $19.7 Million Debut Weekend

The Grey Devours Box Office with $20 Million Debut WeekendLiam Neeson’s latest January thriller The Grey lead a trio of new release action films that assaulted the North American box office over the weekend. The wilderness survival flick easily beat out fellow newcomers One for the Money and Man on a Ledge, both of which were saddled with results ranging from mixed to bad. Overall, the box office was down 10% from last week’s totals, but up six percent from the top ten numbers generated a year ago.

When it comes to mid-winter releases, Liam Neeson truly has the Luck of the Irish. His kidnapping flick Taken earned a huge $144 million when it opened in late January of 2009 and last year Unknown debuted in February to take home a decent $65 million.

This year, Neeson isn’t looking for his abducted daughter or his lost identity in his new number one flick. He’s out to survive the Alaskan wilds in The Grey, which earned an estimated $19.7 million from 3,185 theaters. That’s a $300,000 drop from initial studio estimates which placed The Grey’s three-day take at $20 million.

The R-rated thriller reunites the Irish actor with his A-Team director Joe Carnahan. Critics were supportive of the film, bestowing it with a 79% approval rating from national critics on Rotten Tomatoes. With a ‘B-‘ CinemaScore rating, ticket buyers appeared less enthusiastic of the survival tale which may prove troublesome for the movie’s long-term financial prospects.

Last week’s number one film, Underworld: Awakening, dropped by half but still managed to snag the number two spot in the country. Still on 3,078 screens – a majority of them 3D equipped – Kate Beckinsale and company earned an estimated $12.4 million to bring the film’s ten-day total to $45.1 million. The film looks to finish its run between $65-70 million.

Katherine Heigl and Jason O’Mara (Terra Nova) delivered a box office dud this weekend courtesy of the critically panned action comedy One for the Money. Even with the added benefit of a promotional tie-in for discounted tickets via the website Groupon, the most the movie could muster from 2,787 sites was an estimated $11.5 million. The film wasn’t screened for critics in advance, but the reviews that did make it out on Friday and Saturday were downright toxic, vicious enough to get the movie a whopping 3% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ticket buyers didn’t care much for it either, giving the film a ‘B-‘ rating on CinemaScore.

In fourth place was Fox and Lucasfilm’s World War II drama Red Tails, which held up better than expected with a 45% drop from its debut weekend on 2,573 screens. For its sophomore weekend, the George Lucas-produced tale of the Tuskegee Airmen earned an estimated $10.4 million to bring the movie’s ten-day total to the $33 million mark. A final tally between $55-60 million is likely.

The third wide opener of the weekend was Summit Entertainment’s Man on the Ledge, which was DOA with an estimated $8 million from 2,998 theaters. Blame bad reviews (24% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating), a mediocre marketing campaign or the simple fact that action fans had plenty of other choices to choose from this weekend, chalk Man on the Ledge up as another bomb for its leading man Sam Worthington. Sam’s track record should rebound on March 30th with the debut of Wrath of the Titans.

With the Oscar nominations out, studios did their best to make the most of Tuesday’s news. Warner’s 9/11-themed drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close eased 29% from last week to earn an estimated $7 million this weekend. After ten days of wide release, the Best Picture contender has earned $21.1 million. Should word-of-mouth sustain it, Close could earn close to $50 million.

Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants finally went wide after two months of limited release and earned an estimated $6.4 million from 2,001 screens. To date, the George Clooney drama has earned a sturdy $59 million so far. Depending on how the Oscars shake out for the critically acclaimed film, the final gross could reach $80 million or more.

Paramount’s Hugo jumped back into 965 theaters and added $2.2 million to its total, which now stands at $59 million. Frontrunner for Best Picture The Artist continued to struggle at the North American box office despite earning 11 Oscar nominations. The black-and-white silent comedy is currently playing on 897 screens and earned an estimated $3.3 million. To date, the movie has earned $16.6 million, which stands to at least double its box office take should it take Best Picture on February 26th.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

8. Contraband (Universal Pictures) $6.7 million (-46%) $56.4 million.

9. Beauty and the Beast 3D (Walt Disney Pictures) $5.3 million (-39%) $41.1 million

10. Haywire (Relativity) $4 million (-52%) $15.2 million

Next weekend sees the arrival of a trio of new films: The Woman In Black, Chronicle and Big Miracle.

Read our The Grey review.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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