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Source: Jeff Bock
Date: Jan 10, 2013

"Zero Dark Thirty" is targeting the top spot after three weeks of limited release and honestly, it will take an army to stop it. Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to "The Hurt Locker" has a bazooka of buzz behind it and is locked into not only the cultural zeitgeist of the day, but is one of those films that, like "Lincoln," is almost your duty as an jingoistic American to seek out. 

The saga of Osama Bin Laden has taken more than a decade to tell, and this is the culmination of what is perhaps the most widely reported event of this century. You can't buy hype like that, well, you can, but you have to purchase the rights to the book first, then turn it into a movie. This isn't just a film though, it's an event, and one that is also packing a considerable amount of awards heat. With that in mind, combined with the fact that most of the other serious awards contenders have already shot their box office loads, "Zero Dark Thirty" is primed to overtake the box office for quite some time. 

When Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" won Best Picture in 2010, it was already on DVD and grossed a total of just $17 million--one of the lowest grossing Best Picture winners ever. That total will easily be surpassed by this weekend's haul which should run upwards of $25 million as it expands into nearly 3000 theaters, and is expected to play very evenly in both red and blue states. 

"Gangster Squad" ran into some unfortunate press last summer with its odd link to the "Dark Knight Rises" shootings. Warner Bros. wisely recut the film and gave audiences a chance to distance themselves and emotionally heal from that very sad event. It seems to have worked, although critics aren't exactly tripping the light fantastic over it. That may hurt it in the long run, but with the all-star cast, it still should be able to capture nearly $20 million in its debut. The big hurt will be just how hard "Zero Dark Thirty" hits as the two films are basically going after the same demographic. If "Zero" opens even bigger than expected, "Gangster Squad" may feel the box office burn.  

"A Haunted House" is certainly the wildest card of the weekend; but don't count it out, as spoof films have a history of pouncing on an unsuspecting box office. They've done it many times before, and don't take kindly to playing second banana. Unfortunately, between "Zero Dark Thirty" going into wide release and riding a massive wave of Oscar buzz and "Gangster Squad" with its high profile cast, there's not much room to wiggle.  

Still, we haven't seen a spoof movie in theaters for a couple years, and "Paranormal Activity" and the wave of found footage flicks are way over-ripe for lampooning. If the African American audience shows up, there's a possibility this could deliver more bang than folks expect. I'm not saying it will do "Scary Movie" kind of business, but in 2,130 theaters, $14+ million or so would be a huge score for distributor Open Road Films. 

Last weekend's surprise king of the ring was "Texas Chainsaw 3D," however that may not last long. Unfortunately for these films--and chill pills in general--weekend No. 2 is always a box office murder scene. Last year, "Devil Inside" dropped a woeful -76% in its sophomore slump, and while "Texas Chainsaw 3D" won't see a drop quite that ghastly, expect a decline of at least -60%, which would leave it with around $9 million this weekend--placing it outside the Top 5.

Seems horror has a new hotbed and apparently it's no longer during the haunting season of Halloween, it's the first weekend after New Years. We've come a long way from the days of "Leprechaun," haven't we? Back in the first weekend of 1993, the little green man didn't exactly find a pot of gold with $2.3 million, but try, try, again...and studios have finally found a honeypot spot for horror films.


1. "Zero Dark Thirty" $26 million

2. "Gangster Squad" $20 million

3. "A Haunted House" $14 million

4. "Django Unchained" $13 million

5. "The Hobbit" $11 million



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