Weekend Box Office: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D Slays Holdovers on New Year’s First Frame

     January 6, 2013


Texas Chainsaw 3D, the R-rated franchise title from Lionsgate, managed to wrest the top spot away from The Hobbit and Django Unchained on 2013’s inaugural weekend. The horror film’s estimate of $23 million from 2,654 locations was a bit higher than expected, though probably not high enough to ensure box office longevity. Leatherface aside, the New Year looked suspiciously like Christmas as holiday-holdovers stretched their legs.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Texas Chainsaw 3D $23,000,000 $23
2.  Django Unchained $20,082,000 $106.3
3.  The Hobbit $17,525,000 $263.8
4.  Les Miserables $16,117,000 $103.6
5.  Parental Guidance $10,125,000 $52.7
6.  Jack Reacher $9,300,000 $64.8
7.  This is 40 $8,600,000 $54.5
8.  Lincoln $5,258,000 $143.9
9.  The Guilt Trip $4,530,000 $31.2
10.  Promised Land $4,311,500 $4.6

texas-chainsaw-massacre-3d-posterThe first weekend of any New Year is more about celebrating the old than ‘ringing in the new’ – at least at the box office. With so much invested in December releases, few studios are interested in launching new product until they have squeezed every dollar out of last year’s schedule. So, for the third year in a row, the top ten includes just one new wide release: a horror film with a familiar title.

In 2003, producer Michael Bay launched his remake of the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film was a massive hit: taking in over $80 million from a budget of less than $10 million. Three years later, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning was not quite as successful. It opened to $18.5 million on its way to a final gross of $39.5 million in the US.

Going into this weekend, Lionsgate said they were expecting a $15 million debut for Texas Chainsaw 3D. Considering that they wound up with $23 million and first place, I’m sure the studio is very pleased with this morning’s estimate. They should hold on to that feeling because, if history is any guide, Texas Chainsaw 3D is in for a steep fall next weekend.

On this week last year, Paramount had a happy New Year when their R-rated horror film The Devil Inside debuted with a massive $33.7 million. The film, which reportedly cost just $1 million to make, realized a final gross of over $53 million in the US. That is great by any standard, but it also illustrates how front-loaded horror movies can be. In its second weekend, The Devil Inside dropped by over 76%. Considering that Texas Chainsaw 3D came in $10 million below that film even with its 3D edge in ticket prices, its long-term prospects are not encouraging. In 2006, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning wound up with just under $40 million by the end of its run. That was in October, however, a much more horror-friendly month. Considering the competition it will see next weekend in the form of Gangster Squad, Texas Chainsaw 3D could run out of gas in its second week.

django-unchained-posterAnother reason not to hope for a big final gross from this weekend’s number one film is the continued strength of December’s holdovers. All three of Christmas Day’s releases had good holds in their second weekends – and all three reached important milestones. Django Unchained and Les Miserables both broke $100 million on Sunday while Parental Guidance crossed $50 million in domestic grosses. Next to its higher profile Christmas competition, the family comedy has remained a box office afterthought. And yet, the Fox film saw one of the top ten’s best holds this weekend (down just 30%) and has more than doubled its production budget in 13 days. By comparison, Paramount’s The Guilt Trip (released six days before Christmas) has lost its way. The comedy has earned over $30 million, but it cost $40 million to make.

Despite seeing the steepest decline within the top ten (45%), it was also a good week for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Part one of Peter Jackson’s trilogy crossed $500 million in international grosses earlier this week and, though it fell to third after three weeks at number one, The Hobbit is still on track to break a billion dollars worldwide.

Though Texas Chainsaw 3D had the distinction of being the only brand new release at this weekend’s box office, three specialty releases saw major expansions. The leader (at least in terms of raw numbers) was Promised Land. The Focus Features’ drama broke the top ten with its estimated $4.3 million from 1,676 locations, but registered a very low average of $2,573 per theatre in the process.  In contrast, the drama The Impossible expanded to 572 locations and took in an estimated $2.76 million while Zero Dark Thirty grossed almost as much ($2.75 million) in just 60 theatres.

Zero Dark Thirty will see its final expansion next Friday when it opens nationwide in 2,400 locations. So far, director Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden drama has had a charmed run in limited release so it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against more mainstream fare like Warner Brothers’ Gangster Squad – not to mention Django and The Hobbit. Check back next week to see how it all plays out…


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