The Grey topped this weekend's box office with a better than expected $19.67 million. The modestly budgeted Liam Neeson vehicle from Open Road marks yet another January 2012 release that has surpassed opening weekend expectations (others being The Devil Inside, Contraband and to a lesser extent Red Tails). The Grey also represented the first Open Road film to open at #1 in the company's brief distribution history. The film marks another strong performer for Neeson, who has proven to be a consistent box office draw since the break-out performance of 2009's Taken. The Grey opened just 10 percent below the $21.86 million start of 2011's Unknown, which concluded its domestic run with a final take of $63.69 million. With a B- rating from CinemaScore it is possible that word of mouth may be mixed for The Grey, though on the other hand the film did post a very solid opening weekend to Friday ratio of 3.03 to 1.
Holding up relatively well this weekend was Sony's Underworld Awakening. The fourth installment of the vampire action series fell 51 percent to take second with $12.35 million. Underworld Awakening held up notably better in its second weekend than both 2009's Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (which fell 64 percent in its second weekend) and 2006's Underworld: Evolution (which fell 58 percent). That is an indication that word of mouth is stronger for this installment of the series, while continued higher priced 3D and IMAX admissions are also helping the film's holding power. With a ten-day start of $44.98 million, Underworld Awakening is currently running 36 percent ahead of the pace of Rise of the Lycans and 1 percent ahead of Evolution.
Lionsgate's One For the Money placed in third with $11.52 million. While that was on the higher end of pre-release expectations, it was also soft by the previous box office standards of star Katherine Heigl. One For the Money opened 27 percent below the $15.84 million start of 2010's Killers (which was also released by Lionsgate). Like last year's The Lincoln Lawyer, One For the Money received a last minute boost from a promotion through GroupOn, which was responsible for a reported 11 percent of the film's crowd this weekend. However, it is extremely unlikely that One For the Money will hold up anywhere near as well as The Lincoln Lawyer did going forward, especially with Sony's much hyped The Vow now in the near horizon. The audience break-down for One For the Money skewed very heavily female (79 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers over 25 (74 percent).
Fox's Red Tails had a respectable second weekend hold with a fourth place take of $10.37 million. The Lucasfilm produced WWII film fell 45 percent from last weekend's opening weekend performance. While word of mouth appears to be solid for Red Tails, in hindsight there was no doubt a rush-out component to last weekend's debut thanks in part to strong group sales and in part to Lucasfilm fans. The stronger than expected debut of The Grey also looks to have had an effect on Red Tails this weekend (as well as on Universal's Contraband and Relativity's Haywire). The ten-day total for Red Tails stands at $33.75 million.
Man on a Ledge rounded out this weekend's top five with a lackluster $8.00 million. The thriller from Summit starring Sam Worthington debuted slightly below its already modest pre-release expectations, as it was simply no match for Liam Neeson and The Grey at the end of the day. The opening weekend performance of Man on a Ledge nearly mirrored the $8.67 million start of The Three Musketeers, which Summit released to disappointing results this past October. With Summit having been recently acquired by Lionsgate, it was certainty an awkward situation to have Man on a Ledge and One For the Money opening against one another this weekend. It should be noted that Summit has recouped much of the production budget of Man on a Ledge with strong pre-sales of foreign rights. The audience break-down for Man on a Ledge was evenly split between genders and skewed towards moviegoers under 25 (56 percent).
Turning to Best Picture nominees for Oscar still in the marketplace, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close led the way with a sixth place take of $6.98 million. However, the Warner Bros. release didn't hold up especially well when considering the added benefit of its unexpected Best Picture nomination, as it fell 31 percent from last weekend. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has grossed a so-so $20.94 million to date.
Fellow Best Picture nominees Fox Searchlight's The Descendants, The Weinstein Company's The Artist and Paramount's Hugo all experienced strong percentage increases this weekend, but on the other hand grosses and per-location averages weren't exactly Earth-shattering for all three. With the additional aid of a large expansion, The Descendants was up 170 percent to gross $6.41 million. The Artist was up 40 percent to gross $3.32 million and Hugo was up 168 percent to gross $2.51 million. Meanwhile, Disney's War Horse was down a concerning 36 percent to gross $2.00 million (though the DreamWorks film did lose 664 locations this weekend). Current total grosses stand at $75.62 million for War Horse, $58.93 million for Hugo, $58.70 million for The Descendants and at $16.74 million for The Artist.
Additional reporting by Phil Contrino.