Box Office: 'Chronicle' soars on Super Bowl weekend [Updated]
Three new films proved their might at the box office this weekend, as ticket sales were stronger than anticipated despite the allure of the Super Bowl.
"Chronicle," a found-footage adventure about a group of teenagers with superpowers, took the No. 1 spot with $22 million in domestic receipts, according to an estimate from distributor 20th Century Fox. The horror film "The Woman in Black," the first movie from "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe outside of the popular franchise, wasn't far behind with $21 million. But the inspirational drama "Big Miracle," about the plight of three California gray whales, could muster only a lackluster $8.5 million.
As a result of the better-than-expected box office business, ticket sales were up 37% compared to Super Bowl weekend in 2011.
"Chronicle" received the strongest reviews of any other film debuting this weekend, but audiences liked it slightly less than "Big Miracle." The superhero flick was given an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore, while the environmental picture scored an A-. "The Woman in Black" earned a less impressive B-.
Because "Chronicle" features a mostly unknown cast and is targeted at young males, Fox was only projecting the film would make a soft $8 million this weekend. But the low-budget movie, produced by the studio for only $12 million, fared better than expected due largely in part to young moviegoers. About 61% of those who saw the film this weekend were under the age of 25, while 55% of the audience was male.
"The Woman in Black" is by far the best opening ever for CBS Films, whose strongest debut up to this point was the $12.2-million start by romantic comedy "The Back-up Plan" in 2010. Of the six pictures the studio has released since early 2010, the Radcliffe movie also had the most positive reviews.
CBS Films paid $3 million to acquire the North American distribution rights for the film, which was financed by the U.K.-based distribution company Momentum Pictures for $13 million.
The movie's respectable debut is a win for 22-year-old Radcliffe, who had yet to open a movie outside of the massively popular "Potter" series. Since the film series concluded with its eighth installment in July, the actor spent months on Broadway in a well-received turn in the musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
In his first test as a leading man, Radcliffe showed he could attract a diverse group of moviegoers to the multiplex. It was expected that his young female fan base would show up to the scary film in droves, but the audience was more evenly split than many had predicted: 59% of the crowd was female, and 57% was under the age of 25.
In fact, "Big Miracle" ended up appealing more to young women. The movie attracted an audience that was 68% female and 67% below 25 years of age.
The movie, starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, is based on the 1988 rescue of three whales trapped under the ice in Alaska. Accordingly, the film did the briskest business in Anchorage, where two theaters brought in bigger ticket sales respectively than any other cinemas in the country.
The movie had the biggest budget of any new film released this weekend, as Universal Pictures spent about $40 million to produce it. Unfortunately for the studio, it doesn't seem likely that "Big Miracle" will be able to replicate the success of last year's "Dolphin Tale," another family film about a struggling sea mammal. Last September, that Warner Bros. film opened to around $19 million and eventually grossed $72 million.
[Updated 12:34 p.m., Feb. 5: Overseas, "Chronicle" also took the No. 1 spot in a number of international markets, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong. Of the 33 foreign countries where it debuted, the movie played best in the U.K., taking in $3.5 million there.
Meanwhile, ahead of its U.S. opening next weekend, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" has already raked up a healthy sum internationally. The Warner Bros. film starring Dwayne Johnson has so far collected $41.5 million outside of America, with the biggest ticket sales coming from Korea. The movie has now grossed 15% more than 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" had during the same time period overseas, and that movie ultimately made over $140 million abroad.
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Dane DeHaan stars in "Chronicle." Credit: 20th Century Fox