‘Hansel & Gretel’ at top of the box office with a weak $19 million


“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” easily took No. 1 at the box office this weekend, but it was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts as all three new films had unimpressive starts.

The action-heavy spin on the classic fairy tale starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton debuted to a soft $19 million, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures, while the Jason Statham action vehicle “Parker” and the wacky ensemble comedy “Movie 43” both bombed, launching to $7 million and $5 million, respectively.

Total box office receipts in the United States and Canada were down 13 percent from the same weekend a year ago, according to Hollywood.com.

The only good news was for some of the returning Academy Awards contenders. “Silver Linings Playbook” enjoyed an extraordinarily small drop of 7 percent from last weekend, indicating that word of mouth is very strong in its second weekend of nationwide release. The dramatic comedy starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence took in $10 million and brought its total gross in the U.S. and Canada to $69.5 million.

The $21 million production is shaping up to be a huge hit for the Weinstein Co.

Ticket sales for “Zero Dark Thirty” declined 38 percent to $9.8 million, continuing the impressive run for the story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and bringing its domestic box office total to $69.9 million.

Going into the weekend, most in Hollywood had expected “Hansel,” which had the benefit of ticket price surcharges from 3-D and Imax screens, to open closer to $30 million. Even Paramount, which downplayed expectations as studios often do, expected it to come in at more than $20 million.

The audience was older than pre-release surveys had predicted, with 57 percent of ticket-buyers over 25. Fifty-five percent were male.

Ticket sales jumped 38 percent from Friday to Saturday, indicating that the box office may have been depressed somewhat by bad weather on the East Coast Friday evening. Megan Colligan, Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution, noted that evening shows in the East were emptier than expected based on ticket sales earlier in the day.

Opening-day audiences gave the movie a solid grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer spent roughly $50 million to produce “Hansel & Gretel.”

The studios’ financial hopes for the 3-D movie rest largely overseas, where “Hansel & Gretel” has so far grossed $35.8 million from 20 markets, with Russia leading the way.

There is less hope of eventual success for the backers of “Parker,” which cost about $30 million to make. Financed by a number of companies, rights in the U.S. and Canada were acquired by independent distributor FilmDistrict.

Those who went liked “Parker,” giving it an average grade of B-plus.

The picture marks the lowest opening for Statham since the 2009 flop “Crank: High Voltage.” For co-star Jennifer Lopez, it’s the worst launch since the 2003 fiasco “Gigli.”

“Movie 43” cost only about $6 million to make, but given the costs of releasing and marketing a film nationwide, the opening numbers still mark a disappointment for independent studio Relativity Media.

The unusual production is a series of intertwined comedy vignettes that features 12 credited directors and a cast including Hugh Jackman and Emma Stone.

But audiences were not impressed by the creative risk, assigning it a Cinema-Score of D.

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