The 162-minute disaster epic, which got a love-hate reaction from critics (loved the special effects, hated the script), blew away the competition and took in $65 million in North America in its opening weekend and $160 million worldwide. All totaled, the Roland Emmerich movie, which cost $200 million to make (and tens of millions more to market) grossed $225 million.
For Emmerich, "2012" is his second-biggest domestic opening ever, behind his 2004 disaster flick (we're still waiting for that romantic comedy, Roland), "The Day After Tomorrow," which opened to almost $70 million. However, that end-of-the-world of the movie opened on a three-day holiday weekend, so it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Emmerich's films are never known for their deep plots, and clearly his audiences like what they're getting. It's not as if they're not warned before going in that cheesy dialogue from Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser is the price one pays for the spectacular effects. (Even the PG-13 rating notice warns: "Intense disaster sequences and some language.")
Walt Disney Co.'s "A Christmas Carol," which did not have the best of starts last weekend, made $22.3 million at the box office, a decline of only 26%. So far, it's made $63.3 million, and the drop of less than 35% from Week 1 to Week 2 means the 3-D holiday remake should have a lifespan longer than 12 days.
"It absolutely played the way we thought it would," said Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution for Walt Disney Studios. Though last week's $31-million opening was by no means small, the general consensus was that it should have opened bigger and that perhaps it premiered too long before Christmas. Viane said the studio wanted to get six weeks on 3-D screens before 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" premiered.
The indie movie "Precious," which Lionsgate bought at Sundance, took in about $6.1 million in just 174 theaters in nine cities. That's an impressive $35,000 per-screen average. The dark drama about a young girl trying to overcome her cruel family will extend to 600 theaters in 100 markets next weekend. It finished fourth, just behind George Clooney's "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which took in $6.2 million, but is playing everywhere.
"The exit polls from last weekend indicated strong word-of-mouth," said David Spitz, Lionsgate's executive vice president who oversees distribution.
Also having a strong opening in very limited release was 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which made its debut at four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and took in $260,000, for a $65,000 per-screen average. It will open wide on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
For Sony, next weekend, it will hope for a drop of less than 50% in box office for "2012." "People are digging the movie," Bruer said. "It should be good for many weeks to come."
If there is one downside to Emmerich's movies, it's that there is never a sequel because he blows everything up.