‘Prisoners’ wins box office with solid $21.4-million opening

Hugh Jackman in "Prisoners," which took the top box-office spot with an estimated $21.4 million.
(Wilson Webb / Alcon Entertainment)

Riding a wave of enthusiastic reviews, the Hugh Jackman-Jake Gyllenhaal kidnapping tale “Prisoners” opened to strong business of an estimated $21.4 million at the box office, according to figures released Sunday.

Produced by Alcon Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros., the R-rated film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve had to overcome disturbing themes and imagery and a 2 1/2-hour run time, and audiences seemed to like “Prisoners” as much as critics, giving it an A- CinemaScore. (The film’s original grade was B+, but Warner Bros. said additional polling Saturday yielded a higher mark.)

The $46-million production, which stars Jackman as a parent looking for his kidnapped daughter and Gyllenhaal as a police officer trying to make sure the father doesn’t become a vigilante, was expected to open to about $20 million.

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Even though the break dance tale “Battle of the Year” received an equal audience mark of A- from CinemaScore, the release from Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems label played to mainly empty auditoriums, grossing just $5 million as the only other new movie in wide release.

Sony had hoped the $20-million “Battle of the Year,” which director Benson Lee adapted from his 2007 documentary “Planet B-Boy,” would take in as much as $8 million. The release marks another dud for Sony, which this year has the wash-outs “White House Down” and “After Earth.” The feature stars singer Chris Brown along with actual B-Boy dancers in an ensemble tale of an underdog team competing in the break dancing world championships. “Battle of the Year” was savaged by critics.

Two prominent films debuted in limited release to impressive returns. “Enough Said,” Fox Searchlight’s romantic comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, opened in four theaters and grossed an estimated $240,000, a very strong $60,000 per screen. “Rush,” director Ron Howard’s account of the duel between Formula One racers Niki Lauda from Austria and England’s James Hunt, premiered in five theaters ahead of its wide release next weekend. It grossed an estimated $200,000, or $40,000 per screen.

A new 3-D Imax release of “The Wizard of Oz” grossed an estimated $3 million on 318 screens, putting it among the Top 10 releases for the weekend, the highest such debut for a film playing only on the large-format screens.

Andrew Kosove, who runs “Prisoners” producer Alcon Entertainment with Broderick Johnson, said he was confident positive recommendations would keep the thriller’s momentum strong in the coming weeks.

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“I’m really elated with how things turned out. We now have a base audience and we will have a lot of people spreading word of mouth,” Kosove said.

He added it was a good turnaround for Alcon, given that the “Blind Side” producer was coming off its biggest failure, February’s “Beautiful Creatures,” which grossed just $19.4 million in domestic release. “It’s a much nicer end to the year than it was the beginning,” Kosove said.

Last week’s No. 1 film, “Insidious: Chapter 2,” plunged a steep 64% to $14.5 million in its second weekend, finishing second over all. The $5-million horror story from Blumhouse Productions and FilmDistrict has grossed $60.9 million to date.

Third place went to Relativity Media’s “The Family,” with an estimated $7 million.

In one footnote to the weekend, “The Spectacular Now,” the romantic drama about two high school friends, crossed the $6-million mark for distributor A24.


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