Hobbit Smaug and Frozen both lead box office as they hold off 5 Christmas releases; Phil Robertson back on Duck Dynasty after 3 week seclusion; Aereo Cable TV fight most headlined in 2013

 

Welcome to the 2013 wrap-up edition of Gene Scallop’s box office report. Here’s what’s topping the box office this week!

 

When last week we left the box office, Hobbit Smaug earned 8.61 million smackers over Anchorman 2. During the week, Disney’s Frozen rebounded from its debut ranking since Thanksgiving week. As of this week the two flicks managed to beat out the competition by nailing 5 Christmas releases in one swoop! This has never happened before, but it’s a first! Let’s check the holiday numbers!

 

In a weekend with five new wide releases, holiday holdovers Warner’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Disney’s Frozen led the way in a close two-way race for first. After trailing Frozen slightly on Friday, The Desolation of Smaug ultimately placed in first for the weekend with an estimated $29.85 million. The Desolation of Smaug has topped the box office for three consecutive weekends and was down just 5 percent from last weekend. In comparison, last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey fell 13.5 percent in its third weekend to gross $31.93 million. With a solid 17-day take of $190.30 million, The Desolation of Smaug is currently running 14 percent behind the $221.63 million 17-day take of An Unexpected Journey.

Frozen held up especially well over Christmas weekend with an estimated second place take of $28.85 million. The 3D computer animated blockbuster from Walt Disney Animation increased 47 percent over last weekend’s performance. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Frozen claimed the third largest performance ever for a film in its fifth weekend of wide release (behind only Avatar and Titanic). Frozen continues to be helped out by a combination of strong word of mouth and the overall lack of competition for family audiences this holiday season. Frozen has grossed $248.37 million to date, which currently ranks the film as the seventh highest grossing release of 2013.

Two more holdovers found themselves in a close race for third place this weekend, with Paramount’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues just edging out Sony’s American Hustle. Anchorman 2 was down 23 percent from last weekend to take in an estimated $20.15 million, while American Hustle was up 2 percent over last weekend to gross an estimated $19.55 million. With respective current total grosses of $83.67 million and $60.04 million, Anchorman 2 has out-grossed American Hustle by $23.63 million so far, but going forward American Hustle should cut into that gap thanks in part to continued awards season buzz. Anchorman 2 is currently running 18 percent behind the $102.58 million twelve-day take of 2010’s Little Fockers, while American Hustle is running a very impressive 125 percent ahead of the $26.66 million take of 2010’s The Fighter after ten days of wide release.

The weekend’s highest grossing new release was Paramount’s The Wolf of Wall Street. The Martin Scorsese directed awards season hopeful starring Leonardo DiCaprio placed in fifth with an estimated $18.51 million and has grossed $34.30 million through five days of release. That gave The Wolf of Wall Street a five-day to three-day ratio of 1.85 to 1, which actually represented a less initially front-loaded performance than those of both The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and 47 Ronin (despite the fact The Wolf of Wall Street received a troubling C rating on CinemaScore). It is also possible that The Wolf of Wall Street held up relatively better over the weekend due in part to the film not being the most ideal Christmas Day option for some moviegoers interested in the film.

All four of this weekend’s major releases were especially front-loaded towards their opening day performances on Christmas Day. At this point it remains to be seen whether the initial collective front-loading for this weekend’s new releases is a sign of lackluster holding power going forward or more a result of Christmas Day performances being inflated for all or some of the four to begin with. Next weekend’s respective holds will help answer that question for each of the four films.

Fox’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty debuted in seventh place with an estimated $13.0 million. The Ben Stiller directed remake starring Stiller and Kristen Wiig has grossed $25.59 million in its first five days, which was on the low end of pre-release expectations and places the film’s five-day to three-day ratio at 1.97 to 1. With so many other films currently aimed at adult moviegoers, Walter Mitty found itself lost within the middle of the pack, especially as the five-day frame went on. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty received a solid B+ rating on CinemaScore and will hope to stabilize going forward.

Universal’s 47 Ronin debuted in ninth with an estimated $9.87 million. The expensive action-adventure film starring Keanu Reeves had performed stronger than expected on Christmas Day, but came back down to Earth as soon as Thursday arrived. With a five-day start of $20.57 million, 47 Ronin had a five-day to three-day ratio of 2.08 to 1, which represented the most front-loaded performance of the weekend’s four major new releases. While 47 Ronin opened on the low end of its modest expectations, the film is performing very poorly with its large price-tag in mind. 47 Ronin received a B+ rating on CinemaScore.

Warner’s Grudge Match debuted all the way down in eleventh with a lackluster estimated weekend take of $7.31 million. The boxing comedy starring Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone has grossed just $13.44 million in five days. That was below expectations and gave the film a five-day to three-day ratio of 1.84 to 1. With so many other choices this weekend, audiences ultimately weren’t interested in the nostalgia offered by Grudge Match. Like Walter Mitty and 47 Ronin, Grudge Match also received a B+ rating on CinemaScore.

Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks held up very nicely this weekend, especially considering all the new direct competition it faced. The awards season hopeful starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks was up 50 percent over last weekend to place in sixth this weekend with an estimated $14.02 million. Saving Mr. Banks has grossed a solid $37.84 million after ten days of wide release and will have a strong chance of continuing to hold up well going forward thanks to strong word of mouth and from skewing heavily towards older moviegoers.

 

To recap the wrap-up, Hobbit Smaug and Frozen in 1st and 2nd, increase both leads thanks to a bigger boost during Christmas break. Anchorman 2, American Hustle, and Wolf of Wall Street trail behind 3rd, 4th, and 5th as all holiday releases get held over.

 

 

There was a big surprise in reality TV before Spring sweeps as Phil Robertson, the star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty was let go one week before Christmas because of his gay slurs. Fans of the show were outraged of the news that left them dismayed and shocked. A petition was made to bring the star back to the show and they did it with 250,000 signatures to spare. To that end, the fans pressured A&E to bring them back and they did a few days later. Have the Duck Dynasty fans scored a well deserved victory for Robertson Jim?

 

Jim Fish (via The Hollywood Reporter)- Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty clan who was suspended from his hit reality series on Dec. 18 following some incendiary comments about gay people, won’t be put on hiatus after all.

The network and the Robertson family announced Friday that Phil will still be part of the series — and since he didn’t miss any filming, his temporary suspension will have no effect on the upcoming fifth season.

An A&E statement to The Hollywood Reporter read:

As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s homes, and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.

That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.

In addition, an A&E source says the family and the network are going to work together to promote tolerance.

Robertson’s comments in GQ magazine, which included the 67-year-old likening homosexuality to “bestiality,” prompted an almost immediate announcement from A&E.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” read a network statement at the time. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

A&E’s swift reaction to the comments, praised by some, prompted objections from many fans of the show. Prior to his reinstatement, a petition started by Christian fans gathered north of 200,000 signatures demanding he be put back on the series. The organizers of the petition, IStandWithPhil.com, praised his reinstatement, though questioned if their voices had been heard.

“Despite our celebration, we remain uncertain of A&E’s true intent. Today, in the network’s statement of their core values – centered on ‘creativity, inclusion, and mutual respect’ – Faith Driven Consumers are left wondering whether A&E considers us to be a part of America’s rich rainbow of diversity,” said a statement from Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer.  “Do they also now embrace the biblically based values and worldview held by the Robertson family and millions of Faith Driven Consumers?”

GLAAD issued its own reaction to Robertson’s reinstatement: “Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists. If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A+E has chosen profits over African American and gay people – especially its employees and viewers.”

Robertson and the rest of his family have stood by the controversial comments that prompted the media furor, putting the future of A&E’s top-rated series in question.

On Sunday, Robertson delivered a sermon at his West Monroe, La., church. “I will not give or back off from my path,” he told the crowd — though he did seem to soften a bit, adding, “I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater.”

The political fallout has also been significant. Following initial calls to action from GLAAD, people from both sides of the political spectrum have weighed in on Robertson’s comments and suspension. It’s been a popular topic of debate on Fox News, and Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal was among the first to come to Robertson’s defense.

The Robertsons’ somewhat vague initial reaction to Phil’s removal — “We cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm” — prompted many to suggest that the cast would not continue filming. But the Robertsons also recently re-signed to stay on board A&E’s top-rated series. After settling a months-long salary standoff in August, A&E signed the entire Robertson clan to a multiyear deal worth more than $200,000 per episode.

For its part, A&E did little else in the wake of Robertson’s comments beyond the initial suspension. Encores of the series have continued to air, including a marathon on Christmas Day. Canceling or delaying the Jan. 15 season-five premiere never seemed to be on the table.

Duck Dynasty is a huge asset for A&E. In addition to being the top-rated reality program on cable, second across all of cable to only The Walking Dead with an average 13.4 million viewers and 7.6 million adults 18-49 in live-plus-7 ratings, Duck Dynasty has multiple brand tie-ins. Duck Dynasty gear is available in retailers across the U.S., including Wal-Mart, Sears and Cracker Barrel restaurants.

The entire Robertson family has been on hiatus for duck hunting season, a contractual stipulation, which continues through Jan. 26 in their native Louisiana.

Hollywood has been in legal trouble this year, namely The Weinstein flicks of The Butler and now Hobbit Smaug. But the most headliner that dominated tinsel town was Aereo, an interactive TV service that all cable and satellite companies desperately need. Before we make our prediction for our top story of the year, Danny tells us which other headlines made the list for 2013:

 

Danny Angelfish (via The Hollywood Reporter)- It’s hard to top the final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad for edge-of-your-seat thrills, but overall, there’s a good argument to be made that the best dramas emanating from the entertainment industry happen behind the cameras. Or as the famous Irving Berlin song put it, “There’s no business like show business.”

The past year was no exception. In fact, the year was so jam-packed with legal tussling that many show-stopping developments failed to make the cut of our top legal disputes from 2013. Among them: Warner Bros. gets a long, hard-fought victory that preserves its rights over Superman; A&E fights the contention by ex-Storage Wars star David Hester that manipulated reality television is subject to laws used to clean up TV quiz shows in the 1950s; Courtney Love is primed to become the first celebrity to stand trial over an allegedly defamatory tweet; and the Rhythm & Hues bankruptcy compels examination of what’s wrong with the economics of visual effects.

Some of those courtroom dramas are ongoing and stand a chance of making next year’s list. But in our view, here, in reverse order, are the ones that were the most gripping from 2013:

10. Huong Hoang’s efforts to punish IMDb for revealing her age

This year, Americans were shocked by revelations that the NSA has been carrying out a campaign of mass electronic surveillance. Meanwhile, in Hollywood’s backyard of Seattle, a smaller privacy scandal was raging. Huong Hoang, an actress, said that her career in the entertainment industry had been damaged when IMDb published her age. She claimed that the Amazon subsidiary had discovered her age through credit information when she signed up for an IMDbPro account. A trial was held in April, and IMDb came out as the winner, getting a jury to see it hadn’t breached a user agreement with the actress. With support from the Screen Actors Guild, the actress is appealing the judge’s earlier rulings paring her lawsuit.

9. Tom Cruise’s defamation lawsuit vs. Bauer Media

Tom Cruise wanted to send a message when tabloid magazines owned by Bauer Media published headlines that he had “abandoned” his daughter, Suri, after divorcing Katie Holmes. Cruise demanded $50 million in damages, but his larger goal was to establish that there were consequences when the media is reckless with the truth. Unfortunately for Cruise, it’s difficult not to draw an alternative lesson (as many are now doing): Celebrities should be wary before launching open court battles. During the discovery phase, both sides pursued sensitive information from the other. It ended up being comments that Cruise made during a deposition that generated many unflattering headlines for the actor. With a trial on the horizon, Cruise elected to give up hope of winning a powerful jury verdict, accepting instead a settlement where the media company offers its “regret” for how readers interpreted its original headline.

8. Frank Darabont’s big lawsuit against AMC

The ousted Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont is seeking tens of millions of dollars in lost profits after AMC, as series producer, licensed the hit series to itself. This one is just getting started, but deals with a topic — “vertical integration” — that continues to be a beastly one for an entertainment industry in the throes of consolidation. For another example from this past year, see a lawsuit brought by the Home Improvement creators against Disney for the way the ’90s sitcom was sold into syndication. Back to the Walking Dead lawsuit: According to the complaint, Darabont had a deal that entitled him to terms similar to what other third parties got from AMC. This allegation alone could open some investigation into the financials of other shows including Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

7. Robin Thicke looks to protect “Blurred Lines” from theft claims

For as long as there has been pop music, there’s been fighting over who stole or borrowed or sampled what from whom. When Robin Thicke and his producers filed a lawsuit this past summer against Marvin Gaye’s children, a few things raised the bar: The lawsuit was a preemptive strike against allegations that the year’s most successful song was a derivative of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” The litigation now involves both sides enlisting some of the industry’s most esteemed lawyers to wrangle over the issue of when similarity in song craft rises to copyright infringement. Now there’s even a counterclaim that raises the issue of a conflict and lack of diligence by one of the industry’s biggest song publishers.

6. Harvey Weinstein’s big legal year

Frankly, it’s too hard to pick just one Harvey Weinstein battle. So let’s recap his wild year: In January, he settled a dispute with writer-producer Kevin Williamson over the Scream franchise. In February, he settled a particularly nasty $50 million lawsuit alleging he “sabotaged” the animated film Escape From Planet Earth. In July, after an arbitrator ruled that Warner Bros. had preexisting rights to The Butler as a film title, he threatened the MPAA with an antitrust lawsuit. In October, he scored a win at an appeals court in a fight with Grammy-winning musician Sam Moore over the 2008 film Soul Men. In December, he sued Warner Bros. with the contention that he is owed at least $75 million from The Hobbit movies. That not enough? There’s also the ongoing $20 million case over The English Patient and another lawsuit over The Reader as well.

5. “Fair Use” explodes as a public issue

Technology has made duplication easier than ever. A counterpoint to copyright is fair use, or lawful exceptions to a rights-holder’s ability to control derivatives. This past year brought two huge decisions on this front. First, after a nearly decade-long fight, Google got a federal judge to declare that its scanning of some 20 million library books was a fair use. Second, an appeals court concluded that artist Richard Prince had made fair use of most of photographer Patrick Cariou’s work. Both cases are ongoing (on appeal or back at the trial court). Meanwhile, the issue of what’s transformative and what’s not has entered the public stream of conscious in other ways — from Sony Pictures’ win over a William Faulkner quote referenced in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris to the recent controversy over a toy company’s use of The Beastie Boys’ “Girls.”

4. NCAA athletes fight over TV and video game money

At first blush, the issue of whether college football and basketball athletes deserve to be paid might not seem like a Hollywood one. But increasingly, the TV industry relies on DVR-proof live sports to entice consumers to sign up for cable and satellite service. A federal judge’s decisions to deny a motion to dismiss and then certify a class action has the potential to shake things up. If a First Amendment right to use athletes’ images doesn’t exist, TV networks might be forced in the future to not only to spend billions of dollars acquiring rights from the NCAA, but also negotiate with trade associations representing amateur athletes. But that’s not all: A victory for these athletes could threaten films and books about celebrities. At least, that’s what big media companies including A&E Television, Discovery, News. Corp. and others are telling the Supreme Court in an amicus brief that urges the Supreme Court to examine the issue.

3. Hollywood interns fight for wages

Another mini-earthquake on the labor front: A federal judge’s summary judgment ruling that two interns on Fox’s Black Swan were employees as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act and that the company’s unpaid internship program potentially violated minimum wage and overtime laws. The plaintiffs in this case are among many now challenging the circumstances of internships in media and entertainment. The controversial ruling is now being reviewed by an appeals court. The attorney for the plaintiffs says the case is about “social justice” and will open doors to those who are less privileged. Others worry that training programs at large are threatened. Attorneys at corporations around the nation are watching closely.

2. Michael Jackson’s family fights AEG Live over singer’s death

The showy trial took up the entire summer. In a California courtroom, intimate details of the last days of the King of Pop were examined. Whose fault was it that Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in 2009? The doctor who gave him propofol before his death? Or the concert promoter who pushed the singer to the brink? Ultimately, the jury decided that AEG Live wasn’t liable. The ruling came as a relief to many in the entertainment industry weighing what kind of supervision is necessary when pushing performers to live up to contractual obligations. Had the outcome been different, this likely would have topped our list. But since the long-term ramifications are somewhat limited, we’re going with …

1. TV broadcasters push Aereo all the way up to the Supreme Court

As a technological platform, Aereo still has a long ways to go to prove itself in the consumer market. But the mass litigation over Aereo’s legality figures to impact — possibly, transform — the industry. The suing TV broadcasters contend that by capturing TV signals and relaying them to consumers’ digital devices, Aereo is violating their public performance rights. Aereo believes that its service is fair because public TV airwaves are captured and relayed individually and privately. Aereo got an important victory at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in April, and now everyone is pushing the Supreme Court to review Aereo’s legality. Depending on if and what the Supreme Court agrees to hear, the dispute could touch other technologies like cloud computing out there. Meanwhile, the TV industry is wrestling with the issue of digital streaming, and tensions between programmers and distributors are playing out in retransmission disputes (see, for example, Time Warner Cable vs. CBS or Dish Network vs. ESPN). The greatest fear of broadcasters might not ultimately be that a judicially blessed Aereo becomes the go-to app. Instead, TV broadcasters could be more fearful that distributors like Dish, Cablevision and TWC adopt Aereo’s technology and stop paying billions of dollars in carriage fees. In anticipation, some of the major networks have teased the possibility of going the pay TV route and leaving behind more than a half-century of broadcasting on public airwaves.

 

 

With the FCC making some changes soon, things so go well in 2014 as they take effect. As for Aereo, we’ll see if the law can grant their request as soon as the year begins. Aereo needs to win this very important case, because according to recent history, the company has reassured that the service will be treated as a public manner. However, if the courts strike down the hearing, it will be a major blow for the TV industry. We say Aereo has a slim chance to take the case if justice hears their side of the story.

 

Checking the Penguins tally as we approach 2014, 2,344 fans sign in as Team Skipper prepares to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

 

 

We close the book of 2013 for movies and TV. As we enter 2014 ourselves, what opportunities lie ahead for the biggest movie hits in the box office, what surprises should we find here in the small screen, and what will become of our toon friends as Team Skipper concludes Mission 3 with their movie coming in Spring 2015? All answers will be revealed in our New Year’s edition of Gene Scallop’s entertainment report. Until this Wednesday, see you in 2014 TV and movie fans!

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