Box Office: ‘Underworld’ Kicks Some ‘Red Tails’ For a Box Office Win

By  · Published on January 23rd, 2012

Vampires are still on the menu when it comes to nice sized box office morsels, as Underworld: Awakening, the fourth film of the franchise, sunk its teeth in and made its mark on the weekend take, the film series, and January openings as a whole. The only of these lists Awakening’s opening of $25.4m tops is chart for this weekend. That’s a return for the series, whose third entry, Rise of the Lycans, debuted in the #2 spot behind Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and who can really contend with Kevin James? I mean, really?

Awakening came in with the second highest opening of the Underworld series, just under $1.5m short of Underworld: Evolution’s impressive $26.8m pull back in 2006. It also debuted in the 12th slot of the all-time January opening chart behind Evolution, but this is indicative of January openings than the Underworld series in any way. That is saying something for Evolution, though, which didn’t have 3-D or IMAX in its arsenal to help bump the numbers. What it says for the series as a whole could be that fans are growing tired of seeing vampires kick tail out of werewolves. It could be a minor speed bump for the franchise, which saw the return of its main, leading lady, Kate Beckinsale, this time around. With some longevity, Awakening could find its end domestic take around $60–65m. Evolution, which tops the franchise in overall, domestic takes, ended its run with $62.3m domestic/$111.3m worldwide.

Red Tails wasn’t the return to box office royalty for George Lucas, who served only as executive producer here, but the $19.1m it made this weekend was anything but disappointing. Quite the contrary. It’s certainly a better opening than Lucas’ past side project that featured neither giant spaceships or Harrison Ford in a fedora. Radioland Murders opened in 1994 to $835,570, a number that had some believing George Lucas would give up the film making game completely. Red Tails’ reported budget is $58m, not an impossible number to overcome and get into the black. When you consider all aspects, though – marketing costs, splitting the gross with theaters, and foreign markets – you see the film has a lot of work ahead of it. Not an impossibility, but Ne-Yo probably shouldn’t hold out hope for fast-tracked sequel.

The same could be said for Gina Carano and Haywire. The Steven Soderbergh film came in under double digits for the weekend and behind Extremely Tedious and Incredibly Sappy. Carano may not become a force in the acting world, but fans of the director much know that wasn’t Soderbergh’s intent. Even still, with its straight-lined story – the film is very accessible for action fans – and well-built cast, Haywire should have performed better. It isn’t like it had a limited run here. Nonetheless, it finds itself in the area of disappointment when it comes to similar films, films like The Long Kiss Goodnight and its $9m weekend take in 1996 and License to Kill, which, at $8.7m in its opening weekend, very nearly killed the James Bond franchise in 1989.

We’ve been tracking for the past few weeks, paying very close attention to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. This weekend it finds itself even closer to topping the franchise, beating out the $215.4m domestic/$546.3m worldwide take Mission: Impossible II claimed in 2000. Ghost Protocol topped $534m worldwide this weekend. Though its weekend drop was notable, it continues to bring back decent numbers. Ghost Protocol may not beat out Mission: Impossible II’s numbers by next weekend, but it looks to do just that before its theatrical run is done.

Beauty and the Beast’s weekend proves not every Disney re-release is going to be as profitable as The Lion King. At this point in that film’s re-release, the first of the slate of 3-D re-releases had generated an additional $61.4m to add to its 1994 haul. Beauty and the Beast 3-D finds itself with just over half that. The other films Disney has on the docket may prove more successful. As beloved as Finding Nemo is, it’s sure to find an audience that not even Beauty and the Beast could bring in. Still, a 51.8% drop in its second weekend is surprising for the Disney classic.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. Underworld: Awakening – $25.4m NEW
  2. Red Tails – $19.1m NEW
  3. Contraband – $12.2m (-49.9%) $46.1m total
  4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – $10.5m (+11,474.2%) $11.2m total
  5. Haywire – $9m NEW
  6. Beauty and the Beast in 3-D – $8.5m (-51.8%) $33.3m total
  7. Joyful Noise – $6m (-45.9%) $21.9m total
  8. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – $5.5m (-52.6%) $197.3m total
  9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $4.8m (-44.1%) $178.6m total
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – $3.7m (-43.7%) $94.7m total

That brings the total weekend to $104.7m, the lowest weekend of the new year, but it’s early yet. 2012 is bringing out better numbers than 2011, which saw the last two weekends in January make $88.8m and $92.4m respectively. Underworld: Awakening and even Red Tails are far more compelling moneymakers than films like The Rite and No Strings Attached.

Once again, we have a slew of new releases to look forward to in the coming week. The Grey, Man On a Ledge, and One For the Money all drop wide with The Descendants expanding its theater count to around 900. At face value, it looks as thought any of the new, wide releases could come out on top, and Awakening still has another weekend where it could potentially take the #1 spot. But, as any box office battle has proven, rules and tradition mean nothing when Katherine Heigl is involved.

We’ll be back later in the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.