What happened to the Promised Land?

The major expansion this weekend was for Matt Damon’s Promised Land. Gus Van Sant’s well-reviewed ‘fracking is bad but it’s complicated…’ morality play earned just $4.6 million for the weekend. Chalk it up to being mostly buried during the frenzied Oscar season. Frankly, this could have been a probable winner as the ‘adult movie of choice’ later in the year, but the the film needed to come out early in the year in order to qualify for and capitalize on the Oscar nominations that it won’t get. Adults were busy catching up on higher-profile (and arguably more appealing) Oscar bait like Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Lincoln. The Impossible suffered the same fate as it expanded to 572 theaters this weekend, choosing to be a small fish in a big pond rather than a small fish in a mostly-empty pond. The somewhat controversial true-life disaster drama took in an okay $2.7 million ($4,825 per screen). Sure the picture may pick up an Oscar nomination for Naomi Watts, but is that worth fighting for crumbs? Next weekend’s (at long last) expansion of Zero Dark Thirty is a bigger question mark. The film expanded to 60 screens this weekend and wracked up $2.75 million for its troubles (a frankly massive $45,000 per-screen average). Will the film’s relentlessly wrong-head torture controversy help the film or hurt it? Will audiences think they’re getting the next Black Hawk Down?

Texas Chainsaw 3D topped the box office this weekend with a robust $23 million.

That’s a bit behind the $33 million opening haul for The Devil Inside, but it’s still easily the top horror debut for January. Moreover, the picture earned more, even adjusted for inflation, than the last go around, the painfully underrated Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (retrospective essay). The 2003 remake took in $28 million way back in October 2003 ($36 million in today’s dollars, not even accounting for the whole 3D bump), but this under-hyped and frankly somewhat undersold quasi-sequel to the original 1973 film was never going to reach those heights.

Said Platinum Dunes remake was exceedingly well-marketed, with a pioneering trailer (think how often it gets ripped off ten years later), and it basically kicked off the return of the hardcore horror film (along with the mostly ignored Wrong Turn from that May). Of course, the best weapon a new horror January film has is the October release of a new Paranormal Activity sequel, as it’s a piece of prime demo-friendly marketing.

The Devil Inside attached its trailer to Paranormal Activity 3 back in October 2011 while Texas Chainsaw 3D had its trailer viewed by those attending Paranormal Activity 4 this October. Of course, the fourth entry made about half what the third one did, so that probably didn’t help.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo

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