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'The Grey' Opens Strong, Tops Box Office With $20 Million

'The Grey' Opens Strong, Tops Box Office With $20 Million

Backed by some strong critical support, Liam Neeson's horror-thriller "The Grey" found its target demographic to the tune of $20 million over the weekend, easily enough to top the box office in a relatively slow overall weekend. Meanwhile, action-comedy "One for the Money" opened looking for a wide audience, though the Lionsgate distribution finished with a lackluster $4,293 per venue average and looks to in a rough position moving forward. The other wide release of the weekend was Summit's "Man on a Ledge," another action-thriller that struggled to find its target demographic and finished below $3,000 per venue, enough to push it to just $8.30 million in opening revenue.

Though an R-rating likely deterred some of the younger members of its potential audience, "The Grey" showed that there is still an adult audience looking for gritty thrillers, helping it earn a solid $6,279 per site and setting it up for a nice box office run. Distributor Open Road Films looks to have rebounded with its second ever release, as their first distribution, "Killer Elite," managed just $25 million domestically before ducking out of theaters as one of the biggest bombs of 2011.

What was equally as impressive for "The Grey" is that there were plenty of other options for thrill-seekers this weekend, and audiences overwhelmingly chose "The Grey" over "Man on a Ledge," "Contraband" and "Haywire." Even if January and February can be tough months to launch action movies, it looks like star Liam Neeson still resonates with his intended audience and "The Grey" should be yet another winter commercial success when all is said and done. Expect "The Grey" to put together a couple more strong weekends and to end up with a nice overall domestic total for Open Road Films.

The same probably can't be said of "One for the Money," an action-comedy starring Katherine Heigl. Though "One for the Money" did slightly better than anticipated, an $11.75 million opening weekend still leaves it far from being a commercial success. With plenty of other options opening in the next few weekends, "One for the Money" should see a notable decline and be out of the top ten by mid-February.

The other new title that hit theaters this weekend was "Man on a Ledge," a PG-13 action-thriller that struggled to get off the ground despite a decent cast led by Sam Worthington and Ed Harris. With most of the older potential audience members checking out "The Grey" instead, "Man on a Ledge" managed a disappointing $8.30 million in its first weekend and it will only get tougher from here, with horror-thriller "The Woman in Black" scheduled to hit theaters this Friday. "Man on a Ledge" will probably see a swift drop fairly soon and a sizable cut in overall screenings by next weekend seems likely.

Getting an expansion to 2,001 theaters this weekend, R-rated "The Descendants" added $6.55 million to its already decent total, though an unimpressive per theater average of $3,273 suggests that adult audiences aren't completely buying into George Clooney's latest Oscar contender. Still, "The Descendants" has put together a fairly strong total of $58 million domestically so far, making it one of the better limited releases launched in 2011. "The Descendants" should still have some pull with adult audiences until the Oscars are unveiled in late February, but its biggest weekends have already come and gone.

The weekend should also be the last that R-rated thriller "Contraband" lands in the top ten after an impressive run that has made it one of the best box office performers of 2012 so far. With a tiny production budget of only $25 million, the Mark Wahlberg-starring "Contraband" has hauled in a solid $56 million in the U.S. and should be able to finish closer to $70 million domestically by the time it's pulled from theaters.

Next weekend we'll get a few new releases aimed at different audiences, from the Daniel Radcliffe-starring horror-thriller "The Woman in Black" to drama "Chronicle." Also hitting theaters in wide release is "Big Miracle," an inspirational drama starring John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore. Coming up on the release schedule are a series of thrillers as well as the February 10th re-release of "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace," as George Lucas begins to unveil his "Star Wars" saga in 3D.

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 1/27/12 - 1/29/12 (In Millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1. The Grey (Open Road Films): $20 [$16]

2. Underworld Awakening (Screen Gems): $12.50 [$11]

3. One for the Money (Lionsgate): $11.75 [$7.5]

4. Red Tails (Fox): $10.40 [$10.50]

5. Man on a Ledge (Summit): $8.30 [$11.5]

6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Brothers): $7.15 [$5.3]

7. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight): $6.55 [$4.1]

8. Contraband (Universal): $6.50 [$6.3]

9. Beauty and the Beast 3D (Buena Vista): $4.35 [$4.8]

10. Haywire (Relativity): $4 [$5]

by RTT Staff Writer

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