In 2011 she proved to be an up and coming actress with extraordinary range in movies like “The Tree of Life” and “The Help,” but this past weekend now proves that Jessica Chastain is a movie star to be reckoned with. Two of Chastain’s movies, “Mama” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” took the top two spots at the box office which makes her the first actor to accomplish that feat in quite some time. In addition, she also bested new releases from the usually reliable Mark Wahlberg and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Mama,” a PG-13 horror movie produced by Guillermo Del Toro, took the top spot with $33 million and stunned industry analysts who expected it to do well but not this well. Del Toro’s name has been plastered all over the film’s posters and commercials, but Chastain’s name has been prominently featured in the advertisements as well. This may explain why sixty-one percent of the opening weekend audience was female as horror movies tend to attract males more often than not. With a budget of only $15 million, “Mama” is Universal Pictures’ first big hit of 2013.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” which Chastain received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, was in second place with $18.7 million, and that brings its total to $57 million. Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about the obsessive manhunt for Osama Bin Laden has been dogged by controversy over its torture scenes which have led many to accuse it of being “pro-torture.” At the same time, the controversy (along with Bigelow being unforgivably snubbed for a Best Director nomination) seems to be giving audiences all the more reason to see it on the big screen. If its momentum keeps up, “Zero Dark Thirty” can be expected to pass the $100 million dollar mark.
It was not a good weekend, however, for Mark Wahlberg who saw his latest film “Broken City” debut at number 5 with only $9 million. It was Allen Hughes’ first directorial effort without his brother Albert whom he made “Menace II Society” with, and it also features a big name cast which included Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta Jones. Furthermore, the screenplay by Brian Tucker was on Hollywood’s black list for some time, but none of that mattered as “Broken City” was met with a poor critical reception and audience indifference.
Arnold Schwarzenegger fared even worse with “The Last Stand” which marks his lead role in an action movie since he left his job as Governor of California. It barely cracked the top ten with only $7.2 million, making it the “Terminator” star’s worst opening ever. Schwarzenegger was also in last summer’s “Expendables 2,” but he had a supporting role in that and the sequel ended up under performing domestically. “The Last Stand” was meant to be his comeback picture after years away in politics, but it came up very short. Still, there is hope that he will be back like he always says.
In other news, “Gangster Squad” continues its downward spiral as it drops to number 4 with $9 million over the weekend and $32 million overall (the movie cost over $60 million to make). “A Haunted House,” despite being eviscerated by the critics, made over $8 million for a cumulative total of $30 million. Regardless of it being one of the worst reviewed movies of this new year, “A Haunted House” only cost a mere $2.5 million to make, and it is now a huge hit for its distributor Open Road Films.
It also looks like The Weinstein Company’s gamble with slowly brining “Silver Linings Playbook” to a wide release has paid off. The movie place third at the box office with $13 million as it expanded from 810 theaters to 2,523, and its total to date is $44 million. It has clearly benefitted from the strong attention it got for its Oscar nominations, and it is the first movie in decades to get a nomination in each of the four acting categories.