6 Films That Started Hot and Stayed Hot

(Source Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros.’ (NYSE:TWX) space epic Gravity is experiencing a rare type of success that even some of the biggest releases in history can’t hold to their name: smallest non-holiday decline in box office gross from opening weekend to second weekend for a film opening over $50 million.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gravity’s hugely impressive $12.7 million take on its second Friday in release sets the film up for a projected $45 million by the time the weekend is done. If that projection holds true, Gravity will have dropped less than 18 percent in its second weekend, making it the lowest decline in history for a film making over $50 million in a non-holiday release.

A low decline between a film’s first and second weekend in release is usually the sign of spectacular word of mouth, and in the case of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, word of mouth has spread like wildfire since the film opened to nearly $56 million, leading to impressive weekday numbers in the normally slow month of October. As THR put it, ”Gravity is playing like summer in fall.”

But forget the non-holiday designation for a moment and understand that Gravity’s week-over-week performance ranks among the best even when holiday releases are added to the picture — something that makes the performance of the film that much more unbelievable, given its “lowly” October release. In fact, Gravity’s week-over-week performance still places it near the top of a list of Hollywood’s biggest titans when holidays are added to the picture.

Here’s a list of the top six films with the lowest declines from opening week to second week, according to Box Office Mojo’s list of “Smallest Second Weekend Drops,”with the caveat being an opening over $50 million.  

1. Avatar (20th Century Fox) — 1.8 Percent Decline

Avatar Cameron

The sci-fi fantasy epic Avatar from 20th Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) and director James Cameron holds the record for lowest decline from the opening weekend to second weekend with an incredible 1.8 percent decline. Grossing $77 million in its first weekend when it was released on December 18, 2009, the film only dropped to $75.6 million in its second weekend.

Avatar’s performance week-over-week is probably one of the least impressive records the film holds. Besides being the number one grossing film of all-time with $2.78 billion grossed worldwide, the film is also the all-time domestic record-holder and holds the record for highest gross in a film’s third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh weekends (only Disney’s Marvel’s The Avengers bested the Avatar in second week gross).

Sure, the film benefitted from Fox’s decision to release Avatar the week before Christmas when everyone was on holiday vacation, but it is unlikely the numbers would have been drastically different, seeing as the film became one of those rare movie events that is not so unlike what we are seeing right now from Gravity.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal Pictures) — 5.4 Percent Decline

Grinch

Unlike Avatar, which would have seen huge success no matter when it was released, Universal Pictures’ (NASDAQ:CMCSAHow the Grinch Stole Christmas is definitely an example of a film that benefited greatly from its its release date. Opening November 17, 2000, How the Grinch Stole Christmas made $55 million in its first weekend and $52 million in its second weekend — a decline of only 5.4 percent week-over-week.

For Universal, its decision to release How the Grinch Stole Christmas the week before Thanksgiving was a good one. While the film didn’t get the best reviews and arrived with a huge budget of $123 million, the film’s performance in its first two weekends made the film a relative, if not unspectacular, success.

Ultimately, the film made $260 million domestic and $85 million overseas for a worldwide total of $345 million. While the film wasn’t the success Universal and directed Ron Howard had hoped for, those numbers likely allowed the film to make a decent profit due to its strong domestic gross.

3. Gravity (Warner Bros.) — Projected 18 Percent Decline

(Source Warner Bros.)

As you can see, if THR’s reported projections come in within a few percentage points of 18 percent, Warner Bros.’ Gravity will rocket to number three on the list for lowest declines from opening weekend to second weekend, even when holiday releases are factored in. If anything, the non-holiday release success of the film only makes the performance that much more impressive for 2013′s movie event of the year.

Gravity, which made nearly $56 million in its opening weekend, is currently projected to make about $45 million in its second weekend, for a decline somewhere in the realm of 18 percent.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line) — 21.2 Percent Decline

Lord of the Rings

Depending on how Gravity’s numbers shape up by the end of the weekend, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will either stand at third or fourth place — but seeing as industry projections have woefully underestimated Gravity’s box office prowess thus far, it’s likely the second installment in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of the Rings trilogy will fall to fourth place on the the list.

Opening with $62 million, the New Line film went on to make $48.8 million in its second weekend for a decline of only 21.2 percent. Released on December 18, 2002, The Two Towers benefited from the same holiday advantages that Avatar enjoyed. Additionally, the series’ first installment had firmly established Jackson’s trilogy as one of the biggest movie events of the early 2000′s.

The film would ultimately make $339 million domestic and $583 million overseas for a worldwide total of $926 million. Of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film stands in second place behind Return of the King. Jackson’s first installment of The Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, also places above The Two Towers overall, with a worldwide take of $1.01 billion.

5. Monsters, Inc. (Walt Disney Co.) — 27.2 Percent Decline

Monsters Inc.

Disney (NYSE:DIS) Pixar’s films are known for having strong legs at the box office, but none have performed as strongly from opening weekend to second weekend as Monsters, Inc. Released on November 2, 2001, the film opened with $62 million and only declined 27.2 percent in its second weekend to $45.5 million.

Monsters, Inc., which saw the sequel Monsters University released into theaters this previous summer, went on to make $255 million domestic ($289 million with the recent re-release factored in) and almost $273 million overseas for a worldwide total of $562 million.

6. The Incredibles (Walt Disney Co.) — 28.7 Percent Decline

Incredibles

Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles looks to be the casualty of Gravity’s ascension to this list, falling from number five to number six (notably, THR’s numbers have this film above Monsters Inc., though the difference in data isn’t likely to be hugely different).

Opening November 5, 2004, The Incredibles made $70 million in its opening weekend before making $50 million in its second weekend — a decline of 28.7 percent. The film would ultimately go on to earn $261 million domestic and $370 million overseas for a worldwide total of $631 million.

Whatever these films did, it kept people coming out in droves to see them even after a week had passed. If studios can find a way to repeat this type of draw more often, they may have a winning formula on their hands.

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