From the box office

From the box office: Jan. 18-21

The four-day holiday weekend was dominated by Jessica Chastain, whose two films — “Mama” and “Zero Dark Thirty” — were the top two highest-grossing of the weekend. Especially noteworthy: Chastain beat out stars Mark Wahlberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger in their respective films, “Broken City” and “The Last Stand.” But how could a film like “Mama” — only produced for $15 million featuring Chastain as the lone star — greatly surpass studio estimates and dominate the weekend box office?

The main success of the debut of Universal Pictures’ horror film “Mama” is that it’s atypical from most other films in the genre. While it features characteristic elements — ghosts, violence and an eerie score — it is a well-acted, original story that resonates with audiences. Additionally, its PG-13 rating allowed it to reach a wider audience compared to most R-rated horror flicks. Produced by the revered Guillermo del Toro, “Mama” opened in 2,647 theaters and made more than $32 million during the four-day weekend. Given the strength of the film’s marketing efforts, it should remain profitable in the coming weeks.

Never in a million years would it be likely that a film starring Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jeffrey Wright would debut with fizzling results. Yet that was exactly the case with “Broken City,” debuting at No. 5 with $9.5 million. Having star power in a film no longer guarantees box office success. With higher ticket and concession prices, audiences now only pay to see original, well-made films. In the case of “Broken City,” its disappointing debut is a result of the movie itself. It received a “B” rating on Cinemascore.com and a 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Thus, after this weekend, audiences will quickly fade away, leaving Fox executives disappointed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new film “The Last Stand” can be best described in four words: All action, no plot. It debuted at No. 10 with a disappointing $7.2 million. Though the film has notable stars in Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker and Luis Guzman, it failed this weekend mainly because audiences are tired of seeing Schwarzenegger as the same macho, gun-wielding protagonist. Lionsgate Entertainment marketed the film as Schwarzenegger’s “big return” to acting, yet studio executives should have thought about that long before shelling out $30-$45 million to produce the film. After all, Schwarzenegger is 65 years old, coming off of a debatable stint as governor and plagued with the scandal of fathering an illegitimate child. Perhaps this could be Schwarzenegger’s very own last stand at the box office.

Compiled by Ian Tecklin, contributing writer, ijteckli@syr.edu

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