Neeson’s ‘The Grey’ Tops Box Office With $20 Million in Sales

The Liam Neeson action film “The Grey” opened in first place in U.S. and Canadian cinemas, taking in $20 million for Open Road Films, the distributor founded last year by the three largest U.S. theater chains.

“One for the Money,” starring Katherine Heigl, was third in its first weekend, with $11.8 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Man on a Ledge” was fifth in its debut with sales of $8.3 million.

“The Grey” is Open Road’s second release, following “Killer Elite” in September. Owned by Regal Entertainment Group (RGC), AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK), the company was a response to shrinking output by major studios. “The Grey” was expected to have sales of about $14.5 million, according to a BoxOffice.com estimate.

“Regal and AMC can go back to Hollywood and say, ‘See, these are the kinds of movies people want to see,’” said Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co. in Los Angeles, in a telephone interview. “It’s a real coup for them that they got Neeson for this role.”

This past weekend also brought increased sales for a few films after the nominees for Academy Awards were announced. “The Artist,” nominated for best picture, recorded a 40 percent rise in receipts, while sales more than doubled for “The Descendants,” also a best-picture contender, Hollywood.com said.

`The Descendants'

“The Artist” needs the critical support and aid from the Hollywood community,” said Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, in a telephone interview. “This film is pretty much the favorite to win the best picture Oscar.”

Contrino said the improvement by “The Descendants,” which was seventh with $6.6 million after expanding by 1,441 screens, also was driven by the nominations.

“This is a great example of a movie building an audience by word of mouth,” he said. George Clooney is viewed as the favorite to win the best actor award, he said.

From 2006 to 2010, best-picture winners on average had $57.2 million in box-office sales heading into the nominations and $42.9 million afterward, according to research by Santa Monica, California-based IbisWorld, an industry researcher.

‘One for the Money’

First place’s “The Grey” features Neeson as the leader of a group of oil-rig workers who are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. They are threatened by a pack of wolves. Dermot Mulroney co-stars.

“Underworld: Awakening,” last weekend’s top film, fell to second with sales of $12.5 million for Sony Corp. (6758) The movie, the fourth film in the vampire-versus-werewolf series, has taken in $45.1 million since it opened on Jan. 20.

“One for the Money,” distributed in the U.S. by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF), features Heigl as an out-of-work woman who takes a job with a bail-bond company. Desperate for money, she goes after the biggest bail jumper, a former police officer accused of murder. Jason O’Mara and Daniel Sunjata co-star.

“Red Tails,” from News Corp. (NWSA)’s Twentieth Century Fox, was fourth with $10.4 million in receipts. The movie follows the training and deployment of the first U.S. fighter squadron staffed by black pilots at Tuskegee, Alabama. The film stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.

“Man on a Ledge,” from Summit Entertainment LLC, stars Sam Worthington as a police officer convicted of stealing a famous diamond. After escaping custody, he stands on the ledge of a New York high-rise in a plot to clear his name. Elizabeth Banks co-stars.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 7.5 percent to $99.3 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Year to date, revenue and attendance have both risen 12 percent. The amounts below are based on actual tickets sales for Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 THE GREY             $20.0   3,185   $6,279   --    $20.0   1
2 UNDERWORLD AWAKENING  12.5   3,078    4,061   -51    45.1   2
3 ONE FOR THE MONEY     11.8   2,737    4,293   --     11.8   1
4 RED TAILS             10.4   2,573    4,042   -45    33.8   2
5 MAN ON A LEDGE         8.3   2,998    2,752   --      8.3   1
6 EXTREMELY LOUD         7.1   2,630    2,717   -29    21.1   6
7 THE DESCENDANTS        6.6   2,001    3,273   176    58.8  11
8 CONTRABAND             6.5   2,650    2,465   -46    56.4   3
9 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST   5.3   2,145    2,492   -39    41.1   3
10 HAYWIRE               4.0   2,441    1,639   -53    15.3   2
11 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE    3.6   1,654    2,146   -36   202.6   7
12 THE ARTIST            3.3     897    3,696    40    16.7  10


Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $99.3        $92.4        +7.5


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $811.7        $726.5        +12


Year-to-date Attendance:        +12%

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Dan Hart in Washington at dahart@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.