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The 15 most impressive box office performances of 2013 -- so far

We’re officially halfway through 2013, and if you’re an obsessive box office junkie like me, that means it’s time to reflect back on the past six months at the movies and give credit to some of the best box office performances so far this year.

By “best,” I don’t simply mean “highest grossing” — you can find that list here – I mean most impressive. Since each movie has its own budget, its own marketing costs, and its own distribution challenges, each movie also has its own standard for success. I like to judge films on their own rubrics — so I have!

This year, there were a lot of close calls. Films like Oz The Great and Powerful and This is the End were this close to making the list (A Good Day to Die Hard and Jack the Giant Slayer, meanwhile, were not), but not everything could make the cut. Thus, here is my totally-up-for-debate list of the 15 Most Impressive Box Office Performances of 2013 so far. (Shown in order of highest-to-lowest grossing)
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Box office report: 'Identity Thief' steals the No. 1 spot from 'Snitch' with $14.1 million

The biggest hit of 2013, Universal’s $35 million comedy Identity Thief, returned to the top spot at the box office in its third weekend. The Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman vehicle dipped 41 percent to $14.1 million, lifting its total to a robust $93.7 million. By this time next week, Identity Thief will have swiped over $100 million domestically, which bodes very well for Melissa McCarthy’s upcoming Sandra Bullock collaboration The Heat, due out June 28.

Were Identity Thief not holding so well, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest action thriller Snitch could have won the weekend. As things stand, though, it will have to settle for second place with a not-half-bad $13 million. Snitch‘s debut can’t hold a candle to Johnson’s recent efforts in ensemble sequels like Fast Five ($86.2 million opening) and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($27.3 million opening), but it opened much better than his last effort as a leading action star, Faster, which started with $8.5 million in 2010.

Distributor Summit, who acquired the film from Exclusive Media and Participant, did not disclose a budget for the film when reached, though IMDb estimates it cost $35 million to produce. Snitch earned a middling “B” CinemaScore grade from audiences, which were 53 percent male and 57 percent above the age of 30.

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Box office update: 'Snitch' barely beats 'Identity Thief' with $4.1M on Friday; 'Die Hard' falls hard

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest action thriller Snitch topped the box office on Friday, but its lead certainly isn’t as solid as a rock.

Snitch scored $4.1 million on opening day, which may lead to a relatively decent $11.5 million frame — though, one that continues the trend of underwhelming returns for male-driven action films in 2013. While Snitch‘s debut will pale in comparison to the successful openings of Johnson’s recent ensemble films Fast Five ($86.2 million) and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($27.3 million), it will be better than his last effort as a leading action star, Faster, which opened with $8.5 million in 2010.

Trailing Snitch by about $40,000 on Friday was Universal’s hit comedy Identity Thief, which took in another $4.1 million on Friday and will climb to No. 1 by Sunday. The $35 million film, now in its third weekend, should take in about $14 million thanks to strong Saturday and Sunday performances, bringing its total to $94 million.

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Box office preview: 'Snitch' facing 'Dark Skies' on Oscar weekend

Yet again, the box office is headed for a slow weekend, marking what has become a rather distressing trend for the film industry in 2013. Granted, it’s Oscar weekend this time around — so at least Hollywood has a good excuse.

Here’s how the weekend box office may shake out:

1. Identity Thief – $14 million

The Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman comedy is already the highest grossing film of 2013, and it may climb from No. 2 to No. 1 in its third frame. With no new comedies entering the marketplace, Identity Thief should fall by about 40 percent to $14 million — good for an $95 million total. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Die Hard' holds off 'Safe Haven' with $25 million; 'Beautiful Creatures' has ugly debut

Bruce Willis’ return as John McClane, A Good Day to Die Hard, topped the box office over the Friday-to-Sunday period, but with a weaker-than-expected $25 million. Fox’s $92 million thriller, which also stars Jai Courtney (pictured, right), earned $8.2 million on Thursday, its first day of release, and after four days, it’s earned $33.2 million. That’s a substantially weaker start than 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, which started with $33.4 million in its opening three-day weekend.

Die Hard’s middling performance isn’t a total surprise. This has been a remarkably tough winter for male-driven action vehicles, many of which star members of The Expendables. Arnold Schwarznegger’s $45 million entry The Last Stand has earned just $12 million after five weekends. Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head, which reportedly cost $55 million, has only earned about $10 million after three. The Jason Statham thriller Parker cost about $35 million but has only grossed $17 million after nearly a month in theaters. The Mark Wahlberg/Russell Crowe shoot-em-up Broken City has languished with $19.5 million against a $35 million budget. (Meanwhile, 2013’s top four highest-grossing movies — Identity Thief, Mama, Warm Bodies, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters — all feature women in leading roles.)

Obviously, A Good Day to Die Hard has already earned more than each of those aforementioned flops, though, and it shouldn’t be written off as a misfire. The film’s $7,036 per theater average from 3,553 theaters was strong, and with a “B+” CinemaScore grade, it may benefit from word-of-mouth in the weeks to come. Prognosticators certainly expected bigger business on opening weekend, and it remains to be seen whether it can match Live Free or Die Hard‘s $134.5 million finish, but Fox can rest easy thanks to Die Hard‘s strong international performance so far. The film earned a tremendous $61.5 million overseas this weekend, bringing its international haul to $80.1 million and its worldwide cume to $113.4 million. Those overseas results may keep John McClane Yippee-Ki-Yaying for years to come.

Last weekend’s champ, Identity Thief, dipped only 32 percent to $23.4 million in its second weekend. The Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman laugher has now earned $70.7 million against a slim $35 million budget, and, for Universal, it’s the latest in a hot-streak of sensibly budgeted hits that almost (almost) make up for the fact that the studio spent $209 million on Battleship, which earned only $65.4 million, last year. With the exception of The Man with the Iron Fists, every Universal film since the fall has been a profitable venture: Pitch Perfect ($65 million vs. $17 million budget), This is 40 ($67.4 million vs. $35 million budget), Les Miserables ($145.5 million vs. $61 million budget), Mama ($68.3 million vs. $15 million budget), and now Identity Thief. Next up on the studio’s plate? The surefire smash Fast & Furious 6.

Safe-Haven

Image Credit: James Bridges

Close behind in third place, Relativity’s $28 million Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven opened with $21.4 million. Including Valentine’s Day grosses, the goopy romance, which stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, has earned a solid $30.5 million. Relativity did a great job of marketing Safe Haven as the top choice for Valentine’s Day couples, and the built-in cachet of Nicholas Sparks continues to prove irresistible for many moviegoers. Among all eight Sparks films, Safe Haven‘s $21.4 million frame trails the opening weekends of just Dear John ($30.5 million) and The Lucky One ($22.5 million), which finished with $80 million and $60.5 million, respectively.

For star Hough, who’s made the transition from Dancing with the Stars pro to fledgling country singer (remember?) to Hollywood leading lady, Safe Haven represents her best-ever opening weekend following underwhelming debuts from Burlesque ($11.9 million), Footloose ($15.6 million), and Rock of Ages ($14.6 million). She may carve out an acting career, yet. Like Die Hard, Safe Haven missed with critics, but earned a “B+” CinemaScore grade from audiences, which were 71 percent female and 68 percent below the age of 25.

Weinstein’s animated effort Escape from Planet Earth benefited from the fact that no family films have hit theaters in almost two months and finished in fourth place with $16.1 million. Facing no family competition, Escape, which cost $40 million, fared better than Weinstein’s last attempt to get into the animation game, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, which bombed with just $10.1 million in April 2011. Despite poor reviews, Escape from Planet Earth wound up with a “B+” CinemaScore grade.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Summit’s Warm Bodies, which fell only 20 percent to $9 million, giving it a $50.2 million total. While the YA adaptation hasn’t become the next Twilight, positive word-of-mouth has helped Warm Bodies, which cost about $35 million, avoid the steep drops that usually plague films aimed at teens. It could finish with about $65 million.

Fellow YA tale Beautiful Creatures didn’t earn such a Warm reception on its opening weekend. The witch-y tale bombed with only $7.5 million — $10 million including Valentine’s Day grosses. Warner Bros. is distributing the film, which was financed for $60 million by Alcon Entertainment. Fortunately for the distributor, its other recent release, The Hobbit, is on pace to pass $300 million at the domestic box office on Monday. Audiences issued Beautiful Creatures a lukewarm “B” CinemaScore grade.

1. A Good Day to Die Hard – $25 million ($33.2 million total)
2. Safe Haven – $21.4 million ($30.5 million total)
3. Identity Thief – $23.4 million ($70.7 million total)
4. Escape from Planet Earth – $16.1 million ($16.1 million total)
5. Warm Bodies – $9 million ($50.2 million total)
6. Beautiful Creatures – $7.5 million ($10 million total)

For extra box office musing and up-to-the-minute updates:

Box office update: 'Die Hard' and 'Safe Haven' neck-and-neck on Friday with $7.2 million

Bruce Willis’ John McClane has destroyed German dictators, faceless cyber-terrorists, and, most recently, trigger-happy Russians. But the action icon has never had to face anyone like Julianne Hough in Safe Haven — a weepy woman with windswept hair falling in love in the Outer Banks Nicholas Sparks-style. She, in fact, may be the most difficult adversary he’s ever tried to handle.

Over the past two days at the box office, Safe Haven at $16 million has slightly outgrossed A Good Day to Die Hard’s $15.5 million. The $28 million Relativity romance topped the chart on Valentine’s Day with $8.8 million, while Fox’s fifth Die Hard, which was financed for $92 million, earned $8.2 million. On Friday, the two films swapped places, though they each earned about $7.2 million, putting them each on pace for $27 million four-day weekends and about $35 million after five days. For Safe Haven, that’s a great start. For Die Hard, though, that’s well below expectations. It’s been a difficult winter for male-driven action. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Die Hard' gunning for No. 1 over holiday weekend

It’s a double-holiday weekend at the box office, with Valentine’s Day on Thursday and President’s Day on Monday, and three films (A Good Day to Die Hard, Safe Haven, and Beautiful Creatures) are taking advantage of the five-day frame (Weinstein is also releasing Escape from Planet Earth on Friday). Here’s how the busy frame may play out over the Friday-to-Monday period:

1. A Good Day to Die Hard – $47 million

Five years after Live Free or Die Hard scored $134.5 million, Bruce Willis is back as John McClane in a fifth installment in the enduring action franchise — this time with random Cold War overtones! After a slew of weak performances from movies like Parker and The Last Stand (it’s been a tough winter for Expendables stars), A Good Day to Die Hard is poised to become the first outright action hit of the year. Fox is releasing the film, which was made on a $92 million budget, into 3,553 theaters, and between Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Fox’s well-executed marketing campaign, it’s headed for very healthy grosses. Die Hard opened at 10 p.m. engagements across the country on Wednesday night and pulled in $850,000, more than the $725,000 that The Expendables 2, which debuted to $28.5 million, made in similar showings last year. The Bruce Willis vehicle will be a top choice among men and moviegoers avoiding lovey-dovey fare over the weekend, and it may earn about $47 million over the Friday-to-Monday period. (And perhaps another $8 million on Valentine’s Day.)
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'Safe Haven' trailer is jam-packed with Nicholas Sparks cliches -- VIDEO

Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” would have been a more appropriate song choice for the trailer of Lasse Hallstrom’s Safe Haven than a Fleetwood Mac cover.

The latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel (the fourth in three years) has an uncanny resemblance to the hit that spawned this string of chick flicks, The Notebook. Sleepy coastal town? Check! Male lead who likes to work with his hands? Check! Romantic canoe date? Frolicking in the rain? Check and check! The film, starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel as Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as Allie and Noah, even includes the iconic Notebook sweep-you-off-your-feet kiss scene.

Watch the trailer below: READ FULL STORY

'Safe Haven' romance lands 'Eat Pray Love' 'naked guy' David Lyons -- EXCLUSIVE

For some, actor David Lyons is best known as Dr. Simon Brenner from the last two seasons of ER. Others know him as The Cape from NBC’s short-lived 2011 superhero series.

In his native Australia, he’s famous for the navy drama Sea Patrol, but to most people he will forever be remembered as the skinny-dipping “you’re-so-naked” guy whose antics made Julia Roberts guffaw like a seagull choking on a bottle cap in Eat Pray Love.

EW has learned he is now joining the cast of the Nicholas Sparks romance Safe Haven, adding a far more menacing character to his repertoire: the angry ex-husband. READ FULL STORY

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