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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: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' blasts off with a $70.6 million weekend

The USS Enterprise picked up steam throughout the weekend, despite a somewhat unimpressive start. Early estimates show that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness (CinemaScore: A) could bring in $70.6 million on the three-day weekend, and $84.1 million for the four and a half days that it has been open. Though nothing to scoff at, it’s still underperforming according to initial projections which hoped for a $100 million extended weekend and $80 million on the three-day.

The first Star Trek of the Abrams era opened in early May of 2009 and made an impressive $75.2 million on its first weekend out of the gates, without the benefit of 3-D surcharges. This newest film is showing in 336 IMAX 3-D theaters, whereas the first showed in 138 IMAX venues — accounting for $8.5 million in ticket sales on its first weekend. As we wrote about yesterday, the nature of Abrams’ four different directing projects makes him difficult to analyze in terms of pure box office numbers, so his Star Trek successes and potential will have to stand on its own. The first film stayed in theaters for 21 weeks, ultimately grossing $257.7 million for Paramount. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Pain & Gain' leads slow weekend with $20 million; 'Iron Man 3' earns $195 million overseas

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In the final weekend before Iron Man 3 kicks off the summer movie season in earnest, Michael Bay’s R-rated action comedy Pain & Gain topped a slow weekend at the box office with $20 million from 3,277 theaters, giving it an average of $6,103 per location. The Paramount film achieved only a fraction of the opening weekend grosses of Bay’s Transformers films, but it only cost a fraction — just $26 million — of those films as well. It’s well on its way to profitability.

Pain & Gain, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, redeemed both stars following unimpressive box office results for action films earlier this year. Wahlberg’s Broken City petered out with just $19.7 million, while Johnson’s Snitch fared only slightly better, grossing $42.1 million. While both those films had darker, more serious tones, Pain & Gain was marketed as a sunny, over-the-top black comedy. Unfortunately, audience reaction wasn’t particularly sunny. Polled moviegoers issued Pain & Gain a dreadful “C+” CinemaScore. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Pain & Gain' maxes out with $7.5 million Friday

Michael Bay’s action comedy Pain & Gain flexed its box office muscles on Friday, earning $7.5 million on its first day in theaters. Paramount’s $26 million R-rated film, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, may take in about $21 million (in line with predictions) over the full weekend frame.

In second place, Tom Cruise’s sci-fi adventure Oblivion, which topped the chart last weekend with $37.1 million, dropped 62 percent from its opening day to $5.1 million, putting it on pace for a weekend in the $17.5 million range. The $120 million Universal film’s lackluster “B-” CinemaScore helps explain its hefty second weekend drop, though it will have amassed a solid $65 million by Sunday night. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Pain & Gain' hopes to do some heavy lifting on opening weekend

Oblivion, 42, Jurassic Park 3D, and Evil Dead have all achieved solid box office runs in April, but for the most part, this month has been nothing to write home about. The middling business trend will likely extend into this last weekend of April, as Pain & Gain (pictured) and The Big Wedding enter theaters. Basically, it’s the calm before the storm of Iron Man 3.

Here’s how the weekend may shake out:

1. Pain & Gain – $21 million
Michael Bay took a break from the Transformers franchise to make Pain & Gain, an action film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, for just $26 million. The Paramount release, based on a terrific series of articles in the Miami New Times, has a clear shot at winning the weekend. Though Wahlberg and Johnson each endured less-than-impressive results from Broken City and Snitch, respectively, earlier this year, those films felt dark and dour where Pain & Gain feels sunny and fun. Paramount has marketed the film aggressively, and Bay, whether you love him or hate him, has his fans. Pain & Gain is opening in 3,277 theaters, where it may earn about $21 million over its first three days. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Oblivion' reaffirms Tom Cruise's star power with $38.2 million debut

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If this weekend’s box office is any indication, the couch jumping stigma that has plagued Tom Cruise’s career for the better part of the last decade may finally be thing of the past.

Cruise’s latest, the $120 million sci-fi adventure Oblivion, opened to a solid $38.2 million this weekend. That’s a terrific start for the chiseled star, who has struggled recently at the box office with under-performers like Jack Reacher, Rock of Ages, Valkyrie, and Knight and Day. In fact, only four Cruise vehicles have ever opened higher — and three of them are Mission Impossible movies. (The other is War of the Worlds). Oblivion actually marks the first number one opening for Cruise in seven years, though it should be noted that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol opened in limited release and climbed to number one upon its wide expansion.

Cruise isn’t the only star in Oblivion — it also features Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, and Olga Kurlyenko — but it was marketed almost exclusively on his appeal. According to distributor Universal, audiences, which were 57 percent male and 74 percent 25 or older, listed Tom Cruise as their primary reason for seeing the film, followed by the sci-fi genre and Morgan Freeman. Those same audiences weren’t in love with what they saw, though, as Oblivion was issued a lackluster “B-” CinemaScore grade.

Domestically, Oblivion opened in 3,783 theaters and earned a fantastic $10,085 location average. IMAX screens accounted for $5.5 million of Oblivion‘s weekend gross. Internationally, the film had a successful weekend, as well. After its $61.1 million opening from 52 territories, Oblivion took in another $33.6 million from 60 territories this time around. The film has grossed $112 million so far (for a $150.2 million worldwide total), and it has high-profile openings in Japan and China still to come.

In second, the Jackie Robinson drama 42 fell only 34 percent to $18 million for a $54.1 million total after ten days. Warner Bros.’ $40 million baseball pic, which earned an “A+” CinemaScore grade, didn’t hold quite as well as The Help, another “A+” racially charged drama, which dipped 23 percent in its second weekend. Thus, while 42 still seems likely to hit the $100 million mark, it doesn’t seem destined for a gross in the same range as The Help‘s $169 million total. Still, 42 is a big winner for Warner Bros., which was in dire need of a box office hit.

The Croods spent the weekend in third place, dropping 28 percent to $9.5 million. After five weeks, the $135 million animation has grossed $154.9 million, a great start in the five-year distribution deal between DreamWorks Animation and Fox.

In fourth, Scary Movie 5 didn’t hold nearly as well. The $20 million spoof from Weinstein’s Dimension fell 56 percent to $6.3 million, giving it a weak $22.9 million total after ten days. At the same point in its run, Scary Movie 4 had earned $67.5 million.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation rounded out the Top 5 with $5.8 million, marking a 48 percent drop from its prior frame. Paramount’s $130 million film has now earned $111.2 million domestically, a substantially lower gross than its predecessor, but it’s been making up ground overseas, where the film has earned $211.7 million. Retaliation opened in China this week, where it took in $33 million during its first seven days. Worldwide, Retaliation has earned $322.9 million and should pass the $400 million mark with ease.

1. Oblivion – $38.2 million
2. 42 – $18 million
3. The Croods – $9.5 million
4. Scary Movie 5 – $6.3 million
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation – $5.8 million

The Place Beyond the Pines just missed the Top 5 after expanding from 514 theaters into 1,542 theaters. Pines grossed $4.8 million, yielding a mediocre $3,078 per theater average, which doesn’t merit further expansion. The Focus Features release cost $15 million and has earned $11.4 million total.

Two other quick highlights: Sony’s $13 million Halle Berry thriller The Call passed the $50 million mark this weekend. It’s been a nice mid-level hit for distributor TriStar. Olympus Has Fallen has also been doing terrific business for its distributor, FilmDistrict. After five weekends, the White House thriller has quietly earned $88.8 million.

For more box office coverage, follow me on Twitter:

Read more:
Oblivion: EW Review
The Place Beyond the Pines: EW Review
42: EW Review
The Croods: EW Review
G.I. Joe: Retaliation: EW Review

Box office update: 'Oblivion' wins Friday with $13.3 million

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Oblivion topped the box office on Friday with $13.3 million, putting it on pace for an easy weekend win. The $120 million Tom Cruise adventure, which also stars Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman, may earn about $38 million over its first three days, which would be the fourth biggest opener of 2013, behind Oz The Great and Powerful ($79.1 million), The Croods ($43.6 million), and G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($40.5 million). Audiences may have been befuddled by the twists in the film’s plot, as they issued Oblivion a “B-” CinemaScore.

Last weekend’s champ, 42, held strong in second place with $5.2 million and could bat up another $18 million in its sophomore frame. The film, which earned an “A+” CinemaScore grade from audiences, will have $54 million by Sunday’s end. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Oblivion' will Cruise to No. 1

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Only one new film is entering the fray this weekend, the Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure Oblvion. With no real competition, the film should easily top the chart, while The Place Beyond The Pines looks to break out in its wide release expansion.

Here’s how the box office may shake out:

1. Oblivion – $38 million
Tom Cruise has become a polarizing star over the past few years, but he’s still a considerable draw in major action tentpoles like the Universal release Oblivion, which cost about $120 million to produce. Oblivion will benefit from being the first big-budget spectacle to hit theaters since G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and it should play very well with young men as a result. (Morgan Freeman’s presence is always a reliable draw for men as well.) The film has gotten a strong, Inception-y marketing push from the studio, and it will get a boost from IMAX screens as well. Out in 3,782 theaters, Oblivion could earn about $38 million this weekend. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: '42' knocks it out of the park with $27.3 million; 'Oblivion' huge overseas

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Tomorrow, Major League Baseball will celebrate its annual Jackie Robinson Day, and all players and umpires will wear jerseys with the number 42, which Robinson, the first African-American player in the MLB, made famous. Don’t be surprised if the execs at Warner Bros. join in on the fun. The studio did have a grand slam weekend, after all.

Warner Bros.’ new baseball drama 42 topped the box office with $27.3 million — far ahead of recent baseball titles like Moneyball ($19.5 million debut) and Trouble with the Curve ($12.2 million). In fact, 42 scored the best ever debut for a baseball film, surpassing The Benchwarmers‘ $19.7 million bow. 42 also became the latest release to earn a rare “A+” CinemaScore grade, signifying exemplary word-of-mouth among ticket-buyers. Former “A+” releases include The Help, Tangled, The Blind Side, Titanic, and A Few Good Men. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: '42' bats up $9.1 million Friday, earns rare 'A+' CinemaScore

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Talk about hitting it out of the park!

The Jackie Robinson baseball drama 42 exceeded industry expectations on Friday, grossing $9.1 million during its first day in theaters. The film, a $40 million production from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, swung harder than other recent baseball flicks like Moneyball and Trouble with the Curve, which grossed $6.7 million and $4.2 million on their opening days, respectively.

Notably, 42 earned a rare “A+” CinemaScore grade from polled audiences, thereby joining the ranks of fellow crowd-pleasers like The Help, Tangled, The Blind Side, and Titanic. Strong word-of-mouth should drive business on Saturday and Sunday — the film will likely earn about $27 million in its first three days — and also in the weeks to come. Warner Bros. just may have a grand slam hit on its hands. READ FULL STORY

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