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Matt Damon 'We Bought a Zoo' Disappoints

Steven Spielberg, War Horse, Jeremy Irvine
Jeremy Irvine, Steven Spielberg on the set of War Horse

Despite the presence of Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo brought in a revised $9.5 million – nearly $2 million more than originally estimated – at no. 6 as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Even so, the film's per-theater average was a mere $3,032 at 3,117 locations ($15.6 million for the four-day weekend; average $5,005). As mentioned in a previous post, although figures will almost inevitably go up next weekend thanks to the New Year's holiday, We Bought a Zoo will have quite a bit of trouble matching – let alone recovering – its $50m budget domestically. Perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to pair up with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) once again.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office fiasco Elizabethtown six years ago, also features Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones.

The no. 7 movie this Christmas weekend at the domestic box office as Steven Spielberg's War Horse, which earned an estimated $7.51 million on opening day – Sunday. At 2,376 locations, War Horse's per-theater average on a single day was an impressive $3,162. Distributor Disney is clearly expecting great Monday business as well: estimates have War Horse grossing $15.02 million over the four-day weekend.

In addition to its four-legged star(s), War Horse features Jeremy Irvine, two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Hilary and Jackie), Thor's Tom Hiddleston, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, Celine Buckens, Patrick Kennedy, Robert Emms, and Eddie Marsan.

Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve scored $3.31 million at no. 8. The all-star omnibus comedy-drama features Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, among others. Domestic total to date: a meager $32.65m.

Barely sneaking into the top ten – at no. 9 – was Sunday's other wide release, The Darkest Hour, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller screening at 2,324 locations. Directed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), The Darkest Hour grossed $3 million, averaging a not-unexpectedly weak $1,291 per site ($5.5 million Fri-Mon; average $2,367). The film stars Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, and Rachael Taylor.

Jeremy Irvine/Steven Spielberg/War Horse photo: David Appleby / DreamWorks

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Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo movie
Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo

Though definitely trailing Tom Cruise/Jeremy Renner/Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the David Fincher-directed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake earned only about $300,000 less than Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked in North America this weekend. As per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo, Fincher's $90-million thriller starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig took in $13 million at 2,914 sites, averaging a so-so $4,461 per theater. Its total to date is $21.4 million.

In addition to Craig, who hasn't been much of a box office draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

Unlike War Horse, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin has been performing poorly in English-speaking North America. At no. 5, the Tintin movie raked in an estimated $9.12 million at 3,087 theaters, averaging only $2,956 per site. To date, the $125 million motion-capture animated feature has collected a meager $17.13 million domestically (a not inconsiderable chunk of it in French-speaking Quebec, where Tintin has already grossed more than $3.2 million). The good news: overseas, The Adventures of Tintin has pulled in more than $240m. Moviegoers abroad have thus guaranteed the healthy release of the upcoming sequel.

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Mission: Impossible IV's Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

Despite the presence of Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo brought in $7.8 million at no. 6, averaging a paltry $2,502 at 3,117 locations. Although figures will almost inevitably go up next weekend thanks to the New Year's holiday, We Bought a Zoo will have quite a bit of trouble matching – let alone recovering – its $50m budget domestically. Perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to pair up with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) once again.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office flop Elizabethtown back in 2005, has a so-so 65 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. The film's screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna of the Meryl Streep-Anne Hathaway hit The Devil Wears Prada, had a major critical and box office flop a few weeks ago, the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don't Know How She Does It, which earned less than $10m in North America.

In addition to Damon and Johansson, the We Bought a Zoo cast includes Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones. We Bought a Zoo is a 20th Century Fox release.

We Bought a Zoo picture: Neal Preston / 20th Century Fox.

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