American moviegoers have a special set of skills — skills that ensure that we as a culture will be doomed to endless rehashes of the same old-same old, while films that fall ever so slightly outside the norm will be ignored. Given the chance to reward Hollywood’s first ever (and modestly budgeted) film on Martin Luther King Jr. or rewarding a threequel to a tired series that critics told everyone was worthless crap, they predictably went with the latter.
Of course, it was unlikely that “Selma,” which opened a week before the major holiday dedicated to its subject, would have ever bested “Taken 3,” in which AARP-aged Liam Neeson beats up and shoots more people. It inevitably grossed $40.4 million — only the second ever best opening for a January release. This is despite no one actually being taken in the film, as well as an entire subplot about bagels.
However, just because lots of people wanted to enjoy some seriously mindless entertainment doesn’t mean they should have stayed this far away from “Selma.” Making its wide release debut after playing in New York, L.A., Selma, Ala. and other places, it grossed only $11.2 million, which was at least enough to score second place. That’s over half the opening weekend of another Oprah Winfrey-produced and –featuring study of black history, “The Butler,” and also despite a 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is, as they say, why we can’t have nice things.
Elsewhere, “Into the Woods” continued to hold on, adding another $9.8 million to what is now a $105 million cume. The Angelina Jolie-helmed “Unbroken” also crossed the $100 million mark, making it one of the highest films ever directed by a woman. And enough people still care about “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” for it to add another $9.4 million to its swelling money bin.
Top 5 earners
1 ‘Taken 3’ $40,4 million
2 ‘Selma’ $11.2 million
3 ‘Into the Woods’ $9.8 million
4 ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ $9.4 million
5 ‘Unbroken’ $8.4 million
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge