Here’s the thing about fiascos: Usually they wind up being fiascos. Nothing about Cloud Atlas suggested a blockbuster in the making: David Mitchell’s novel, with its impossible-to-reproduce nesting-doll structure, created serious adaptation problems, quite apart from defying any attempt to reduce its multiple plots into a digestible marketing nugget. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer produced the film independently for $100 million (though Warner Brothers paid $15 million for distribution rights), with the Wachowskis throwing in some of their money to complete it. Rave reviews were absolutely essential, but the smattering of opinion across the spectrum, from the rapturous (“the most beautiful and distinctive big-screen vision of the year,” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon) to the rapacious (“The cast comes off like a third-rate stock company on the matinee after the night on which everyone got bombed on mescal,” David Edelstein, Vulture), did the film no favors. The only consolation is the consolation for all such fiascos: That the people who love it will obsess over it and keep it alive long after yesterday’s hits become tomorrow’s “remind-me-what-that-was-agains.” But with $9.4 million domestically for a third-place open, that’s cold comfort for now.
Slow and steady has won the race for Ben Affleck’s Argo, which topped all the week’s openers to land in first place in its third week with $12.3 million. Given how little it has fallen off from week to week, the combination of public approval and near-universal critical acclaim gives it frontrunner status in this year’s awards race. Everything else this week can expect neither awards nor riches: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D pulled in a pitiful $8 million, less than half the money earned by 2006’s Silent Hill in its opening frame; Fun Size, from The O.C. and Chuck’s Josh Schwartz, got a $4 million hunk of coal in its Chrismukkah stocking for 10th place; and poor Chasing Mavericks, the surfing movie co-directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, opened out of the Top 10 altogether with $2.2 million.
In limited release, The Loneliest Planet received the coveted A.V. Club bump, outpacing all indies with $10,200 per screen on two screens. See it and then argue over gender roles in our comments section. The non-wacky Israel/Palestine switched-at-birth movie The Other Son performed more modestly, with $3,000 per screen on 41 screens.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.