Weekend Box Office: John McClane vs. Nicholas Sparks. Whoever wins... we lose 

Weekend Box Office: John McClane vs. Nicholas Sparks. Whoever wins... we lose 

It was classic February match-up over the weekend, as two critically reviled films battled it out for box office supremacy. “What shall we see?,” the American moviegoer asked, “the latest in a moribund action franchise or a romance more vacant than the Bates Motel?” And by a relatively thin margin, the moribund action franchise won out, with A Good Day To Die Hard—the worst entry in the Die Hard series, by near-universal consensus—earning $33.2 million for first place. Yet studio accountants are likely to feel much better about the Nicholas Sparks soaper Safe Haven, which opened in third (behind Identity Thief, your 2013 box office champion) with $30.3 million, because it was shot on less than a third of Die Hard’s $92 million budget. Laugh all you want about the musty Sparks formula and the cheesy twist ending, but the man is an unstoppable killing machine.

With Die Hard and Safe Haven the weekend’s clear winners, that left Escape From Planet Earth and Beautiful Creatures to fight over scraps. For a plainly second-rate, not-screened-for-critics CGI animated film, Escape From Planet Earth did well enough at $16.1 million for fourth place, proving that parents stuck inside with their kids all winter will take them to anything just to get out of the house. The number was right in line with the opening take of Hoodwinked, the left-field Weinstein Company hit that inspired other such cheap-o entertainments, so the Weinsteins are probably not spending their Monday morning pouring scalding-hot oil an intern’s torso as he dangles naked from the ceiling on hooks. News was considerably grimmer for Beautiful Creatures, which netted a pitiful $7.5 million for sixth place, bringing doubt to the notion that the young people will show up to just any ‘ole supernatural-themed YA adaptation.

In limited release, the acclaimed Pablo Larraín comedy No, about the quixotic electoral effort to oust Pinochet, enjoyed the highest per screen average of any movie this weekend, with $18,625 per screen on four screens. A huge favorite at Cannes and elsewhere, the film should benefit from good word of mouth down the line and perhaps hit that magical, elusive million-dollar foreign-movie threshold. Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy hit that number two years ago, but his latest, the beguiling/baffling Like Someone In Love will have an uphill climb. At $7,633 per screen on three screens, it seems destined for a quiet exit—as consolation, it’ll have to settle for being studied forever as part of the filmography of a master director.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

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