Credit: Jan Thijs

Young women drove Summit’s zombie-themed romantic comedy Warm Bodies to the top spot at the box office over Super Bowl weekend, while Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head got tackled, leaving the action icon with the worst debut of his career.

Warm Bodies, which was financed for about $35 million, earned an estimated $20 million from 3,009 theaters in its first three days. No, that’s not a Twilight-sized number, but no one was expecting Warm Bodies to be the same sort of blockbuster. Sure, they’re both about romances between a teenage girl and an undead boy, but the Isaac Marion novel upon which it is based is certainly popular, but it never experienced the utter ubiquity that the Twilight books did.

Warm Bodies opened with a bit less than the 2009 comedy Zombieland, which debuted with $24.7 million, but its star was in line with the debuts of both Chronicle and The Woman In Black, which opened on Super Bowl weekend last year to $22 million and $20.9 million, respectively. Much like the latter film, Warm Bodies played primarily to young ladies. According to exit polling, the film’s audience was 60% female and 65% under 25.

Warm Bodies earned a solid “B+” CinemaScore grade from crowds, and thanks to relatively strong reviews, its legs may not rot away as quickly as other teen-targeting titles, and a finish in the $50-60 million range seems likely. For star Nicholas Hoult, who has a slew of high profile releases — including Jack the Giant Slayer, Mad Max: Fury Road, and X-Men: Days of Future Past — on the horizon, Warm Bodies is a nice start to his run as a leading man.

In second place, last weekend’s champ Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters dropped 53 percent to $9.2 million, good for a $34.5 million total after ten days. Paramount’s long-on-the-shelf fairy tale adaptation cost $50 million.

Silver Linings Playbook held strong in third place in its 12th weekend. The Weintstein Co.’s $21 million David O. Russell dramedy fell only 14 percent this weekend to $8.1 million, giving it an $80.4 million total. Before this weekend, Silver Linings Playbook had been running a touch behind Zero Dark Thirty (coincidentally, the closest Oscar race — between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain for Best Actress — is also the closest box office race), but Playbook took a decisive lead over the last three days, and it’s still on track to finish above $100 million.

Speaking of Chastain, the red-haired beauty owned the rest of the Top 5. Her Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror flick Mama continued its lucrative run, dropping 49 percent to $6.7 million. After 17 days, Universal’s $15 million film has earned $58.3 million. Meanwhile, Chastain’s more serious vehicle, Zero Dark Thirty, dropped 45 percent to $5.3 million. The film has earned $77.8 million total after seven weekends.

1. Warm Bodies – $20 million

2. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – $9.2 million

3. Silver Linings Playbook – $8.1 million

4. Mama – $6.7 million

5. Zero Dark Thirty – $5.3 million

The weekend’s other new wide release, Sylvester Stallone’s R-rated action vehicle Bullet to the Head, got off to an even worse start than Arnold Schrwazenegger’s The Last Stand did two weeks ago. Bullet to the Head debuted in sixth place with a terrible $4.5 million from 2,404 theaters and an underwhelming “B-” CinemaScore grade. That’s Sylvester Stallone’s weakest wide release debut ever. The last time a Stallone film opening in over 500 theaters did worse was in 1981, when Nighthawks earned $2.5 million on opening weekend — and that was only from 659 theaters, about 30 percent of Bullet’s theater count. According to exit polling, the few crowds that did see the film were 60 percent male and 81 percent above the age of 25.

Bullet is the fifth gun-toting action film targeting older men to disappoint at the box office in the past month. In recent weeks, Gangster Squad has earned $43.1 million versus a $60 million budget, Broken City has grossed $18.2 million versus a $35 million budget, The Last Stand has found $11.7 million versus a $45 million budget, and Parker has earned $12.4 million versus a budget of approximately $35 million. (When reached, Warner Bros. did not provide EW with a budget for Bullet to the Head, though reports claim it cost $55 million.)

Of course, each of these movies was poorly reviewed, and that may be the main factor in their poor performances, but the weak results also suggest that fantasy-free shoot-em-ups starring older men (many of them Expendables stars) aren’t connecting with viewers right now. Yes, Django Unchained is succeeding — it crossed $150 million this weekend — but that has a fantastical tilt to it. The overall trajectory doesn’t bode well for Bruce Willis’ A Good Day to Die Hard, which opens in two weeks.

Lionsgate’s Stand Up Guys also opened this weekend in 659 theaters, where it earned a paltry $1.5 million. The film stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin, and it’s safe to say it won’t be the biggest hit in any of their careers.

For up-to-the-minute box office updates:

Bullet to the Head

  • Movie
  • R
  • 91 minutes
  • Walter Hill