Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Fast & Furious Six - $34.5 million
2. Now You See Me - $28.0 million
3. After Earth - $27.0 million
4. Epic - $16.4 million
5. Star Trek Into Darkness - $16.4 million
6. The Hangover Part III - $15.9 million
7. Iron Man 3 - $8.0 million
8. The Great Gatsby - $6.2 million
9. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deew - $1.6 million
10. Mud - $1.2 million
The Big Stories
Everybody seems to be talking about it this weekend, and though it may be too early to officially label After Earth as the summer's first bomb, the film community can relish in it for at least a little while. It would be a close poll as to who everyone holds more disdain for at this point. Could it be the director once dubbed "the new Spielberg" who failed to live up to a promise that was pretty much a lie from the get-go? Could it be the seemingly indestructible movie star who rakes in millions yet hasn't produced a good movie since, arguably, the first Men in Black? Or maybe it is said movie star continually thrusting his less-talented offspring on a moviegoing public all too willing to embrace the untalented but even here has their standards?
After Earth and Will Smith's Opening Weekends
Sony and Will Smith have enjoyed a lot of success over the years. So when he came to the studio with a passion project for his son Jaden (who also made Sony hundreds of millions with The Karate Kid remake) with M. Night Shyamalan on board to direct, it was likely a quick green light. A $130 million budget is a drop in a bucket for an actor that has produced over half a billion at the international box office five times in his career; including three of his last four films and three times for the studio overall. Shyamalan hasn't reached that total since his 1999 breakthrough The Sixth Sense. Perhaps that is one of many reasons why his name was hidden from all traces of the film's advertising.
Will Smith's Opening Weekends
I Am Legend ($77.2 million), Hancock ($62.6), Men in Black 3 ($54.5), I Robot ($52.17), Men in Black II, ($52.14), Men in Black ($51.06), Independence Day ($50.2), Bad Boys II ($46.5), Hitch ($43.1), Wild Wild West ($27.6), After Earth ($27.0), The Pursuit of Happyness ($26.54), Enemy of the State ($20.0), Bad Boys ($15.5), Seven Pounds ($14.8), Ali ($14.7), The Legend of Bagger Vance ($11.5)
That's an average opening of $38.75 million for live-action Will Smith films. $49.59 million in the summer, and $57.12 million when dealing with science fiction or fantasy. Pretty remarkable. Though perhaps the current number is misleading since Sony's advertising could not find a way to even lie that this wasn't a true Will Smith vehicle. The argument over his last quality film may be a bit of a stretch since Rotten Tomatoes critics have favored eight of them since he became a bona fide star. The highest was 1998's Men in Black (91%). Six are ranged from 66-71%. Independence Day barely floats above fresh with 61% in favor. On the flipside though...
I, Robot (58%), Bad Boys (43%), The Legend of Bagger Vance (43%), Hancock (41%), Men in Black II (39%), Seven Pounds (27%), Bad Boys II (23%), Wild Wild West (21%), After Earth (12%)
How Big a Bomb Will After Earth Become?
After Earth is the worst-reviewed film that Smith has ever been associated with (as star, producer, voiceover, cameo, etc...). It will be one of the lowest grossing films of his career leading one to humorously speculate if his powers lie in his goatee. (Seven Pounds and Ali grossed $69.9 and $58.2 million without his signature facial hair.) The tone of Battleship has already started to permeate around his latest, which is a tad unfair. Sure, the openings are about the same, but Battleship cost nearly $80 million more to produce and even more to promote. Disingenuous too considering that Paramount's Star Trek Into Darkness in its third weekend is still over $140 million away from breaking even.
M. Night's A.E. is going to need at least $250 million outside the U.S. for the film to break even for Sony. Of Smith's 16 live-action features dating back to 1995, six of them have hit that mark. (And again, three of his last four.) Battleship grossed $237 million internationally. If Sony can walk away with that much on such a domestic disappointment and creative disaster, it would be more than happy to be compared to Battleship.
It will be interesting to see where Smith's box office clout goes from here on out and if we look back upon After Earth as the moment his career "jumped the couch" (in reference to a fellow Scientologist losing a portion of his fans by going a little nutty). My guess is those sequels to I, Robot, Bad Boys and Hancock are going to be coming around a lot sooner than you think.
What Made After Earth Look Bad?
As nice as it is to see the American public not shelling over their money to feed the Smith family or Shyamalan's ego, it is just as disturbing to see them hand it over to Louis Leterrier. The director of such creative dogs as the Clash of the Titans remake, the rebooted Incredible Hulk, a Transporter sequel and his debut with Jet Li actually playing a dog (Unleashed) has seen his grosses constantly on the rise despite never being able to deliver a single credible piece of work. That includes his latest I.Q.-dropper Now You See Me, which out-performed expectations with over $28 million; a film that could more easily plant its high concept (magicians who rob banks) into the populace more easily than taglines from Dianetics. With a shockingly high $75 million budget, Summit's film is still going to need some major legs to be considered a success.
As expected, Furious Six took the top spot again. Makes sense that the biggest opening of the series would also have the biggest dropoff (65%). If it continues to follow the pattern of Fast Five, the film should end up in the final range of $230-240 million. Also taking a huge drop is talentless big-mouth Todd Phillips who thought he was going to kick Vin Diesel's butt over Memorial Day. Who wouldn't pay to see the reverse? Anyway, The Hangover Part III also dropped 64% and with $88 million here in the U.S. to date is unlikely to make half of what either of the first two films did. Or half of what Furious Six will do. In much happier news, Jeff Nichols' Mud is just below $17 million, Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell has grossed nearly a million in only 26 theaters, and Richard Linklater's Before Midnight is up to $800,000 in two weeks in just 31. Altogether still less than what After Earth grossed this weekend. And now we're sad again.
- Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]