Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Ender's Game - $28.0 million
2. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa - $20.5 million
3. Last Vegas - $16.5 million
4. Free Birds - $16.2 million
5. Gravity - $13.1 million
6. Captain Phillips - $8.5 million
7. 12 Years a Slave - $4.6 million
8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - $4.2 million
9. Carrie - $3.4million
10. The Counselor - $3.2 million
The Big Stories
Orson Scott Card has asked that people not be haters and respect his right to hate. The irony is so rich that Alanis Morrisette couldn't find it with a billion refrains. For months, people feigned outrage at Card's stance on homosexuality but have recently been relieved that he will not be receiving anything on the back end. Funny for a story called Ender's Game that of its many wannabe themes is actually a pretty staunch one about standing up to bullies. Yet, what else was there to see this weekend? And who is really to blame for Ender taking the top spot at the box office?
"You Have Been Recruited by the Star League..."
Much like the first weekend of May, the first of November has turned into an alarm bell that the holiday movie season is declared open for business. Pay attention to these numbers. There will be a quiz.
The Incredibles ($70.4), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($63.1), Monsters, Inc. ($62.5), Wreck-It Ralph ($49.0), The Matrix Revolutions ($48.4), Megamind ($46.0), American Gangster ($43.5), Charlie's Angels ($40.1), Chicken Little ($40.0), Bee Movie ($38.0)
That's just 10 titles that have opened November's first weekend since 2000. The BOLD ones indicate a number-one finish. Can we go another 10 and find Ender's Game?
Due Date ($32.6), Elf ($31.1), A Christmas Carol ($30.0), The Santa Clause 2 ($29.0), Ender's Game ($28.0), Jarhead ($27.7), Borat ($26.4), Flight ($24.9), Tower Heist ($24.0), The Santa Clause 3 ($19.5)
So, it's no Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games, but for a story that had a lot of fans in the back half of the 1980s, the film adaptation they have waited 28 years for wasn't exactly Percy Jackson either. The first one, at least, which started with over $31 million. (At least it beat Eragon's $23.) Maybe most of the readers stayed home and watched The Last Starfighter again. In sadder news, Ender's Game has nearly eclipsed the gross of Nick Castle's beloved sci-fi adventure from 1984 which featured a young man great at video games being whisked away to save the galaxy while a clone of him remains on Earth and seems entirely uninterested in girls. Orson Scott Card must have been inspired.
So Free Nobody Could Find Them
Notice what a lot of those number-one films have in common above? That's right. For the past five years, an animated film has led this weekend's box office (including the second weekend of Puss in Boots.) Seven of the last nine years in fact. So why couldn't Relativity's Free Birds continue that stretch? Some might suggest that it is the worst reviewed animated film of 2013.
Monsters University (78%), Despicable Me 2 (75%), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (70%), The Croods (68%), Turbo (67%), Epic (64%), Planes (27%), Escape from Planet Earth (27%), Free Birds (22%)
Amazing that in such a year of "meh" animated entertainment that Free Birds is the one critics really took a stand against. (It was as low as 13% at one point.) Dubbing itself as "the greatest turkey movie of all time" and opening itself up to numerous puns involving quality and performance, this should nevertheless have been a slam dunk for Relativity, which has had a relatively bad year. Safe Haven is the third highest domestic grosser in the studio's three-year existence, but was still just a minor success. According to BoxOffice.com, if those print-and-advertising costs are accurate on 21 & Over and the inexpensive Don Jon, each are still waiting to get into the black. Both The Family and Paranoia are big losers for the studio leaving the crazy idea that the only other film to make money for it this year has been Movie 43.
Free Birds comes out with a production budget reported at $55 million, a drop in the bucket compared to the average $101 million of the other eight films. Only Escape from Planet Earth and Planes were cheaper at $40 and $50 million; reflective of their direct-to-video quality making it to the big screen. Some have said as much about Free Birds. But when we're talking about becoming Relativity's potentially highest grosser ever, the number to reach is only $83.505 million. Planes even grossed over $89 million and that was in August when animated films don't reach the same heights (no pun intended) as their predecessors and no holiday tie-in. If Relativity really spent anywhere near $24 million in marketing for Don Jon, where was the push for Free Birds? Because I certainly saw more ads for the porn-addiction film. The good news for Free Birds is that it has three more weekends alone in the marketplace before Disney's Frozen comes out. Hunger Games and Thor aside (the latter of which made $109 million overseas since opening this week), this is about all that young kids have to see and its hold over the coming weeks may be better than Ender's Game.
Why Add the "T"?
No one actually dies during Last Vegas. That spoiler alert should help CBS Films get a couple more butts in seats. No one is even actually dying despite numerous warnings to Morgan Freeman's previous stroke and how he should take it easy. There is no real crisis during Jon Turtletaub's film and very few laughs either. By the end, every surviving cast member still has the option to return to Vegas should they so choose. And if word of mouth is any good amongst adults not offended (and how could they be) of the PG-13 film, perhaps CBS Films will get the gang back together and they can go to Bangkok. Oh, the Viagra jokes they can use then.
Last Vegas' $16 million is a decent start for the film. Even more depressing when you consider Wild Hogs started with nearly $40. CBS Films has been around just a bit longer than Relativity (releasing its first film in January 2010 compared to December of the same year.) Yet the studio has only had one film gross over $50 million in the U.S. with The Woman in Black. Last Vegas has already grossed more in one weekend than its last six releases did in their entire runs and it should generate enough revenue to place at least second on the studio's all-time list (above The Back-Up Plan's $37 million.) It could even stretch itself to hit $55 million and be declared a winner in that respect. It's meager $28 million budget though still means that around $70 is in order for the chicken dinner to be ordered.
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]
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