Box Office: CHAPPIE Leads Weak Winter Frame

     March 8, 2015

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On a weekend that was down a gigantic 40% over the same frame in 2014, the domestic box office offered very little to tempt audiences. There was Chappie, the R-rated robot pic from District 9 helmer Neill Blomkamp. Although Chappie wound up easily taking first place, its estimated $13.3 million from 3,201 locations stands among the lowest number one debuts of the last five years. Both End of Watch, in 2012, and The American, in 2010, opened slightly lower ($13.1 million) in first place – but both hit their totals from fewer locations and with less marketing behind them.

Chappie was expected to open with at least $20 million this weekend. Even that would have marked a step down from the $29.8 million that Blomkamp’s last feature, Elysium, earned in 2013. And when you recall that District 9 opened with $37. 3 million in 2009 you begin to see why Chappie’s $13.3 million looks so feeble. But just to make sure everyone gets the point, even Jupiter AscendingThe Wachowski siblings’ recent sci-fi misfire – opened higher than Chappie. To be fair, Blomkamp’s robot cost a fraction of what it took to make Jupiter Ascending ($50 million compared to $176 million) so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Like Elysium, Chappie received a decent ‘B’ from CinemaScore audiences. Unfortunately, critics have been less forgiving. Where Elysium reached 68% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Chappie stands at just 30% as of Sunday. It was already clear that Blomkamp’s third feature would fall short of the $93 million domestic total of his last, so Chappie will have to pray that international grosses carry the day. There is some reason to hope, in that regard. Disney’s Real Steel, which also featured Hugh Jackman and a robot in starring roles, earned almost three-quarters of its $299 million global cume from international theatres.

This weekend’s Chappie estimate may not have lived up to initial expectations, but at least it didn’t suffer the fate of Unfinished Business. The Fox comedy starring Vince Vaughn was originally targeting a $10 million opening but ended up taking in an estimated $4.8 million from 2,777 locations instead. In terms of this year’s wide release flops, that’s less than Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Seventh Son. In fact, only Blackhat and Mortdecai opened lower.unfinished-business-image

Compared to Chappie and Unfinished Business, the more limited release of Fox Searchlight’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ends up looking like a blockbuster. The sequel to 2012’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel took in an estimated $8.6 million from just 1,573 locations. That equals $5,467 per-screen, a higher average than any other film in this weekend’s top ten. The sequel’s domestic debut also tops the $8.3 million that the original film earned when it expanded to 1,233 locations over the four-day Memorial Day holiday. Of course, the strength of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel lay more in its holding power than any one weekend’s take. The sequel’s reviews have been decent (currently 65% on Rotten Tomatoes), and the original film has built a strong following among adult audiences. However, it remains to be seen if Second Best will find legs over the coming weeks.

In one last bit of box office housekeeping,  American Sniper officially became 2014’s highest-grossing film on Sunday. Although the drama fell outside of the top ten for the first time since its record-breaking January expansion, American Sniper brought its domestic total up to $337.2 million as of Sunday. That beats the $336.9 million of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I not to mention the $333.1 million of Guardians of the Galaxy. Though we’ve seen this moment coming for a few weeks now, it doesn’t make the achievement of American Sniper any less impressive now that it’s arrived.

With two lackluster frames in a row, the box office is expecting a big opening from Disney’s Cinderella next weekend. The live action fairytale should bring in approximately $65 million in its first three days – just a bit less than Maleficent earned in its own debut last summer. Liam Neeson’s latest action movie, Run All Night, also opens in wide release next Friday. But with the box office’s recent string of mediocre R-rated openings, I wouldn’t expect Run All Night to do any better than Chappie, financially speaking.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Chappie $13,300,000 $13.3
2.  Focus $10,020,000 $34.57
3.  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel $8,600,000 $8.6
4.  Kingsman: The Secret Service $8,300,000 $98
5.  The SpongeBob Movie $7,000,000 $148.9
6.  Fifty Shades of Grey $5,604,000 $156.4
7.  McFarland, USA $5,318,000 $29.4
8.  The Lazarus Effect $5,100,000 $17.4
9.  The DUFF $4,850,000 $26.1
10.  Unfinished Business $4,800,000 $4.8

 

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