Weekend Box Office: ELYSIUM Leads with $30.5 Million; WE’RE THE MILLERS in Second; PLANES Fails to Lift Off

by     Posted 346 days ago

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Welcome to another very crowded weekend at the domestic box office. As expected, Elysium took top honors with an estimated $30.5 million but still fell short of pre-release expectations. We’re the Millers held on to second place with $26.5 million, making it the only feature to top initial projections for its first weekend. That leaves Disney’s Planes grounded in third and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters right behind it as each failed to improve significantly on their modest Friday performances.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Elysium $30,500,000 $30.5
2.  We’re the Millers $26,555,000 $38
3.  Planes $22,525,000 $22.5
4.  Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters $14,600,000 $23.4
5.  2 Guns $11,128,000 $48.5
6.  Smurfs 2 $9,500,000 $46.6
7.  The Wolverine $8,000,000 $111.9
8.  The Conjuring $6,700,000 $120.7
9.  Despicable Me 2 $5,700,000 $338.2
10.  Grown Ups 2 $3,700,000 $123.8

Elysium-posterIf you’ve lost track of how many times we’ve told you that the 2013 summer box office was “overcrowded,” so have we. Another four new features squeezed into theatres this weekend – including two that opted for Wednesday debuts to take the pressure off their openings. Viewed as a whole, this weekend’s box office was a smashing success: with total earnings that will make it one of the most lucrative August frames of all time. But if the sum of the parts was strong, the parts themselves seemed a bit underwhelming.

Starting at the top we find Sony’s Elysium: the last of this summer’s biggish-budget, original sci-fi titles. For those keeping track, both After Earth and Pacific Rim failed to stir much excitement earlier this season – opening to $27.5 million and $37.2 million, respectively. Earlier this year, Oblivion also fell short at the domestic box office, though its international performance made it a financial success in the end. In the wake of these stumbles, all eyes were on Elysium – a film that looked like it might turn 2013’s sci-fi tide.

On this weekend in 2009, director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 became a surprise hit after its $37.3 million opening. The film went on to earn $210.8 million worldwide and capture a nomination for Best Picture at the 2009 Academy Awards. It was an unprecedented level of success for a (relatively) low-budget genre film from a first-time director. And what happens when a film reaches that level of success? Expectations spike for the project follows it.

That meant that Elysium, unlike District 9 before it, was on everyone’s box office radar. Early projections for the film’s debut were on par with its predecessor: in the $35-$40 million range. Instead, Elysium earned just over $30 million. In this summer’s hyper-crowded atmosphere, that was not a huge surprise and, had Elysium shared District 9’s thrifty $30 million budget or its overwhelmingly positive reviews, the word ‘disappointment’ would not have applied.

were-the-millers-posterUnfortunately, Elysium cost four times that amount and has garnered mixed reviews. That means that a strong weekend multiple here in the US is probably out of reach. Elysium will have to hope for an Oblivion-sized success at the international market but, after a summer of post-apocalyptic action, even international audiences may be tiring of the premise.

The outlook for We’re the Millers is much brighter. The R-rated comedy was expected to pull in less than $20 million this weekend – giving it a total of just under $30 million after five days. Instead, We’re the Millers has earned $38 million since its Wednesday launch – just over the film’s reported budget. With its $26.5 million first weekend, We’re the Millers has now come closer to matching Horrible Bosses than most believed possible. Back in July of 2011, the R-rated comedy featuring the Millers’ Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis opened to $28.3 million on its way to a final domestic gross of over $117 million. Granted, We’re the Millers is not likely to display that kind of staying-power in the weeks to come but, for a film that was expected to limp out of the gate, second place is already a big win.

planes-posterOn the flip side of that win we find Disney’s Planes. An aerial spin-off of Cars – Pixar’s lucrative but little-loved franchise – Planes was originally crafted (without Pixar’s help) for the direct-to-DVD market. From the start, the 3D animated feature was not expected to do Cars-sized numbers, but it was expected to improve significantly upon the openings of recent family fare like Turbo ($21.3 million) and The Smurfs 2 ($17.5 million). After launching with a decent $8.1 million on Friday, however, Planes stalled out – giving the film a dubious box office distinction in the process.

As we told you yesterday, animated films routinely see an earnings spike from Friday to Saturday: the most family-friendly of days at the domestic box office. By contrast, Planes rose by just .1% on Saturday – a fact that helps explain why the film’s total weekend will fall short of the $25-$30 million that most expected.

At the tail end of this weekend’s list of new releases is Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the follow-up to 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. If you are wondering why a potential tentpole that failed to reach $90 million at the domestic box office was worthy of a sequel, you are not alone. True, Percy Jackson did not become the next Harry Potter, as Fox had hoped. On the other hand, The Lightning Thief did earn $226 million worldwide from a budget of $95 million: just enough of a profit to justify Sea of Monsters. Three years later, the studio knew that international audiences were their only hope, which is why few people were aware of Percy Jackson 2 before its Wednesday debut.

Next weekend, the late-summer box office crush continues. Four more features will squeeze into America’s already overburdened theatres, including Kick-Ass 2, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs. Both The Butler and Jobs are the type of film that does best in September, which should leave Kick-Ass 2 in first with a debut higher than the 2010 original.

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  • sense11

    Neill Blomkamp should direct The Flash movie

    • Person

      Danny Boyle.

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  • Calcazone

    R rated, original property, high cost science fiction still has a place! Woo!

  • Jan

    Neill Blomkamp should direct Grown Ups 3. Spoiler alert: nobody grows up cause they’re all blown up to bloody bits.

  • matthew

    Awesome news. Next up Chappie, which seems like it’s going the D9 route.

  • Saltonstall

    Good stuff. Shows there’s still a market for R-rated sci-fi, even if the movie was only OK.

  • http://buzzabit.com/aaron/ Aaron Sullivan

    Glad Elysium could open well and I’m very interested in what Neill Blomkamp does next as I’m a fan of District 9, but this movie left me cold for most of the running time. I just never connected with the characters, so all the peril and intensity felt shallow. Instead of rooting for people, I was just generically hoping I wasn’t going to have to watch something horrible happen.

    He has some awesome action ideas, but the camera work went all shaky at the worst times making some of the action hard to follow and I don’t usually have any trouble with that.

    He had this very interesting third person video game style camera rig that was used in about two or three quick shots so I guess it didn’t work too well. :( Could be interesting if improved.

    I just wish the movie was more subtle and layered. Everyone’s motivations were SO simple and set up in the most obvious social commentary scenarios that it felt a bit childish.

    Otherwise, the movie was technically amazing.

    The effects were the kind that were seamless and felt so natural that I never questioned them. Pretty impressive since it was all in daylight and shaky cam and we seeing things we’ve never seen in reality like humanoid robots and space stations of giant magnitude.

    • matthew

      His next film is called Chappie, apparently its a 60million dollar film. About a robot. Its based loosely on the short Tetravaal that he did a long time ago. Sharlto Copley plays the robot. (not joking btw) . Not much is known about the story some rumours are this robot is a police robot in Johannesburg (filming begins there in September) that begins to become self aware and people start reacting to something like that.

    • mbmarquis69

      I had almost the exact same reaction, Aaron. Everything you cited was spot on. I really wanted to like it more. I connected to the story and the characters of D9, but Elysium didn’t grab me. I was also turned off by the tone of some of the characters. Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster were in a competition to see who could chew up the most scenery. Sharlto won, by the way. I love Foster but she was horribly miscast here and not at all comfortable playing the mustache-twirling villain she was supposed to be. I was embarrassed for her.

      Despite that, there were some great moments in the movie and I found it mostly entertaining if not memorable.

  • JK1193

    $30 million isn’t that bad and the international tracking looks very good. I think Elysium will be a huge success for an original R-rated sci-fi film and will definately make Oblivion level business internationally, but again, the media is making too many mountains out of molehills in terms of claiming it’s doing worse than it actually is. SMH

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  • Donella

    Elysium’s opening figure was artificially inflated. The actual figure is $29.8 million.

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