Weekend Box Office: ENDER’S GAME Wins Frame with $28 Million; THOR: THE DARK WORLD Hits $109 Million in International Debut

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The adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s beloved science fiction novel Ender’s Game hit theatres on Friday, and while it’s not looking like a break-out hit, it did not embarrass itself either. Fellow newcomers Last Vegas and Free Birds, came in about equal, but – considering the latter’s family-earning potential – its estimate seems a bit underwhelming. In more impressive news, Thor: The Dark World flexed its muscles overseas, taking in $109.4 million from its first 30 territories.

Title Weekend Total
1.  Ender’s Game $28,000,000 $28
2.  Bad Grandpa $20,500,000 $62
3.  Last Vegas $16,520,000 $16.5
4.  Free Birds $16,200,000 $16.2
5.  Gravity $15,130,000 $219.1
6.  Captain Phillips $8,500,000 $82.5
7.  12 Years a Slave $4,600,000 $8.7
8.  Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 $4,200,000 $106.1
9.  Carrie $3,400,000 $31.9
10.  The Counselor $3,250,000 $13.3

enders-game-final-posterOn what is proving to be a very tepid start to the 2013 holiday season, Ender’s Game easily took first place with an estimated $28 million from 3,407 locations. That’s higher than the film’s initial projection of $25 million, but lower than early sales indicated. After Friday night, it looked like Ender’s might wind up with close to $33 million, which would have been a big win for distributor Lionsgate. In fact, anything over $30 million would have put Ender’s in-line with 2013’s previous sci-fi releases: above Elysium ($29.8 million) and below Oblivion ($37 million). Instead, Ender’s ended up looking more like After Earth, which is not what any fan of the property wants to hear.

After Earth opened to $27.5 million back in May and topped out at just $60.5 million by the end of its domestic run. The film did better overseas, but is still not the kind of comp a studio hopes for on opening weekend. To be fair, box office pundits were not expecting Ender’s to be a blockbuster. Though adapted from a well-known (and oft updated) sci-fi property, Card’s story is not necessarily well-known to general audiences. Reviews have been decent, with Rotten Tomatoes rating Ender’s at 61%, but with Thor: The Dark World on the horizon, ‘decent’ probably won’t help the film find its holiday legs.

Ender’s Game cost a reported $110 million, which is in the same range as this summer’s Elysium. That film wound up earning $283 worldwide, but it is too early to tell if international sales will be strong enough to push Ender’s past the profit margin. With its YA spin and PG-13 rating, Ender’s should have the advantage over Elysium in many territories but – between Thor 2 and Gravity – there may not be enough box office oxygen left to sustain a film like Ender’s.

last-vegas-posterOverall box office receipts were down approximately 8% from this week in 2012, when Wreck It Ralph debuted with $49 million. The film that should have bridged that gap was Free Birds. Considering the dearth of family features following Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the animated feature had the potential to gross far in excess of its tiny $15 million projection. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, Free Birds had the widest release of the week, at 3,736 locations, but the lowest per-theatre average among this morning’s top five. Of course, the movie’s Thanksgiving theme could drive attendance over the long holiday season, but that seems like a long shot at this point.

In more promising news, Last Vegas looks like a much better bet for long-term success. The CBS Films release earned an estimated $16.5 million from 3,065 locations, which beat most weekend projections – if only by a slim margin. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa also got some good news. Last weekend’s winner was down just 36% this weekend: a remarkable hold considering that Jackass 3D declined by 57% on its own sophomore frame. Total domestic earnings for Bad Grandpa still trail the last Jackass 3D at the ten-day mark, but it now seems clear that Irv Zisman will surpass Jackass Number Two’s $72 million final US total.

I probably don’t need to tell any of you what next weekend’s number one film will be. The only question is how much will Thor: The Dark World bring in from its first three days? It’s without question that the sequel will top the 2011 original’s $65.7 million opening, but after it’s strong overseas launch, is $100 million possible? More? Hazard your guesses below.

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