Weekend Box Office: FAST & FURIOUS 6 Still in the Lead; NOW YOU SEE ME Pulls Off Surprise Win Over AFTER EARTH

     June 2, 2013

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After leading the biggest Memorial Day box office of all time, Fast & Furious 6 remained on top for a second weekend with an estimated $34.5 million. The film’s 65% drop left plenty of room for a new release to take over top honors – provided that new release wasn’t Sony’s After Earth. The sci-fi adventure was aiming for a $35-$40 million debut. Instead, the combined star-power of Will and Jaden Smith was only good enough for third place behind Now You See Me… a genuine upset for a film from the supposedly ‘cursed’ genre of magic.

  Title Weekend Total
1.   Fast & Furious 6 $34,540,000 $170.3
2.   Now You See Me $28,050,000 $28
3.   After Earth $27,000,000 $27
4.   Epic $16,400,000 $65.1
5.   Star Trek Into Darkness $16,400,000 $181.1
6.   The Hangover Part III $15,930,000 $88
7.   Iron Man 3 $8,006,000 $384.7
8.   The Great Gatsby $6,265,000 $128.2

after-earth-poster-imaxWith all respect to Fast & Furious 6, the big story this morning is the sorry performance of After Earth. As late as Thursday, the PG-13 title was expected to score a narrow first-place victory with at least $35 million. Then the reviews started to come in and advance sales slumped. By Friday night, it looked like After Earth would have to settle for second place – not a terrible debut, considering the film’s 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Then the unthinkable happened. Now You See Me – a movie that barely merited mention in this year’s “Summer Preview” columns – began to surge. In the end, the magical-caper movie wound up ahead of its higher-profile competition with an estimated $28 million from 2,925 runs. So much for that box office curse! Of course, just over one million dollars separates this morning’s second and third place estimates. Numbers that close can indicate a change in rank when Monday’s actual numbers are reported. Now that After Earth has been labeled a disappointment, however, that seems unlikely. In fact, the film’s current $27 million estimate (from 3,401 locations) may turn out to be too optimistic, once word of mouth does its ‘magic.’

The After Earth upset may not have come as such a surprise had it not been for the box office pedigree of its two stars. Once known as the ‘King of Summer,’ Will Smith starred in an incredible string of blockbusters: from Independence Day through Hancock. After a three-year hiatus, Smith returned last summer in MIB 3. The sequel earned a decent $54.5 million US debut, but went on to a giant $624 million worldwide. Will’s son Jaden, meanwhile, has also experienced big successes including the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid ($354 million worldwide).

now-you-see-me-posterIn After Earth, the combined strength of the Smiths was somewhat offset by the tarnished reputation of director M. Night Shyamalan, of course.  Sony was still confident enough of its product to predict a first place win for their film up until Friday night. Now it looks like their hopes for a $100 million+ final US gross will have to be reexamined as well. There is still some hope for After Earth, however. Like many once-mighty American stars, Will Smith is still considered a box office King overseas. In 2012, MIB 3 earned just under $180 million in the US but $445 million internationally. Assuming After Earth can pull off a similar ratio, Sony will pull a profit from the film, which cost a reported $130 million.

Unlike After Earth, international success seemed like a long shot for Now you See Me. In fact, before Friday night, today’s second-place finish wasn’t even in the cards for the Lionsgate release. Directed by Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans), the film’s trailers showed an elaborate heist pulled off by a group of stage magicians. And there’s the problem. From Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige to this year’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, films with a magical theme have not had a mesmerist effect on US audiences. In Now You See Me, however, magic was offset by the film’s clever capers – a distinction the studio took some trouble to highlight as their marketing campaign ramped up.

Overall, this weekend’s box office scored a win over 2012, when Snow White and the Huntsman debuted. In case you’re wondering what happened to the rest of the top ten, ninth place went to Mud ($1.2 million) and tenth to The Croods ($615,000). Next weekend Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in the Fox comedy The Internship. The studio arranged advance screenings for the film at 300 locations on Friday but, so far, they’re keeping the box office results to themselves.

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