If you live anywhere east of… California it’s been a long, hard winter. Each of the last six weekends has hosted a major winter weather event on the east coast, Midwest and/or the south. It’s almost routine. So why mention it here? Seems some in the industry would like us to believe that this weekend’s two new releases – Focus and The Lazarus Effect – would have opened higher had inclement weather not kept audiences in doors. A little snow didn’t stop Fifty Shades of Grey from setting a new opening record for February, of course, so I’m not sure that’s the reason for this weekend’s lackluster box office. Then again, with two such captivating new releases in theatres, what else makes sense?
We told you yesterday that Warner Bros.’ Focus, a romantic caper pic starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, was expected to open with at least $20 million. For its part, the studio was hoping for at least $22 million. That would have been on the low end of Will Smith debuts – the man has only had three films open below $20 million since 1996’s Independence Day. Then again, $22 million would have seemed like a triumph compared to the $14.8 million launch of 2008’s Seven Pounds, the film that signaled Smith’s long reign as the king of the domestic box office had come to an end. Since that time Smith has seen success (as a producer on his son Jaden’s Karate Kid reboot) and failure (alongside Jaden in 2013’s After Earth).
M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi punchline actually did surprisingly well overseas when it was released. That’s because, like Tom Cruise, Will Smith remains a major international box office draw. That’s good news for Focus. The film cost a reported $50 million before marketing and brought in $19.1 million from 3,323 locations this weekend. Audiences gave Focus a ‘B’ CinemaScore, which is neither very good nor terrible. Critical reaction was also mixed for the movie, which received a 54% rating from Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes. You would expect to see both of those ratings a bit higher if Focus was going to manifest a superior domestic multiple over its run – a bit like Kingsman: The Secret Service – but with another underwhelming frame on tap next weekend, Focus could yet surprise us.
The only surprise related to the debut of Relativity’s The Lazarus Effect was that it actually exceeded $10 million. For a while yesterday that didn’t look like it would happen. Lazarus still opened below last year’s Oculus, also from Relativity. Oculus debuted with $12 million last April – a win considering the R-rated horror pic had no major stars and a production budget of just $5 million. For its part, The Lazarus Effect took in an estimated $10.6 million from 2,666 locations. Though the film, which carries a more audience-friendly PG-13 rating and stars Olivia Wilde, fell from second place on Friday to fifth place this weekend, its per-screen average actually puts it above both Kingsman, in second place, and Fifty Shades of Grey, which was down another 50% in its third frame.
The Lazarus Effect, like most projects from crazy-prolific producer Jason Blum, also cost very little to bring to the screen – less than $5 million, according to reports. That means that the notion of ‘disappointment’ must be reassessed. Sure, Lazarus is getting savaged by critics (14% on Rotten Tomatoes) and has seen little love from audiences (‘C-’ CinemaScore), but it’s still going to make a profit in the end and isn’t that all that matters?
Overall domestic earnings hit $106.4 million this weekend, down 14% from the same frame last year when Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop and the faith-based phenom Son of God both debuted with over $25 million. The downward trend is unlikely to reverse itself next weekend. Three new titles will hit the box office: Unfinished Business, an R-rated comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Fox Searchlight’s sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and sci-fi/action pic Chappie. The latter is expected to come out on top with approximately $20 million, though that won’t be near enough to beat the same frame from 2014 that hosted both 300: Rise of an Empire and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Maybe the studios will get lucky and we’ll get another snow storm to blame for the bad attendance? As usual, we’ll let you know how things play out.
|2.||Kingsman: Secret Service||$11,750,000||$85.6|
|3.||The SpongeBob Movie||$11,200,000||$140.3|
|4.||Fifty Shades of Grey||$10,927,000||$147.7|
|5.||The Lazarus Effect||$10,600,000||$10.6|
|10.||Hot Tub Time Machine 2||$2,400,000||$10.2|