Weekend Box Office: OBLIVION Takes First Place with $38.1 Million

     April 21, 2013

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It was the only game in town, so Oblivion’s first place finish this weekend didn’t come as a shock. Universal’s sci-fi release had a solid debut – earning an estimated $38.1 million from 3,783 locations, or just under what G.I. Joe: Retaliation managed three weeks back. Oblivion also topped its initial domestic projection of $35 million, though the real strength of the Tom Cruise vehicle is overseas.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Oblivion $38,152,000 $38.1
2.  42 $18,025,000 $54
3.  The Croods $9,500,000 $154.8
4.  Scary Movie 5 $6,296,000 $22.9
5.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation $5,775,000 $111.2
6.  The Place Beyond the Pines $4,745,888 $11.4
7.  Olympus Has Fallen $4,500,000 $88.8
8.  Evil Dead $4,100,000 $48.4
9.  Jurassic Park 3D $4,000,000 $38.4
10.  Oz the Great & Powerful $3,048,000 $223.7

oblivion-poster-morgan-freeman-tom-cruiseLast week, we told you that Oblivion had earned $60.4 million from its international launch. Even as his star has faded at home, Tom Cruise remains a big draw internationally – as Oblivion’s new estimated $150 million global cume can attest. But it’s the film’s US numbers that interest us today. I’ve already intimated that placing first on a week with no fresh competition is nothing to get hyperbolic about. In fact, I’d say that the team at Universal deserves a lot of credit for locking down this particular release date and guaranteeing a first-place finish… given the circumstances.

After a remarkably lucrative ten year span bookended by Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise hit a financial rough patch. It took 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol to get him back in the box office’s good graces, though even that opportunity was soon squandered by the release of Rock of Ages. Cruise’s Knight & Day and Jack Reacher were both big hits overseas but failures in the US, so it’s easy to see why his projects (those without an “M:I” on their posters) continue to be greeted with skepticism by domestic audiences.

The legacy of Tom Cruise was not the only disability working against Oblivion. In case you missed the marketing, Oblivion is a sci-fi movie: a genre that has been running about equal with Cruise – in terms of box office hits – in recent years. In fact, Oblivion not only ranks as the biggest opening Tom Cruise has seen since M:I III, it is also the biggest sci-fi opening in almost a year.

In June 2012, Prometheus debuted with $51 million but, if we counted only original, non-franchise sci-fi titles, the genre pool would get even shallower. Chronicle was a surprise hit in March 2012 with its $22 million debut but, one year later, The Host took three weeks to equal that amount. It helps that sci-fi can claim the highest-grossing film of all time in Avatar, but it is never going to be a positive to note that Oblivion came in higher than John Carter.

the-place-beyond-the-pines-poster-ryan-goslingThe Place Beyond the Pines doesn’t qualify as a new movie (even in limited release, it made it into last week’s top ten) but the drama did expand nationally on Friday from 514 to 1,542 locations. The drama starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper earned an estimated $4.7 million, or the third-best per theatre average among major releases. It’s difficult to find a comparison by which to gauge the success of the film, unfortunately. Director Derek Cianfrance’s first feature, Blue Valentine, earned $9.7 million from its entire run but was never in more than 450 theatres. The Ryan Gosling classic Drive, on the other hand, had a slightly higher per-theatre average than Pines on its debut weekend in 2011 – but it launched in almost twice as many locations.

Last weekend’s number one film, 42, was down just 34% in its sophomore frame. Over ten days, the Jackie Robinson biopic has earned an impressive $54 million domestically. As strong as 42 was, in terms of week-to-week holds, however, The Croods was even stronger. Now in its fifth weekend in theatres, the DreamWorks Animation title was down by only 28%. That’s the kind of thing that happens when a film has no new titles to challenge it.

No such luck awaits Oblivion. Next weekend will see the return of Michael Bay with the feature Pain and Gain. The directors’ first non-Transformers film since 2005’s The Island (a sci-fi disappointment in the John Carter mode) is expected to knock Oblivion into second with a debut of $24 million. Luckily, Oblivion still has the global box office covered. Without giant robots, I’m not sure Michael Bay can say the same.

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