Weekend Box Office: Underworld: Awakening Tops The Weekend; Red Tails Has Strong Second-Place Finish

This past weekend saw something that isn’t all that surprising. It was a weekend where audiences decided that they didn’t care what the critics wrote, they were going to see movies about vampires regardless. Certain reader commentary I’ve read on this site would have you believe that “reviewers are idiots” because the reader didn’t like a negative viewpoint on Underworld: Awakening the third sequel in an eleven-year-old franchise. It could be the fact that the vampire vs. werewolves franchise has seen its stock drop as a result of sequels after an entertaining original. For Underworld: Awakening, it opened a little above $25 million, which makes it the fourth in the series to open above $20 million. However, the return of Kate Beckinsale wasn’t enough to outperform the first weekend earnings of the second installment.

Having watched it this past weekend, the only comparison I can make about the success of the series is to that of Resident Evil. Prior to the film’s start was a trailer to Resident Evil: Retribution (yes, this will be the fifth one in the series). The success of last Resident Evil (with the sounds-like-this-is-the-last-one subtitle “Afterlife”) saw its overseas profits skyrocket to $236 million thanks to 3D surcharges – and viewers who still support the franchise – versus the $60 million grossed domestically. Personally, I’m apathetic to the release of sequels, especially in today’s Hollywood environment. Unless the sequel comes from a filmmaker that can expand on the original (see James Cameron’s Aliens as an example – hell it even has one of the best names for a sequel), I will maintain a wait-and-see approach. For Awakening, it basically goes back to its roots (the third release, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, served as a prequel since it was without star Kate Beckinsale) in its attempts to rejuvenate the franchise so that Screen Gems can look at making more Underworlds and Resident Evils in the coming years to help bolster its bottom line (while still trying to make back the millions it lost on producing Burlesque). Though, I have to commend Kate Beckinsale for being able to open three films north of $20 million. If only she could do that without the help of skin-tight black leather.

Placing second with an estimated $19 million was a passion project of George Lucas. It may have taken 23 years to get made, but Lucas finally succeeded in bringing the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen with Red Tails. Ambitious as it was, the independently produced venture from Lucasfilm was also cut to shreds by a majority of critics. Starring half of the cast of The Wire and co-written by the creator of The Boondocks, the WWII fighter pilot drama was at its worst when it was grounded and at its best when it was up in the air. Costing a reported $60 million, studio 20th Century Fox isn’t fretting too much. Still, this film of true heroism at a time when our way of life was threatened should have had a better crop of stars as well as a better script. Cliches matched with remarkable story don’t play well with one another.

On the heels of Mark Wahlberg’s asinine statement that he could have prevented 9/11, his thriller Contraband dropped from first to third. But it is holding steady, as compared to other Wahlberg starring vehicles (Shooter, anyone?). The film may have starred the once leader of the Funky Bunch, but let’s not forget about Kate Beckinsale, who was totally ignored in the advertising. So, technically, she’s the star of two straight #1 releases. If certain aggregate sites want us to believe that the hero trio of the Harry Potter series are the presiding factor on why their movies have grossed so much money, then I can include Beckinsale as being part of the success of Contraband.

The wide expansion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was met with an underperforming per-screen average, having played on the arthouse circuit for four weeks. Having read varying opinions on the film – my thoughts don’t mesh with those of our Jenny Rebekah – it’s easy to see why audiences were hesitant to want to catch this one in theaters. Regardless of its basis, my biggest gripes wasn’t as much as the backdrop of 9/11 but with the aggravating performance by newcomer/Jeopardy wunderkind Thomas Horn.

Despite no new family releases this weekend audiences declined the invite to be Disney’s guest for Beauty and the Beast 3D. It hasn’t had nearly the opening or the success of The Lion King re-release. This is sad considering that Beast is the only film to have been nominated for Best Picture when there wasn’t a separate animation category for feature films. It may not be as popular as Lion King or Finding Nemo (it gets the 3D treatment this fall), but the film is a marvel to revisit in three dimensions. The ballroom dance with the sweeping tilt from the chandelier to the marble floor still astounds.

Relativity was hoping Haywire would catch fire like Taken did a few years ago. However, poor marketing without a name talent made it hard for audiences to fork over money to see it. Opening opposite another well-established female ass-kicker with a built-in audience wasn’t the best move either. Critics were supportive of Steven Soderbergh’s actioneer (currently 82% on RT), but audiences weren’t as kind. They gave it a D+ CinemaScore (hey at least it wasn’t an ‘F’, right?). Look for this to do much better overseas, where they feast on action movies.

Joyful Noise is still in the top 10. So are December holdovers Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The first will reach $200 million, but Holmes and Watson will fall just short of that number on the domestic end. As for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she will break nine figures by next weekend and receive a new tattoo as a result.

New releases on the indie circuit include Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut, Coriolanus, a Shakespeare adaptation. Opening in nine locations it earned $60k. The documentary Crazy Horse opened in New York on a single screen but grossed $10k. Best Foreign Film contender A Separation grossed $183k on thirteen screens, with a very impressive $14k average its fourth week in release. We Need To Talk About Kevin, highlighted by Tilda Swinton’s award-worthy performance, grossed $77k at seven theaters.

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Source: Box Office Mojo