Weekend Box Office: Oblivion Opens #1 With $38 Million, 42 Stays Impressive in Second Week

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Tom Cruise inspecting the contents of a giant Stormtrooper helmet.

Over the weekend, Oblivion starring Tom Cruise supplanted the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 to top the box office. With a very solid $38 million (his second-biggest, non-franchise opening ever behind War of the Worlds), a figure that may have reached the $45 to $50 million range had a) it been presented in 3D, and b) moviegoers weren’t at home captivated/gripped by the around-the-clock coverage of the death and apprehension of the Boston Marathon terrorist suspects. But $38 million is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, it’s not the $79 million opening that Oz The Great and Powerful had. But Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi flick cost about half of what it took to make Sam Raimi’s Oz. People who proclaim that Tom Cruise isn’t a movie star of any relevancy, well they must not be paying attention. Take out his couch-jumping incident on The Oprah Winfrey Show several years back (which ultimately derailed the earning power of Mission: Impossible III), Cruise has been Mr. Consistency. While his fanbase not have grown over the years, like it in the 1990s, where audiences would buy him speaking with an Irish accent in a Ron Howard production (Far & Away) and of course as an emotionally conflicted sports agent (Jerry Maguire), his output of late has been more about Tom Cruise: Action Hero than Tom Cruise: Master Thespian.

Don’t get me wrong: Tom Cruise is as professional as they come when it comes to being a convincing character. Even with his small stature I bought him as a cold-blooded hitman in Michael Mann’s Collateral.

However, with Oblivion, I can’t give it the same ardent praise as our Scott Sawitz did over the weekend. Since we disagreed on 21 & Over, I figure turnabout is fair play. I enjoyed the film, but it is one of those where if you spent the time to break it down you would enjoy it less and less. It is a visually-strking film, but Joseph Kosinski’s adaptation of his unpublished graphic novel required the assistance of a pair of writers who gave us films like The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3. Part of the problem is that the film seems to borrow from a bevy of different sci-fi tropes, including Moon and The Matrix. Whereas I loved Skyfall for including nods to old James Bond hallmarks, I found fault with Oblivion because it echoes sci-fi cliches while also making me recollect Top Gun (appearance of sunglasses) and Risky Business (The Dream is Always the Same).

I’ll disagree with Sawitz’s acknowledgement that Cruise was the starring presence in Rock of Ages (sorry, he was a supporting star that just happened to outperform the rest of the ensemble because of his incredible work ethic and tenacity), but will agree that more and more actors are becoming bigger international luminaries than they are stateside. That’s just business. Rarely will you find gigantic box office numbers where domestic totals were bigger than international numbers (the biggest one that comes to mind is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight).

What the success of Oblivion proves is that Tom Cruise has a natural kinship with science-fiction. The Steven Spielberg films Minority Report and War of the Worlds are two big hits on Cruise’s resume. Part of that may be the pairing of Spielberg with Cruise. Oblivion is likely to be another huge moneymaker worldwide (already it has grossed more than $115 million overseas). Cruise will look to continue this winning trend in Doug Liman’s All You Need is Kill next year. Still, it will be interesting to see how this performs this coming weekend against Michael Bay’s restricted action-comedy Pain & Gain and then you have Iron Man 3 on May 3rd.

Holding strong for second is 42. No matter how well a sports drama or biopic is made ultimately it is the subject that will generate interest by the unfamiliar. After two weeks it has made $50 million. $100 million seems highly unlikely, at least domestically, but considering the $30 million budget, the Jackie Robinson biopic should continue to generate interest. Plus, it is probably the first Warner Bros. movie this year that could be considered a hit. Helping its cause is that the film is a multi-tiered platformer attracting younger and older viewers of different races.

With little in the way of kid-friendly entertainment currently in theaters The Croods continues its dominating ways. This DreamWorks Animation toon released by 20th Century Fox have been steady since its release back in late March. With $427 million and growing worldwide, a sequel is all but assured for 2016/2017.

SCARY MOVIE 5

The moment you realize that Evil Dead and Scary Movie 5 were released a week a part. Mel Brooks bettered this by having Spaceballs: The Movie play during Spaceballs.

As the theater marketplace continues to thin with the summer blockbusters coming shortly it means that a comedy like Scary Movie 5 can be relevant when it comes to discussing the top five. Robert Saucedo who saw this recently seemed to enjoy much more than I. He wanted to see a dumb comedy and it delivered in spades. I come from the opinion that imitation should be the sincerest form of flattery, but there’s hardly anything flattering about the latest Scary Movie entry that seems irrelevant in terms of its arrival to theaters – seven years after the fourth installment. Add to the fact that it was co-written by David Zucker (of the famous Airplane/The Naked Gun Zuckers) and Pat Proft (who also did Bachelor Party, Real Genius, Hot Shots – also a Zuckers production – but also the last two Scary Movies), and directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who gave us the criminally underated Undercover Brother and you feel sorry for all parties involved. It’s as if these guys forgot how to do parody. But this is coming from a guy who loves The Kentucky Fried Movie (which is basically a live-action precursor to Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken).

G.I. Joe: Retaliation began what can best be described as the first installment of 2013’s “Dwayne Johnson Experience,” an experience that will follow with Pain & Gain this weekend and Fast & Furious 6 at the end of May. Sorry, I don’t include Snitch in the discussion, because the three films already mentioned are Johnson at his Rock-sold, action-heavy best. The good news for Hasbro and Paramount is that Retaliation will eclipse the success of Rise of Cobra, but it’s disappointing that something billed as “a real American hero” is connecting better overseas.

Getting a thousand-screen boost for its nationwide expansion, The Place Beyond the Pines may not have had the best per-screen average (only a slight increase to his previous “arthosue” weekend), but Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper aren’t at a point in their careers where audiences will gladly pay to see a two-and-a-half hour crime drama without the added clout of “Oscar Buzz.” And by naming the film after the story’s setting, director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) missed a golden opportunity by attracting more eyes with something more catchy, like Sins of the Father.

Olympus Has Fallen out of the top five but may finish at or above $100 million after all. Way to go, Gerard Butler. You needed a hit in the biggest way. For young studio FilmDistrict it is its biggest domestic release yet and should perform well as a rental and purchase on home video. Horror remake Evil Dead ($4.1 million) and 3D conversion Jurassic Park ($4 million) are making their way down the list. Evil Dead seems to have missed the boat, but with a sequel already planned who knows where the series(?) is headed. As for Jurassic Park, the nostalgia fan reaction couldn’t carry it beyond making $50 million before exiting the top ten. And by this time next week you can say goodbye to Oz The Great and Powerful. It will be gone from the top ten discussion.

Little new releases worth noting: Home Run debuted on 381 screens and scored a per-screen average of $4,260. Even better is Lionsgate’s Filly Brown. Debuting on 188 screens, the drama netted $1.3 million and had the second-best per-screen average of the top ten releases, edging out WB’s 42.

On tap for the weekend we have Pain & Gain, the awful-looking ensemble comedy The Big Wedding, plus a few indie gems worth your attention: Mud starring Matthew McConaughey and At Any Price from Sony Pictures Classics and featuring Dennis Quaid at the top of his game. Yes, his performance here is even better than his time spent inside Martin Short in Innerspace.


Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for April 19 – April 21, 2013

1. Oblivion (Universal) – $38.15 MILLION

2. 42 (Warner Bros.) – $18 MILLION ($54 mil. cume)

3. The Croods (Fox/Dreamworks) – $9.5 MILLION ($154.9 mil. cume)

4. Scary Movie 5 (The Weinstein Company) – $6.3 MILLION ($22.9 mil. cume)

5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount) – $5.77 MILLION ($111.2 mil. cume)

6. The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus) – $4.7 MILLION ($11.4 mil. cume)

7. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) – $4.5 MILLION ($88.8 mil. cume)

8. Evil Dead (Sony) – $4.1 MILLION ($48.4 mil. cume)

9. Jurassic Park 3D (Universal) – $4.0 MILLION ($38.4 mil. cume)

10. Oz The Great And Powerful (Disney) – $3 MILLION ($223.7 mil. cume)

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