Box Office: After Earth‘s $27 Million Opening Proves That Will Smith Is No Longer Mr. Blockbuster

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Remember when I used to rule the summer blockbuster?

As I stated in my review of Furious 6 last week, I have no guilt in enjoying the Fast and Furious series. Even if you don’t like the series you at least have to be awestruck that the series continues to be not only prevalent but sees its gross returns continue to rise with each new installment. When Justin Lin boarded the franchise with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift he had no Vin Diesel (minus a cameo that was probably shot very late into production) and no Paul Walker. What he did have was Lucas Black, most remembered as the kid who befriended Billy Bob Thornton in the Oscar-winning Sling Blade. That film collected $158 million globally. Not bad for the third entry in the series without its two principal stars. Seven years later, Lin’s Furious 6 has a domestic gross of $171 million within its first eleven days of release. And even with the release of a new Will Smith film, a movie star who has been Mr. Blockbuster when summer rolls around – having had six summertime releases gross $50 million or more in their respective opening weekends – Furious 6 held its ground holding on to the #1 spot for the second weekend in a row, adding another $34.5 million to bring its worldwide total to $480.5 million.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker may be the stars of the franchise, but apart they just aren’t worth studio investment. No offense to each actor, but they work better as a tag team than as singles competitors (to put a wrestling angle on it). And speaking of wrestling, maybe the reason the series has taken off is because of the addition of Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock”.

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I specifically ordered a Pepsi Zero, not a Diet Pepsi. I’d like to speak with my lawyer.

While I’m skeptical as to how Now You See Me cost a reported $75 million, it was able to buck industry expectations and over perform its opening weekend. With a premise like magicians robbing people, what’s not to like? Throw in some familiar faces some action theatrics by Louis Letterier of The Transporter 1 & 2 and you have a recipe for success. That’s not to say that stars Isla Fisher and James Franco are ready for prime-time, but it does help Jesse Eisenberg’s rep, having slowly risen in the ranks appearing in such films as Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, not to mention picking up an Oscar nomination for his portrayal as Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. And it’s good to see Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman collecting paychecks in between gigs with director Christopher Nolan.

As for After Earth, the Will Smith vehicle that fizzled at launch, what does its $27 million opening tell us? Is it the fault of Will Smith insistence of reteaming with his son, Jaden (they previously starred in The Pursuit of Happyness), or the fact that the film was co-written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (yes, “Mr. Twist”). Ah, I bet some out there were surprised to see his name in the credits. Studio Sony Pictures did its best to hide Shyamalan’s name in the advertising as a preventive measure so audiences get deflated. But poor Will Smith. Not doing his fans any favors by starring in a turkey like this, it certainly is a weak moment. It’s as if Sony entrusted the film to the Smiths, both of whom made the studio a ton of money due to the Men in Black franchise with Will and The Karate Kid remake with Jaden. And yet another poor ad campaign failed to come together, obscuring the fact that After Earth is more a Jaden Smith picture than a Will Smith picture.

With the Memorial Day Weekend having past, several holdovers took a tumble, but the strongest ones to be part of the top five were CG-animated Epic and Star Trek: Into Darkness. Until Pixar drops Monsters University into theaters, Fox will hope to get as much money from parents who take their kids to see an animated adventure about a teenage girl who is shrunk and encounters a leafy adventure. JJ Abrams’ Star Trek sequel should be docking in at $200 million in probably a week and a half. It did much better than The Hangover Part III, in which word-of-mouth killed its US returns. Overseas, though, it is performing strongly and should prove profitable, once the studio, stars and director divide up the cheddar. A month after its debut, Iron Man 3 looks to wind down, ultimately finishing around $400 million.

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is easing down to the bottom of the top ten. No matter. The film has been a green beacon of success for Warner Bros. who gambled and had it released as counterprogramming to the traditional summer blockbusters. (That should read expensive counterprogramming.) Luhrmann’s biggest hit did just enough to stay above the Bollywood release Yeh Jawaani Hai Dew, which peformed extremely well collecting $1.6 million from just 162 locations. Meanwhile, not enough good things can be said about Mud, a cheap, offbeat release from Roadside Attractions that continues to be in the the top 10 discussion talk, having made $16.8 million in six weeks. This despite a small budget and lower profile (yes, even with a star like Matthew McConaughey attached).

In limited release, newcomers The East and The Kings of Summer made $75.6k and $58k respectively. Expanding to new locations holdover Frances Ha was the strongest of the bunch with $552k. Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight wasn’t that much more behind. It collected $431k at only 31 theaters. While I can’t speak for Frances Ha I will say to definitely find a theater that is showing Before Midnight. It’s the best film in current release and it’s the first film of 2013 that I’ve awarded with a perfect 4 out of 4. And if you know my reviews you know I don’t hand those out often. So, yeah. Go see it, ASAP.


Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for May 31 – June 2, 2013

1. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) – $34.5 MILLION ($170.3 mil. cume)

2. Now You See Me (Summit Entertainment) – $28 MILLION

3. After Earth (Sony Pictures) – $27 MILLION

4. Star Trek: Into Darkness (Paramount) – $16.4 MILLION ($181 mil. cume)

5. Epic (Fox) – $16.4 MILLION ($65 mil. cume)

6. The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.) – $15.9 MILLION ($88 mil. cume)

7. Iron Man 3 (Disney) – $8 MILLION ($384.7 mil. cume)

8. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.) – $6.2 MILLION ($128.2 mil. cume)

9. Yei Jawaani Hai Deewani (Eros) – $1.6 MILLION

10. Mud (Roadside Attractions) – $1.2 MILLION ($16.8 mil. cume)

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