Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ender's Game Bakes Some Old Turkeys at the Box Office

Scott looks at the aftermath of the battle between the chosen one, old guys, and turkeys.

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Another franchise attempt has debuted in theatres on Friday, and studio executives waited nervously for the numbers to start rolling in for a possible billion dollar franchise. There have been many attempts at this over the course of 2013, with movies trying to gain a foothold strong enough to launch a series. We also saw a sequel to a second attempt at the Percy Jackson franchise try but fail to seriously establish the series. It is a noble task attempted by many, so let us see how Ender’s Game, the movie based on the book by Orson Scott Card, was able to make out this weekend.

When Ender’s Game was entering the weekend, there was much hope that it would be able to hit the $35 million dollar mark, and at one point on Friday the indicators were pointing to this being extremely feasible. However, as the numbers started to filter in it looked less and less likely that it would be able to even hit the $30 million mark. There could be a number of reasons for the performance. Firstly, it is possible that audiences just were not clamoring for this to be made into a movie, or knew nothing about the source material at all. Secondly, there is a lack of marquee talent to bring out the fence sitters. This is not needed for extremely popular source material (Twilight and Hunger Games) but could have been very helpful in this case. Thirdly, perhaps the boycotts against the movie actually had an effect. A number of people have taken exception to the views that Orson Scott Card has on homosexuality and made sure that was remembered when this film came out. While many may be able to separate the views of the author from the story (which does not advocate his views) it could be that a number of movie goers felt otherwise. Still, it did manage to take first place this weekend with an estimated $28 million, and will most likely suffer a massive drop next weekend when Thor brings his hammer down on the box office.

Coming in third place this weekend was newcomer Last Vegas, a film about a group of older friends heading off to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. This concept is a fairly safe one as audiences do like movies about ‘one last time with the boys,’ such as Grown Ups and The Hangover. Also, there is a crowd for movies with older ensemble casts, and this cast is a very intriguing one, with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Michael Douglas. It was able to take in $16 million its opening weekend, which is not bad considering it had a modest budget of $28 million. While it did not score well with critics (45% on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences showed a greater appreciation for the film and gave it 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and a CinemaScore of A-. This will be one movie that should be safe from the destruction of Thor, as it will be serving an older crowd that may not be as giddy about hammer smashing Norsemen.

Squeaking in behind Last Vegas was Free Birds, an animated film about turkeys who have the benefit of cashing in on the upcoming bird-consuming holiday. It also had the benefit of being released over a month since the previous family animated film, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, and that would keep the competition level fairly low. However, it was not able to make the most of the positive circumstances and ended up taking in only $16 million. While that number is good for Last Vegas, it is not good for Free Birds who has about twice the budget of the gentlemanly ensemble film. It has until November 27th when the next family animated movie, Frozen, comes along to diminish its gains. As well, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is still in a decent amount of theatres and may over time filter a bit of money away from Free Birds.

The big story on the limited release front is the continuing success of 12 Years a Slave, which expanded to 410 theatres this weekend and made an average of $11,000 per theatre. This is very encouraging for the movie whose content around the harsh reality of slavery may not attract the average theatre goer. It was able to pull in $4.7 million this weekend, placing it in seventh in the box office, and bringing its domestic total to $8.9 million.

The debuting Dallas Buyer’s Club opened in 9 theatres and was able to bring in the highest theatre average this weekend of $29,333 per theatre. While this number is great, I did read somewhere that the Canadian screenings really held that average down, and that if it was just based on the American theatres the average would be $35,000 per theatre. Personally, I hope that bit of financial information does not drastically shape how they expand the movie, because I am dying to see it, as it boasts Oscar worthy performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. If all goes well, it should be making some decent expansions as it tries to solidify itself as an Oscar contender.

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