Two major new releases had fine openings this weekend, though they weren't strong enough to resurrect a depressed domestic box office.
The fifth Resident Evil movie took first place, though it was a bit disappointing by series standards, while Finding Nemo (3D) reinforced the notion that 3D re-releases have limited potential. The main bright spots this weekend came from the specialty market, with Arbitrage and The Master scoring impressive debuts in limited release. Overall, the Top 12 earned $69 million, which is the second-worst weekend of the year and is off 20 percent from the same frame last year.
While it's easy to say that Resident Evil's slightly underwhelming performance can be attributed to the slow overall marketplace, it's more likely that sequel-itis is to blame. Dating back to MIB 3 at the end of May, there have been at least 10 sequels/reboots, and only three of these 10 opened higher than their predecessors. In each of these cases it was by a negligible amount—The Dark Knight Rises at $160.9 million compared to The Dark Knight's $158.4 million, for example—and the more likely scenario is that the sequels experience noticeable declines. This pattern isn't going to quell sequel production, though, considering how franchise titles like Resident Evil: Retribution continue to show noticeable growth overseas.
The audience was 64 percent male, and 55 percent were 25 years of age or older. Regular 3D showings accounted for 48 percent of ticket sales, while IMAX 3D contributed 14 percent and other large format showings contributed 4 percent. Resident Evil: Retribution received a terrible "C+" CinemaScore, and will likely plummet next weekend against four new releases.
In second place, Finding Nemo (3D) earned $16.7 million from 2,904 locations. That doesn't compare favorably to The Lion King's 3D re-release, which opened to $30.2 million on the same weekend last year. It was also a bit lower than Beauty and the Beast (3D)'s $17.8 million.
It's now abundantly clear that The Lion King's performance last year was a fluke. At the time, the notion of a 3D re-release was still fresh and exciting, and The Lion King (3D) felt timely given the movie's imminent Blu-ray release. Audiences have been hit with three 3D re-releases in the year since, meaning the novelty value has definitely worn off. It also hurts that Finding Nemo's original release was only nine years ago (as opposed to 17 for The Lion King), and nearly every family has a copy of the DVD floating around somewhere. Considering it's an insanely cheap conversion (definitely less than $10 million) and they didn't market it too aggressively, Disney will ultimately turn a profit, though it's hard to imagine these animated 3D re-releases ever really having a noticeable impact on the bottom line.
As expected, a large portion (71 percent) of the audience was families, and it skewed female (56 percent) as well. 3D showings accounted for 96 percent of ticket sales, which is pretty standard for 3D re-releases.
Two-time champion The Possession eased 38 percent to $5.8 million, for a new total of $41.1 million. Lawless dipped just 28 percent to $4.35 million, bringing its total to $30.3 million. The Expendables 2 rounded out the Top Five with $3.15 million, for a new total of $80.4 million.
Following its terrible debut last weekend, The Words fell 40 percent to $2.86 million this weekend. Through 10 days, the Bradley Cooper romantic drama has earned just $9.1 million.
Playing in 197 locations, Arbitrage cracked the Top 12 with just over $2 million. Its $10,163 per-theater average was a bit better than last Fall's Margin Call ($10,034) even though it's playing in over three times as many locations. Arbitrage will ultimately out-gross Margin Call's $5.35 million, and it could even wind up with more than $10 million. Last Ounce of Courage opened in 15th place with an atrocious $1.59 million from 1,407 locations. Unlike many Christian movies which rely primarily on word-of-mouth, Last Ounce actually ran commercials in major markets like Los Angeles (where a movie like this usually doesn't even open), which means this is probably a pretty serious financial disappointment.
Paul Thomas Anderson's highly-anticipated period drama The Master opened to an incredible $736,311 from just five theaters (three in New York and two in Los Angeles). That translates to a per-theater average of $147,262, which tops Moonrise Kingdom's $130,749 to claim the title of highest average ever for a live-action movie (with the exception of Red State, which needs an asterisk due to its unconventional and insanely expensive Radio City Music Hall debut). Unlike most buzz-worthy art-house movies that gradually platform, The Master will go from five theaters this weekend to a nationwide release (600+ locations) on Friday.
Nicolas Cage's downfall continued this weekend: his latest movie, Stolen, grossed just $183,125 from 141 theaters. That is about on par with March's Seeking Justice ($249,912 from 231 venues), and combined it marks a sad year for former A-lister Cage.