Weekend Report: Audiences Travel to 'Elysium' Over Crowded Weekend
by Ray Subers
August 11, 2013
On a very busy weekend for new releases, Elysium took first place with $29.8 million. The real winner, though, was road trip comedy We're the Millers, which did surprisingly strong business. Meanwhile, Planes got off to a fine start, while Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters opened way below its predecessor.
Overall, the Top 12 earned $142.3 million, which is up seven percent from last year. The four new nationwide releases alone combined for $92.9 million, which is a very high figure for the month of August. Elysium's $29.8 million opening was noticeably lower than a handful of strong comparative titles. It was off from 2013 original sci-fi movies Pacific Rim and Oblivion (both over $37 million), and was only narrowly ahead of huge disappointment After Earth ($27.5 million). It was also down from director Neill Blomkamp's first movie, District 9 ($37.4 million). That movie had no stars, and Blomkamp was still an unknown entity, though District 9 did benefit from having Peter Jackson attached as producer (not to mention the movie's amazing marketing effort, which Elysium unsuccessfully tried to replicate).
On the surface, this isn't a bad start: its Matt Damon's best debut since the Bourne franchise ended, and original R-rated sci-fi isn't exactly an easy sell. Still, it is disappointing that it fell so far short of District 9, and a weak "B" CinemaScore suggests its long-term prospects aren't strong. It will likely fall short of $100 million at the domestic box office, which would make it the fourth expensive Sony movie this Summer to miss that mark (along with After Earth, White House Down and The Smurfs 2).
Some people have suggested that the underwhelming debut has to do with the movie's health care politics. That wasn't really the focus of the marketing, though, and instead the movie was sold on its sci-fi action and its bleak view of the future. This wound up turning off female moviegoers, who only represented 39 percent of the movie's audience. It also didn't generate a ton of interest among older crowds, as only 48 percent were 30 years of age or older.
One positive was the movie's IMAX business—Elysium earned $4.9 million from the premium large-format screens, which is an all-time high among August releases. We're the Millers opened to $26.4 million, which was good for second place this weekend. That's actually a higher opening weekend than Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express, both of which debuted on a Wednesday in August. Including Wednesday and Thursday, Millers has already earned $37.9 million.
A lot of different areas came together nicely to contribute to this movie's success. First, it had a clearly-articulated, interesting premise that was rife with potential laughs. It also had an appealing cast—yes , Jennifer Aniston has a few misses, but overall her box office track record is strong—and a great release date (the last major comedy, The Heat, opened seven weeks ago).
The movie's audience was 51 percent male and 61 percent over the age of 25. It received a good "A-" CinemaScore, and its good hold throughout the five-day start suggests that word-of-mouth is strong. If it plays out like Tropic Thunder—which is possible, but not probable—it will ultimately earn well over $100 million. Cars spin-off Planes was supposed to be a direct-to-video release, but Disney instead opted to open it at 3,702 locations this weekend. The movie earned $22.2 million, which is a fine opening even if it is only a fraction of the Cars movies (both over $60 million). It is at least the highest start ever for an animated movie in August—though there isn't much competition—though it's also the third-straight family title that opened below $25 million.
August is a tough time to release an animated movie: most families are getting in to "back to school" mode, and have already been hit up for hundreds of millions of dollars from premium fare earlier in the Summer. This might not have been the best year to test the waters in August, given the fact that this Summer was so jam-packed to begin with. Still, Planes didn't cost a ton of money to make, and will likely earn Disney a few bucks before all is said and done (they already have Planes: Fire and Rescue set for next Summer).
The audience was 51 percent male (unusual for an animated movie) and was made up mostly of families (85 percent). It received an "A-" CinemaScore, and without any competition for a few weeks it should hold up well. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters earned $14.4 million this weekend, which is less than half of the first Percy's $31.2 million start. Adding in the Wednesday/Thursday grosses gets Percy's five-day start to $23.3 million, which is still way off from its predecessor. This drop can be attributed to the first movie's lukewarm reception, and the fact that it's been three-and-a-half years since that entry (Harry Potter and Twilight never went more than two years between outings). Ultimately, Sea of Monsters is an international play—with the addition of 3D, it's hard to imagine that it doesn't at least match the first movie's $137 million.
Last weekend's leader 2 Guns didn't fare well against two new R-rated movies; the Denzel Washington/Mark Wahlberg action comedy plummeted 58 percent to $11.2 million. To date, it's earned $48.6 million, and is on pace to ultimately be one of Washington's lower-grossing movies as of late. The Smurfs 2 fell 47 percent to $9.3 million. Through 12 days it has grossed $46.5 million, and is going to wind up earning significantly less than the first movie's $142.6 million.
In its third weekend, The Wolverine lost over 1,000 theaters and dropped 62 percent to $8.02 million. Its total reached $112 million, and it is now guaranteed to be the lowest-grossing X-Men movie yet at the domestic box office. Blue Jasmine expanded to 116 locations and earned $2.35 million this weekend. That translates to a fantastic $19,709 per-theater average, which is higher than Midnight in Paris's third weekend average (though Midnight was playing at more locations). Blue Jasmine will expand again this coming weekend before going nationwide on August 23rd. Chennai Express opened to an estimated $2.2 million from 196 locations this weekend, which is the highest debut ever for a Bollywood movie. It also ranks sixth all-time among foreign language movies, though that's skewed by the fact that many foreign movies initially open in only a handful of locations. Lovelace debuted at 118 theaters this weekend and earned just $184,536. As with Only God Forgives, though, this will do a ton of business on VOD, so the box office isn't necessarily indicative of its ultimate success. Around-the-World Roundup The Smurfs 2 topped the foreign box office this weekend with $34.6 million. The movie is holding well in Europe, though with only $110 million in the bank so far it's hard to imagine this winds up anywhere near the first movie's $421 million total.
Opening in its final international territories, Pacific Rim earned $33 million this weekend. It added $21.8 million in China for a new total of $76.5 million, which makes it Warner Bros.'s highest-grossing movie ever in that market. Its new markets weren't nearly as impressive, though. It opened to just $3 million in Japan, which is very disappointing considering the general appeal of robots vs. monsters in that territory. It also opened in second place in Brazil ($2.3 million) and Spain ($1.3 million), neither of which are very noteworthy debuts.
To date, Pacific Rim has earned $247.4 million overseas. The movie should ultimately get to around $300 million overseas, assuming China doesn't kick it off all its screens in the next week. The Wolverine added $18 million this weekend for a new total of $194.7 million. Based on its current pace, it should become the highest-grossing X-Men movie ($225 million) before expanding in to Japan next month. The Lone Ranger reached a handful of major European markets, though its fortunes didn't take a major turn for the better. It opened to $3.3 million in France, $2.8 million in Germany, and a very weak $2 million in the U.K. Overall, it earned $14.5 million this weekend for a new total of $108.9 million. The Lone Ranger still has Spain and China on the way, though that won't be enough to get the movie near $200 million.
Surprise hit Now You See Me had another strong weekend ($13.3 million), and has now grossed $140 million overseas. Its only new market was Australia, where it took first place with a very good $3.8 million. Despicable Me 2 added $12.2 million from 53 territories to push its foreign total to $407.5 million. It has so far banked $745.8 million worldwide, and still has Russia, South Korea and Italy on the way.
Coinciding with its domestic debut, Elysium opened to $10.9 million in a few overseas markets. Most of that tally came in Russia, where the movie earned a strong $6.8 million. Next weekend, it expands in to Australia, France, Germany and Spain. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters debuted to $9.8 million in six markets, which included $3.3 million in the U.K. and $2.7 million in Mexico. According to Fox, all of the openings were significantly higher than those from the first Percy, which went on to earn over $137 million overseas in 2010.