Weekend Report: 'Fast' Falls, Magicians Make Will Smith Disappear
After flying high over Memorial Day, the box office came crashing down this weekend. All of the major holdovers fell over 50 percent, while After Earth opened on track with recent sci-fi bombs like John Carter and Battleship. The only bright spot was Now You See Me, which opened way above expectations.

Similar to the other recent movies in its franchise, Fast & Furious 6 took its foot off the gas pedal in its second weekend. The movie plummeted 64 percent to $35.2 million; while that was enough for first place, it still indicates that the movie won't be able to take the franchise to the next level box office-wise. To date, Fast 6 has earned a very strong $171 million.

In second place, magician caper Now You See Me opened to a very good $29.3 million. That's the biggest non-Twilight debut ever for Summit Entertainment, which was acquired by Lionsgate in early 2012. The opening is particularly impressive given the overwhelming competition from holdovers and the tendency of magician movies to underperform (The Prestige and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone as examples).

Lionsgate/Summit made a risky move by scheduling Now You See Me on the weekend after what was always expected to be a massive Memorial Day. How could a comparatively-modest magician flick get any traction against some of the biggest movies of the year? As it turns out, this was a classic counterprogramming play: following a barrage of franchise fare, the movie's fun, original premise felt like a breath of fresh air. It doesn't hurt that Now You See Me had a broadly-appealing cast that included Morgan Freeman, whose box office credentials have been reinforced this year thanks to the performance of Olympus Has Fallen and Oblivion (a fact that Lionsgate surely was aware of when they made the move to center TV ads around Freeman).

The audience for Now You See Me was split about even by gender (51 percent female) and skewed a bit younger (52 percent under 30 years of age). With good word-of-mouth ("A-" CinemaScore), the movie should play well in the coming weeks, though it probably won't come close to reaching $100 million.

Will and Jaden Smith's sci-fi adventure After Earth wound up in third place this weekend with a very disappointing $27.5 million. That's in between last year's notorious sci-fi bombs John Carter ($30.2 million) and Battleship ($25.5 million). It's also half of MIB 3 ($54.6 million) and The Karate Kid ($55.7 million), which were the last two movies from Will and Jaden, respectively.

As is the case with many bombs, the explanation for After Earth's poor start is quite simple: the movie just didn't look all that appealing. While director M. Night Shyamalan's name was hidden in the marketing, he does have to take some of the blame for the movie's bland, paint-by-numbers appearance. Also, while Will Smith is clearly a major star, his presence didn't help much because his role here as a stoic, incapacitated soldier was devoid of the charisma and energy that audiences expect from him.

The audience was 51 percent male and 60 percent were 25 years of age or older. They gave the movie a "B" CinemaScore, which suggests middling word-of-mouth that should keep the movie from holding on well. Add in the fact that Man of Steel is on the immediate horizon, and it's unlikely that After Earth winds up with more than $70 million or so.

After Earth debuts in most overseas next weekend, and Sony is hoping that Will Smith's international drawing power will help make up for the limp domestic debut. Over $200 million should be doable, though that still puts After Earth firmly in the John Carter/Battleship realm.

Star Trek Into Darkness took fourth place this weekend with $16.8 million (off 55 percent). Through 18 days, Into Darkness has earned $181.5 million, which trails the 2009 movie by under $10 million.

Meanwhile, Epic fell 50 percent to $16.6 million, and has earned $65.2 million to date. It has two more weekends before Monsters University opens, which might not be enough time to keep it from becoming Blue Sky Animation's lowest-grossing movie ever behind Robots ($128.2 million).

In sixth place, The Hangover Part III plummeted 61 percent to $16.4 million. Its $88.5 million 11-day total is less than half of Part II's total through the same point, and is also lower than the first Hangover ($110.3 million). It now looks like Part III is poised to close around $120 million, which is an awful drop from the franchise's previous $250 million benchmark.

Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani opened in ninth place with an impressive $1.57 million at 161 theaters.

Frances Ha crept in to the Top 12 this weekend with an estimated $552,000 from 133 locations, while Before Midnight expanded to 31 theaters and grossed $404,311. The East and The Kings of Summer both opened to modest results at four locations each: The East grossed $77,031, while Kings earned $58,962.

Around-the-World Roundup

While domestic audiences have rejected the third Hangover movie, international audiences are embracing it: the movie grossed $82.3 million from 54 markets this weekend for an early total of $110.7 million. Its highest-grossing new market was Germany with $15 million (a new record for U.S. comedies) followed by Russia ($9.3 million), Italy ($7.6 million), France ($5.4 million), Austria ($3.1 million), Spain ($2.8 million) and the Netherlands ($2.1 million). Across all of these territories, Part III had a higher start than Part II—that movie ultimately earned over $332 million overseas, which now appears to be a possibility for Part III as well.

Fast & Furious 6 dipped 49 percent to $75 million for an excellent $310.2 million overseas total. It's already out-grossed the first four Fast movies, and will pass Fast Five ($416 million) in the next few weeks. Fast 6 still has openings in Australia (June 6), Japan (July 6) and China (July) on the horizon, and a final total around $500 million appears within reach.

Star Trek Into Darkness added $37.6 million this weekend; most of that came from China, where the movie opened to an incredible $25 million (nearly triple the lifetime gross of the 2009 movie there). It also had a strong $5 million debut in South Korea. It's already topped its predecessor with $147.4 million total so far, and it still has Japan, Brazil, France, Italy and Spain on the way.

Epic grossed $28.3 million this weekend, which includes a very good $7.9 million start in Russia. To date, it's earned $84.8 million, and continues to look like it's going to be one of the lower-grossing animated movies in recent memory.

The Great Gatsby continued its solid foreign run by adding $22.6 million this weekend. In director Baz Luhrman's home country Australia, the movie opened to $6.7 million, and it also debuted to $1.9 million in Mexico. It's now earned $120 million, and Warner Bros. reports that it's tracking on par with Sex and the City 2 ($195 million total).

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This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2012 - 'Snow White' Takes Big Bite Out of Box Office Apple

• 2011 - 'First Class' Ranks Last Among 'X-Men'
• 2010 - 'Shrek' Reigns Over Meager Parade Again

• 2009 - 'Up' Lifts Pixar to Tenth Smash

• 2007 - 'Pirates' Sinks, 'Knocked Up' Scores

• 2006 - Exes Exceed 'X-Men'

• 2005 - 'Cinderella Man' Pulls a Punch, 'Madagascar' Claims Weekend Title

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