'Aeon Flux' Flounders at High End of Low Expectations

by Brandon Gray
Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux
December 5, 2005

Aeon Flux sashayed past low expectations, but the post-Thanksgiving weekend suffered its traditional slump as wide holdovers dropped 55 percent on average.

Overall business was a smidgen behind the comparable weekend last year, which had no new wide releases. Year-to-date, 2005 reached $8 billion, trailing 2004 by seven percent and 2003 and 2002 by four percent each through the same point.

Aeon Flux emitted $12.7 million from 2,608 locations, and distributor Paramount Pictures' exit polls indicated that 58 percent of the audience was male and 55 percent was over 25 years old.

The sci-fi action picture based on the 1990s MTV cartoon of the same name cost over $60 million to make, and it marked star Charlize Theron's first foray into the genre as well as her first solo above-the-title billing. Theron signed an eight-figure deal for the role shortly before winning the Best Actress Oscar for Monster.

"Aeon Flux was actually on the high end of what we expected it to be," said Paramount's head of distribution, Wayne Lewellen. "I thought it would be $10 million to $12 million. It's fortunate that we positioned it as the only new wide release this weekend, and the marketing campaign seemed to reach the audience we were going after. The fact that it's sci-fi action makes it a little bit different in the marketplace right now."

The post-Thanksgiving frame is known for its leftovers, and sometimes the studios don't bother to release a new movie nationwide. Paramount saw an opening this year. "I think if you look at what's coming into the marketplace, on virtually every week you have some major anticipated box office hit, and this was the last week we had to ourselves," Lewellen explained, noting that teens and young adults are usually free at this time but older audiences tend to be preoccupied with Christmas shopping.

To come in at the high end of low expectations is nothing to crow about, though, and Aeon Flux seemed commercially doomed from its inception. Sci-fi movies frequently miss with the masses when they deal with dystopian future societies, in part, because their marketing often lacks a context to be relevant beyond the spectacle. Count The Island, Serenity, Judge Dredd and Equilibrium among Aeon Flux's fellow box office casualties from the genre.

In recent years, the action heroine sub-genre has bombarded audiences to the point of parody. Replete with the tight outfit and computer-enhanced stunts, Aeon Flux looked no different than Catwoman, Elektra and their ilk in its ads.

By default, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became the first picture of the year to spend three weekends at No. 1. Like most family pictures do following Thanksgiving, it lost the majority of its audience, down 64 percent to $19.9 million for a $229.3 million tally in 17 days. It's still on track to become the second highest grossing picture of the franchise, behind the first movie.

Keira Knightley
Enjoying the most modest decline among wide releases, Pride and Prejudice waned 39 percent to $4.4 million. After 24 days, the Jane Austen adaptation has collected $22.4 million.

Syriana showed further promise in limited release, extracting $521,420 from nine theaters for a $57,935 per site average. With $1.3 million after 12 days, Warner Bros.' political thriller is scheduled to roll out to around 1,750 locations on Friday.

11/28/05 - 'Goblet' Gobbles 'Rent'
7/25/05 - 'Island' Deserted
1/18/05 - 'Elektra' Tragic

Action Heroine
MTV at the Movies
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, Dec. 4 and was updated on Monday, Dec. 5 with actual grosses.

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New MPAA Ratings Added