After holding the top position at the box office for three weeks, femme-fueled “The Other Woman” has beat superhero blockbuster “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” for the No. 1 spot in its opening weekend.
Fox’s raunchy revenge comedy, starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton, debuted with $24.7 million, while Disney-Marvel’s “Captain America,” led by Chris Evans, grossed $16 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $225 million.
Sony’s faith-based “Heaven Is for Real” held the third place position with $13.8 million after opening in the same slot last weekend behind leaders “Captain America” and Fox’s animated “Rio 2,” which drifted down to fourth place with $13.7 million.
Relativity Media’s action crime drama “Brick Mansions,” starring the late Paul Walker, was No. 5 with $9.6 million.
Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office
1. “The Other Woman” – $24.7 M
2. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – $16.0 M
3. “Heaven is for Real” – $13.8 M
4. “Rio 2” – $13.7 M
5. “Brick Mansions” – $9.6 M
6. “Transcendence” – $4.1 M
7. “The Quiet Ones” – $4.0 M
8. “Bears” – $3.61 M
9. “Divergent” – $3.6 M
10. “A Haunted House 2” – $3.3 M
EXCLUSIVE: The Stars of “The Other Woman” Answer Your Unscripted Questions (VIDEO)
It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who owns his own island. Still, poor Johnny Depp. His sci-fi thriller “Transcendence” should have been one of the biggest hits of the spring… but then the reviews came in.
Pundits lowered their expectations for its debut, from the 30s to between $18 and $25 million. And then, when the smoke cleared this weekend, the $100-million movie opened with just an estimated $11.2 million, debuting in fourth place behind a three-week-old superhero sequel, a two-week-old cartoon sequel, and a Christian-themed movie starring Greg Kinnear. That’s gotta hurt.
How did “Transcendence” go from sure-thing blockbuster to limping into a fourth-place debut? Here are some reasons, and unlike the ageless Depp, they ain’t pretty.
Making a brainy blockbuster is harder than it sounds. Remember, it’s been just 15 years since the Wachowskis first proved it could be done, with “The Matrix,” and even they couldn’t keep it up (with their two windy sequels, not to mention the movies they’ve made since). Still, Christopher Nolan has been pretty consistent at it, with his “Dark Knight” trilogy” and “inception” proving that you can deliver the action spectacle that draws crowds without making them check their brains at the door. So it seemed sensible to think that Nolan’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister, could do the same with “Transcendence,” his directing debut. Alas, not so; critics give it credit for smarts and striking visuals, but not storytelling or pace, which are what get viewers to the ticket window in the first place.
Reviews matter. That’s the other issue with the brainy blockbuster. You’re generally chasing an older audience, and they do read what the critics say, and they actually base their moviegoing decisions accordingly.
Depp’s on a downslide. Domestically, at least. Last year’s “Lone Ranger” was a colossal dud at the domestic box office, and it followed weak numbers for such Depp vehicles as “Dark Shadows,” “The Rum Diary,” and “The Tourist.” Unless Depp is wearing the Mad Hatter’s hat or Capt. Jack Sparrow’s eye shadow, he’s not a big box office draw in America anymore.
Even so, there was only a dab of Depp. He was billed as the movie’s main draw, but he’s actually not in it very much, once the plot has him upload his consciousness into a computer. And while his supporting cast is made up of fine actors (Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara), none but Morgan Freeman has any kind of a ticket-buying following of fans.
It was a busy weekend. “Transcendence” was one of four new wide-release movies this weekend. Plus, it had to compete against some still-strong holdovers, notably, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Rio 2,” both of which pulled in more than $22 million this weekend.
Direct competition: Depp vs. Cap. The “Captain America” sequel is one film that has managed to pull off the brainy-blockbuster bid; critics are praising it as a serious and timely political allegory, and when’s the last time anyone could say that about a comic-book superhero movie? So it was competing against “Transcendence” not just for older male genre fans but for the food-for-thought viewers as well. Given the film’s momentum — the movie declined just 35 percent from a week ago, a very modest slide for a superhero movie in its third week, to finish in first place with an estimated $26.6 million — “Cap 2” was going to be the thinking person’s blockbuster-of-choice this weekend unless “Transcendence” offered such viewers a much better alternative.
Direct competition: Depp vs. God. The biggest success story of the week is “Heaven Is For Real,” an inspired-by-real-life drama about a dad (Greg Kinnear) who grapples with issues of faith when his little boy comes back from a near-death experience with an account of the afterlife. The movie, heavily touted to Christian audiences and marketed with group presales to church congregants, opened in third place with an estimated $21.5 million, for a total of $28.5 million since its Wednesday debut.
And it’s just one of three movies currently in the top 10 that have attracted church audiences and mainstream viewers alike by grappling seriously with big theological issues; the others are “Noah” (No. 9 this week with an estimated $5.0 million, for a four-week total of $93.3 million) and “God’s Not Dead” (No. 10 with an estimated $4.8 million, for a five-week total of $48.3 million). All three of these movies are chasing the same older viewers that “Transcendence” is. Plus, it’s Easter weekend, so viewers looking for a moviegoing experience that lives up to the name “Transcendence” may be more likely to choose transcendence of the spiritual variety than the technological/metaphysical kind.
Again, it’s hard to shed any tears for Depp, whose movies still do much better overseas than they do here. “Lone Ranger” earned $171 million, or 66 percent of its grosses, in foreign markets, and already, “Transcendence” has taken in $17.4 million abroad, for 61 percent of its total take. Still, in Depp’s homeland, an $11.2 million, fourth-place debut for a $100 million movie that’s the latest in a string of stateside flops is not the sign of a healthy career. If he wants to keep making movies besides “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Alice in Wonderland” sequels, he’ll have to transcend his recent domestic box office numbers.
Directed by longtime Christopher Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister, the Warner Bros. film is Depp’s second consecutive box office disappointment. He played Tonto in last summer’s “The Lone Ranger” – one of the biggest flops of 2013.
Another newcomer, the religious film “Heaven Is for Real,” debuted in third place over Easter weekend, while another sequel, “Rio 2,” held on to the second spot.
“The Winter Soldier” set a box-office record as the biggest April release ever when it opened with more than $96 million domestically. Starring Chris Evans as comic book hero Capt. America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, the Disney release has earned more than $200 million to date in North America – the 12th Marvel film to do so.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday:
1. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” $26.6 million.
2. “Rio 2,” $22.5 million.
3. “Heaven is for Real,” $21.5 million.
4. “Transcendence,” $11.2 million.
5. “A Haunted House 2,” $9.1 million.
6. “Draft Day,” $5.9 million.
7. “Divergent,” $5.75 million.
8. “Oculus,” $5.2 million.
9. “Noah,” $5 million.
10. “God’s Not Dead,” $4.8 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
As you sweat through filing your taxes, remember that Hollywood does the same thing, only on a much, much bigger scale.
Obscene amounts of money are spent making and promoting movies every day and, as you well know, some of those movies don’t make that money back. When faced with a flop of epic proportions, like “John Carter” or “47 Ronin,” Hollywood writes it off as a big, public loss. Thanks to “Hollywood accounting,” the exact amount of money lost on these movies will never be fully known. In putting this list together, we came across wildly varying reports about how big these staggering losses really were, but any way you cut it, these movies tanked and tanked big.
Does that mean Hollywood will stop spending hundreds of millions making movies? Not if there’s a chance for billions to be made.
Here’s our list of some of the biggest tax write-offs ever. (Some adjusted for inflation.)
It’s no surprise that the one-two punch atop this weekend’s box office chart was the second weekend of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (with an estimated $41.4 million) and the debut of family cartoon “Rio 2” (estimated at $39.0 million), but the real drama lay in the fate of the No. 3 movie. That was horror film “Oculus,” which rode a wave of positive buzz and even critical kudos to a third-place debut estimated at $12.0 million, enough to beat this weekend’s other new wide release, Kevin Costner‘s sports-management dramedy “Draft Day” (No. 4 with an estimated $9.8 million).
Much of the credit for success of “Oculus” will go to producer Jason Blum (whether he deserves it or not), since Blum is by default the leading auteur in horror movies today, even though he doesn’t write or direct them. As a producer, he’s hit on a formula that turns micro-budgeted horror movies into profitable franchises, including “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” and “The Purge.”
Now, it’s no surprise when a Blum-produced movie goes into the black its first weekend by opening with a take that’s more than twice what it cost to make. Nor was it a surprise that “Oculus” debuted with an estimated $12.0 million, almost exactly what pundits had predicted.
Still, “Oculus” isn’t a conventional Blumhouse Pictures movie, since Blum bought it after it was already made, rather than nurturing it from the script stage, as he usually does. That shift, along with some others that Blum is making, makes us wonder: Is Blum abandoning his successful formula? Has the model run out of gas? And can he succeed outside of his comfort zone?
Blum has become a success by doing something that ought to be easy but isn’t. He allows his directors and writers near-complete creative freedom by keeping the budgets to a minimum. (An extreme minimum in the case of “Paranormal Activity,” made with a cast of unknowns for just $15,000; the more typical Blum chillfest these days is made for up to $5 million and may contain a recognizable star or two.) He likes horror, he has said, because it’s easier to make horror films on the cheap than action films or period dramas. He chooses writers who also direct, so their vision remains consistent from page to screen. His films tend to be high in jolts but low in gore, relying on the power of suggestiveness to make viewers’ imaginations do much of the work that’s only hinted at on screen. And he tends to make stories about families, creating characters that are easy to identify with so that viewers will be all the more frightened for them once they’re placed in peril.
Even though Blum picked up “Oculus” rather than making it in-house, the movie still hews closely to Blum’s own blueprint. The director is co-writer Mike Flanagan, a relative unknown who based “Oculus” on one of his own short films and has an ambitious plan for further installments. The stars are genre favorites from TV (“Doctor Who” actress Karen Gillan and “Battlestar Galactica“‘s Katee Sackhoff) who are not household names to most moviegoers. The story centers on a family — specifically, a brother and sister struggling against a supernatural force.
Blum’s model sounds simple enough, so why don’t more producers follow his lead? A couple reasons. One is that it requires the producer to put a lot of trust in the visions and storytelling skills of indie filmmakers, some of whom are relatively inexperienced. Few producers are willing to cede that much control and trust to untried writers and directors. Second, while his movies may boast a huge ratio of return on their initial investments, we’re still talking about just tens of millions of dollars. Blum likes to work with the major Hollywood studios to get as wide a distribution pattern as he can, but those studios would rather be in the blockbuster business; they’d rather spend $150 million to make $450 million than spend $5 million to make $80 million.
Even though Blum’s financial risk is always low, he doesn’t always score giant profits. This past January’s “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” earned just $32.5 million domestically (though it did much better overseas), suggesting that the well is running dry after five installments of that franchise.
Plus, Blum has been trying to branch out beyond horror, without much success so far. He produced action-comedy “Stretch,” which features a name cast (including Blum regular Patrick Wilson, Chris Pine, Ed Helms, and Jessica Alba) and a name director (“The Grey“‘s Joe Carnahan), but Universal pulled it from its March 2014 release at the last minute, and no other distributor has picked it up, meaning the movie will probably go straight to video-on-demand or iTunes.
Coming up, in addition to a “Purge” sequel and more of the kind of horror movies that have been his bread and butter, Blum has in the works “The Boy Next Door,” a conventional thriller starring an actual movie diva, Jennifer Lopez, and “Jem and the Holograms,” a live-action version of the Hasbro-toy-inspired musical cartoon series of the 1980s. It’s hard to imagine how Blum could make either of these movies for his customary $5 million or less.
It’s not clear if Blum is trying to diversify his portfolio, stretch his creative muscles, or plan his exit strategy from the humbly-budgeted horror business. But the success of “Oculus” suggests that he has more tricks up his sleeve than his history of homemade horror might suggest.
According to studio estimates Sunday, the Marvel superhero narrowly bested the animated family film in a battle of sequels. “Rio 2” debuted with $39 million, almost exactly the opening weekend total of the 2011 Oscar-nominated original.
Two other new releases opened in a distant third and fourth place.
This weekend’s box office results deliver a few unsettling revelations, not the least of which is that the summer movie season now officially starts while there is still some snow on the ground. The smashing success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which set a new April record with its estimated debut of $96.2 million, means we’ll have to look at a lot of things differently, including the month of April (which will forever after remain infested by summer movie season creep), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (truly, “The Avengers” has the longest and strongest coattails ever sewn), and Scarlett Johansson.
OK, ScarJo wasn’t the top-billed star of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (Then again, neither was Chris Evans. The star of these Marvel films is the Marvel universe.) Still, Johansson made her third successful appearance as Marvel’s Black Widow. And she is a bigger star than Evans, with a longer track record.
Just how big? Well, if you go by per-screen averages, she had the top two films of the weekend — and “Winter Soldier” was only No. 2. No. 1 was Johansson’s new sci-fi horror film “Under the Skin,” which opened in just four theaters but earned an average of $35,000 in each of them. (“Winter Soldier,” which opened in 3,938 venues, averaged $24,429.) The movie is about an alien temptress who lures human men to their doom, something Johansson proved during filming that she could do in real life, as the movie shows her picking up random non-actors who didn’t know they were being filmed.
These two movies are Johansson’s third and fourth releases in the last six months. (She has a fifth movie, Jon Favreau‘s road comedy “Chef,” opening a month from now, and a sixth, action thriller “Lucy,” due in August.) Yet there’s no sign that audiences are getting tired of her. Granted, no one actually saw her in “Her,” a film in which she played the voice of an artificially intelligent computer operating system that has a bittersweet romance with user Joaquin Phoenix. Still, the movie earned $25.5 million in North America, pretty good for an independent movie with a weird premise, and surely better than the movie would have done if director Spike Jonze had kept his original leading lady, Samantha Morton. (Yes, Morton’s an excellent actress, but she’s not a box office draw, and her voice is certainly not as distinctive as Johansson’s throaty rasp.)
Before “Her” was last September’s “Don Jon,” another oddball romance that earned $24.5 million domestically, again, largely on the strength of Johansson’s casting opposite star/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Again, it’s not as likely that the film would have been such a hit at Sundance and broken the $20 million ceiling of the indie-film box office if it featured a lesser-appeal female lead.
As expected, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is already a worldwide hit, having opened in many overseas markets a week before it opened here. As a result, the movie already has a foreign gross of $207.1 million, for a global total of $303.3 million over the last 10 days. Surely Johansson deserves a chunk of the credit; after all, her movies tend to do even better overseas than they do here. Her 2005 sci-fi film “The Island” earned a so-so $35.8 million here but it made $127.1 million abroad. Her last Woody Allen film, 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” earned a decent $23.2 million domestically but a huge $73.2 million overseas. Even her signature movie, 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” earned $44.6 million here but $75.1 million everywhere else. And of course, her three Marvel movies to date have earned more than $1 billion here and more than $1.4 billion throughout the rest of the world.
Given that, you’d think an individual “Black Widow” spinoff movie was inevitable. And yet, while Marvel seems to have the next 14 years worth of movies on the drawing board, it’s not clear that a showcase for Johansson’s character is one of them. Maybe the studio is still stinging from the failure a decade ago of “Elektra” (the last time it centered a movie on a heroine), or maybe there are other reasons beyond lingering sexism. But it can’t be because Johansson hasn’t proven herself. As she demonstrates in three Marvel movies to date, as well as in “Under the Skin,” you underestimate her at your peril.
The Disney sequel debuted with $96.2 million topping the previous record holder, 2011’s “Fast Five,” which opened with $86.2 million. Last weekend “The Winter Soldier,” which stars Chris Evans as the shield wielding superhero, commanded 32 international markets, gaining $75.2 million in its overseas bow.
Expanding to Russia, Australia and China in its second week, the Marvel comic adaptation has earned $207.1 million worldwide.
Paramount’s biblical saga “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe, took a drastic dip in its second weekend, earning $17 million after debuting with $44 million. Still, it sailed into second place, pushing Lionsgate’s young adult science-fiction thriller “Divergent,” led by Shailene Woodley, to third with $13 million in its third week.
Once the storm clouds over “Noah” finally cleared this weekend, Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic claimed an estimated debut of $44 million, about $9 million more than most pundits had predicted. The reason may be that the movie played to an underserved demographic who, thanks to canny marketing, were inspired to leave their sofas and come to the multiplex to see it. No, not Christians, but rather, older filmgoers.
In fact, this week’s box office chart suggests that older viewers are making a big difference for hits throughout the marketplace. By the same token, the failure of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s “Sabotage” offers a cautionary lesson about what happens when you depend on those older viewers and they don’t show up.
Controversy over whether or not Christian viewers would find Darren Aronofsky’s imaginative retelling of the Genesis tale sufficiently reverent to the Biblical text led to much speculation over whether such religious moviegoers would show up in sufficient numbers to make the movie a hit and, if they didn’t, whether the movie could become a hit without them. But perhaps it was wrong to look at “Noah” as an effort by a major Hollywood studio to court skeptical Christians. After all, look at the movie’s pedigree. Think of it as a $160 million art-house movie, a serious philosophical and theological exploration of an apocalyptically bleak source tale from the director of “Black Swan,” featuring mature Oscar-winners Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins.
Seen from that perspective, “Noah” may or may not be the kind of movie that turns off Christian viewers, but it’s also the kind that appeals to older viewers. Indeed, exit polling suggests that 74 percent of “Noah” viewers were older than 25. So while it’s still not clear whether religious viewers showed up, fans of weighty storytelling and veteran thespians certainly did.
It’s worth noting that the other current religious-themed hit, “God’s Not Dead” (still in the top five in its second week), also takes a philosophical approach to issues of faith. In that sense, it’s also designed to appeal more to older viewers than to, say, teens and kids. As a result, it added 398 screens this weekend (for a total of 1,178) and earned another estimated $9.1 million, almost identical to last weekend’s take and good for a fifth-place finish.
Among the holdovers that make up the rest of the top five: There’s “Divergent,” an allegory about high school cliques that appeals to both current teens and anyone who remembers the hierarchical horrors of high school; and there’s “Muppets Most Wanted” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” both family movies that appeal to moms and dads who remember the original 1960s and 1970s TV shows where the characters originated.
Elsewhere at the multiplex, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tripled its theater count to emerge from the art-houses into the mainstream, where the nostalgic caper’s appeal to older viewers proved contagious. It finished in sixth place with an estimated $8.8 million. That’s a per-screen average of $9,033, second only to “Noah” (with an average of $12,335) among wide-release movies.
Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words” also expanded from limited release, adding 755 theaters for a total count of 842. A grown-up comedy about a middle-aged spelling bee contestant, the film finished at No. 13 with an estimated $2.6 million, or $3,141 per screen.
Biopic “Cesar Chavez,” the latest attempt to tap the Latino market, also depended on older viewers who remember the civil rights activist and labor leader from his crusades in the 1960s and ’70s. Playing on just 664 screens, it opened in 12th place with an estimated $3.0 million, for a solid per-screen average of $4,518.
Not every movie that sought older viewers this weekend succeeded in attracting them.
Schwarzengger’s “Sabotage,” his third starring role since returning to acting from his decade-long political sabbatical, premiered with an even lower take than his other recent efforts, “The Last Stand” and “Escape Plan.” It opened in seventh place, earning an estimated $5.3 million on 2,486 screens, for a weak per-screen average of $2,144. The 66-year-old action hero may not have much appeal to younger viewers who don’t even remember his glory days, but his stiff-jawed brand of action heroism may be too stale for older viewers as well.
Of course, “Sabotage” may simply have suffered from bad timing. After all, from “Noah” to “Grand Budapest Hotel” to “Cesar Chavez” to “Bad Words,” there were a lot of alternatives for its over-25 target audience to choose from.
After weathering a sea of controversy, “Noah” arrived in first place at the weekend box office.
Paramount’s biblical epic starring Russell Crowe in the titular role opened with $44 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The imaginative take on the tale of Noah’s Ark by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately portrayed and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials saying that “artistic license has been taken” in telling the story.
Lionsgate’s teen science-fiction thriller “Divergent” starring Shailene Woodley earned $26.5 million in its second weekend. Disney’s globe-trotting Muppet sequel “Muppets Most Wanted” featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais came in third place with $11.4 million in its second weekend.
Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office
1. “Noah” – $44.0 M
2. “Divergent” – $26.5 M
3. “Muppets Most Wanted” – $11.4 M
4. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” – $9.5 M
5. “God’s Not Dead” – $9.1 M
6. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – $8.8 M
7. “Sabotage” – $5.3 M
8. “Need for Speed” – $4.34 M
9. “300: Rise of An Empire” – $4.3 M
10. “Non-Stop” – $4.1 M