Considering the love-or-hate, finicky temperament of its core audience targets (grownup sci-fi fans and young adults), Gavin Hood's "Ender's Game" (starring Asa Butterfield as the titular Ender) fared well, ending up in the top spot with $28 million. The long awaited sci-fi adaptation... Oh wait, we've heard that before... ("John Carter" and, to a lesser degree, "Eragon" and "The Golden Compass"). Not to say that "Ender's Game" is on that ominous road, but "John Carter" did fare better during its opening weekend ($30.2 million) and still didn't break $75 million at the domestic box office ($73.1 million), becoming an industry joke on its $250 million budget.
But "Ender's Game" has two cards up its sleeve—controversy and Harrison Ford. The first concerns a call for a boycott of the film due to the original novelist's raging homophobia (here's a refresher over on Vulture), which, in turn, has created a bit of a "no publicity is bad publicity" situation by re-sparking the art vs. artists debate (for the umpteenth time) and having the film part of the national dialogue for months before it even opened. The second is that Harrison Ford is Harrison Ford. Although Ford looks at his sci-fi work as "a very small percentage of the films that I've done" (as he said in a taciturn interview with GQ), the rest of the world geeks out whenever he ventures back into sci-fi. The big test is going to be next weekend when it goes up against "Thor: The Dark World," which has already gained mind-blowing traction abroad with $109.4 million this weekend. Will Thor's hammer strike down Hugo's "brilliance" and Han Solo's gruff advising on the box office battlefield? Yes, but the question remains whether "Ender's Game" will power through its wounds to recoup its $110 million budget at the U.S. box office...
Slipping to a still-strong second, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" made $20.5 million, crossing the domestic $50 million mark in its second weekend with a running total of $62.1 million. Opening in third (with a cast involving 5 Oscar winners—Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen), Jon Turteltaub's "Last Vegas" raked in $16.5 million, exceeding distributor CBS Films's estimate of a $14 million opening but not living up to its hyped potential of being a family-friendlier "The Hangover" geared towards the older, should-be-retiring baby boomers. The film's promotional onslaught included pre-opening screenings and the four leading men co-hosting The Today Show—a borderline cringe-worthy appearance which included De Niro and Douglas spooning out pumpkin seeds, Freeman caramelizing figs, and Kline presenting the weather. With Thanksgiving around the corner, "Last Vegas" should continue to get decent numbers as the "hip" option for parents and grandparents, though it's up for debate on how palatable it is for kids dragged along to watch the hijinks.
Speaking of Turkey Day, "Free Birds" opened in fourth with $16.2 million. This should do relatively well as the go-to animated, family-friendly option until "Frozen" opens in three weeks. In fifth and sixth, "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" called in $13.1 million and $8.5 million respectively. In seventh with a 115.5% growth, "12 Years A Slave" made $4.6 million from 410 theaters, nearing the $10 million with a running total of $8.8 million. In eighth, "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2" chewed up $4.2 million. "Carrie" couldn't spook her way out of ninth with $3.4 million. Falling all the way to tenth in its second weekend, "The Counselor" suffered the worst percentage drop (-58.6%) on the leader board and made $3.3 million.
As for specialty box office, the weekend had some high-profile contenders duking it out for top spot (with "Diana" and "Sal" not making the top five) alongside some very strong, very limited (many in one theater) releases. In first place, Jean-Marc Vallee's "Dallas Buyers Club" opened in nine theaters and made $264,128, averaging an impressive $29,437. A hit at TIFF, the film follows AIDS-infected activist-bigot-cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) on the news of his 30-day prognosis and his struggle to survive alongside fellow AIDS-infected Rayon (Jared Leto) and an idealistic doctor (Jennifer Garner). In second, Sophie Fiennes' "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology" opened in one theater and made $9,500. The sequel to "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" explores dreams, psychoanalysis and fictional cinema by way of philosopher Slavoj Zizek (also the film's screenwriter). In third, Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq's "These Birds Walk" opened in one theater and made $8,000. The documentary follows a young runaway and an ambulence driver brought together in Karachi, Pakistan. In fourth, Felix Van Groeningen's "The Broken Circle Breakdown" opened in one theater and made $7,075. A hit out of Tribeca (winning Best Actress and Best Screenplay) and the Belgian entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Oscars, the narrative film follows a banjo player and a tattoo artist as they fall in love at first sight, settle down together, have a child and face unforeseeable, tragic circumstances. In fifth, Barbara Kopple's "Running From Crazy" opened in one theater and made $7,000. The documentary is about Mariel Hemingway and the reconciliation between her illustrious albeit troubled family and her own life as a model, actress, and lifestyle guru.
Among the specialty holdovers… Abdellatif Kechiche's controversial lesbian romance-drama "Blue Is The Warmest Color" made $222,000 in 37 theaters (with a $6,000 PTA) in spite of the Parents Television Council vs. the IFC Center kerfuffle. Jehane Noujam's Egyptian Revolution documentary "The Square" made $12,025 in 3 theaters (with a $4,008 PTA). John Krokidas' Beat Generation drama "Kill Your Darlings" made $72,648 in 19 theaters (with a $3,824 PTA).
1. Ender's Game (Lionsgate) - $28,000,000
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Paramount) - $20,500,000 ($62,058,000)
3. Last Vegas (CBS Films) - $16,520,000
4. Free Birds (Relativity Media) - $16,200,000
5. Gravity (Warner Bros.) - $13,130,000 ($219,196,000)
6. Captain Phillips (Sony) - $8,500,000 ($82,551,000)
7. 12 Years A Slave (FoxSearchlight) - $4,600,000 ($8,760,000)
8. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony) - $4,200,000 ($106,195,000)
9. Carrie (ScreenGem) - $3,400,000 ($31,973,000)
10. The Counselor (Fox) - $3,250,000 ($13,368,000)