In what sounds like a clash from a Rambo movie, Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (Lionsgate) fended off five new titles single-handedly at the weekend box office, winding up the winner with $16.5 million and a decent 53% slide.
As August student vacationers head back to school, it was hardly a competitive weekend. Distributors chipped away at the remaining summer crowds with a plethora of weak product geared at every imaginable demographic, from 3-D horror flick Piranha 3D ($10 million) to high-concept Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Switch ($8.1 million). Smart moviegoers smelled what they didn't want to see.
“Five wide releases is way too many films for a weekend. It’s too big of a message to get across to the public,” criticized one studio distribution executive. “One studio landed the release date first, then another, and then nobody wanted to move.”
The one showbiz trick that worked this weekend? A vampire movie. Fox’s Vampire Sucks, a satire of the Twilight films, proved a much needed laugh for both Twihards and their tagalong boyfriends, who spent $12.2 million, making the film No. 2, narrowing beating Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love, which held well with a 48% drop. A whopping 72% of the Vampires crowd was under 25, awarding it a B Cinema Score; 55% were female.
While the filmmakers behind Vampires, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, were hired by Fox for their cinema parody chops, their returns at the box office typically cap off at the high $30 million-$40 million range – numbers that are far below the $100 million domestic hauls of fellow satirists the Wayans brothers. In an effort to match previous Friedberg-Seltzer three-day openings--their biggest bows were 2006’s Date Movie ($19.1 million) and 2007’s Epic Movie ($18.6 million)--Fox wisely unspooled Vampires Suck on Wednesday to capitalize on kids who were still out of school. But the price was right: The New Regency-financed Vampires only cost $17-$18 million, and the film's total domestic cume through five days stands at $18.6 million. Vampires earned a 3% rotten score on the Tomatometer: 36 of 37 critics panned it.
Warner Bros.' urban comedy Lottery Ticket won over 51% females who shelled out $11.1 million to see the feature at 1,973 venues, giving it an A- Cinemascore. Critics splattered the Bow Wow-Ice Cube film with a 32% rotten rating. Similar to Vampires, Lottery Ticket was a thrifty investment at $17 million, chiefly funded by Alcon Entertainment. It served as a much needed choice for the under-fed urban demographic.
In a near photo finish with Sony's The Other Guys, Piranha 3D derived 95% of its $10 million weekend take from hubs fitted for the visual format. One distrib chief was not surprised by the film’s 3D draw: “There is a built-in audience for genre films and they all want to see this film in 3D," he said. "People who normally avoid these films aren’t going to attend just because it is in 3D.”
Dimension’s Bob Weinstein stated: "We've had some very positive reviews and we're going to continue to support the movie." At a $24-million budget, Piranha 3D doesn’t look like a title that the financially restructured Weinstein Co. will lose money on. Critics enjoyed its campiness, rewarding the film with an 80% fresh Tomatometer score, while Cinema Score exits polls marked it a C. More males (57%) feasted on Piranha 3D than females (43%), but unlike Vampire Sucks, 58% were over 25. One cute marketing ploy for Piranha 3D: its faux award season plug on Funny or Die.
Box-office bloggers pegged Nanny McPhee Returns as the one film that could give Expendables a run for its money with a $15 million opening, but predictions were way off. The Emma Thompson import from the U.K., which hit big in her homeland (where it grossed 40 % of its overseas $63 million cume) bowed in seventh with $8.3 million. 73% of the youth audience were girls, while parents made up the majority of the 25+ crowd at 68%. Movies for little girls can be a tough sell. Even Fox’s widely-praised Ramona and Beezus (current cume $24.3 million) didn't make it earlier this summer. The first Nanny McPhee was a slim crowd-pleaser stateside as well, bowing at $14.5 million and ending at $47.1 million. Those attending Nancy McPhee Returns gave it an A- Cinema Score and critics rated it 77% fresh on the Tomatometer. No matter what Nanny McPhee Returns winds up with stateside, the Relativity Media-backed $35-million feature is already in the black.
1. The Expendables (Lionsgate): $16.5 million down 53% in its second weekend at 3,270 theaters. $5,047 theater average. Domestic total: $64.9 million
2. Vampires Suck (Fox): $12.2 million in its first weekend at 3,233 theaters. $3,774 theater average. Domestic total: $18.6 million in its first five days.
3. Eat Pray Love (Sony): $12 million down 48% in its second weekend at 3,082 theaters. $3,894 theater average. Domestic total: $47.1 million
4. Lottery Ticket (Warner Bros.): $11.13 million in its first weekend at 1,973 theaters. $5,639 theater average. Domestic total: $11.13 million in its first five days.
5. The Other Guys (Sony): $10.1 million down 42% in its third weekend at 3,472 theaters. $2,909 theater average. Domestic total: $88.2 million
6. Piranha 3D (Weinstein/Dimension): $10.058 million in its first weekend at 2,470 theaters. $4,072 theater average. Domestic total: $10.058 million.
7. Nanny McPhee Returns (Universal): $8.3 million in its first weekend at 2,784 theaters. $2,985 theater average. Domestic total: $8.3 million.
8. The Switch (Miramax): $8.1 million in its first weekend at 2,012 theaters. $4,026 theater average. Domestic total: $8.1 million.
9. Inception (Warner Bros.): $7.66 million down 32% in its sixth weekend at 2,401 theaters. $3,188 theater average. Domestic total: $261.8 million
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal): $5 million down 53% in its second weekend at 2,820 theaters. $1,785 theater average. Domestic total: $20.7 million.