By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood April 14, 2014 at 2:41AM
3. "Oculus" (Relativity) NEW - Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 61
$12,000,000 in 2,648 theaters; PSA: $4,532; Cumulative: $12,000,000
The good news: Relativity's low-cost acquisition ($2.5 million plus marketing) of a $5 million original with no marquee names grossed $12 million, with a shot at becoming a money-maker. And it is the second highest-grossing genre film this year so far.
The bad news: By this point last year, seven horror films (including comedies) had already opened to $18 million or more, with later year entries "The Purge," "The Conjuring" and "Insidious Chapter 2" all opening to $34 million or more. "Oculus" shares similar elements and the marketing expertise of Blumhouse, also involved with some of last year's successes. The only higher opener this year was "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," which initially took in $18 million, then failed to even gross double that in its run on its way to being the lowest performer in that franchise.
So the bloom (or Blum?) may be off the rose, with the biggest factor (other than possible genre overload over recent years) the steep falloff in movie attendance among prime customers for these films, the late teen/early 20s male demo, which despite overall growth in theater attendance has consistently dropped over recent months.
Again, $12 million in a vacuum and with this film's expense (a hallmark of Blumhouse marketing is more targeted, not maximally expensive advertising for a wide release) is hardly a bad result. But films like this have been the fallback for many distributors looking to pad their profit margins, not just fight to break even. And as a domestic-only acquisition for Relativity (they acquired the film from Midnight Madness in Toronto last September), they have less to fall back on, even with the sometimes elevated ancillary value for these films.
The opening is about the same as Relativity's previous 2014 opener, "Three Days to Kill," which got to $30 million with lead Kevin Costner (whose next film "Draft Day" also opened, at a lower level, this weekend). Hopes for "Oculus" gaining steam (some of last year's horror hits had solid word of mouth) could be thwarted by its weak C Cinemascore.
What comes next: Unlike some of the other recent hits, this doesn't seem to justify a sequel unless there is an unexpectedly strong second week.
4. "Draft Day" (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: B+, Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 53
$9,750,000 in 2,781 theaters; PSA: $3,506; Cumulative: $9,750,000
Considering the lack of adult appeal films at the moment, this is a disappointing debut for Ivan Reitman's sports-themed film starring Kevin Costner. Last year, Warner Bros. opened baseball period piece "42" to a surprising $27.5 million, triple this result. With the contemporary football setting and the bigger-name cast, this looks weaker (though sports films are considered risky, more so as they lack international appeal.)
The relatively low budget (somewhere above $20 million) and the decent OK audience reaction (A+ Cinemascore) give this a shot an ultimate OK result. For Costner, though, this comes in less than his earlier return to leading man (after his big cable success with "The Hatfields and the McCoys"). Director Ivan Reitman normally has opened better, although he hasn't been a surefire player this century ("No Strong Attached" doing best with a $70 million total; this opened better than "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" at least.) Jennifer Garner, though she did appear in the acclaimed "Dallas Buyers Club" is far from her best form back with "Juno" and "Valentine's Day." "42"'s leading man Chadwick Boseman also co-starred.
What comes next: The film's adult appeal and possible good word of mouth could allow this to hold above average and fight to break even.
5. "Divergent" (Lionsgate) Week 4 - Last weekend #3
$7,500,000 (-42%) in 3,110 theaters (-521); PSA: $2,412; Cumulative: $124,877,000
Maintaining a decent performance (the drop is better than average for this weekend and along the lines of successful films at this point of their run), the franchise-starter still looks headed toward a $150 million domestic take, which would make it #3 among films opened this year so far (behind "The Lego Movie" and the new "Captain America"). As international opens slowly ($50 million so far, with several significant markets left), this hasn't been a barn-burner like previous young adult novel adaptations "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" their first time out. But given that it's based on a lesser-known book and considering its under-$100 million budget, it has hit its marks.
What comes next: Upcoming spring breaks won't hurt for boosting this the rest of the way.
6. "Noah" (Paramount) Week 3 - Last weekend #2
$7,450,000 (-56%) in 3,282 theaters (-289); PSA: $3,282; Cumulative: $84,872,000
Another bigger than average drop (though less than the 61% last weekend) continues to show some domestic weakness for Darren Aronofsky's expensive epic, which now looks like it will struggle to pass much beyond $100 million domestic. With international doing better (already over $100 million), this looks like it might end up replicating the studio's "World War Z," which eventually saw a small profit thanks to far superior overseas results.
What comes next: Holy Week and Easter could help, but this might end up neck and neck with"God's Not Dead" -- which cost around $125 million less -- next weekend.
7. "God's Not Dead" (Freestyle) Week 4 - Last weekend #4
$4,485,000 (-42%) in 1,860 theaters (+102); PSA: $2,411; Cumulative: $40,700,00
Coming down to earth after its phenomenal sleeper success so far, this boosted theaters once again but saw a substantial drop in PSA (just a bit more than half last weekend). Otherwise, it remains the eye-opener of the year so far.
What comes next: With its strong grassroots evangelical support, this might find a particularly strong boost from the holidays ahead.
8. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) Week 6 - Last weekend #6
$4,050,000 (-34%) in 1,467 theaters (+204); PSA: $1,467; Cumulative: $39,470,000
the high end among recent Fox Searchlight films, this continues to perform well for the number of theaters
in play. This is now tracking $6 million behind Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," and should easily surpass that
on its way to a strong $50 million-plus total, with a shot at surpassing "12 Years a Slave"'s $57 million (the top specialized release of 2013,
and obviously aided by its award-season push, while "Budapest" is
grossing well without that boost.
What comes next: The absence of any strong competitive adult-oriented release, either long-term or more recent, will help this sustain several more weeks of solid play.
9. "Muppets Most Wanted" (Buena Vista) Week 4 - Last weekend #5
$2,193,000(-64%) in 2,261 theaters (-791); PSA: $970; Cumulative: $45,670,000
Hurt badly by "Rio 2," this took a big drop this weekend.
What comes next: But vacation days ahead will help.
10. "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 6 - Last weekend #7
$1,825,000 (-64%) in 2,001 theaters (-930); PSA: $912; Cumulative: $105,215,000
If only this Dreamworks Animation film didn't cost so much ($145 million), this would be a terrific number. Also hurt by "Rio 2," the worldwide take so far (over $250 million, and not done yet) keeps it in play for possible breakeven, but this looks like it could come dangerously close to their recent "Turbo" in coming in below expectations before its done.
What comes next: See under "Muppets Most Wanted"