Giving Avatar director James Cameron more motive to throw 3-D films under a bus, genre filmmaking reigned this weekend as Sony/Screen Gems’s fourth Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, based on the 1996 videogame, scored $27.7 million. It was evident from the zombie film’s Friday bow, which zapped $10.9 million, that it was bound to outstrip the record of its last installment, 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction ($23.7 million).
The lack of frosh wide entries in a historically sleepy session coupled with 3-D premium prices fueled Afterlife’s ticket sales to greater heights. Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the underserved femme audience, Summit re-released The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in 1,187 theaters in celebration of the September 13 birthday of the series’ leading protagonist Bella Swan. However only a few fans showed up, shelling out an estimated $745,000. The distributor’s overall goal was to catapult Eclipse’s domestic B.O. past the $300-million mark; the film’s B.O. is about $400,000 shy of that benchmark. Overall, the top 12 films totaled $63.9 million (per Box Office Mojo), off 16% from the post-Labor Day frame a year ago.
Afterlife reps a bit of a boost for 3-D genre films at the box office, which had been cooling off. Afterlife was shot entirely in 3-D, not converted. 2,000 of Afterlife’s 3,203 theaters were 3-D huts, including 141 Imax locales.
Though Afterlife touts a better opening than recent 3-D horror thrillers as Piranha 3D ($10.1 million) and last year’s My Bloody Valentine ($21.2 million), it faces the challenge of remaining alive on the box office charts. Not only do these films drop quickly, but previous Resident Evil films have posted 60% second frame declines.
Young males--58% of attendees were men, 49% were under the age of 25--were the primary target for Afterlife. Sony reached out to genre fans via sci-fi/horror conventions as well an outdoor campaign featuring five different poster/billboards. In order to insure bountiful grosses, Sony/Screen Gems blocked critics from advance screenings. Sure enough, they rewarded Afterlife with a 14% Rotten score. “If there is an afterlife, I hope to God this movie isn't playing there," wrote Hollywood.com film critic Thomas Leupp.
Talk about resilience. Videogame feature adaptations rarely see a sequel, but Resident Evil has spawned four films. And while most horror-action franchises are notorious for changing the creative guard with each installment, husband and wife team director Paul W.S. Anderson and leading lady Milla Jovovich have remained committed to the series, which the fanboys adore (amply demonstrated at their July Comic-Con panel). The Resident Evil franchise has also kept production costs down: financed independently by German financier Constantin and distributed by Sony/Screen Gems, Afterlife was priced at $60 million, modest for an action title, though higher than the franchise’s previous budgets which floated between $33 and $45 million.
The top 10 films are as follows: percent changes versus the previous 3-day weekend.
1. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Sony/Screen Gems): $27.7 million in its first weekend at 3,203 theaters. $8,648 theater average. Domestic total: $27.7 million.
2. Takers (Sony/Screen Gems): $6.1 million down 44% in its third weekend at 2,191 theaters. $2,784 theater average. Domestic total: $48.1 million.
3. The American (Focus Features): $5.9 million down 55% in its second weekend at 2,833 theaters. $2,081 theater average. Domestic total: $28.3 million.
4. Machete (Fox): $4.2 million down 63% in its second weekend at 2,678 theaters. $1,568 theater average. Domestic total: $20.8 million.
5. Going the Distance (WB/New Line): $3.84 million down 44% in its second weekend at 3,030 theaters. $1,266 theater average. Domestic total: $14 million
6. The Other Guys (Sony): $3.6 million down 32% in its sixth weekend at 2,246 theaters. $1,603 theater average. Domestic total: $112.7 million.
7. The Last Exorcism (Lionsgate): $3.45 million down 53% in its third weekend at 2,731 theaters. $1,264 theater average. Domestic total: $38.2 million
8. The Expendables (Lionsgate): $3.25 million down 51% in its fifth weekend at 3,058 theaters. $1,063 theater average. Domestic total: $98.5 million
9. Inception (Warner Bros.): $3.02 million down 34% in its ninth weekend at 1,583 theaters. $1,905 theater average. Domestic total: $282.4 million.
10. Eat Pray Love (Sony): $2.9 million down 40% in its fifth weekend at 2,339 theaters. $1,240 theater average. Domestic total: $74.6 million.