To say the blues gripped the North American box office this weekend is an understatement, with revenue tumbling nearly 40 percent year-over-year.
Neill Blomkamp‘s dystopian robot film Chappie came in No. 1 with a soft $13.3 million from 3,201 theaters, while Vince Vaughn‘s comedy Unfinished Business bombed with $4.8 million from 2,777 locations, the worst opening of the actor’s career for a major release, and certainly the worst for a comedy. In 1998, drama Return to Paradise debuted to $2.5 million, but it only went out in 965 theaters.
Unfinished Business and Chappie were ravaged by critics, while both received a B CInemaScore from audiences. Vaughn is the latest in a string of major actors to disappoint at the box office this year, a list that includes Johnny Depp and Will Smith.
Chappie hopes to make up ground overseas, but early returns spell trouble. The movie, opening in 53 markets this weekend, grossed $13.7 million internationally for a worldwide launch of $27 million. Major markets yet to pen include Mexico, Japan and several European countries. Sony and MRC spent $49 million to make Chappie, starring Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel — his second new film of the weekend after The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — and Sigourney Weaver.
It remains to be seen how much of a blow Chappie is for Blomkamp, who is on board to direct the redo of Alien. In August 2009, District 9 put the South African director on the map with a $37.4 million debut for Sony on its way to grossing $210.8 million worldwide. His second Hollywood film, Elysium, starring Matt Damon, opened to $29.8 million in August 2013 before topping out at $286.1 million worldwide.
Set in Johannesburg, Chappie revolves around a police robot, voiced by Sharlto Copley, who learns to think and feel. In a rare turn, Jackman, whose screen time is relatively short, plays the bad guy. Most box office observers believed the sci-fi title would do at least $15 million, although Sony insiders suggested $14 million.
Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said Chappie placed within the realm of expectations. “Neill is a gifted filmmaker, and Chappie is a great character. I do think people wll be talking about this movie for some time to come,” he said.
Some blame Chappie‘s woes on a glut of R-rated product, but only two other R-rated titles are going after males; holdover Kingsman: The Secret Service, which continues to prosper, and Unfinished Business, directed by Ken Scott.
Adding insult to injury, Unfinished Business only managed a tenth-place finish, coming in just behind The DUFF, which took in $4.9 in its third weekend for a domestic total of $26.1 million for CBS Films and Lionsgate (it’s possible the two films could swap spots when final weekend numbers are tallied). Overseas, Unfinished Business opened to $2.6 million from 15 markets, including $1.4 million in the U.K.
Vaughn has struggled badly at the box office in recent times, with Delivery Man — also directed by Scott — The Internship and The Watch all bombing. The actor hopes to see s career boost from his turn in HBO’s upcoming True Detective.
New Regency spent $35 million to make Unfinished Business, with Fox handling distribution duties. The movie stars Vaughn as a small-business owner who travels to Europe with his two associates (Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco) to seal the biggest deal of their careers, but nothing goes as planned. Sienna Miller, Nick Frost and James Marsden also star.
In terms of the new offerings this weekend, the one bright spot was Fox Searchlight’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Despite playing in far fewer theaters than its rivals, the sequel took in a solid $8.6 million from 1,573 locations.
That put the dramedy at No. 3 behind Chappie and Will Smith holdover Focus, which took in $10 million in its second weekend for a domestic total of $34.6 million. Overseas, Focus took earned $17.7 million from 50 markets for a foreign total of $37 million and worldwide cume of $71.6 million.
Once again directed by John Madden, Marigold Hotel 2 returns original castmembers Patel, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy. New names include Richard Gere and David Strathairn. The first film, released in 2012, was a sleeper hit, earning $136.8 million worldwide. Internationally, Marigold Hotel 2 remained No. 1 in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, putting its early foreign total at $8.6 million and global haul at $29.6 million.
Kingsman, from big Fox, followed at No. 4 in its fourth weekend with $8.3 million for a domestic total of $98 million and worldwide total of $249 million. Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water rounded out the top five with an estimated $6.7 million, putting its global cume at a strong $259.4 million.
Fifty Shades of Grey placed No. 6 in its fourth weekend, earning $5.6 million for a domestic total of $156.4 million. The film adaptation of EL James‘ S&M-laced novel continued to impress overseas, earning another $17.7 million for an international total of $371.3 million and world haul of $527.7 million.
Elsewhere, Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper became the top-grossing domestic release of 2014 (it opened in select markets Dec. 25), as well as jumping the $500 million mark worldwide. The movie finished Sunday with $337.2 million in ticket sales, eclipsing the $336.8 million earned by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.
Thanks to prosperous late run in China, Disney’s Oscar-winner Big Hero 6 also celebrated a milestone as it crossed $600 million worldwide to become the No. 3 Disney animated title of all time behind Frozen and The Lion King. Big Hero 6 has earned $221 million domestically and $384 overseas — including $40.8 million in China after two weekends — for a total $605 million.
At the U.S. specialty office, Sony Pictures Classics’ documentary Merchants of Doubt debuted in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, grossing $20,327 for a location average of $5,082. And in its second weekend, The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rapes on college campuses, earned another $8,936 from two theaters for an average of $4,468 and cume of $45,822 for Radius-TWC.
On the same weekend a year ago in North America, 300: Rise of an Empire debuted to $45 million and Mr. Peabody & Sherman took in $32.2 million. Hollywood is trying to shrug off this weekend’s soft showing, saying upcoming event pics Cinderella and Insurgent should restore order in the kingdom.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
THE LAZARUS EFFECT
March 7, 8 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.
March 8, 8 a.m. Updated with weekend numbers.