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Pixels debuted to an estimated $24 million from 3,723 theaters, not a good start for a summer tentpole that cost Sony and its financing partners at least $88 million to produce after rebates. The movie hopes to make up ground overseas, but is off to a muted start with $25.5 million to date from 56 markets for a global total of $50.4 million. In its second weekend, Ant-Man grossed an estimated $24.8 million from 3,868 theaters for a 10-day domestic cume of $106.1 million and global haul of $226.5 million for Disney and Marvel Studios. Both films, along with Minions, competed for family love in North America.
Opinion is divided as to whether Thursday night’s fatal theater shooting in Louisiana during a screening of Trainwreck may have hurt family friendly and younger-skewing titles. “When something like this happens and you’re a parent,” says one studio executive, “you probably will think about it for a minute, and say, ‘Do I feel comfortable this weekend taking my kid to the movie theater?'” Adds another: “It’s hard to ignore but difficult to quantify.” No one, however, expects the impact to be lasting.
Directed by Chris Columbus, Pixels stars Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad as a group of friends battling aliens who have used video games from the 1980s to attack Earth. Pixels has been ravaged critics, while audiences gave it a mediocre B CinemaScore. The tentpole was co-financed by LStar Capital and China Film Group, guaranteeing a run in China.
“I don’t feel like there is any bad news here. We opened to No. 1 in a lot of countries and exceeded expectations,” said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer. “The gross in the U.S. is OK because this is a world play.”
All told, Pixels is playing in 42 percent of the international marketplace, where it placed No. 1 in 23 territories this weekend, many of them smaller. Major markets where it placed No. 1 are Mexico ($3.7 million), Brazil ($3.1 million) and Argentina, where it scored Sony’s best debut of all time with $2.3 million. Pixels likewise debuted to No. 1 in Russia ($2.7 million) and in Spain ($1.3 million). It has yet to debut in China (Sept. 15) and the U.K. (Aug. 12), among other major territories.
In North America, Pixels wasn’t the only new offering to underwhelm. John Green YA film adaptation Paper Towns, relying on teen and tween girls, came in well behind expectations with $12.5 million from 3,031 theaters (it had been expected to approach $20 million). At the same time, the film cost a modest $12 million to make.
“Our challenge is to find out why our fan base was not energized in greater numbers, and to motivate them to show up in the coming weeks,” Chris Aronson, head of domestic distribution for Fox.
Last summer, The Fault in Our Stars debuted to a stunning $48 million for Fox and Green. However, that book was more popular than Paper Towns, while the film adaptation of Fault boasted a bigger star in Shailene Woodley. Paper Towns stars Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, and earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Overseas, Paper Towns launched to $7.8 in its first markets for a global bow of $28.4 million.
Conversely, Antoine Fuqua‘s adult-skewing boxing drama, Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, overperformed to beat Paper Towns. The Weinstein Co. title earned $16.5 million from 2,772 theaters for a fifth-place finish (Paper Towns placed No. 6). The movie’s showing was due to a strong turnout from women (50 percent) and an ethnically diverse audience (43 percent Caucasian, 24 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African-American and 12 percent Asian/other).
“Antoine Fuqua is a great, great filmmaker and Jake is nothing short of amazing in this movie,” said Weinstein distribution chief Erik Lomis.
Nabbing an A CinemaScore, the film stars Gyllenhaal as a boxer who finds success with the gloves on, but is having major issues in his personal life. Rachel McAdams, Rita Ora, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris and 50 Cent co-star. The script was written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. Southpaw cost $25 million to produce after rebates.
Other adult-skewing titles also did well this weekend, including Trainwreck, starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow. Despite the tragic shooting, the R-rated comedy dropped only 43 percent to $17.3 million from 3,171 theaters for a 10-day domestic total of $61.5 million for Universal. Trainwreck placed No. 4.
Thursday’s shooting has no doubt rattled Hollywood studios and theater owners. The tragedy comes almost exactly three years after James Holmes opened fire in a theater in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others. Moviegoing, and particularly family titles, took a hit for weeks. Box-office analysts don’t expect that to happen in this case.
Like Holmes, the Louisiana gunman, John Russell Houser, was alone when he bought a ticket to see Trainwreck at the Grand Theatre in Lafayette, La. About 20 minutes in, he opened fire and then tried to exit the auditorium. When he spotted police, he went back into the theater and shot himself.
Elsewhere at the box office, Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions placed No. 3 with $22.1 million for a domestic total of $261.6 million. Internationally, it pulled in a hearty $44 million from 60 markets for a foreign cume of $497.8 million and global tally of $759.4 million. Universal also celebrated Jurassic World overtaking The Avengers to become the third top-grossing film of all time domestically with $623.8 million (it’s already No. 3 globally).
Roadside Attractions prevailed at the specialty box office as Mr. Holmes, a co-release with Miramax, placed No. 9 with $2.8 million from 688 theaters in its second weekend for a cume of $6.4 million. And Roadside and Lionsgate’s Love & Mercy crossed $12 million.
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Sterling K. Brown