Last weekend, Gods of Egypt bombed in North America with a $14.1 million debut, becoming the first big-budget miss of 2016. The fantasy epic, fatally wounded by withering reviews, cost a hefty $140 million to produce. Butler isn’t billed as the lead, but was featured prominently in marketing materials.
Just as alarming, Gods of Egypt also tanked overseas, where moviegoers have been more accepting of Hollywood’s continued obsession with various takes on the proverbial sword-and-sandal movie. The movie took in $24.1 million from 68 markets (it doesn’t land in China until March 11).
However, Butler may not have to wait long for redemption. London Has Fallen, hitting theaters Friday, could open to a solid $25 million or more, according to prerelease surveys. Focus, which is releasing the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen on behalf of Millennium Films, is being more conservative, suggesting in the low $20 million range. (It remains to be seen whether poor reviews could hurt the movie.)
Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen open nine years after Zack Snyder’s highly stylized 300 looked to transform Butler into a major movie star after doing stellar business at the box office. But success as a leading man has been elusive for the Scottish-born actor.
The big exception is Olympus Has Fallen, a surprise hit which debuted to $30.4 million in 2013 on its way to earning a solid $161 million globally. His other top-grossing films since 300 were a pair of animated titles; How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).
Otherwise, Butler has struggled in recent times. His romantic ensemble comedy Playing for Keeps, also released in 2013, topped out at a meager $13 million, while Chasing Mavericks bombed with $6 million in 2012 (he had a supporting role in that film). And the modernized Shakespearean drama Coriolanus only earned $1 million the same year, while Machine Gun Preacher grossed $3.3 million worldwide in 2011.
London Has Fallen reteams Butler with Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman.
The biggest winner this weekend will be Disney’s Zootopia, the first animated tentpole of 2016. The movie — boasting a rare 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — should open north of $60 million, with plenty of upside. Zootopia is already impressing overseas, where it has grossed more than $80 million in its first two weeks in release.
Tina Fey’s comedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot also opens, with a projected debut in the $10 million to $12 million range for Paramount.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on war correspondent Kim Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The cast also includes Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Alfred Molina.
Oscar-winner Spotlight will expand into a total of more than 1,200 theaters following its best picture Oscar win, although the movie is already available on DVD. Last year, Oscar winner Birdman also expanded following the Academy Awards ceremony, grossing $1.9 million since (it, too, was already available in the home).
Making a play at the specialty box office is Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, which debuts in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles a year after it premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival. Broad Green Pictures is releasing the movie, which stars Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley, Brian Dennehy, Imogen Poots and Freida Pinto.
Deadpool has ruled the roost for three weekends in a row and should continue to impress, even if it falls to No. 3. The Fox movie starring Ryan Reynolds is poised to pass the $300 million mark domestically sometime on Friday or Saturday as it heads for $700 million worldwide.