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CANNES — Universal and Hasbro Entertainment’s big-budget Battleship was nearly sunk at the Friday box office, grossing a disappointing $9.1 million for a projected weekend debut of just $25.1 million.
That’s well below the anticipated $35 million to $40 million that Universal and director Peter Berg were hoping for. Battleship, which earned a solid B CinemaScore, could come in higher if kids and parents start showing up on Saturday. The tentpole cost at least $209 million to produce, excluding a pricey marketing spend.
Battleship’s international gross of roughly $220 million provides some cushion, but the tentpole starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker and Liam Neeson needed a strong domestic performance to end up in the black. A $26 million opening means it might not clear $70 million over the long haul domestically, resulting in what could be a notable loss for Universal.
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There’s already speculation that Battleship will follow the same course as Disney’s John Carter, which debuted to $30.2 million in March and topped out at $71.8 million domestically. Overseas, John Carter, also starring Kitsch, earned $200.6 million. The pic resulted in a $200 million los for Disney.
The continuing strength of Disney and Marvel Studios’ The Avengers is no doubt making life difficult for Battleship and other new product (Warner Bros.’ Dark Shadows is another underperformer) but box-office observers say Battleship faces its own obstacles as well.
The alien-invasion actioner — based the classic board game not well known by younger generations — played notably older Friday, with 66 percent of the audience over the age of 25. Males made up 57 percent of those buying tickets, according to CinemaScore exit-polling data.
Avengers continues to be a box-office monster globally, growing its global gross to $1.1 billion through Friday — the No. 6 movie of all time. It will easily stay at No. 1 this weekend, with an expected domestic gross of $52 million or more after earning $15.3 million on Friday.
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The weekend’s other new offerings at the domestic box office are Sacha Baron Cohen’s R-rated comedy The Dictator and Lionsgate’s ensemble comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
While softer than Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno, Dictator — which opened Wednesday — pulled ahead of What to Expect on Friday, grossing an estimated $5.7 million for a three-day gross of $16 million and five-day debut of $23.5 million.
Dictator received a C CinemaScore and skewed heavily male (65 percent). The pic, which Paramount says cost $65 million to produce, did play notably younger, with 56 percent under the age of 25.
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Dictator is doing better business overseas and should earn $30 million by Sunday from its 29 markets.
What to Expect, based on the best-selling self-help book, looked to earn $4 million on Friday for a weak $11.5 million weekend.
As with Battleship, What to Expect — which earned a B- CinemaScore — also played older, with 77 percent over the age of 25. Females made up 67 percent of the audience.
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