Box Office: 'The Dark Tower' Tops Sluggish Weekend, 'Detroit' Collapses

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
'The Dark Tower'

Halle Berry thriller 'Kidnap' made a modest bow.

Moviegoers mostly ignored the new box-office offerings this weekend. Sony’s The Dark Tower, designed to launch a new franchise based on Stephen King’s fantasy novel series, managed to notch a No. 1 bow, but grossed just an estimated $19.5 million in North America — the lowest No. 1 opening of the year to date. Annapurna’s Detroit, the latest film from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, met even more resistance, grossing a mere $7.25 million for the weekend. Meanwhile, Aviron’s Kidnap, the Halle Berry thriller which has been awaiting release for two years, scored a modest debut, taking in $10.2 million.

The Dark Tower, produced by a 50/50 partnership between Sony and MRC for a reported $60 million, stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, and managed to squeeze ahead of Warners’ Dunkirk, which took in another $17.6 million in its third weekend of release (as its domestic tally rose to $133.6 million). In the film, Elba plays a gunslinger who is determined to hunt down his nemesis, the Man in Black (played McConaughey), and protect the Dark Tower, a powerful structure that protects the world from darkness.

Although the studio was looking to set a record for a King adaptation, with $19.5 million, it came up just short. The current record remains 1408, which opened to $20.6 million in 2007. The Dark Tower attracted an older, male audience — 58 percent were male and 68 percent were over the age of 25. "The Dark Tower is a bold and ambitious undertaking made at the right price," commented Sony domestic distribution president Adrian Smith, predicting that the movie would find its legs because "there's a lot of summer box office left and its international rollout is just starting to take off."

This weekend's other two new wide releases, Kidnap and Detroit, both debuted below holdovers Dunkirk, The Emoji Movie and Girls Trip. Detroit checked in even further down the list at eighth place.

The first release from Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures under its own distribution label, Detroit commanded attention, since it’s also the first movie from Bigelow following The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Set during the Detroit riots of 1967, the pic features an ensemble cast that includes John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, Jack Reynor and Anthony Mackie and was written by Bigelow’s longtime collaborator Mark Boal. But the $40 million film appears to have met plenty of audience resistance, despite the fact that it had a positive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 88 percent.

After debuting last weekend in 20 theaters where it grossed $350,000, Detroit expanded into 3,007 locations this weekend. While tracking suggested the film might debut in the $13 million range, ultimately it attracted just $7.25 million, bringing its cumulative domestic tally to $7.77 million.

Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow’s previous film, followed a somewhat different release pattern, staying in limited release for three weekends before broadening slightly and then going wide on its fifth weekend in early January 2013. With the benefit of awards buzz, when it did go wide, it took in $32.9 million. With Detroit, however, the distributor gambled that instead of waiting for the fall festival circuit, it could find an audience in August, during which other African-American-themed films like Lee Daniels' The Butler and Straight Outta Compton have launched successfully.

Those audiences who were willing to give Detroit a chance did give it a thumbs-up in the form of an A-minus CinemaScore. Its audience was slightly more female (52-48 percent), but racially diverse: While 41 percent of the audience was Caucasian, 37 percent was African-American; 14 percent Hispanic; and eight percent Asian or other. And, as might be expected, the movie drew its biggest audiences in theaters throughout Michigan.

In the theaters where Detroit opened last week, it experienced relatively strong staying power, leading Annapurna to hope that the film will yet develop a loyal following. "I think there are positive signs that it will find legs out there," said Annapurna president of distribution Erik Lomis. "Basically, we're seeing lots of conversations starting after the screenings. We're very proud of this movie. We believe in Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, and we wanted this story to be told. We hope the conversation continues."

Kidnap, which was originally set to be released by Relativity Media before new distributor Aviron picked up its domestic release rights, pulled in $10.2 million for the weekend. The pic, directed by Luis Prieto, follows a mother who will stop at nothing to get her kidnapped son back. While the movie showed some signs of life, it collected less than the debut of Berry’s last thriller, 2013’s The Call, which opened to $17.1 million on its way to a $51.9 million domestic purse.

Further down the list, while Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman took in just $2.36 million on the weekend, its domestic gross now stands just shy of $400 million at $399.5 million, making it the second-best domestic-grossing movie of the year to date, behind only Beauty and the Beast’s tally of $504 million.

On the specialty front, The Weinstein Co.’s snowbound thriller Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan and starring Jeremy Renner, made its debut after stops at Sundance and Cannes. Playing in just four locations, it took in $164,167 for a strong per-theater average of $41,042. The audience for the film skewed 53 percent female, and 60 percent were over the age of 35. More than 70 percent said they would recommend the movie to others, and with an audience score of 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes to go along with a solid critics' score of 88 percent, TWC president of distribution Laurent Ouaknine predicted solid word-of-mouth for the film, which will expand to 45 locations in the top 20 markets next weekend and then broaden further on Aug. 18.

Speaking of Sheridan, the actor-turned-writer who wrote last year's Hell or High Water, TWC COO David Glasser added, "We knew Taylor was an amazing writer, but he's also a phenomenal filmmaker. In a sluggish market, this is a nice movie to have because people are finding and responding well to it, and as it expands, there's absolutely an audience there for it."

Columbus, the debut feature from South Korean director Kogonada, opened in exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend. Starring John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, the drama — the first film released with the support of the Sundance Institute’s newly established Creative Distribution Fellowship — grossed an estimated $28,800 for a per-screen average of $14,400.

Fox Searchlight introduced Amanda Lipitz' Step, a documentary about a girls high-school step dance team, in 29 locations, where it did $145,000 worth of business for a per-location average of $5,000.

In its second weekend, the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, from Paramount and Participant Media, expanded to 180 locations domestically and grossed $900,000, bringing its cumulative take to $1.052 million. It will expand to more than 500 locations on Friday.

Foreign-produced movies dominated the international market this weekend, led by the Chinese blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2, China's Once Upon a Time and South Korea's A Taxi Driver. But Fox's War for the Planet of the Apes took in an additional $31.5 million overseas to bring its worldwide total to $278.1 million. Dunkirk crossed the $300 million mark globally as it collected an additional $25 million in foreign territories, bringing its haul to $314.2 million. And Universal's Despicable Me 3 picked up another $21.2 million as its worldwide gross grew to $879.5 million.

Aug. 6, 11:40 a.m. Updated with international grosses.