Box Office: 'Expendables 3' Earns Dismal $5.9M Friday for Franchise-Worst Debut

Expendables 3 Premiere Actors - H 2014
AP Images

Expendables 3 Premiere Actors - H 2014

In addition to possible franchise fatigue, a pirated copy of the action film was leaked on the Internet prior to the movie's release

The summer doldrums have returned to the North American box office, where Lionsgate and Millennium Films' The Expendables 3 grossed $5.9 million Friday for a projected $15 million to $16 million weekend, by far the worst start for the action franchise.

Holdovers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy will have no trouble staying at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. To boot, Expendables 3 is now expected to lose as well to 20th Century Fox's new comedy Let's Be Cops, which should gross $17 million for the three days for a five-day debut of $25.7 million (the R-rated movie opened Wednesday).

Paramount's TMNT took in $7.9 million Friday for a projected three-day take of $26 million, a 60 percent decline from opening weekend. It will jump the $100 million mark domestically sometime on Saturday, while Guardians jumped the $200 million mark Friday after grossing $7 million.

In addition to potential franchise fatigue, a pristine copy of Expendables 3 leaked on the Internet is likely hurting the movie's box office performance, much like what happened when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was pirated before its release in 2009.

The first Expendables opened to $34.8 million domestically in August 2010 after a $13.3 million Friday, followed by $28.6 million for the sequel after a $10.5 million Friday in August 2012. Both those films were rated R, while the threequel is rated PG-13, meaning it should have seen a boost from being more family friendly. One positive note: The movie did earn an A- CinemaScore.

Expendables 3, featuring a multigenerational lineup of action stars, is hoping to make up ground overseas, where it begins rolling out this weekend in a number of markets, including Russia, a haven for action films.

The Expendables series is the brainchild of Sylvester Stallone and Avi Lerner, whose Nu Image/Millennium partnered with Lionsgate on the series. The films have generally cost in the $90 million range to produce and have done especially big business overseas. Expendables 2 took in $220.4 million internationally, compared to $85 million in North America.

This time out, Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham) and other team members battle villain Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). The sprawling cast includes Harrison Ford, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Randy Couture, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Robert Davi.

Buddy action comedy Let's Be Cops, starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson, cost Fox a modest $17 million to make. The movie earned $5.6 million on Friday, but is expected to eclipse Expendables 3 on Saturday.

Directed by Luke Greenfield, Let's Be Cops follows two friends who pretend to be Los Angeles police officers. Andy Garcia, Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key and James D'Arcy also star.

Going after younger moviegoers and faith-based audiences is The Giver, directed by Phillip Noyce and based on Lois Lowry's 1993 YA novel of the same name. More than two decades in the making, the $30 million film was co-financed and co-produced by The Weinstein Co. and Walden Media.

The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites, placed No. 5 Friday with $4.7 million for a projected $13 million weekend, somewhat less than expected. It earned a B+ CinemaSCore.

Aug. 15, 12:34 p.m. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified 2013's The Wolverine as being leaked online prior to its release. The film in question was 2009's X-Men Origins: WolverineTHR regrets the error.

Aug. 15, 3:15 p.m. Updated with Friday projections.

Aug. 16, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Friday actuals.

Twitter: @PamelaDayM