Weekend Box Office: 'Ben-Hur' Crashes Chariot With $11.4M Opening
Holdovers 'Suicide Squad' and 'Sausage Party' stay No. 1 and No. 2, respectively; Natalie Portman's directorial debut, 'A Tale of Love and Darkness,' finally opens at the specialty box office, while 'Hell or High Water' continues to impress.
Timur Bekmambetov's Ben-Hur was shut out of the box-office chariot race this weekend, debuting to a mere $11.4 million from 3,804 theaters despite a hefty production budget of nearly $100 million and coming out behind a pair of smaller new films, War Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings.
Ben-Hur narrowly beat holdover Pete's Dragon to place No. 5.
Overall, Warner Bros.' Suicide Squad stayed No. 1 in its third weekend, grossing $20.7 million from 3,924 theaters for a domestic cume of $262.3 million. Overseas, the anti-superhero film passed the $300 million mark after earning another $38 million from 64 markets for a global tally of $572.7 million.
But that wasn't enough to best Illumination Entertainment and Universal's The Secret Life of Pets internationally. The animation tentpole, which is rolling out overseas more slowly, dethroned Suicide Squad to win the foreign weekend race with $45 million, putting its worldwide total at $674.5 million.
Back in North America, Sausage Party, from Sony and Annapurna Pictures, took second place with $15.3 million from 3,103 locations for a strong 10-day domestic total of $65.9 million. The R-rated animated comedy dipped 55 percent.
Ben-Hur — which was slammed by critics but earned an A- CinemaScore — is the latest sword-and-sandal movie to underperform. It also hoped to wow faith-based moviegoers, but even that effort lagged. (The film counts Hollywood Christians Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the producing team behind the 2014 hit movie Son of God and the 2013 miniseries The Bible, among its executive producers.)
MGM partnered with Paramount in making Ben-Hur and put up 80 percent of the financing. Overseas, the epic rolled out in about a third of the marketplace, grossing $10.7 million for a global start of $22 million. It performed best in Mexico and Brazil.
"This has definitely been a rough summer for remakes and sequels," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount.
Younger moviegoers had virtually no interest in seeing Ben-Hur. According to MGM and Paramount, 95 percent of the audience was over the age of 25. The movie skewed slightly female (51 percent).
Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi and Morgan Freeman star in the pic, a reimagining of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and not a remake of the classic 1959 film. (Burnett has billed the movie as a "story of forgiveness with an underlying story of Jesus.")
Paramount's Noah (2014) and Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) were likewise big-budget offerings that hoped to appeal to all demos, including faith-based moviegoers. Noah opened to a solid $47 million, while Exodus: Gods and Kings took in only $24 million.
Todd Phillips' first film since the Hangover trilogy, War Dogs, opened in third place with $14.3 million from 3,258 theaters. The war dramedy, which earned a B CinemaScore, stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill and is loosely based on the true story of two young Florida men who became international arms dealers during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"There's no question this was a passion for Todd. It's smart and quirky, and these two actors turned in a great performance," said Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein, who added that he's also elated with Suicide Squad, which will help deliver a record August in terms of industry box-office revenue.
War Dogs, not surprisingly, drew more males (56 percent), while 51 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 35.
Internationally, the pic debuted to $6.5 million from 31 markets for a global bow of $20.8 million. War Dogs cost just under $50 million to make.
The well-reviewed Kubo and the Two Strings, which grabbed an A CinemaScore, placed No. 4 with an $12.6 million debut from 3,260 theaters. It's the lowest opening for a Laika and Focus collaboration.
Kubo centers on a young boy who embarks on a quest to unlock the secret of his legacy and fulfill his heroic destiny. Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rooney Mara and Matthew McConaughey star as the voice cast.
Pete's Dragon, from Disney, took in another $11.33 million for a domestic total of $42.9 million and a global cume of $57.1 million.
The critically acclaimed heist film Hell or High Water, from CBS Films and Lionsgate, continued to do nice business in its limited rollout, grossing $2.7 million as it expanded from 32 theaters to a total of 472 for an early domestic total of $3.5 million. The movie, billed as a modern-day Western, is scoring both in art houses and in theaters across the Southwest and the South. Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster star.
Also at the specialty box office, Natalie Portman's directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, finally opened more than a year after premiering at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The historical biographical film, in which Portman also stars, debuted to $36,000 from two theaters in New York and Los Angeles for an average of $18,000.
Focus Features' division Focus World, a theatrical-VOD label, is handling Love and Darkness.