Let us talk about Will Smith for a moment here. Or at least Will Smith at the box-office. This guy has been a phenomenon, a true star, who could make movies churn money solely on his name. True that he did some wonderful movies, and true that he was brilliant to watch on the screen, but more than once, his movies managed a larger audience than it deserved on the back of his following. For more than a decade, his movies always opened with earnings of somewhere between $40 to $60 million over the first weekend in North America, be of whatever genre. In 2006, The Pursuit of Happyness started off with a lower figure, but then the movie was simply so good that people kept on coming to theatres to eventually turn it into a big hit. The rare exception could be Seven Pounds in 2008, which was still financially successful, only not of the kind Will Smith movies usually are. But somewhere things slackened, and Will Smith came back on the big screen only in 2012 with another bit hit in MIB 3. For a while it felt that Smith’s cozy relationship with the box-office was back on track, but then we were in a shock with 2013’s After Earth. Not only was the movie a financial disaster but also hated by the majority, with many questioning Will Smith’s decision to be a part of it. His acting, to put it mildly, was also mediocre in the film. The charm and aura of Will Smith has now tapered for certain; the faith in him has been somewhat lost; and while we might still rate him highly as an actor, we are not too sure how his movies would turn out to be. Under such a backdrop, his latest movie Focus released in North America this weekend. This $50 million movie has opened with $19 million earnings in North America and $31 million globally. The movie might make close to $60 million at the domestic box-office and if it manages a $100 million addition from foreign markets, relying on Will Smith’s global appeal, then it would be somewhere close to the performance of Seven Pounds. Which still makes it a decent hit, and a good bounce back After Earth. But it is still comparable only to his weakest work (on the box-office) from the decade prior to After Earth. That is how quickly things have turned for Will Smith. And he would really have to pull up his socks and choose his movies wisely to win back the faith of the audience again.
The only other wide release of the weekend was the horror flick, The Lazarus Effect. It is another production from Jason Blum, the man who is now the master of making small-budget films work. The movie’s production budget is a petty $3.3 million. Its opening weekend earnings of a bit more than $10 million, which would otherwise look mediocre even for a horror film, now seems to make this movie a guaranteed hit. The market in USA though seems to be getting flooded by too many of such low-budget horror flicks, and not each one of them is of the quality of Paranormal Activity (the original). The year 2014 saw many such movies manage mediocre earnings, and not get appreciated enough to make it franchise material, which is another thing that the producers are looking for from such films. The sub-$5 million movies would still do enough business to recover the costs, but if the studios are really hunting for the next Paranormal Activity or Insidious, they need to deliver the next big thing – the next big horror which hasn’t been already done to death.
The two new movies took the top and fifth spot at the domestic box-office, so the three places in between was left to the older films. It is great to see Kingsman: The Secret Service manage a strong holdover as it keeps the second slot even in its third week. The movie is a joy to watch, and to get a sequel, we need it to make big bucks. It has now earned close to $210 million worldwide at the box-office, of which $86 million comes from the domestic market. The movie should be close to the break-even numbers now (production budget is $80 million); the domestic run might fetch it another $20 million or so, but a prolonged run in the foreign markets could guarantee a hit, and a sequel. The other two movies that are infact guaranteed hits are The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water which has earned $237 million globally so far, and Fifty Shades of Grey which is soon going to breach $500 million in worldwide collections; the sequel for the latter is yet to be announced, but the executives at Universal Pictures have to completely lose their minds to not shout out a sequel soon.
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office:
1. Focus ($19.1 million)
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service ($11.8 million; third weekend)
3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water ($11.2 million; fourth weekend)
4. Fifty Shades of Grey ($10.9 million; third weekend)
5. The Lazarus Effect ($10.6 million)