Sci-fi films have been a mixed bag this year. And this notion gets encapsulated by Ender’s Game box-office performance this weekend. Opening in USA and Canada, the movie took top position with a weekend earning estimated at $28 million. Good or bad? Well, it seems like neither. It is a decent opening, nothing electrifying or worth shouting about. But not completely terrible. Made on a production budget of $110 million, the studios would have hoped for something better but the buzz about the movie was never strong enough despite starring Harrison Ford. The movie is based on the 1985 novel of the same name. The novel itself spurn four sequels, and so the obvious question is, will the movie Ender’s Game be the beginning of a franchise or rather the end of it? The opening itself is not the strongest to make the studios gung-ho about the prospects of a sequel. But the decision might be taken on where the movie’s earnings go from here. A good comparison would be with two other sci-fi films of this year with similar sort of production budgets. Matt Damon starrer Elysium had opened with $29.8 million, while Will Smith starrer After Earth opened with $27.5 million domestically. Not much difference, right? But the terrible reviews of After Earth caused its debacle in subsequent weeks and the movie only managed $61 million domestically. Compared to that, Elysium held off better with domestic earnings of $93 million. Now neither of these movies has done great business, but while you would call Elysium to have put up a modest face, you would only call After Earth a flop. The problem Ender’s Game will face, and it is a gigantic problem too, is the release of Thor: The Dark World next weekend. You just get a bad feeling for Ender’s Game now, that it is likely to be brutally crushed in its second weekend, and it may well end up with a domestic run somewhere in between those of After Earth and Elysium. If it could put up an international run of $200 million odd (like Elysium), then just maybe someone would green light a sequel, but it is looking very very unlikely.
The Jackass series though should very well have another edition coming out in a few years’ time, with its latest one doing soundly well. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa dropped only 36% in the second weekend taking its domestic earnings itself to $62 million. Good going! And while the audience is enjoying the R-rated comedy, the new PG-13 release in this genre hasn’t done too badly either. Last Vegas with a cast of legends (Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas) opened to $16.5 million on the weekend which seems a fine start when compared to its production budget of $28 million. While these old legs may run out of steam soon as Thor starts dominating the box-office, this start still seems bright enough for the studio behind Last Vegas to recuperate its investment. Same cannot be said for the final wide release of the weekend, the animated film Free Birds. The first animated movie from effects company Reel FX, the movie earned marginally lower than Last Vegas but it had a production budget twice the size. The reviews from the critics have not been great either, and surely it is the death knell for this movie. Animated movies, just like sci-fi flicks, have been a mixed bag too, with massive hits to massive flops released this year. Free Birds is going to end up with the pack at the bottom that will be forgotten soon. With the year end approaching, Disney’s Frozen seems to be the only animated film of repute left to be released.
And to round off the box-office story, Gravity dropped to fifth spot, has earned $427 million worldwide so far (the production budget was only $100 million, remember?), and that’s it, we ain’t gonna talk about this one again. Oh, and before preparing ourselves for the bonanza called Thor: The Dark World for next weekend, know this… the movie has opened in 36 foreign markets and earned $109 million already for the weekend. And it is yet to open in some big ones like Japan and China. So things looking good here, and next week we’ll know better! Oh, thy glorious God!
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Ender’s Game ($28.0 million)
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa ($20.5 million; second weekend)
3. Last Vegas ($16.5 million)
4. Free Birds ($16.2 million)
5. Gravity ($13.1 million; fifth weekend)