By Amy Kaufman
12:19 PM EST, March 3, 2013
“Jack the Giant Slayer,” Bryan Singer’s new version of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” didn’t get off the ground this weekend.
The nearly $200-million 3-D production opened with a disappointing $28 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. It seems likely that the film will follow in the footsteps of another big-budget box office dud -- Walt Disney Studios' $250 million "John Carter," which launched with $30.2 million in March 2012 and ultimately collected just $73.1 million domestically.
It was a weak weekend at the box office overall, as three other new films also had lackluster debuts. "21 & Over," an R-rated college-set comedy about a drunken 21st-birthday celebration, was expected to start off with $15 million but instead collected an underwhelming $9 million. The low-budget horror sequel "The Last Exorcism: Part II" didn't come close to the original's $20.4 million opening, grossing just $8 million in its first weekend in theaters. And the Cold War submarine thriller "Phantom" posted one of the worst debuts ever for a film in wide release, taking in a jaw-dropping $460,000 from 1,118 theaters. (The company that released "Phantom," RCR Media Group, did not report an official weekend gross, so that figure is an estimate from other studios.)
Estimated total receipts tumbled 35% from the same three-day period last year., making this weekend the sixth in a row that ticket sales have been down compared with a year ago. Year to date, sales are down 8%, and attendance is off 9%, according to Hollywood.com.
Those who saw "Jack the Giant Slayer" this weekend, however, didn't hate it, assigning the film an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film's financiers -- Warner Bros., New Line division and Legendary Pictures -- are hoping that good word of mouth will help prop up the film at the box office in the coming weeks. But next weekend marks the arrival of another family-aimed movie, "Oz: The Great and Powerful," which is expected to launch with at least $75 million and dominate the market.
"Jack the Giant Slayer" features "Warm Bodies" star Nicholas Hoult as Jack, a young man trying to protect his kingdom from a legion of giants. The $190-million fantasy-adventure attracted a slightly more male audience -- 55% male vs. 45% female -- but the film was unable to pull in the young crowd the studio had been hoping to lure. In fact, 56% of the crowd was over the age of 25.
"Jack" will have to perform extremely well overseas if it is to be a financial success. Though the movie debuted in only seven foreign markets this weekend, Warner Bros. was already touting its minor international returns. On Friday, the studio said the film was No. 1 in six of the seven countries where it opened abroad, performing best in South Korea with an initial gross of $761,000. Final international numbers were not available early Sunday.
"21 & Over" is a disappointment for Relativity Media, which was hoping to replicate the success of R-rated party flick "Project X." That low-budget Warner Bros. movie, which opened on the same weekend last year, started off with $21.5 million and ultimately made a respectable $54.7 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The film, which follows three twentysomethings over the course of a wild night on a college campus, marked the directorial debut from "The Hangover" writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. (The duo also wrote "21 & Over.") Unlike that 2009 party movie, however, the pair's latest effort won't be a hit -- although at least Relativity and a consortium of Chinese companies spent a modest $13 million to produce it.
The few who did see the movie this weekend were young -- 73% of the audience was under the age of 25, and the crowd overall gave the film an average grade of B.
Meanwhile, inexpensive horror flicks have been struggling at the box office in recent weeks. Just a week after the scary "Dark Skies" opened with an unimpressive $8.2 million, "The Last Exorcism" also failed to find an audience. The movie, acquired by CBS Films from Strike Entertainment for $3 million, centers around a young women fighting against possession by a demonic force.
Though the film won’t come close to reaching the $41 million the original made, Steven Friedlander, CBS Films’ executive vice president of theatrical distribution, said he wasn’t worried about the sequel.
“It’s one of those pictures that will do well on video-on-demand and VOD,” he said. “The original had a found footage premise and came out right when that genre was really fresh, but the sequel didn’t have that hook.”
As for "Phantom," the Ed Harris-David Duchovny film will go down in history with the ill-fated kids film "Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure." Last August, that film posted the lowest opening ever for a picture playing in theaters nationwide -- an embarrassing $443,901. While it's not yet official that the movie about a Soviet submarine on a possibly deadly mission will beat that record, the film is clearly sunk.
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