Elysium Powers Late Summer Box Office Weekend with $30.5 Million

Elysium Powers Late Summer Box Office Weekend with $30.5 MillionSony’s Elysium from Neill Blomkamp, and starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, landed at the number one spot at the North American box office despite coming in below expectations. Warner’s We’re The Millers scored a solid second while Disney’s Planes and Fox’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters posted okay numbers in third and fourth place, respectively. The four new films helped boost totals up a healthy 18% over last year at this time.

Four years ago this month Sony debuted Blomkamp’s violent Sci-fi drama District 9, which was met with critical praise, big box office numbers and a surprise Best Picture Oscar nomination. After making such an impressive splash, expectations for Blomkamp’s next feature have been nothing short of sky high and it took four years for Blomkamp to finally deliver Elysium.

While it had more hype than District 9, Elysium didn’t quite reach that film’s heights. Reviews were a little less kind than for District 9 (66% vs. 90% approval on Rotten Tomatoes), and the audience turnout was somewhat smaller as well despite the presence of Damon and Foster. Whereas District 9 opened to a big $37.3 million via 3,049 screens, Elysium managed an estimated $30.5 million from 3,284 screens. Whether Elysium reaches the $115 million total that District 9 earned in 2009 depends on the all-important word-of-mouth factor. Given the movie’s “B” rating from CinemaScore and the fact that business saw no uptick from Friday-to-Saturday, it appears that ticket buyer feedback may work more against the movie than for it.

Another R-rated feature, the comedy We’re The Millers, got a head start on the weekend by debuting on Wednesday. The Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston feature earned a solid $11 million midweek total before adding an estimated $26.5 million on 3,260 screens this weekend. To date, the $37 million production has earned $38 million and is taking advantage of the lack of comedies. Critics slammed the movie pretty hard (41% RT approval rating) but audiences could care less as they were obviously in the mood for 100 minutes of mindless laughs.

Disney’s 3D spinoff from Pixar’s Cars franchise, Planes, continued a string of 3D-animated films over the course of the past several weeks. Originally set to be a direct-to-video feature, Planes was dropped into the waning days of summer instead in the hopes of gouging families of their movie dollars one last time before the kiddies head back to school. The critically-slammed (24% RT approval) feature didn’t set the box office on fire the way its Pixar brethren did (each Cars feature opened to roughly $60 million in a mid-June timeslot), yet it did pull in some okay box office for August. The Dane Cook-voiced cartoon arrived in 3,702 theaters and took off with an estimated $22.5 million in its first three days.

The fourth new release of the weekend was Fox’s young adult fantasy sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The belated follow up to the minor 2010 late winter hit earned $14.6 million in its first weekend on 3,031 screens. Like We’re The Millers, Percy opened on Wednesday where it took in $8.8 million. The $23 million brought in by Monsters was a good 35% lower than the opening for the 2010 original, which could have been the result of several factors: bad reviews (34% RT approval), the long wait between films or the simple fact that young adults, like families, have had more than their share of substandard adaptations of their beloved book series. The new film should wind up earning roughly half of the 2010 original’s $88 million domestic haul and will have to rely on the foreign markets if Fox wishes to make a third Percy Jackson opus.

Rounding out the top five and fading fast is last weekend’s number one flick 2 Guns. The Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg action comedy crashed 59% in its second round on 3,028 screens to earn an estimated $11.1 million. After ten days the Universal release has earned $48.5 million and should finish its run between $65-70 million.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. The Smurfs 2 (Sony) $9.5 million (-46%); $46.6 million

7. The Wolverine (Fox) $8 million (-63%); $112 million

8. The Conjuring (Warner) $6.7 million (-48%); $120.7 million

9. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) $5.7 million (-43%); $338.3 million

10. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) $3.7 million (-53%); $123.8 million

A crowded August and late summer box office push continues next weekend with Jobs, Kick-Ass 2, The Butler and Paranoia all vying to upend Elysium from its top position.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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