Weekend Box Office: Martian Back On Top

Halloween may be the most feared day of the year in Hollywood, and it isn’t because of ghosts, goblins or the Kardashians sans makeup. No, All Hallow’s Eve is frightening because it is one of the worst –if not the worst- days for box office business all year long.

Because of this, studios tend to steer clear of releasing films should Halloween fall on a weekend day. As it falls this year on a Saturday, the studios opted to dump a handful of films into theaters the weekend before in the hopes of scaring up some quick bucks.

The strategy didn’t work. Four new arrivals –The Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Rock the Kasbah and Jem and the Holograms– were all dead on arrival. The news wasn’t much better for the fifth film to go into wide release this weekend, Universal’s Steve Jobs. The award season hopeful was in need of a box office reboot following two strong weeks of limited release.

Of the new batch, the adventure thriller The Last Witch Hunter fared the best. The latest attempt by star Vin Diesel to launch a new franchise outside of the wildly successful Fast and Furious series opened in 3,082 theaters Friday where it hunted down an estimated $10.8 million, good enough for fourth place. Critics burned the film at the stake, bestowing the $80 million production with a 14% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Lionsgate will have to look to foreign markets in the hopes of recouping their investment.

The latest chapter in the seemingly endless Paranormal Activity franchise –The Ghost Dimension- hit a franchise low by landing in sixth place with a $8.2 million gross from 1,656 theaters. Reviews for the feature were awful, with the film scoring a 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The low screen count –and resulting box office- is the result of many theater owners boycotting the film due to Paramount’s controversial deal which will send the movie to Video On Demand as soon as its theater count dips below 300 theaters. Given the low gross and the fact that these films burn out pretty quickly once Halloween has come and gone, that could happen as soon as the first week of November.

Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs opened in limited release two weekends ago and went on to post outstanding numbers. Given the reception the film received in the days and weeks leading up to its wide release this past Friday, it was expected that the drama would become a hit nationwide. Unfortunately, what sells in cities such as New York and Los Angeles doesn’t always sell in the heartland.

Despite an aggressive ad campaign by Universal and numerous talk show appearances from Boyle and star Michael Fassbender, people showed about as much interest in the film as they did the Apple Watch. Steve Jobs expanded into 2,493 theaters Friday, where it earned $7.3 million, landing the film in seventh place. While the opening was hardly one worth celebrating, it’s too early to write the film off. Adults tend to take their time seeing films aimed at their demographic, so word of mouth may help keep the film afloat into and through awards season. If the latter pans out as Universal is hoping, it could get another important boost.

Year-end awards, box office legs, positive word-of-mouth. None of these terms can be applied to the two outright disasters of the weekend, Rock the Kasbah and Jem and the Holograms. Not only did either film crack the top ten, they now hold the dubious honor of being the two worst openings of all time for a theatrical release on over 2,000 screens. How bad were the openings for Jem and Kasbah? Pan outgrossed both of them this weekend.

Open Road’s Kasbah, a $15 million production directed by Barry Levinson and starring Bill Murray, only managed to gross $1.5 million from 2,012 theaters. Universal’s Jem and the Holograms cost a mere $5 million, but it will have trouble recouping even that. The live-action version of the 1980s cartoon eked out a pathetic $1.3 million from 2,413 screens. Reviews were downright awful for both films.

What did end up making money this weekend? Popular leftovers. Fox’s The Martian moved back up to the number one spot thanks to a $15.9 million haul from 3,504 theaters. Off only 26%, the Ridley Scott blockbuster has earned a great $166 million so far. Foreign totals stand at $218 million. The film will get a one-week run in 3D IMAX starting next Friday.

Sony’s Goosebumps eased 34% in its second weekend on 3,501 screens for a $15.5 million weekend. To date, the family fright flick has earned $43.7 million. Bridge of Spies also displayed holding power in third place with an estimated $11.3 million from 2,811 theaters. Down 26% from its debut one week ago, the Steven Spielberg drama has earned $32.5 million so far.

Sony’s animated hit Hotel Transylvania 2 bit into an estimated $9 million from 3,154 theaters, good enough for fifth place. The film has earned $148 million so far and will pass the final haul of the first Hotel Transylvania on Monday.

The top ten was as follows:

  1. The Martian (Fox) $15.9 million; $166 million
  2. Goosebumps (Sony) $15.5 million; $43.7 million
  3. Bridge of Spies (Disney) $11.3 million; $32.5 million
  4. The Last Witch Hunter (Lionsgate) $10.8 million
  5. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony) $9 million; $148 million
  6. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Paramount) $8.2 million
  7. Steve Jobs (Universal) $7.3 million; $10 million
  8. Crimson Peak (Universal) $5.5 million; $22.4 million
  9. The Intern (Warner) $3.8 million; $64.7 million
  10. Sicario (Lionsgate) $2.95 million; $39.3 million

Next weekend, the box office goes into a holding pattern until Spectre arrives on November 6th. Nevertheless, three new films will enter the marketplace: Burnt, Our Brand Is Crisis and The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. 

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