Both Sylvester Stallone and Julia Roberts marked their best openings in years with a boost from a raft of action stars in The Expendables and femme fans of the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller Eat Pray Love, respectively. Comic-book youth film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stumbled out of the starting gate. Anthony D’Alessandro does the numbers:
Proving that many action stars can perform better than just one, Sylvester Stallone’s muscular The Expendables took audiences hostage with $35 million at 3,270 theaters; it was the multi-hyphenate’s best-ever opening. Sony’s Julia Roberts headliner Eat Pray Love, a much-needed romance to feed the hungry female demo this summer, feasted a savory $23.7 million at 3,082 theaters, while Universal’s fanboy comic-book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World crashed in fifth place with $10.5 million at 2,818 hubs. That figure fell below the industry pre-weekend estimates of $15 million.
The reason for The Expendables’ success in luring men of all ages is apparent in the lineup of action stars on its poster. Stallone cannily targeted both dads (60% of the audience was over 25) and younger millennials (40% under 25) with his round-up of ‘80s beefcakes–Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger– and younger-generation gunslingers–Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin and Terry Crews. Rather than build out another sequel to his Rocky and Rambo series, Stallone instead “created a whole new franchise,” says Lionsgate distribution head David Spitz. “When we started screening the film, we knew we had something special. We knew the film would serve as great counterprogramming to Eat Pray Love.”
Surprisingly, Expendables took a bite out of that film’s audience by grabbing both men and women, 61% to 39%.
After taking a bath with the Ashton Kutcher-Katherine Heigl action comedy Killers this summer, Lionsgate, under duress from board member Carl Icahn, can heave a sigh of relief with The Expendables. Whereas Lionsgate forked out $75 million to make Killers, Millennium/NuImage financed Expendables for $82 million. Approximately 60% of the film’s cost was covered by sales to various distributors. Lionsgate spent around $40 million to market the film.
Attracting both fans and non-fans of Elizabeth Gibert’s novel, 72% of Eat Pray Love’s audience was women: 56% were over 35, 44% under. 64% of the under-35s were between age 17 and 29. As it did with its other summer fare, Sony plugged various marketing avenues, selling goods from the film’s settings of Bali, India and Italy on HSN to social networks. Overall Cinemascore was B.
Marrying Julia Roberts with a femme bestseller proved to be a perfect recipe in upticking the actress’ solo openings at the box office after putting audiences asleep with last year’s Duplicity ($14 million bow, $40.6 million final). In her ‘90s heyday, a Julia Roberts vehicle would pull in about $30 million-plus, while her ensemble features, i.e. Valentine’s Day, the Ocean Eleven series, continually reap boffo returns. Similar to other titles on its summer slate, Sony was also cost conscious with Eat Pray Love shelling out $60 million to produce.
Despite its glorious A- Cinemascore (A for those under 25), where was the audience for Scott Pilgrim? They were in the auditorium for The Expendables. Unspooling during a less competitive frame would have proved a better fate for Scott Pilgrim. Similar to Universal’s Get Him to the Greek earlier this summer, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a niche comedy. And while the studio is making efforts to make this film profitable (through credits and rebates they reduced the Edgar Wright comedy from $85 million to $60 million), Michael Cera’s marquee appeal is limited. The actor’s first big hit following his turn on Fox’s TV show Arrested Development was 2007’s R-rated Superbad which bowed to $33.1 million and went on to final at $121.5 million. Since then Cera’s bows have been erratic with Scott Pilgrim grossing less than his dud last summer, Year One, which opened to $19.6 million and ended at $43.3 million. Scott Pilgrim may pick up some word-of-mouth and develop into a cult choice on DVD.
This weekend the critics weren’t in sync with moviegoer taste. The Expendables was splattered with a 43% rotten score on the Tomatometer, while Eat Pray Love also 38% rotten, while Scott Pilgrim got a big kiss at 80%.
Here’s the Top Ten Chart:
1. The Expendables (Lionsgate): $35 million in its first weekend at 3,270 theaters. $10,714 theater average. Domestic total: $35 million
2. Eat Pray Love (Sony): $23.7 million in its first weekend at 3,082 theaters. $7,690 theater average. Domestic total: $23.7 million
3. The Other Guys (Sony): $18 million down 49% in its second weekend at 3,651 theaters. $4,930 theater average. Domestic total: $70.5 million
4. Inception (Warner Bros.): $11.4 million down 39% in its fifth weekend at 3,120 theaters. $3,644 theater average. Domestic total: $248.6 million
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal): $10.5 million in its first weekend at 2,818 theaters. $3,735 theater average. Domestic total: $10.5 million.
6. Despicable Me (Universal): $6.8 million down 27% in its sixth weekend at 2,923 theaters. $2,315 theater average. Domestic total: $222 million.
7. Step Up 3D (Disney): $6.6 million down 58% in its second weekend at 2,439 theaters. $2,717 theater average. Domestic total: $29.6 million.
8. Salt (Sony): $6.35 million down 42% in its fourth weekend at 2,834 theaters. $2,241 theater average. Domestic total: $103.6 million.
9. Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount): $6.316 million down 39% in its third weekend at 3,046. $2,074 theater average. Domestic total: $58.8 million.
10. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.): $4.08 million down 41% in its third weekend at 2,728. $1,494 theater average. Domestic total: $35.1 million.