As Sony’s “After Earth” opened Friday, an irresistible force (Will Smith, with a two-decade record of #1 openings) met an unmovable object (director M. Night Shyamalan’s declining box office and critical appeal), and the latter won. “After Earth,” top-heavy with Smith family involvement (Smith’s co-star is his son Jaden) looks to end up in third place for the weekend with a below-expectations $9.8 million for Friday.
In the sci-fi movie’s defense, it fell only $700,000 below repeat #1 “Fast and Furious 6” (Universal) which dropped around 70% from its opening day. Lionsgate’s less-heralded “Now You See Me,” featuring a cast of respected if not box office-marquee actors Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, looks to eke out a narrow #2 showing after grossing $10 million its first day, above what was anticipated.
Despite the disappointing news for Sony (facing a $135 million production budget, which means that international will need to gross a higher than usual multiple of the domestic gross for the film to break even), overall business actually was up around 20% from the same weekend last year for the top 10 ($49 million, up from $41). This comes after the best week of 2013, at $368 million more than 50% better than exactly one year earlier, suggesting that the slate this year could bring the cumulative total closer to 2012. “Man of Steel” coming in two weeks could be a big boost to closing the gap.
The rest of the holdovers in the top 10 fell 50% or more from last Friday, led by an almost two-thirds drop for Warner Bros.’ “Hangover 3,” which for the moment is #4, with Paramount’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” in fifth place. Twentieth Century Fox’s “Epic” could jump up as high as #4 when weekend matinees are totaled, but at the moment it is lagging behind what high-end 3-D animated films should be. “Iron Man 3,” “The Great Gatsby” and Indian film “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deew” (Eros, in only 169 theaters) look to round out the top 10.