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Box Office: Will Smith Tumbles With ‘After Earth’; ‘Fast & Furious 6’ Holds On To #1

Box Office: Will Smith Tumbles With 'After Earth'; 'Fast & Furious 6' Holds On To #1

Has there ever been any franchise quote like the “Fast And Furious” films? Since Justin Lin took over the series, the grosses have risen with each installment. His “The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift” collected $158 million globally seven years ago, and now, three movies later, “Fast And Furious 6” is set to gross over $170 million domestically within its first eleven days of release. Even with two challenging newcomers in the marketplace, this latest installment held the top spot for the second weekend in a row, and should become the second film in the series to cross half a billion in global gross within days (it currently rests at $480.6M globally).

Though these are ensemble pieces, the films have always relied on the star power of leads Paul Walker and Vin Diesel. It seems that both stars have come to terms with the fact that they aren’t bankable when not behind the wheel, dabbling in projects like Diesel’s self-made franchise “Riddick” and Walker’s annual straight-to-DVD actioner that gets forgotten among a pile of similar offerings. Both are notably stepping it up in the coming year, as Walker will appear in the Luc Besson-fueled “Brick Mansions” and Diesel has potential franchise-starters “The Machine” and “The Last Witch Hunter” on the docket, but these vehicles will be a major test of their appeal after next summer’s “Fast And Furious 7” likely spells the end of their involvement in this series. Or… does it? Then again, maybe the reason “Fast Five” and “Fast And Furious 6” went supernova is because Dwayne Johnson was involved?

Now You See Me” bucked industry projections in a big way and looks to be the bigger winner of the two debuting films. This ensemble generated an “A-” Cinemascore, boosted by a clear premise (magicians rob people!) and a lot of familiar faces. But pull back the curtain a bit and ask: is this actually evidence that Jesse Eisenberg, by far the most bankable of the four lead magicians, is a legit leading man that audiences want to see? “Zombieland” far outpaced industry expectations to the point where perhaps the chief complaint of the recent television show spinoff was that Eisenberg was not properly replaced. Even bigger was his association with “The Social Network,” which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor while collecting $224 million worldwide. He’s managed his career well enough that audiences aren’t sick of him, appearing in tiny independent films like “Why Stop Now?” while writing and starring in “The Revisionist” on Broadway, suggesting that diversifying his portfolio is more important to him, a trait that might end up making him more attractive to audiences. His next few roles are under-the-radar indie parts, and it’s very possible audiences will miss him enough to anticipate his next major starring role.

After an unprecedented run of dominance at the box office, this might be the weakest moment yet for Will Smith and it’s certainly his poorest summer showing ever. Three and a half years away from the big screen resulted in “Men In Black III,” which still collected $624 million worldwide, but domestically it was the weakest performer in that series. Some argued that teaming with son Jaden Smith, who led “The Karate Kid” to $359 million global, was Daddy Will adding a strength to strength, but peculiarly, “After Earth” didn’t have any of this hypothetical muscle. This was a case of a studio fully giving the keys to one of the biggest stars in the world, as the elder Smith received a Story By credit, but the ad campaign never really came together, the father-son angle obscured by the fact that the more bankable part of the equation spends the majority of the film fixed to a chair, both legs broken. Oh, and note, even Smith’s “Wild Wild West” opened up to bigger numbers in 1999.

Sony likely thought they were being clever by hiding the fact that this was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, but perhaps they were burying another bankable element. As much flak as Shyamalan generates from viewers, the much-mocked “The Happening” and “The Last Airbender” grossed $163 million and $319 million worldwide, respectively. Even as a laughingstock to the critical community (who did “After Earth” absolutely no favors), Shyamalan is still one of the more recognizable directing names in the business, and burying his presence underneath a premise that sounds very much like April’s “Oblivion” might have been a mistake. The chief angle was the pairing of two Smiths: separately, they’re a major star and a young ingenue. Together, they’re a dynasty, and this could be a case of the audience turning down a chance to root for the overdog.

Following a holiday weekend, the numbers for several holdovers took a stumble, but the strongest legs belonged to “Epic,” typical of a CG-animated ‘toon. The film hasn’t connected all that sharply with the typical kiddie audience who should be starved for some animated attention, but it’s certainly early. The film has until June 21st to rake in some dough, the date that sees the release of “Monsters University.” Until then, “Epic” should rake in some serious cheddar, particularly overseas, where the Blue Sky brand has a certain cachet; the last two “Ice Age” films generated over three-quarters of their grosses from foreign audiences, while “Rio” followed a similar pattern. And it can’t be emphasized enough that most animated films cost between $150-$200 million, but Blue Sky usually checks in under $100 million.

Star Trek Into Darkness” took a tumble, though it should arrive at $200 million domestic in the next couple of weeks. It fared better than the second weekend of “The Hangover Part III,” which faced a brutal downturn in only its second weekend. The film is performing strongly overseas, though, and despite the overly generous $100 million budget and middling domestic receipts, this “Hangover” is destined to be somewhat profitable, if also the weakest in the series by a vast margin. Meanwhile, “Iron Man 3” winds down its spectacular run, though it will likely finish around $400 million domestic, which would place it in the top fifteen all time. Though you’d expect the film with the second biggest opening weekend of all-time to at least become one of the ten biggest domestic hits in history, it’s still just gravy for Marvel, who have guided the film well past a billion dollars globally.

The Great Gatsby” eased on down to the bottom of the top ten, though its strong run may come to a close as soon as next week. No shame, as the numbers have just surpassed the $211 million global take of “Australia” (yes really) to become Baz Luhrmann‘s  biggest film. It stayed above a curious debut, the rambunctious youth-centric Bollywood film “Yeh Jawaani Hai Dew,” which shares space with a plethora of blockbusters this weekend even though it appeared in just 162 screens. Meanwhile, “Mud” continues to hang around, hacing made it to $17 million despite a small budget, a low profile, and the exact opposite of a bankable title.

In limited release, the biggest newcomer was “The East,” which opened on four screens with $75.6k, weaker than “Another Earth” ($77.7k on five screens) but more muscular than “Sound Of My Voice” ($36k at five theaters) among Brit Marling vehicles. “The Kings Of Summer” followed strongly behind with $58k on four screens, while documentary “The History Of Future Folk” grossed $6k at its single location. Holdover “Frances Ha” was the strongest holdover with $552k at 133 locations, adding to a $1.6 million total, while “Before Midnight” racked up very strong per-screen numbers to pull in $431k at only 31 theaters. “What Maisie Knew” also scored it’s best weekend with $206k at 101 theaters for a $543k total, while seventy one theaters greeted the fifth week of “Love Is All You Need” with $169k to its total of $707k. For the very last time, support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.

1. Furious 6 (Universal) – $34.5 million ($171 mil.)
2. Now You Don’t (Lionsgate/Summit) – $28 million
3. Just The Two Of Us (Sony) – $27.3 million
4. Epic (Fox) – $16.4 million ($64 mil.)
5. No, Why Don’t YOU Star Trek Into Darkness? (Paramount) – $16.4 million ($180 mil.)
6. The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.) – $15.1 million ($88 mil.)
7. Iron Man Three (Disney) – $7.8 million ($385 mil.)
8. The Greatest Gatsby Of All (Warner Bros.) – $5.8 million ($128 mil.)
9. Yeh Jawaani Hai Dew – $1.3 million
10. Mud (Roadside Attractions) – $1.2 million ($17 mil.)

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