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Friday Box Office: Sequels Beat New Entries, Faith-Based ‘Heaven’ Is Strong, ‘Transcendence’ Starts off Weak

Friday Box Office: Sequels Beat New Entries, Faith-Based 'Heaven' Is Strong, 'Transcendence' Starts off Weak

Easter Weekend, with its Friday school holiday, is usually an appealing date for new releases, and the studios came through with four debuts. Despite that, two holdover films, both sequels, came in #1 and #2 yesterday, with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (Buena Vista) and “Rio 2” (20th Century Fox), at $9.6 and $9.2 respectively, leading the way.

Thanks to the holiday boost, the day’s total came to around $46 million, a big jump from the same Friday last year. However, Good Friday in 2013 was several weeks earlier, and that day grossed a much higher $56 million. The falloff comes in large part because three of this week’s four new wide films performed at mixed to unimpressive results.

The one exception is Sony’s “Heaven Is for Real,” which grossed nearly $7.9 million yesterday after grossing $7 million in its first two days. This is an example of a high end faith-based film (studio-initiated, with veterans Joe Roth as one of the producers and “Braveheart” scripter-turned-director at the helm) that is successfully capitalizing on the interest in Christian-themed films currently as in “God’s Not Dead.” At $12 million, it is a very low budget for a big-studio film, so this gross will only increase the push to make more contemporary religious themed films.

That success contrasts with the weak showing for “Transcendence” (Warner Bros.), #4 with $4.8 million its first day. With its ties to Christopher Nolan (who executive-produced his cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut starring Johnny Depp), this was anticipated to be a potential mid-spring hit. Domestically at least it looks like a dud, though success could show internationally. With a $100 million budget, plus marketing, the total gross will need to be way above $200 million worldwide, with the U.S. looking like it will be short of $40 million, making the climb difficult.

#5 is “A Haunted House 2” (Open Road), the sequel to the low-budget horror-comedy success from early last year. Its first day $4 million gross is way down from the non-holiday $6.7 million for the last one (which came in at $18 million for the weekend, while this will be closer to $10 million). #6 is “Bears” (Buena Vista), a 77-minute G-rated nature documentary at $2.3 million, whose marketing budget likely exceeds its modest production cost.

Three other holdovers hovered just over $2 million in 7th to 9th place — “Draft Day” (Lionsgate), “Divergent” (also Lionsgate) and “Oculus” (Relativity). Rounding out the Top 10 is “God’s Not Dead” at $1.7 million as it approaches a staggering $50 million this Easter weekend.

Among more limited openings, the clear standout was John Turturro’s “Fading Gigolo” (Millennium), which grossed over $50,000 in 5 New York/Los Angeles theaters and looks headed towards a better than expected (considering the decidedly mixed reviews) opening weekend and long-term appeal. Woody Allen in a major role seems to have helped.

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