“Critics don’t matter,” the refrain often goes, but the truth is it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Audiences use critics selectively as guides. So when a critical consensus says Michael Bay’s latest “Transformers” isn’t worth seeing, well, audiences tend to go regardless. But sharp drop-off attendance suggests audiences were at least aware of the critical narrative. And then there are the times when critics tell you a movie is incredible, perhaps “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” “Boyhood” or “Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes,” and audiences come out in droves. Perhaps they were going to attend regardless, but where critical opinion really matters is around those films that audiences are feeling pretty unsure about already. They might read their favorite sites, see mixed reviews, and then decide to stay home. This year’s poor box-office, the worst in a decade or more, could be a testament to behavior. I digress. Critics weren’t screened Screen Gems’ “No Good Deed,” because the studio told the media that they wanted to “preserve the twist” of the movie. No one bought that excuse for a second, and by all accounts, “No Good Deed” wasn’t screened because it’s dreadful (we gave it the scathing F-grade review). And so even though the critics that saw it on Thursday or Friday night tried to warn you, audiences turned up for the film regardless. “No Good Deed” was the number one movie in the country this weekend.
Two factors here: first, audiences not really hearing about how horrible the movie was until late in the game, and second, the African American audience is always underserved, so here’s a chance to see a story with talented (and appealing) actors like Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson. The movie scored a very healthy $24 million in its opening weekend, probably twice the amount of money that “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” will make in its entire run. But don’t be surprised if there’s a massive drop-off next week.
“Dolphin Tale 2” performed surprisingly well too: $16.5 million to grab the number two position. Less fortunate in new releases was Fox Searchlight’s “The Drop” with Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and the final onscreen appearance of the late James Gandolfini. Despite mostly positive reviews, the movie opened at #6 with a mediocre $4.2 million, though probably not as bad as it could have been since the crime thriller was only on 809 screens. Will pundits point to the fact that Tom Hardy is not yet a draw to the general public (and therefore is WB worried about “Mad Max“?) who don’t know how good he can be? Or did discerning audiences just read The Playlist review to know what was what?
The biggest eventful box-office news of the weekend belonged to Marvel once again. “Guardians Of The Galaxy” was only third after three weeks at the top slot, but more importantly the Marvel movie became the first film of 2014 to cross the $300 million mark domestically. Comparatively, in 2013, there were eight movies that crossed the $250 million mark domestically, three of them over the $400 million line. In 2014, we’ve only had three movies gross beyond $250 million and only ‘Guardians’ has hit $300. It could be the sole movie of the year to reach that benchmark if the slow box-office is any barometer, that is unless “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1” has anything to say about it. ‘Guardians’ also crossed the $300 million mark internationally, so the picture has crossed the $600 million line globally. Like ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Guardians’ is the rare tentpole that performs better at home than worldwide, but this is really because it’s a new brand and the rest of the world is catching up. Look for the sequel’s gross to be eclipsed abroad next time (like it was with ‘Catching Fire,’ though only barely).
Other benchmarks hit: “22 Jump Street” reached the $323 million mark worldwide (gonna have to say toldja about the sequel), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” shellgamed its way to $320 million and YA films got a big boost too. “Divergent” finally opened in China and added $10 million to its tally for a $286 million worldwide total. The picture should now be able to cross $300 million. And “The Fault In Our Stars” keeps climbing abroad too — it should hit the $300 million mark globally by next week. Made for a song ($12 million), ‘Fault’ will likely end up being 2014’s most profitable movie, an achievement that won’t go unnoticed by the studios. If you’re not feeling the YA weepies, well, too bad— they’re not going away anytime soon.
Another movie belatedly hitting impressive figures is “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.” It seemed stalled at $600 million worldwide, but thanks to big berths in China and Japan, the movie is at $669 million and should hit $700 if this trend continues. Scarlett Johannson’s “Lucy” has also slowly crawled up to big numbers; it’s at $350 million globally and climbing (some estimate $450mil). The narrative around “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was that the animated tooner was a disappointment for Dreamworks Animation, so much so that part three was delayed by a year. But it’s actually grossed $609 million worldwide, and that’s about $100 million more than the original. But at a cost of $145 million (not counting for the big promotion and advertising campaigns), it’s perhaps not as profitable as the company would like.
In limited release, the combo of Kristen Wigg and Bill Hader was a surprise hit for the indie “The Skeleton Twins.” The Sundance award winner averaged $27,383 in 15 theaters. Grossing $410,756, this limited-release opening was easily the best of the weekend and best indie opening since “Boyhood” (which has grossed a stellar $21.9 million domestically by the way). The Weinstein Company‘s “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” took in $77,181 from 4 theaters for a $19,295 per screen average. If that seems low, it’s maybe because the movie was met with mixed reviews; most critics and ardent Chastain/McAvoy fans might be holding out until October when the full ‘Him’ & ‘Her’ Rigby films are released.
1. No Good Deed — $24.5 million
2. Dolphin Tale 2 — $16.5 million
3. Guardians of the Galaxy — $8,041,000 ($305mil)
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — $4,800,000 ($181mil)
5. Let’s Be Cops — $4.3 million ($72.9mil)
6. The Drop — $4.2 million
7. If I Stay — $4.05 million ($44.9mil)
8. The November Man — $2.75 million ($22.4mil)
9. The Giver — $2.62 million ($41.3mil)
10. The Hundred-Foot Journey — $2.46 million ($49.4mil)