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‘Chappie’ Leads Weak Weekend Box Office, ‘Unfinished Business’ Flops, ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Opens Strong

'Chappie' Leads Weak Weekend Box Office, 'Unfinished Business' Flops, 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Opens Strong

A first quarter box office slump is upon us. 

Weak openers Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie(Sony) and fifth-place Vince Vaughn comedy Unfinished Business(Twentieth Century Fox) were at best tepid, while holdovers were also weak. Only Fox Searchlight’s “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”  delivered stronger numbers than expected. The weekend reinforced recent box office patterns: releases aimed at an international male action audience are mostly flailing domestically, while those aimed at older viewers, kids and women (both getting new offerings in the next couple weeks) are holding their own. .

How bad was business? Friday’s Top Ten totaled only $22 million, compared to $39 million the same time last year (when “300: Rise of an Empire” opened to a first-day take of over $17 million). “Chappie,” #1 for the day at $4.5 million comes after Blomkamp scored a sleeper critical and popular success with Oscar-contender “District 9” and a bigger-budget similarly grossing “Elysium.” This looks like it will struggle to get to $35 million after his first two films (both also with Sony) managed $115 and $93 million in domestic returns (each adding substantially more overseas). It’s a significant setback for the highly touted director who’s set to take over Fox’s “Aliens” franchise. 

“Unfinished Business” did far worse, in fifth for the day ($1.8 million) and likely to lose position for the three day result. It looks like it will be the lowest wide opener for Vaughn over 18 years and 18 leading-role films (going back to 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”). The even bigger Will Smith is also having a low ebb, with “Focus” (Warner Bros.) in second for the day at $2.9 million, a big drop from its already disappointing $6.4 last Friday.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel(Fox Searchlight), opening wide in 1,573 theaters rather than the conventional initial platform release of the first film, placed third with $2.7 million, but is likely to best “Focus” for second when its older-skewing audience turns up in greater numbers Saturday and Sunday. It’s a solid performance for the film, but the initial result suggests that it might fall short of what the crowd-pleasing all-star British cast original achieved in its long word-of-mouth propelled run ($46 million in the U.S./Canada).

The rest of the Top Ten includes one strong holdover. In fourth, Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service did $2.2 million, down less than a third from last Friday. Both “Fifty Shades of Gray” (Universal) and “The Lazarus Effect” (Relativity) dropped over 50% to take sixth and seventh with $1.7 and $1.6 million respectively. The so-far modest grossing “The DUFF” (Lionsgate/CBS FIlms) and “McFarland, U.S.A.” (Buena Vista) placed eighth and ninth, both around $1.5 million, although both fell under 30%. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (Paramount) rounded out the Top Ten with $1.4 million, but future kids matinees could push it as high as fifth for the weekend.

Less than two weeks after the Oscars, no winning films made the list. “American Sniper” (Warner Bros.) grossed $1.1 million yesterday, and should hit $337 million by tomorrow, making it the year’s biggest grossing so far. Best Actress winning “Still Alice” (Sony Pictures Classics) also will drop off the list after one week in wider release. It took in under $500,000 yesterday, down about 40% from last Friday.

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