“Blair Witch” and “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” sequels to films that first hit theatres a generation ago, both stumbled in their debuts the weekend.
The films earned a meager 9.7 million dollars and 8.2 million dollars respectively.
They were easily overpowered by “Sully,” the Clint Eastwood drama about the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing that features Tom Hanks as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger.
The Warner Bros. release topped the domestic box office for a second consecutive weekend, earning 22 million dollars and pushing its stateside total to 70.5 million dollars.
“It is just a well-made story, the word-of-mouth is sensational,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution Executive Vice President.
The weekend’s other wide-release launch, Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” was also over-shadowed by the aeronautical heroics, picking up 8 million dollars from 2,443 locations for a fourth-place finish.
The look at Edward Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and got a warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, with some calling it a return to form for Stone.
The director’s recent work such as, “The Savages” has failed to capture the renown of earlier efforts like “Platoon” and “JFK.”
However, the NSA leaker remained a controversial figure in American politics, a whistle blower to some and a traitor to others, which might have limited the picture’s appeal.
Open Road is distributing the film domestically, and if it continued to attract some awards heat, it’s possible it could chug along to a respectable gross.
“Snowden” cost a reported 50 million dollars to produce.’’
It was a disappointing result for “Blair Witch,” which fell short of tracking.
Heading into the weekend, some rival studios expected the film to earn 20 million dollars, potentially toppling “Sully” from its throne.
A lot went wrong, starting with some bad reviews and a D CinemaScore. Moreover, younger moviegoers may not have been familiar with the horror franchise.
The first film in the series revolutionised theatrical distribution and kicked off the trend of “found footage” stories when it hit theatres in 1999.
Made for a mere 60,000 dollars, it rode some eerie marketing to 248.6 million dollars global gross.
A poorly received follow-up hit theatres in 2000 when it was pulverised by critics and made a fraction of the first film’s massive haul.
Lion gate produced the latest sequel for an economical five million dollars and pushed it out over 3,121 locations.
It debut the film at Comic-Con to generate buzz, screening it under its working title “The Woods” and surprising fans that had no idea they were watching a new “Blair Witch.”
There were a lot of horror films in theaters, with “Don’t Breathe” and “When the Bough Breaks” already scratching the itch to be scared and leaving little room for “Blair Witch” to break through.
At a corporate level, Lions gate was undergoing a transition and could use some new film franchises.
The studio has wrapped up its “Hunger Games” films and was moving the “Divergent” series to television.
It also announced that Rob Friedman, the motion picture group co-chair and one of the guiding forces behind the “Twilight” saga was stepping down.
The studio is earning strong buzz on “La La Land,” a musical that is expected to be an Oscar player.
“Hacksaw Ridge”, a World War II drama from Mel Gibson and “Deepwater Horizon”, a true life action tale with Mark Wahlberg.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” was another exercise in diminishing returns.
It had been 15 years since Jones (Renee Zellweger) first captured audiences’ attention in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” with her romantic travails and 12 years since Bridget Jones.
“The Edge of Reason” caught moviegoers up with her on again, off again relationship with dashing Mr Darcy.
The romantic comedy is backed by Universal, Miramax, StudioCanal and Working Title, and cost 35 million dollars to produce.
It is faring better overseas, where it opened in first place in 24 territories and racked up 29.9 million dollars, but moviegoers probably should not expect a part four.
Universal’s domestic distribution Chief Nick Carpou said he was optimistic the film would fare well in the coming weeks as counter-programming.
He noted that future films such as “The Magnificent Seven” and “Storks,” don’t cater to the female consumers who support “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”
“We love these characters, we love the actors playing them, and we’re confident in how it will play out,” said Carpou.
Sony’s “Don’t Breathe” rounded out the top five, nabbing 5.6 million dollars to bring its domestic total to an impressive 75.3 million dollars after three weeks.
Among newcomers, Pure Flix courted the faith-based set with “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise,” a documentary about the Australian Christian group that made 1.3 million dollars from 816 locations.
“The Disappointments Room,” Relativity Media’s first release since the studio emerged from bankruptcy protection in April, continued to flounder.’’
After debuting last weekend to an anemic 1.4 million dollars, it plunged 71 per cent, eking out 400,000 dollars and pushing its gross to 2.2 million dollars.
The horror film about house’s haunted past stars Kate Beckinsale and cost roughly 15 million dollars to produce. Its release was frequently delayed as Relativity’s financial problems worsened.
At one point in Chapter 11 filings, the studio estimated “The Disappointments Room” would earn 72.6 million dollars over its lifetime, a figure that factor in estimated home entertainment revenue along with theatrical grosses.
Its failure is unwelcome news for Relativity, which still faced questions about its long term viability.
The studio had been trying to come up with a plan to service its debts and raise more working capital. It has announced plans to remake “High Noon” and would back “Hunter Killer,” an action film with Gerard Butler.
Relativity has other films hitting theatres this year, including the comedy “Materminds” and the thriller “Kidnapped.”
In milestones, Illumination Entertainment and Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” crossed 800 million dollars globally. It is a huge hit; one that has already spurred a sequel.
Illumination, the animation label behind the film and the “Despicable Me” series, also debut “Sing” its upcoming Christmas release about an “American Idol”-style talent competition, to strong reviews at Toronto.
Overall ticket sales could not compete with a year-ago period that saw the debuts of the Johnny Depp gangster film “Black Mass” and a sequel to “Maze Runner.”
Revenues dropped by 21 per cent to just under 90 million dollars.
“This is what we typically see in September,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst with ComScore.
“The summer movies have ended and this is the after-party.’’ (Reuters/NAN)