Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man narrowly beat Adam Sandler’s new action-comedy, Pixels, at the North American box office in another blow for Sandler, whose standing at the multiplex has been on the wane.
Pixels debuted to $24 million from 3,723 theaters, not a good start for a summer tentpole that cost Sony and its financing partners at least $88 million to produce. The movie hopes to make up ground overseas, where it launched in 40 percent of the marketplace this weekend. In its second weekend, Ant-Man grossed $24.8 million from 3,868 for a 10-day domestic cume of $106.1 million and global haul of $226.5 million for Disney and Marvel Studios. Both films, along with Minions, competed for family love in North America.
Opinion is divided as to whether Thursday night’s fatal theater shooting in Louisiana during a screening of Trainwreck hurt moviegoing over the weekend, particularly family friendly and younger-skewing titles. Some say it had no impact; others say yes. “It’s hard to ignore but difficult to quantify,” said one studio executive.
Directed by Christopher Columbus, Pixels stars Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad as a group of friends battling aliens who have used video games from the 1980s to attack earth. Pixels has been ravaged critics, while audiences gave it a mediocre B CinemaScore. The tentpole was co-financed by LStar Capital and China Film Group, guaranteeing a run in China.
Pixels wasn’t the only new offering to underwhelm in North America. John Green YA film adaptation Paper Towns, relying on teen and tween girls, came in well behind expectations with $12.5 million from 3,031 theaters (it had been expected to approach $20 million). At the same time, the film cost a modest $12 million to make.
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Last summer, The Fault in Our Stars debuted to a stunning $48 million for Fox and Green. However, that book was more popular than Paper Towns, while the film adaptation of Fault boasted a bigger star in Shailene Woodley. Paper Towns stars Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, and earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Conversely, Antoine Fuqua’s adult-skewing boxing drama, Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, overperformed to beat Paper Towns. The Weinstein Co. title earned $16.5 million from 2,772 theaters for a fifth-place finish (Paper Towns placed No. 6).
Nabbing an A CinemaScore, the $30 million film stars Gyllenhaal as a boxer who finds success with the gloves on, but is having major issues in his personal life. Rachel McAdams, Rita Ora, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris and 50 Cent co-star. The script was written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter.
Other adult-skewing titles also did well this weekend, including Trainwreck, starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow. Despite the tragic shooting, the R-rated comedy dropped only 43 percent to $17.3 million from 3,171 theaters for a 10-day domestic total of $61.5 million for Universal.
Thursday’s shooting has no doubt rattled Hollywood studios and theater owners. The tragedy comes almost exactly three years after James Holmes opened fire in a theater in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others.
Like Holmes, the Louisiana gunman, John Russel Houser, was alone when he bought a ticket to see Trainwreck at the Grand Theatre in Lafayette, La. About 20 minutes in, he opened fire and then tried to exit the auditorium. When he spotted police, he went back into the theater and shot himself.