Ant-Man barely secures top spot at box office

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Ant-Man’ inches past ‘Pixels’ at box office.

“Ant-Man” crept past new opener “Pixels” to claim the top spot at the box office this weekend by an ant-sized margin. The sci-fi action film featuring the former “Saturday Night Live” star opened in second place this weekend in North American cinemas with sales of $24 million, Rentrak Corp. said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. “Ant-Man,” from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, extended its run in first place to a second week, with $24.8 million.If Sunday’s horse-race estimates hold tomorrow, then “Ant-Man’s” sophomore weekend will have beaten the debut of the highly promoted (and highly derided) “Pixels,” the latest big-budget “comedy” from Adam Sandler.

Marvel action flick “Ant-Man” stayed atop the US box office Sunday, edging out retro videogame comedy “Pixels” in estimated weekend North American ticket sales, industry data showed. “Pixels,” in which star Adam Sandler fights off a videogame-inspired alien invasion, made it to the number two spot its first weekend out with a $24 million take, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations. DIS 0.09 % film collecting an estimated $24.8 million in its second week, falling 57% from its debut and bringing its two-week total to $106 million. “Pixels,” from Sony Corp. According to early studio numbers, Disney/Marvel’s “Ant-Man” has won the weekend at the North American box office with a take of $24.76-million — a sliver ahead of the $24-million that Sony’s “Pixels” grossed in its domestic debut. (Right on the tail of both is Universal’s “Minions,” still going strong with a $22.1-million take.) And even if “Pixels” somehow nudges ahead at the finish in Monday’s final numbers, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

Pushed down a notch to third place was animated comedy “Minions,” a prequel to “Despicable Me” featuring three tiny mischief-making creatures. Sandler and his Happy Madison production company, generating a lackluster $24 million in ticket sales, including revenue from higher-priced Imax venues. “Pixels,” released by Sony and co-financed by LStar Capital and China Film Group, cost about $90 million to make. While studios always hope for the bragging rights of a No. 1 debut, the real issue here is whether or not the Adam Sandler end of the world comedy will make up its $88 million production budget. “It’s been a little competitive in the marketplace when you consider the extent of the performance of ‘Jurassic’ and ‘Inside Out,'” said Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution Rory Bruer. “To get to where we opened to was quite good.” Critics were not fond of “Pixels,” which shows 1980s video arcade game characters attacking Earth, but younger audiences still turned out to theaters — an estimated 62 percent were under the age of 25.

To put the opening in a longer context: Since Sandler became a film star 20 years ago, “Pixels” (when adjusted for inflation) represents the worst opening for any major-release comedy he’s starred in. It reaped just over $22 million its third week in theaters. “Southpaw,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer at the end of his bruising career, made its debut over the weekend, with a respectable $16.5 million box office take that put it in fifth place. Vintage videogame characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong star alongside Adam Sandler and Kevin James in “Pixels,” about aliens who attack Earth using the 1980s-era arcade regulars. Its biggest film on tap is the new James Bond film “Spectre” due out in November. “Adam Sandler’s drawing power is definitely waning and this is another example of that,” said Phil Contrino, an analyst at “He’s just had a tough time recently hitting the same levels he used to be able to hit.” In “Pixels,” Sandler plays Sam Brenner, a child of the 1980s and fan of arcade video games. Ever since last year’s Sony hack, it’s been interesting to see how the dirty laundry emailed between studio suits and agents has played out this year in commercial terms.

Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst, said Sandler can still attract an audience, but the expensive film has a lot of ground to make up. Also making its debut was sixth place “Paper Towns,” a road trip mystery movie based on the young adult novel by John Green, which made $12.5 million. “Jurassic World” continued pulling in moviegoers, scoring another $6.8 million for eighth place on its seventh weekend for a cumulative total of $611 million.

Emails released last year as part of a massive cyberattack on Sony show the movie being approved by executives at a budget of $110 million, though a Sony spokeswoman said the final budget came in at $89 million. For instance, one Sony gripe revealed last year complained about the “ridiculous” script for Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” which had an extremely soft $10-million opening this summer.

Bruer added that the domestic performance of “Pixels” was “solid given all of the competition we faced.” Did moviegoing in North America suffer because of the mass shooting at a Louisiana theater during a showing of the Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck” on Thursday? A straight comparison isn’t entirely fair, though. “The Fault in Our Stars” had a much bigger following and transcended age and gender groups with its story of two teens dying of cancer and falling in love. “Paper Towns” is a more narrow and lighthearted high school tale. “I think we have a job ahead of us in the coming weeks to find more of our potential audience who we weren’t able to reach this weekend.

The movie has opened in about 40% of international markets and grossed about $25 million, with a release in China scheduled for September. “Pixels” was one of two movies released this weekend that arrived with backing from China as the country tries to find ways to work with Hollywood and learn its trade. Well, if “Pixels” doesn’t pick up its business — and if the version that was sanitized to appease Chinese censors doesn’t do boffo box office in that monster market — then the exposed Sony emailers may get their wish sooner than foreseen. * In comparing recent ’80s-nostalgia geek fare, “Pixels” couldn’t even muster half of last year’s debut for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” ($65.6-million). * Speaking of a monster take: “Jurassic World” is now the third-biggest film ever, having passed “The Avengers” both domestically ($623.8-million to $623.4-million) and globally ($1.54-billion to $1.52-billion). But whether the decline was due to specific offerings on marquees or reluctance by ticket buyers to visit theaters after the shooting will likely never be known for certain.

It was an opening that showed having an adult drama in the summer season can pay off, said Erik Lomis, president of distribution at Weinstein Co. “If you’re not a superhero, a kid’s film or a dumb comedy, why do you have to go into the fall?” he said. “Paper Towns,” based on a book by young-adult novelist John Green, folded under lofty expectations—it grossed only $12.5 million when many analysts expected an opening of more than $20 million. A twist on the teen-romance movie, “Paper Towns” stars Nat Wolff as a reserved high-school senior whose adoration for a missing neighbor, played by Cara Delevingne, sends him on a quest to find her. (“Paper Towns” is distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, whose parent company, 21st Century Fox Inc., was until mid-2013 part of the same company as The Wall Street Journal.) Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal, nominated for an Academy Award in “Brokeback Mountain,” has already been mentioned for a best-actor shot for his role as disgraced boxer Billy Hope in “Southpaw.” A film originally intended to star Eminem (who instead features on the soundtrack), “Southpaw” was directed by Antoine Fuqua, known for “Training Day.” The movie tracks the downfall of Hope, who loses his wife (played by Rachel McAdams) to an accident and his daughter to child protective services.

Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. In a major come-down for the author John Green, the second movie adaptation of one of his books, “Paper Towns” (20th Century Fox) fizzled in sixth place, taking in an estimated $12.5 million.

Earlier this month, Fox announced it had signed the author to a production deal, and an adaptation of his novel “Looking for Alaska” is under way at Viacom Inc. VIA -2.90 % ’s Paramount Pictures. “I’m not worried about profitability on the film,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution. “I’m hopeful that more people will come.” Of the new releases, audiences liked “Southpaw” best and gave it an “A” grade, according to the CinemaScore market research firm. “Paper Towns” received a “B+” and “Pixels” received a “B.” In the morning, Delevingne’s Margo has disappeared and Wolff’s Quentin convinces his friends to help him find her by following clues she has left behind.

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