‘Rock the Kasbah,’ ‘Jem and the Holograms’ hit wrong notes at box office

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Weekend Box Office Winners & Losers: Bill Murray, Vin Diesel, Steve Jobs, and Jem All Go Down in Spectacular Flames.

The pack of new releases proved to be all out duds, some worse than others, leaving room for holdovers “The Martian” and “Goosebumps” to stay in the top spots with $15.9 and $15.5 million, respectively according to Rentrak estimates Sunday. Every single one of the new studio releases flopped and the overall box office suffered accordingly, down more than 10 percent from last year, with none of the newbies coming close to 2014’s pre-Halloween Ouija board or John Wick’s lucrative puppy vengeance. Hollywood somehow so perfectly synchronized its floppage that analysts looked to higher powers for an explanation: maybe the new Star Wars sucked all the extra money out of our wallets with its insane ticket presales?

Or maybe all those fancy prestige pics steering clear of Halloween (when we’re too busy getting trashed in costume to watch movies) caused the carnage? Frankly, there’s no need for supernatural explanations: This weekend’s new releases just managed to be madly, deeply, truly bad, each in their own special way. Bill Murray’s “Rock the Kasbah” barely did better in ticket sales, pulling in only $1.5 million from 2,012 theaters, but it also cost three times as much as “Jem” to produce. On a budget that Deadline pegs in the mid-teen millions and a decent marketing spend, that’s not the end of the world, but it’s possibly the end of the franchise.

Poor reviews might have sunk “Witch Hunter,” ”Jem” and “Kasbah,” but good reviews couldn’t propel Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” to flashy heights. Ghost Dimension fell below already-low expectations of $10 million to $12 million domestic for the weekend, and didn’t make enough to break into the top five. The catch here is that Paramount was attempting a new experiment, trying to shorten the sacred “window” between a film’s theatrical release and its availability on VOD from the traditional 90 days to only 17. Universal isn’t disappointed with the expansion numbers and anticipates that “Steve Jobs” will continue to be in the cultural conversation, especially as the awards season kicks off. Predictably, this pissed off a chunk of theater owners, and while Paramount got some folks onboard (such as AMC and Cineplex), no one else wanted to show it, so the film played in 1,656 theaters — about 1,000 fewer than the last installment, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

However, it’s hard to tear up for the dearly departed here; its sacrifice at least may teach Paramount something about what happens when you make a movie available on VOD two weeks after its multiplex release. In raw-dollar terms, this is undoubtedly the biggest bomb of the weekend, opening to $10.8 million for fourth place on a $75 million–to–$80 million budget, and presumably way too much on marketing. AMC and Cineplex agreed to participate in the model, but others refused to play the movie. “It feels to us really clear that any issues that we had were not related to consumer behavior,” said Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing. “There’re just too many films being released into the marketplace.

Now, given its poor trailer, its execrable 14 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact it isn’t a Fast & Furious film, no one should drop dead of shock that Witch Hunter would fail. Over the past month we’ve had on average at least three new wide release films entering the marketplace every week,” Dergarabedian said. “Audiences, and particularly older audiences for whom these films have great appeal, they’re staying away. In fact, it’s probably the 95 million people liking Vin Diesel’s Facebook page who kept it from bombing even worse; although it’s still his lowest opening since Babylon A.D. ($9.5 million back in 2008). It’s easy to get lost if you’re a newcomer into such a crowded environment.” As audiences pick and choose where to spend their entertainment dollars, Dergarabedian also notes that there is a handful of probable blockbusters on the way with Spectre, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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. Technically, the biopic about the Apple founder has been in limited release for two weekends, so it’s not “new.” However, this weekend marked its expansion into nationwide release in 2,493 theaters. Despite sterling reviews, Oscar buzz for Michael Fassbender’s performance, and Aaron Sorkin’s writing, Steve Jobs managed just $7.3 million in wide release, only slightly better than Ashton Kutcher’s much-derided Jobs ($6.7 million), giving it $10 million in its third week.

With a budget of $30 million, and with marketing allegedly around $35 million to $40 million, that’s definitely a kernel panic for Universal.2 However, Steve Jobs is an Oscar contender, and if it can stick around until nomination time, it should claw back a little spare change. Chu’s quixotic adaptation of the cult kiddie show Jem and the Holograms raced to the bottom for the title of worst opening for a major-studio wide release ever. At least Zac Efron isn’t lonely anymore: Both films leap-frogged his August bomb, We Are Your Friends ($1.8 million), coming in just above the notorious Delgo and Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure as the third- and fourth-worst openings for any type of film, studio or otherwise, in more than 2,000 theaters.

In the case of Rock the Kasbah, you don’t need a magic eight-ball to understand why it failed when Manohla Dargis’s New York Times review starts with, “Clichéd, enervating, insulting — it’s tough to settle on a single pejorative for Rock the Kasbah, though abysmal might do.” Apparently, our generational love for Bill Murray extends only so far, and when even Shia LaBeouf bails on your movie beforehand, you should probably know better. The best thing that Universal can say about Jem’s ignominious new record low is that the film itself cost only $5 million because it came from budget-conscious megaproducer Jason Blum. So even though it made barely any money, it can’t lose all that much, and its red ink might as well be a rounding error in Universal sibling Jurassic World’s global gross. But suffice it to say, when your director receives death threats from the few fans who actually cared about this forgotten ’80s Hasbro cartoon/30-minute weekly commercial in the first place, you know you’ve failed on just about every level. The Martian is in its fourth week of release, so its taking no. 1 ($15.9 million) is less a mark in its favor than a commentary on everything else’s stunning failure.

At the art house, Focus’s Suffragette made $77,000 in four theaters, not an overly auspicious start for an awards hopeful, but still better than either I Smile Back ($16,036 in two theaters) or Nasty Baby ($8,023 in two theaters) despite both being Sundance darlings. The only thing that earns even the shadow of a smile is the fact Steven Spielberg’s excellent Bridge of Spies dropped only 26 percent in its second weekend, earning $11.4 million, which means it just might chug through awards season to a decent return.

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