Star in the making? Not if ‘Tomorrowland’s’ Britt Robertson has her way

26 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Tomorrowland’ takes top spot at box office on slow weekend.

Disney’s expensive fantasy adventure essentially had Memorial Day weekend to itself, and still only pulled in a modest $41.7 million in its first four days in theaters according to Rentrak estimates on Monday. LOS ANGELES: Sci-fi adventure-drama “Tomorrowland” starring George Clooney went straight to the top of the North American box office on its debut weekend, estimates showed Sunday. She let the question hang in the air a moment, then answered, deadpan, “Like, four.” That may well be, but a decade after she first arrived in Los Angeles from her native South Carolina to pursue acting, the 25-year-old Robertson is having the kind of career-redefining moment that can’t be denied. The Disney movie, which has had mixed reviews, was projected to pull in $40.7 million over the Memorial Day long weekend, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Disney put their full weight behind the Brad Bird-directed film with an ambitious George Clooney-led promotional campaign. “It’s not ever ideal to be below your estimate before the weekend starts, but it feels like it’s too early to judge the run,” said Disney’s Distribution EVP Dave Hollis.

In Disney’s new sci-fi adventure epic “Tomorrowland,” Robertson — previously best known for her roles on the TV series “Life Unexpected” and “Under the Dome” — stars opposite George Clooney as a spunky teenager who travels to a mysterious futuristic world. Directed by Brad Bird, the film tells the story of former boy genius Frank (Clooney) and the precocious Casey (Britt Robertson) in their danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of a mysterious place known only as “Tomorrowland.” The movie relegated musical comedy sequel “Pitch Perfect 2” into second place in the box office standings, expected to rake in $38 million over four days to Monday in the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” took the third- and fourth-place spots, while Fox’s “Poltergeist” remake debuted in fifth place, with an estimated $26.5 million. That is the lowest since 2001—particularly bad when considering that average ticket prices have risen 44% over that time, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, it follows the fortunes of the Barden Bellas singing team as they chase international success after being banned from the competitive circuit. The key reason for the empty multiplexes was the weak performance of “Tomorrowland,” the weekend’s sole new big-budget movie and a rare misfire for Walt Disney Co.

Still, the disarmingly frank and plain-speaking Robertson, who looks young enough to still play teenagers (“I get on flights and people are like, ‘Are you old enough to sit in the exit row?'”), is doing her best not to get caught up in the talk of impending stardom. “I don’t put a lot of stock in those things,” she said. “Scott Eastwood is always telling me I have to look at my career from a business point of view, and it just cracks me up. The movie just sneaked in ahead of superhero blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which was shunted down to fifth spot with $26.8 million for a total haul of $410 million since release.

Hollis noted that “Tomorrowland” will be one of the only PG-rated family films in theaters until Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens on June 19, which could be promising for its longevity — especially considering that many schools have yet to close for the summer. “We are optimistic that originality and the vision that Brad Bird put on the screen is something that people will find and evangelize and hopefully get other folks to show up,” said Hollis. “When audiences are spending their hard earned cash on a blockbuster or tent-pole movie, they kind of want to know what they’re getting going in, for better or worse,” he said. The prior year, “Fast & Furious 6” opened to $97.4 million. “Tomorrowland” featured a rare attempt by the company to spend big money—$180 million in this case—on a movie that didn’t feature characters or a fictional world already well known to audiences. Some of the best advice I was ever given was: ‘Don’t believe your own hype.'” In “Tomorrowland,” Robertson plays Casey Newton, a restless teenager with a deep love of science who meets a cantankerous inventor (Clooney) and is recruited to go to Tomorrowland, a glittering techno-utopia in an alternate dimension where humankind’s most brilliant minds push the bounds of what’s possible. Like “The Lone Ranger” and “John Carter,” more-expensive attempts by Disney to jump-start franchises, “Tomorrowland” has had difficulty drawing audiences. Plucky, whip-smart and relentlessly optimistic, Casey is cut from the Spielbergian cloth, an ordinary girl next door with extraordinary qualities. “She’s just your typical 17-year-old student, except she has a unique perspective on the world,” Robertson said. “She’s in love with space, and she wants to explore the world.

The studio expected an opening in the low $20 million range. “I think for our filmmakers, who had set out not to just remake a classic but to introduce a new generation of fans to the genre, it was very successful,” said Fox’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson. Only 30% of audiences Saturday were families, according to exit polls. “I do think an original [story] plays a part in parents waiting to hear from other parents,” said Disney’s executive vice president of distribution, Dave Hollis. “We also played on the mystery” in the marketing and “weren’t as explicit about what it is.” Despite the disappointing holiday weekend, Hollywood has high hopes for the rest of the summer, pinned on much-anticipated “tent-pole” movies including “Jurassic World,” “Terminator: Genisys,” “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and the “Despicable Me” spinoff “Minions”—all jumping off from existing fan favorites.

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. International audiences were even less willing than Americans to take a risk on an a movie with an unfamiliar premise. “Tomorrowland” opened to a weak $26.7 million in 65 foreign markets.

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