Horror flick, The Conjuring, scared off all-comers to debut atop the North American weekend box office, but the bigger picture for industry watchers focused on the latest big-budget summer bomb.
R.I.P.D., starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds in a beyond-the-grave, Men in Black, took less than $13 million, or under 10 percent of its $130 million budget, way below what it needed to even break even over time. It follows box office bombs of recent months including Jack the Giant Slayer, After Earth, and even Johnny Depp vehicle, The Lone Ranger, which made barely $29 million on its opening weekend, a tiny fraction of its $250 million budget.
"Lone Ranger and RIPD are probably the biggest disappointments as they don't have much upside internationally," said Jeff Bock of industry tracker Exhibitor Relations. It's not the first time this summer that a shoe-string horror movie has eclipsed the big budget brigade: in June "The Purge" topped the box office with $34.1 million on a budget of only $3 million.
This weekend, The Conjuring, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal sleuths, took in $41.9 million, already more than three times its $13 million estimated budget. The newcomer pushed Despicable Me 2, the animated sequel with Steve Carell again voicing villain-turned-doting father Gru, into second place at $24.9 million.
Fellow newbie, Turbo, a computer-animated comedy about a speed-loving snail, came in third with $21.3 million between Friday and Sunday. While not as bad as, R.I.P.D., that figure will be disappointing for DreamWorks Animation, creators of blockbusters like Madagascar (2005) and Kung-Fu Panda (2008).
It was followed by, Grown Ups 2, a star vehicle sequel for comedians Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, which brought in $19.9 million. Fifth place went to action comedy, Red 2, a sequel whose high-profile cast includes Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, at $18 million.
The Godzilla-like monsters of Pacific Rim trailed in sixth place with $16 million, just ahead of R.I.P.D., with $12.7 million. Perhaps not coincidentally, the latest big-budget movie bomb comes only weeks after Hollywood legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas warned of a meltdown of the traditional model of releasing films in movie theaters. "That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion -- or a big meltdown," said Spielberg in June. "There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm," he said.
Exhibitor Relations' Bock was not so alarmist. "While this summer has certainly had its share of misfires, Hollywood has always been a betting town, and that's not going to change anytime soon," he told AFP.
"Even though After Earth, Lone Ranger, White House Down, Pacific Rim and now R.I.P.D. all bombed domestically this summer, tentpoles are the key to driving the box office," he added, using the industry term for big mainstream movies.
"And, like it or not, the lackluster performances of these original films will most certainly keep Hollywood churning out sequels to established properties by the truckload." Filling out this weekend's top 10 were, The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock as a rough-and-ready Boston cop, in eighth place with $9.3 million. Ninth place went to World War Z, in which Brad Pitt plays a former UN investigator trying to save the world from a zombie invasion, with $5.2 million.
Monsters University, a prequel to Pixar's 2001 smash, Monsters, Inc., rounded out the top 10 with $5.1 million.