WINNER OF THE WEEK: Now You See Me. True, the magicians-turned-thieves thriller debuted in second place this week, stealing off with an estimated $28.1 million. Still, that counts as an upset victory over Will Smith’s After Earth. After all, Now You See Me features no one with Smith’s star power, and indie Lionsgate hasn’t put the marketing muscle behind it that Sony has with After Earth. Nonetheless, it had strong word-of-mouth (as represented by an A- grade at CinemaScore), decent reviews (it’s certainly the most original movie so far in this sequel-studded summer), and what the studios like to call four-quadrant appeal – ticketbuyers were about evenly divided among men over 30, women over 30, men under 30, and women under 30. Given that early predictions had the movie earning around $20 million, its actual debut looks almost. . . magical.
For the second week; Fast & Furious 6 held the top spot. Even after losing 65 percent of last weekend’s debut sales, it still made another $34.5 million, according to estimates, for a 10-day total of $170.4 million. That’s the biggest 10-day total in the franchise’s history. Meanwhile, Epic and Star Trek Into Darkness were tied for fourth place, with an estimated $16.4 million each. That’s a pretty good $65.2 million over ten days for Epic and $181.2 over three weekends for Star Trek.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: After Earth. Will Smith used to be the biggest box office draw on this and several other planets, but his post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller was a dud, earning just an estimated $27.0 million and settling for a third-place debut. (The movie had been expected to open in the $30 to $40 million range, still pretty weak for a star of Smith’s stature.) It didn’t help that the movie had M. Night Shyamalan for a director (the Happening and Last Airbender director is such a box office jinx now that the After Earth ads didn’t even mention him), or that it had weak reviews and lackluster word-of-mouth (it rated just a B at CinemaScore). Not even the supposed youth appeal of Will’s 14-year-old son Jaden (who earned the film a Twitter endorsement from Justin Bieber) made much of a difference. You could chalk it up to bad timing: Star Trek still had the sci-fi thriller audience sewn up, Epic the family audience, Fast & Furious the young-male action audience, and Now You See It everyone else. Plus, the similar Oblivion was in theaters just a month ago. For perhaps the first time in his career, the former Fresh Prince seems to have fallen behind the curve.
The other big summer shocker so far is the poor performance of The Hangover Part III. After last weekend’s unimpressive second-place debut, it lost 62 percent of its business and fell four spots to sixth place, earning an estimated $15.9 million this weekend. Its two-weekend total stands at $88.1 million, about half what the last Hangover made at this point in its run.
WILD ‘EAST’: This week’s biggest indie is in Hindi; Bollywood romance Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani earned an estimated $1.6 million on 162 screens, premiering at Number Nine on the chart. Among English-language indies, anti-corporate thriller The East debuted with a strong estimated $18,889 per screen on four screens, while coming-of-age comedy Kings of Summer opened with an estimated $14,500 per screen on four screens, and German biopic Hannah Arendt premiered with an estimated $31,000 on one screen. (By comparison, Now You See Me, the per-screen champ among wide releases, scored $9,590 per venue.) Among holdovers, romance Before Midnight earned an estimated $431,000 (up 75 percent from its debut last weekend), for a total of $800,000 to date. And Greta Gerwig dramedy Frances Ha earned an estimated $552,000, good for 12th place and a three-weekend total of $1.6 million.