Following a dreadful February at the domestic box office – down 38 percent from last year – things are looking even more drab in March 2013, at least for the time being. Warner Bros.' $195m-budgeted Jack the Giant Slayer opened with less than $30m, and two other new releases, 21 and Over and The Last Exorcism Part II, debuted with less than $10m each. (Image: Ewan McGregor in Jack the Giant Slayer.)
At 3,525 North American theaters, Jack the Giant Slayer took in an estimated $28.01 million according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. Despite IMAX and 3D surcharges, the Bryan Singer-directed action / fantasy starring Nicholas Hoult in the title role averaged only $7,946 per site.
Jack the Giant Slayer box office vs. Alice in Wonderland, Wrath of the Titans, John Carter
If studio estimates are accurate, Jack the Giant Slayer had a weaker debut than other similar movies – including major flops – in recent years. For comparison's sake: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska, opened with $116.1 million at 3,728 locations in March 2010. Last March, Andrew Stanton's Disney-released box office bomb John Carter, starring Taylor Kitsch, debuted with $30.18 million at 3,749 venues, while later in the month Jonathan Liebesman's Clash of the Titans sequel, Wrath of the Titans, starring Avatar's Sam Worthington, opened with $33.45 million at 3,545 locations. Neither John Carter nor Wrath of the Titans managed to reach $100m domestically; the former ended its run with $73.07 million, the latter with $83.67m.
Chances are that jack and the Giant Slayer will have trouble reaching $70m in the U.S. and Canada, especially considering strong competition from another big fantasy movie opening next weekend, Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful.
And despite stronger audience interest outside North America ($209.7 million international box office cume), John Carter resulted in a major loss for Disney. In fact, the $250m-budgeted film became one of the most gigantic bombs in Hollywood history.
Since Alice in Wonderland in 2010 – $334.91 million at the domestic box office – only a handful of action / fantasy movies have managed to surpass the $150m mark in North America: Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans ($163.21m); the Johnny Depp / Penélope Cruz combo Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, itself part of a longstanding franchise and even then a less impressive domestic grosser ($241.07m) than its predecessors; the Rupert Sanders-directed Kristen Stewart / Chris Hemsworth dark fairy tale Snow White and the Huntsman ($155.33m); and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($301.4 million), with Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen. Both Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman were late spring releases; The Hobbit was a December release. (See also: "Snow White and the Huntsman: Budget Recovered?")
Jack the Giant Slayer box office: To be saved by the international market?
Needless to say, if Jack the Giant Slayer is to become less than an abysmal flop, it needs to become a humongous international hit. According to distributor Warner Bros., the film opened strongly in ten Asian territories; as per Box Office Mojo, Jack the Giant Slayer's international total is to date an estimated $13.7 million, a figure that by itself doesn't look all that impressive, especially one of consider the film's budget and its reported $80m marketing / distribution costs.
But in truth, it's really too soon to tell. Besides John Carter, domestic box office disappointments (or downright disasters) have been rescued – at least to some extent – by international audiences eager to check out the latest 3D action flick, e.g., Wrath of the Titans, Jake Gyllenhaal's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Peter Berg's Battleship, and even Ridley Scott / Russell Crowe's non-3D Robin Hood and more recently, the much lambasted Bruce Willis flick A Good Day to Die Hard. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for the international market, those types of megabudget movies would never get off the ground; the North American box office is not sturdy enough to sustain them.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which has just passed the $1 billion milestone worldwide, and Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning Argo notwithstanding, Jack the Giant Slayer is Warner Bros.'s fourth major 2013 box office flop, following the Ryan Gosling / Emma Stone pairing Gangster Squad, Sylvester Stallone's disastrous Bullet to the Head, and Richard LaGravenese's Twilight knock-off Beautiful Creatures.
Jack the Giant Slayer cast
With a screenplay credited to Darren Lemke, Dan Studney, and Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie, from a story by Lemke and David Dobkin, Jack the Giant Slayer features the aforementioned Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class and earlier this year Warm Bodies), Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ewen Bremner, Christopher Fairbank, and Snow White and the Huntsman actors Eddie Marsan and Ian McShane.
Ewan McGregor in Jack the Giant Slayer photo: Warner Bros.