Writer-director Andrew Niccol's movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's science-fiction novel The Host opened in sixth place on the domestic box office chart, with a paltry $10.6 million at 3,202 locations, according to weekend actuals found at Box Office Mojo. That's between two-thirds to half what some had been expecting The Host might gross on opening weekend; in other words, the sci-fier starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, and Diane Kruger has become 2013's latest major box office disappointment.
It may seem cruel to make comparisons to either Twilight or The Hunger Games, both of which, like The Host, were based on popular young-adult novels, and feature a strong, young female character and two male objects of desire. Based on Stephenie Meyer's first novel in the Twilight Saga bestselling literary franchise, Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson (and featuring Taylor Lautner in a supporting role), opened with $69.63 million in the U.S. and Canada in fall 2008. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, and directed by Gary Ross, The Hunger Games, based on the first novel of Suzanne Collins' bestselling trilogy, debuted with $152.53 million in March 2012.
The Host opens below both early and late estimates
Once domestic Friday figures were in, it seemed possible that The Host would earn somewhere between $13m-14m. Distributor Open Road Films' Sunday estimates had their release collecting a considerably more modest $11m. As it stands, The Host's per-theater average was a meager $3,310 – the lowest among the top six movies at the domestic box office.
True, The Host didn't suffer as dismal a debut as that of Richard LaGravenese's Warner Bros.-distributed Beautiful Creatures earlier this year – $7.58 million at 2,950 venues, despite the presence of Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, and Jeremy Irons in supporting roles. Yet, The Host's opening-weekend box office take is incredibly disappointing considering the Stephenie Meyer "brand" – Meyer is also one of the film's producers – the Twilight connection (by way of Meyer), and its reported $40m budget (not including prints and advertising, or box-office-related contractual obligations).
Barring a miracle, The Host will fail to match its production budget at the domestic box office, let alone recover it. For Saoirse Ronan, that'll be a come down from Hanna ($40.25 million domestic cume), the 2011 Joe Wright thriller in which she starred opposite Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. Hanna opened with $12.37 million at 2,535 theaters, averaging $4,880 per site.
The Host movie: Poorly received adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's novel
Clearly not helping matters has been The Host's overwhelmingly negative critical reception in North America. The Andrew Niccol / Stephenie Meyer collaboration currently has a 17 percent approval rating and 4.2/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.
The Host's only chance of not ending up deep in the red – well, not including the movie's future ancillary revenues – is the international market. Prospects are unclear at this stage; in Spain, The Host brought in an acceptable $1.08 million the previous weekend, while this past weekend it collected $6 million overall (including $92,282 in Turkey). I was unable to find any detailed information about the film's box office take overseas or number of territories where The Host is currently playing.
Domestic Box office: G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens with slightly less than estimated
By far, the leader this past Easter weekend was Jon M. Chu's dismally received 3D action thriller G.I. Joe: Retaliation, with approximately $40.5 million on the weekend proper (distributor Paramount Pictures had estimated $41.2 million) and a $51 million four-day cume. At no. 2 was DreamWorks Animation's The Croods, with $26.7 million (down -39 percent). (See also: "G.I. Joe Retaliation: Shirtless Studs with Big Guns Top Box Office.")
Tyler Perry's Temptation, featuring reality TV celebrity Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Williams, both overperformed and underperformed on the last March 2013 weekend: its $21.64 million was better than many had been expecting a week ago, but about $700k less than distributor Lionsgate estimated on Sunday morning. At no. 4, Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen, featuring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and a ragtag group of North Korean terrorists earned $14.14 million (-53 percent).
At no. 5 was Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, with James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams, collecting $11.7m. At no. 6 was The Host, followed by Halle Berry's The Call with $4.92 million and Paul Rudd / Tina Fey's box office bomb Adsmission, with $3.23 million ($11.74 million cume after ten days).
Rounding out the top twelve in North America were Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, with James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens, which pulled in $2.77 million (down 43 percent despite the addition of 275 venues); the Steve Carell / Jim Carrey bomb The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with $1.34 million (and a measly $20.62 million after three weekends); Jason Bateman / Melissa McCarthy's Identity Thief, with $1.09m; and Bryan Singer / Nicholas Hoult / Ewan McGregor's Jack the Giant Slayer, with $1.02m.
Oz the Great and Powerful, currently with $198.37 million domestically, should pass the $200m milestone either today or tomorrow (Tuesday) at the latest.
The Host movie cast
Besides Saoirse Ronan, Red Riding Hood's Max Irons, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Sea of Monsters' Jake Abel, Inglourious Basterds' Diane Kruger, and parasitical aliens known as "Souls," The Host features Best Actor Oscar winner and multiple nominee William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, A History of Violence), Olympus Has Fallen's Phil Austin, Frances Fisher, Jhil McEntyre, Chandler Canterbury, Scott Lawrence, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Conroy, Emily Browning, and Rachel Roberts. (Roberts is writer-director Andrew Niccol's wife; no relation to This Sporting Life's Oscar-nominated actress of the same name.)
The Host Jake Abel photo: Open Road Films.