Made for a reported $65 million (not including marketing and distribution expenses), the Lionsgate-distributed I, Frankenstein is surely not about to become a movie franchise. Directed by Stuart Beattie and starring Aaron Eckhart as the “I” of the title, I, Frankenstein collected a dismal $8.3 million from 2,753 North American theaters this weekend, January 24-26, 2014, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The weekend's only new wide release in the United States and Canada, I, Frankenstein landed in sixth place on the domestic box office chart.
I, Frankenstein, in fact, is the second major 2014 domestic box office bomb, following the $70 million-budgeted Renny Harlin-Kellan Lutz effort The Legend of Hercules, which debuted with $8.86 million at 2,104 locations a couple of weeks ago. To date, The Legend of Hercules has grossed an estimated $17.01 million; it'll likely end its domestic run with less than $20 million. Just as likely, I, Frankenstein, which has a 0 percent approval rating and 4.1/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, will suffer the same ignominious box office fate.
Since neither movie is a sequel, international prospects don't look too promising either. Having said that, braindead 3D action fare usually finds lots of fans in certain markets.
I should add that the $60 million-budgeted Kenneth Branagh-Chris Pine-Keira Knightley collaboration Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit should not be considered a downright box office disaster. The Jack Ryan reboot is more like a (major) “domestic box office disappointment,” as to date it has taken in more than $30 million in North America – in addition to an estimated $46.5 million internationally.
The 'I, Frankenstein'-Universal Pictures connection
Curiously, this weekend the top two movies at the North American box office were both Universal releases: Tim Story's lowbrow action-comedy Ride Along, starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, and Peter Berg's action-war drama Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, and Ben Foster. The former took in an estimated $21.16 million; the latter added $12.6 million.
But why “curiously”? Well, Universal was the studio that turned Frankenstein into a movie star back in 1931, when it released James Whale's epoch-making Frankenstein, starring Colin Clive in the title role, Mae Clarke as his bride, John Boles as his friend, and Boris Karloff as his Monster. Universal would later rehash Mary Shelley's character in several other movies, including The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), with Valerie Hobson in the title role and Elsa Lanchester as the Monster's Bride; Son of Frankenstein (1939); and the sort of spin-off House of Frankenstein (1944).
'I, Frankenstein' cast
Besides Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen), I, Frankenstein features Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, and Jai Courtney.
Stuart Beattie wrote the I, Frankenstein screenplay from a screen story by himself and Kevin Grevioux. Beattie, whose screenwriting credits include prestigious efforts such as Michael Mann's Collateral, starring Tom Cruise, and Baz Luhrmann's Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, has only one previous directing effort: the 2010 Australian Film Institute Best Picture nominee Tomorrow, When the War Began, featuring Rachel Hurd-Wood.
Note: Several of the I, Frankenstein producers/executive producers – David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, James McQuaide – were also involved in the trashy Underworld movie franchise starring Kate Beckinsale. The Underworld movies tend to underperform in the United States and Canada, but they do fare better internationally.
Shirtless Aaron Eckhart I, Frankenstein photo: Lionsgate Pictures.