‘American Ultra,’ ‘Hitman: Agent 47’ & ‘Sinister 2’: Weekend box office bombs
American Ultra, Hitman: Agent 47, and Sinister 2 are the new entries at the North American box office this weekend, Aug. 21-23. All three of them are expected to underperform – with American Ultra having a particularly disastrous bow, especially for a movie starring Best Actor Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and former Twilight star Kristen Stewart.
Whether you blame it on a glut of movies targeting the same audience, a lack of major box office draws, or poor reviews, only one of the debutantes is expected to score more than $10 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters by Sunday evening.
According to early estimates found at Deadline.com, Ciarán Foy’s Sinister 2 will lead the pack of newcomers with somewhere around $11 million from 2,766 locations – after a Friday take of only $4.7 million, and down from an expected weekend gross of $17-18 million. Shades of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four and Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer: both (much higher profile) releases also opened quite a bit below expectations.
Now, direct comparisons to the original Sinister would be unfair. Directed by Scott Derrickson, the horror thriller starring Ethan Hawke opened with $18 million in early October 2012 – right in time for Halloween.
Sinister 2 reportedly cost less than $10 million to make. Yet bear in mind that a lot of run-of-the-mill horror films are cheaply made but (relative to their cost) expensively marketed. The movie has a downright rotten 17 percent approval rating and 3.5/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
Now, could that be the reason for its underwhelming box office performance?
Are you kidding? True, Sinister had a (however mediocre) 50 percent approval rating and 6.1/10 average among RT’s top critics, but, to name another Ethan Hawke horror flick, The Purge suffered from a 21 percent approval rating and 4.5/10 average and still debuted with $34.05 million in June 2013.
Sinister 2 features James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Tate Ellington, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, John Beasley, and Lucas Jade Zumann.
‘Hitman: Agent 47’
Unlike Sinister 2, Aleksander Bach’s videogame-inspired Hitman: Agent 47 and Nima Nourizadeh’s American Ultra would have benefitted from better reviews – and from different weekend debuts.
Released by 20th Century Fox, the former has a dismal 9 percent approval rating and 4.2/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Relatively speaking, the latter has a stellar – but still downright mediocre – 42 percent approval rating and a so-so 6/10 average among RT’s top critics.
Compounding matters, at first glance both movies have similar themes: they’re action thrillers. The difference is that the R-rated Hitman: Agent 47 is a more straightforward drama while Lionsgate’s R-rated American Ultra has a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the proceedings.
Starring Rupert Friend (Homeland, Pride & Prejudice) in the title role originally intended for Paul Walker, Hitman: Agent 47 opened on Friday with only $3.08 million from 3,261 locations. Already modest expectations have been downsized to a weekend debut below the $10 million mark. In fact, the action thriller could easily end up grossing less than $8 million.
Not including prints and advertising, Hitman: Agent 47 cost a reported $24 million. Not good news for Fox, which is still reeling from the (much costlier) Fantastic Four debacle.
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Xavier Gens’ Hitman opened with $13.18 million (approx. $15.5 million today) in Nov. 2007, going on to gross $39.68 million (approx. $47 million today) in North America, in addition to $60.27 million internationally.
‘American Ultra’ bombs
Not including the animated Rio and Rio 2, Jesse Eisenberg has had a trio of solid openings at the U.S. and Canada box office: Now You See Me ($29.35 million in June 2013), The Social Network ($22.44 million in Oct. 2010), and Zombieland ($24.73 million in Oct. 2009).
Apart from Bella Swan and the Twilight movies co-starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart had a remarkable debut with Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman, co-starring Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, and which collected a better than expected $56.21 million in June 2012.
At the domestic box office, Stewart has been less lucky with her smaller (and generally more prestigious) entries, such as:
- Greg Mottola’s Adventureland ($16.04 million cume), also featuring Jesse Eisenberg.
- Walter Salles’ On the Road ($744,296 cume), with Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley.
- Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria ($1.84 million cume), starring Juliette Binoche and Chloë Grace Moretz, and which earned Stewart a historic César Award and may eventually earn her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as well. (See also: “Kristen Stewart and Catherine Deneuve Make César History.”)
Anyhow, the estimated $5-6 million that American Ultra should score from 2,778 venues by Sunday evening – after having taken in a dismal (estimated) $2.1 million on Friday – comes as a major letdown, especially considering Stewart’s faithful following in various social media and that this is her first “commercial” effort since Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 came out in November 2012.
Lionsgate acquired the rights to American Ultra for a reported $7 million. The film itself – a sort of The Bourne Identity spoof with touches of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest – is supposed to have cost around $12 million. International prospects look iffy, though Kristen Stewart will likely be a draw in at least some territories.
Once again, American Ultra would have greatly benefitted from fewer critical barbs. The two leads seem to have escaped unscathed, but that has proven hardly enough of an audience enticement.
And finally, American Ultra would have received a major boon had either Eisenberg or Stewart been paired with a major box office draw. Tom Cruise should get her for Mission: Impossible 6.
‘Straight Outta Compton’ and Tom Cruise
Despite all the buzz and “through the roof” audience ratings, F. Gary Gray’s bio-musical Straight Outta Compton is expected to be down more than 50 percent this weekend according to Deadline.com. That’s actually not quite as bad as it sounds, as the film’s box office gross last weekend included $4.96 million from Thursday screenings. There was no such luxury this time around.
Barring a horrific Sinister 2 surge, the no. 2 movie this weekend should be Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. The Christopher McQuarrie-Tom Cruise actioner should rake in approximately $12 million.
To date, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, featuring Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, and Christoph Waltz remains the no. 1 late August movie at the domestic box office: $38.05 million (approx. $41.5 million adjusted).
Sinister 2 poster: Gramercy Pictures / Focus Features.
Rupert Friend Hitman: Agent 47 image: 20th Century Fox.
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart American Ultra image: Lionsgate Films.