'Ender's Game' movie to go the way of 'John Carter' & 'The Golden Compass'?
Nov. 11, '13, update: Directed by Gavin Hood and starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford, Ender's Game is going the way of Andrew Stanton's John Carter and Chris Weitz's The Golden Compass at the domestic box office. After opening with a disappointing $27.01 million last weekend (including Thursday evening shows), the $110 million-budgeted was down a whopping 62 percent this past weekend, November 8-10, 2013, collecting a paltry $10.25 million from 3,407 theaters (no reduction in number of venues) according to box office actuals found at Boxofficemojo.com.
One can blame Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, but the action fantasy starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston wasn't the sole culprit. After all, Ender's Game was already trailing both Last Vegas and Bad Grandpa last Thursday.
After two weekends, Ender's Game has reached $44.01 million in the U.S. and Canada. From now on, it'll be fast downhill, especially considering Thor: The Dark World's current dominance at the North American box office, and that competitor The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, directed by Francis Lawrence, and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, opens at the end of the month.
At this stage, prospects for a big-screen sequel to the Ender's Game movie adaptation – a Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures release — look dubious at best, though there has been talk of a (way less costly) television series spin-off. Not helping matters is that Ender's Game hasn't set the international box office on fire, having collected a little over $9 million as of November 3, despite debuts in Russia, Germany, Italy, and the UK. Competition from Thor: The Dark World, which opened internationally nearly two weeks ago, was surely part of the problem.
'Ender's Game' vs. 'John Carter,' 'The Golden Compass'
For comparison's sake: Starring Taylor Kitsch, John Carter was to have been the first installment in a mammoth movie franchise. That idea went the way of the mammoths after Disney's $250 million-budgeted sci-fier opened with $30.18 million in the U.S. and Canada in March 2012 – despite solid figures overseas (cume: $211.06 million). John Carter's domestic total was $73.07 million.
Back in 2007, the $180 million-budgeted film version of Philip Pullman's bestseller The Golden Compass, featuring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, debuted with $27.78 million (approximately $30 million today) in North America, cuming with $70.1 million. Despite an international gross of $302.17 million, plans to produce sequels to the sci-fi fantasy were scrapped.
A couple more box office comparisons: 'The Host,' 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief'
The Host, adapted by Andrew Niccol from Stephenie Meyer's bestseller, and featuring Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, and Jake Abel, bombed when it opened with $10.6 million in North America last March. Niccol and Meyer's mix of science fiction, adventure, and romance ended up with a measly $26.55 million in North America (Ender's Game will earn more than that over one single weekend), in addition to $21.6 million internationally as per the latest figures found at Box Office Mojo.
Directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and starring Logan Lerman, the $95 million-budgeted Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief opened with $31.23 million in February 2010, ultimately cuming at $88.76 million domestically and $137.72 million internationally.
For a while, it was touch and go whether or not 20th Century Fox would approve a sequel. Eventually, Fox studio heads greenlit the $90 million-budgeted Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – and surely came to regret their decision. Released this past summer, the Percy Jackson sequel has to date cumed at $67.7 million in North America and $130.8 million elsewhere.
'Ender's Game' movie cast
Besides Asa Butterfield (Martin Scorsese's Hugo) and Harrison Ford – who once upon a time was the biggest box office draw in the United States (possibly in the world) – Ender's Game also features Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), and Viola Davis (The Help).
Plus: Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Khylin Rhambo, Jimmy 'Jax' Pinchak, Nonso Anozie, Conor Carroll, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Andrea Powell, Caleb J. Thaggart, Cameron Gaskins, Kyle Russell Clements, Brandon Soo Hoo, Wendy Miklovic, Jasmine Kaur, and Han Soto.
Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield Ender's Game movie photo: Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures.
Written and directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner Tsotsi), and featuring Asa Butterfield (the star in Martin Scorsese's Hugo), Best Actor Oscar nominee Harrison Ford (Witness), Best Actor Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help), and Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominees Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), the futuristic adventure drama Ender's Game will easily top the North American box office chart this weekend, November 1-3, 2013. The Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures release is based on the 1985 novel (itself based on a 1977 short story/novella) by Orson Scott Card, an outspoken author and essayist reviled by many because of his rabidly anti-gays views. (More on that below. And in all fairness, Orson Scott Card is also widely admired by like-minded family friendly, devoutly religious, apple-pie-eating folks.)
'Ender's Game': Not a bad start – but not a solid one either
Ender's Game collected an estimated $9.9 million in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, including $1.4 million from Thursday night / Friday midnight showings, according to figures found at Boxofficemojo.com. That was not a bad start for the film – nor was it a remarkable one.
In fact, Ender's Game is expected to gross around $30 million by Sunday evening. Once again, that's not a bad start – that is, until one considers that the sci-fier cost a reported $110 million (not including marketing and distribution costs), that it's supposed to be the first installment of a (potential) movie franchise, and that it'll face steep competition next weekend from Alan Taylor and Chris Hemsworth's Thor: The Dark World, and, later this month, from Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. (Sunday update: Ender's Game debuted with a worse than expected $28 million, as per studio estimates.)
'Twilight' and 'The Hunger Games': Recent bestseller-to-screen success stories
In recent years, when it comes to film adaptations of bestselling novels for young adults, true success stories have been limited to:
- The Twilight franchise, based on Stephenie Meyer's romantic fantasy novels, and whose success was chiefly a consequence of fan's wholeheartedly embracing stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner.
- The Hunger Games franchise, based on Suzanne Collins' literary mix of adventure, romance, and dystopia, and successfully sold (especially in North America) as a prestigious “event” movie – a sort of Twilight that would appeal not only to young women, but to young men and adults as well.
Directed by Gary Ross, and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, the first The Hunger Games, which shares a number of elements in common with Ender's Game, also had the advantage of generally enthusiastic reviews. Ender's Game, on the other hand, has a mediocre 53 percent approval rating and 5.8/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.
It should be noted that the Twilight movies were Summit Entertainment releases, while The Hunger Games movies are Lionsgate releases. The two studios are now one.
So, will Ender's Game become the next franchise Summit / Lionsgate franchise? It's too early to tell, but the odds aren't great, especially considering the film's relatively modest opening last weekend in the United Kingdom ($1.87 million) and Germany ($796,000), which presage a less than stellar international box office performance.
Besides the aforementioned talent, the 2013 Ender's Game movie features Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Jimmy 'Jax' Pinchak, Moises Arias, Khylin Rhambo, Caleb J. Thaggart, Nonso Anozie, Conor Carroll, Cameron Gaskins, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Andrea Powell, Kyle Russell Clements, Wendy Miklovic, Jasmine Kaur, Brandon Soo Hoo, and Han Soto.
Official weekend box office estimates will be released Sunday morning. Weekend box office actuals come out on Monday.
'Ender's Game' Author Orson Scott Card anti-gay views
There has been talk of anti-Ender's Game boycotts and the like, but nothing of the kind seems to have taken place despite Orson Scott Card's history of vicious anti-gay attacks. In 1990, five years after Ender's Game came out, the Mormon author wrote an essay for the Mormon-geared magazine Sunstone, stating that laws banning same-sex acts should “remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”
A few months ago, Card claimed that he no longer believed in what he wrote, as laws banning gay sex in the United States have been deemed unconstitutional (though they're still in the books and remain in use in a number of U.S. states).
Also worth noting, in a 2008 essay Orson Scott Card asserted that any government that tried to recognize same-sex marriage would be deemed a “mortal enemy”:
I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Biological imperatives trump laws. [The] American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.
For about four years, Card was a board of directors member of the National Organization for Marriage, which recently equated the legalization of gay marriage to the legalization of incestuous marriage. Card resigned from the Board only a few months prior to the release of Ender's Game.
You can find out more about Card's anti-gay writings – e.g., “The dark secret of homosexual society – the one that dares not speak its name – is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse … “ – on the GLAAD website.
Note: Summit and Lionsgate insist that Orson Scott Card, though a credited producer on Ender's Game, will not benefit directly from the movie's box office gross; instead, Card received his film adaptation benefits about a decade ago, when, according to reports, he got paid for the rights to his novel without any back-end deals. Yet, Ender's Game book sales will undoubtedly benefit from all the publicity surrounding the film's release – and so will the book's bigoted author.
Asa Butterfield Ender's Game photo: Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures.