Focus movie: Will Smith has third weakest weekend box office debut of his career
According to those referred to in polite society as “conservatives,” winter storms and freezing temperatures are evidence that there’s no such thing as global warming. Let’s not even go there. Instead, let’s focus (bad pun intended) on the Focus movie starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie as a con couple, which opened below expectations – with wintery weather as a possible culprit – in North America this weekend, Feb. 27-March 1.
According to box office tracking, as late as a couple of days ago Warner Bros.’ modestly budgeted Focus was expected to take in between $22–$24 million. Barring a miracle akin to a sudden halt to rising ocean temperatures (pardon the hyperbole), that’s not about to happen.
Now, before I proceed: “modestly budgeted”? Well, for a Will Smith movie, $50 million – after rebates and not including marketing and distribution expenses – is sort of equivalent to a Kelly Reichardt-sized production. For instance, M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth cost a reported $130–$150 million, Men in Black 3 $225 million, and the mega-hit I Am Legend and the even bigger mega-hit Hancock cost $150 million each.
No. 1 movie with less than $20 million opening weekend take?
Back to the Focus movie: no one doubts that Will Smith’s latest, written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, will top the U.S. and Canada box office this weekend. Focus will easily beat previous champ Fifty Shades of Grey and fellow wide-release newcomer The Lazarus Effect.
However, the jury is still out on whether or not the Will Smith-Margot Robbie combo will manage to cross the $20 million mark on opening weekend.
On Friday, Focus grossed an estimated $6.5 million at 3,323 locations according to boxofficemojo.com. These figures include $900,000 from Thursday showings and about 800 premium screens. Thus, Smith’s star vehicle should barely reach $20 million – if that much – by Sunday evening.
Deadline.com puts the blame for the film’s underperformance on snow and ice in large chunks of the United States. Reviews surely haven’t helped, despite praise from the likes of the Los Angeles Times (which also put in a good word for the widely lambasted The Lazarus Effect) and the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, who found the Will Smith-Margot Robbie pairing (more or less) akin to that of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. (But in which movie? The Big Sleep? Key Largo? Dark Passage?)
Anyhow, a large number of critics listed at Rotten Tomatoes disagreed with the reviewers for the two Timeses. To date, Focus has a mediocre 56 percent approval rating and 5.8/10 average.
Latest Will Smith movie to underperform at domestic box office
If Focus debuts with $20 million, it’ll have one of the weakest opening weekends of Will Smith’s two-decade-plus film career.
Monday, March 2 update: Focus opened with a less-than-expected $18.68 million in the U.S. and Canada. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the third worst weekend debut of a Will Smith movie in wide release.
Even without taking into account Focus’ Thursday box office revenues, pricier premium screenings, and higher number of locations, its inflation-adjusted opening weekend trails those of every other Will Smith wide release except for:
- Gabriele Muccino’s Seven Pounds, which collected $14.85 million at 2,758 theaters in Dec. 2008 (approx. $17.1 million adjusted).
Cast: Rosario Dawson. Woody Harrelson.
- Robert Redford’s The Legend of Bagger Vance, with $11.51 million from 2,061 theaters in Nov. 2000 (approx. $17.7 million adjusted).
Cast: Matt Damon. Charlize Theron.
Not adjusted for inflation – a meaningless comparison – Focus would also surpass:
- Michael Mann’s Ali, with $14.71 million from 2,446 theaters in Dec. 2001 (approx. $21.5 million adjusted).
Cast: Jon Voight. Jada Pinkett Smith. Jamie Foxx.
- Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, with $15.52 million from 2,132 theaters in April 1995 (approx. $29.6 million adjusted).
Cast: Matthew Lawrence. Téa Leoni.
- Richard Benjamin’s Made in America, with $11.82 million at 2,048 theaters in May 1993 (approx. $23.7 million adjusted).
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg. Ted Danson. Nia Long.
Focus in the black?
Having said all that, I should add that Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s previous release, Crazy, Stupid, Love., collected $19.1 million on opening weekend in late July 2011. Starring this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone, the romantic comedy went on to gross a not inconsiderable $84.35 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to a reported $58.5 million internationally.
Also, Seven Pounds cumed at $70 million in North America – or about $81 million in 2015 dollars. Overseas, the Sony Pictures melodrama took in $98.3 million.
In other words, because of its relatively low budget (but depending on above-the-line contractual obligations), Focus should turn out to be at least a modest moneymaker. That’s certainly more than can be said for another 2015 release starring a veteran box office name, Johnny Depp’s disastrous Mortdecai. (See also: “Will Smith sci-fier ‘After Earth’ has disappointing debut.”)
Now, in all likelihood, Focus will be all but forgotten by the time Will Smith’s follow-up movie reaches North American screens on Dec. 25. That’s Peter Landesman’s real-life-inspired sports-medical-social drama Concussion.
Also in the Concussion cast:
Focus movie cast
Besides Will Smith and The Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie – not coincidentally, recently seen at the Academy Awards ceremony – Focus also features the following:
Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro trying to pass as a Buenos Aires billionaire. Adrian Martinez. Gerald McRaney. BD Wong. Brennan Brown. Robert Taylor. Griff Furst. Stephanie Honoré.
And in case you’ve forgotten, before Will Smith and Margot Robbie were in, the Focus movie project went through a few casting announcements. In fact, the film was to have starred Ben Affleck, fresh off of Argo‘s Best Picture Oscar win, and Twilight and Snow White and the Huntsman star Kristen Stewart.
Affleck’s departure from the project – due to a scheduling conflict – was a major source of delight to online rumormongers and conspiracy theorists.
Prior to Ben Affleck and Kristen Stewart, also mentioned as Focus leads were Brad Pitt, and the Crazy, Stupid, Love. duo Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Ahead or behind Enemy of the State?
 A previous version of this Focus movie box office post, featuring Saturday’s more generous $20 million estimate, included Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State as a fourth Will Smith movie with a more modest opening (not adjusted for inflation) than Focus. See below:
Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State, with $20.03 million at 2,393 theaters in Nov. 1998 (approx. $35.4 million adjusted).
Cast: Gene Hackman. Jon Voight. Lisa Bonet.
For obvious reasons, the list doesn’t include movies featuring Will Smith in a cameo or small role (e.g., Winter’s Tale, Jersey Girl, Where the Day Takes You), or movies that opened in limited release (e.g., Six Degrees of Separation).
Note: Box Office Mojo’s international totals don’t necessarily include the final tally for every single market.
The Lazarus Effect box office: Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass horror movie arrives comatose
Despite recent news that human head transplants are a mere two years away, the Mark Duplass-Olivia Wilde horror movie The Lazarus Effect – about bringing the dead back to life (as if world overpopulation weren’t already a problem) – grossed $10.6 million from 2,666 U.S. and Canada venues on opening weekend, Feb. 27-March 1, according to studio estimates.
The Relativity Studios-distributed low-budget horror flick had earned an estimated $3.8 million on opening-day Friday, including $350,000 from Thursday night screenings.
Last week, box office prognosticators had been expecting an opening between $12-$14 million. That was adjusted downward to $10 million or whereabouts after the film’s disappointing Friday debut.
Some, in fact, believed The Lazarus Effect would open below the $10 million mark. If one takes that into account, then its (estimated) $10.6 million opening-weekend performance seems slightly more lively.
Monday, March 2 update: according to studio figures, The Lazarus Effect earned $10.2 million, averaging a mediocre $3,827 per theater.
‘The Lazarus Effect’ vs. ‘Oculus’
For comparison’s sake: Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, featuring a group of somewhat lesser-known TV actors – Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff – pulled in $12 million from 2,648 sites on its North American debut weekend in April 2014.
Directed by David Gelb, besides Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde, The Lazarus Effect features Kick-Ass and X-Men: Days of Future Past actor Evan Peters, Donald Glover, and Sarah Bolger. Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater are credited for the screenplay.
This more serious-minded Re-Animator (with a touch of the 1990 Julia Roberts hit Flatliners) cost a reported $5 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses – which not infrequently can be quite a bit heftier than the negative cost of these types of films.
Relativity acquired The Lazarus Effect for 3.3 million. The film has a dismal 13 percent approval rating and 4/10 average at Rotten Tomatoes.
Weekend box office: The Lazarus Effect trailing Fifty Shades of Grey
On Saturday, it was unclear whether or not The Lazarus Effect was going to reach $10 million at the domestic box office. And, if so, whether or not it would trail holdovers Kingsman: The Secret Service, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
As it turned out, The Lazarus Effect did gross more than $10 million and, even so, according to studio estimates it did trail the aforementioned three movies.
As found at Box Office Mojo, here are the studio’s weekend box office estimates:
- Kingsman: The Secret Service took in $11.75 million. (Monday update: $10.88 million.)
- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water took in $11.2 million. (Monday update: $10.9 million.)
- Fifty Shades of Grey took in $10.92 million. (Monday update: $10.6 million. )
‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ holds up better than ‘Twilight’
Universal’s Sam Taylor-Johnson-directed Fifty Shades of Grey was down a relatively modest 51 percent. Some had been expecting a drop near the 60 percent mark.
Still, at least in the U.S. and Canada, the kinky sex drama starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan has been following a pattern similar to that of the Twilight movies. In other words, a huge opening followed by sizable weekend drop-off rates.
Starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight was down 62 percent on its second weekend, and 50 percent on its third back in fall 2008.
Made for a reported $40 million, Fifty Shades of Grey‘s domestic cume stands at an estimated $147.8 million. The international total is $338.4 million, for a worldwide grand total of $486 million.
Next time people tell you that sex sells, believe them.
Kingsman vs. SpongeBob
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Best Actor Academy Award winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and relative film newcomer Taron Egerton (Hereafter, Testament of Youth).
Directed by Paul Tibbitt, the animated/live action 3D feature The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water offers Antonio Banderas as a character named Burger-Beard the Pirate. Other cast members, voice actors or otherwise, include:
Tom Kenny. Clancy Brown. Rodger Bumpass. Bill Fagerbakke. Carolyn Lawrence. Matt Berry.
American Sniper: Controversial Iraq War drama to become top 2014 release at domestic box office
Budgeted at a reported $58.8 million (not including marketing and distribution expenses), Warner Bros.’ highly controversial Iraq War drama American Sniper will very shortly become the top 2014 release at the North American box office.
Directed by two-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood and starring three-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper in the title role, American Sniper – which many see as both dishonest and as rabidly anti-Muslim as its real-life subject – reached an estimated $331.8 million this weekend (down a modest 23 percent) in the U.S. and Canada.
American Sniper to trail Mockingjay – Part 1 internationally
Now, unsurprisingly, American Sniper – seemingly made to order for the American far right (just check out the film’s Twitter supporters) – has no chance of surpassing Mockingjay 1‘s nearly $415 million international take.
Admittedly, the Eastwood-Cooper effort has raked in a highly respectable (estimated) $139.1 million overseas. The film has been assisted by its six Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and Best Actor), by the presence of the Silver Linings Playbook and The Hangover star, and by the ugly controversy surrounding its portrayal of the title character.
Next time someone tells you that nasty controversies sell, believe them.
Monday, March 2 update: according to studio figures, American Sniper earned $7.4 million (down 26 percent). Domestic total to date: $330.8 million.
Besides Bradley Cooper as U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, American Sniper features Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, and Jake McDorman.
Also worth noting, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), last weekend’s winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture, more than doubled its box office take compared to a week ago.
After tripling its number of theaters, Birdman scored an estimated $2 million. The Fox Searchlight-distributed, $18 million-budgeted ensemble piece has to date grossed a not inconsiderable $40 million domestically. Plus an estimated $46.2 million internationally.
Monday, March 2 update: according to studio figures, Birdman collected $2 million. Domestic total to date: $40 million. Rounding things out, a just about perfect match.
Still Alice vs. Maps to the Stars box office: Julianne Moore Oscar helps only one movie
The Oscars do matter. As mentioned in the previous post, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman was up an estimated 125 percent this weekend, Feb. 27-March 1, following its four Academy Award wins – including Best Picture. Also up a hefty 24 percent – after adding 553 locations – is Sony Pictures Classics’ Still Alice, which earned Julianne Moore the year’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance as a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Oscars’ box office boost
True, an Oscar win – or key nominations – may not create mammoth blockbusters like Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, or Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. For that, you need title recognition and/or a massive (and cleverly targeted) marketing blitz.
But the Oscars clearly do help smaller movies such as Birdman, Still Alice, and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything (up an estimated 17 percent), which stars Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.
Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (The Last of Robin Hood, Sundance winner Quinceañera), on its seventh weekend out Still Alice raked in $2.7 million at 1,318 U.S. and Canadian theaters. Per theater, the family-psychological drama averaged $2,045.
Still Alice among Top Ten
Also worth noting, this post-Oscar weekend, Still Alice managed for the first time to crack the Top Ten at the domestic box office.
Still Alice‘s North American cume has reached an estimated $12 million, in addition to about $1.5 million from a handful of international territories. Not bad at all for a $5 million-budgeted drama dealing with highly disturbing issues: illness, death, the loss of self.
Monday, March 2, update: According to official figures, Still Alice grossed $2.7 million, averaging $2,012 per site. Its current cume stands at $12 million.
Julianne Moore’s Still Alice co-stars are Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, Shane McRae, and Alec Baldwin.
Maps to the Stars box office
Still Alice benefited from Julianne Moore’s Best Actress Academy Award, but considerably less lucky this weekend was another Julianne Moore star vehicle. That’s David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, strategically released so as to get some box office traction from Moore’s Oscar victory.
Co-starring Robert Pattinson (coincidentally, Still Alice co-star Kristen Stewart’s leading man in the five Twilight Saga movies), Mia Wasikowska, Evan Bird, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon, Olivia Williams, and Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher, Cronenberg’s Sunset Blvd.-ish comedy has been hindered by both mixed reviews and an apparent lack of interest from distributor Focus World.
Maps to the Stars currently has a 60 percent approval rating and 6.3/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. That’s certainly better than the ratings for the previous David Cronenberg-Robert Pattinson collaboration, the 2012 ride Cosmopolis: 51 percent approval and 5.8/10 average. (See also: “Cosmopolis bombs at U.S. box office: Anti-Robert Pattinson bias?”)
But that’s definitely not good enough for a small, not-at-all-mainstream-friendly movie in dire need of as much critical support as possible. For comparison’s sake, Still Alice‘s Rotten Tomatoes score is 92 percent approval and 7.8/10 average among the site’s top critics.
‘Maps to the Stars’ gets no Oscar leftovers
Budgeted at a reported $15 million, Maps to the Stars collected an estimated $139,000 this weekend at 66 venues – or about 40 percent more than early estimates indicated. Even so, that represents only $2,106 per screen.
Now, bear in mind that Maps to the Stars is also available on VOD. Pathetically, studios are reluctant to make public these increasingly important revenue figures.
Monday, March 2 update: According to official figures, Maps to the Stars grossed $143,000, averaging $2,173 per site.
Little-to-no chance during 2015-2016 awards season
Expect Maps to the Stars to disappear fast from U.S. screens. And there’s little chance of it being remembered during the 2015-2016 awards season.
David Cronenberg’s film opened in the Los Angeles area last December – one daily screening for one week to qualify it for the Golden Globes. It worked: Julianne Moore did get a nomination in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical category.
Never mind the fact that in early March 2015, few remember that Golden Globe nod.
So, it’s mind-boggling that distributor Focus World – a division of Focus Features, itself a division of the mega-conglomerate NBCUniversal – opted not to give Maps to the Stars a decent push in 2015 instead of a one-week, for-your-consideration-if-you’re-a-mind-reader run late last year.
Especially considering Julianne Moore’s Best Actress win at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Needless to say, Maps to the Stars is ineligible for the 88th Academy Awards.
Cult classic in the making?
Unfortunately, the Canadian Screen Awards don’t have the mainstream appeal of the Oscars. Maps to the Stars was in the running for 11 of those, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Bruce Wagner), and nominations for just about every cast member.*
But all isn’t necessarily lost. Don’t be too surprised if Maps to the Stars resurfaces as a cult classic a decade or two from now, with Julianne Moore hailed as the Gloria Swanson / Norma Desmond of the early 21st century.
* The 2015 Canadian Screen Award winners were announced on Feb. 28. Xavier Dolan’s Mommy swept the awards, with nine wins including Best Picture.
Maps to the Stars won two awards: Best Supporting Actor for John Cusack, who beat fellow player Robert Pattinson, and Best Original Score for Howard Shore.
Julianne Moore lost the Best Actress Canadian Screen Award to Anne Dorval for her titular performance in Mommy.
Upcoming Julianne Moore movies
Following her Best Actress Oscar win for Still Alice and the currently in release Maps to the Stars, Julianne Moore will next be seen in:
Peter Sollett’s Freeheld, based on the real-life story of a lesbian couple battling terminal illness, financial issues, and prejudice. Moore will once again be playing a dying woman. Ellen Page is her lover.
Also in the Freeheld cast: Steve Carell. Luke Grimes. Michael Shannon. Mary Birdsong. Dennis Boutsikaris. Screenplay by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil).
Cynthia Wade’s Freeheld (2007) won the Academy Award in the Best Documentary Short category.
Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, the final installment in the Hunger Games franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.
Also in the Mockingjay 2 cast: Sam Claflin. Elizabeth Banks. Willow Shields. Jena Malone. Natalie Dormer. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Stanley Tucci. Woody Harrelson. Donald Sutherland. Robert Knepper. Toby Jones. Jeffrey Wright.
Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore Still Alice photo: Sony Pictures Classics.
Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars photo: Focus World.
Image of Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: Lionsgate.
Olivia Wilde The Lazarus Effect photo: Daniel McFadden / Relativity Media.
Bradley Cooper American Sniper photo: Warner Bros.
Margot Robbie and Will Smith Focus movie images: Warner Bros.