'Focus' Movie: Will Smith Third-Worst Box-Office Opening

Focus movie Will Smith box office dud'Focus' movie with Will Smith: Weekend box office dud.

'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, '15.

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 Hancock and I Am Legend $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 $6.46 million at 3,323 locations according to Box Office Mojo. 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.

Mediocre reviews

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, '15, 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:[1]

  • 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.[2]

Also, Seven Pounds cumed at $69.95 million in North America – or about $81 million in 2015 dollars. Overseas, the Sony Pictures melodrama took in $98.26 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.”

'Concussion'

Now, in all likelihood, Focus will be all but forgotten by the time Will Smith's follow-up movie reaches North American screens on December 25. That's Peter Landesman's real-life-inspired sports-medical-social drama Concussion.

Also in the Concussion cast:

Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Alec Baldwin. Bitsie Tulloch. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Albert Brooks. Paul Reiser. Luke Wilson. Stephen Moyer. David Morse. Eddie Marsan.

Margot Robbie Focus movie'Focus' with Margot Robbie.

'Focus' movie cast

Besides Will Smith and The Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie – not coincidentally, recently seen at the Academy Awards ceremonyFocus 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'?

[1] 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).

[2] Box Office Mojo's international totals don't necessarily include the final tally for every single market.

 

Margot Robbie and Will Smith Focus movie images: Warner Bros.

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