Box office: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials beats Johnny Depp Black Mass
*Sept. 18–20 weekend box office: 20th Century Fox’s sci-fi thriller Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to the 2014 global hit The Maze Runner, easily topped the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office chart, grossing $30.3 million from 3,791 theaters as per final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
That’s around $5 million less than pundits had been expecting for the domestic debut of this $61 million production (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).
*Warner Bros.’ Johnny Depp star vehicle Black Mass landed at a distant second, with $22.6 million from 3,188 locations.
Sequel vs. original
*For comparison’s sake: Directed by Wes Ball, and featuring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, and Will Poulter, The Maze Runner opened domestically with $32.5 million from 3,604 locations in mid-September 2014, ending its run with $104.4 million, in addition to $245.9 million internationally. Worldwide total: $348.3 million. Budget: $34 million.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opened in a number of overseas territories last weekend, collecting an estimated $30.5 million.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials has a mediocre 50 percent approval rating and a 5.5/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes’ ”top critics.” But this variation on The Hunger Games’ dystopian setting should have been critics-proof – at least on its opening weekend.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials cast
Besides Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials features Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Alexander Flores, Alan Tudyk, and Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, 2003).
Screenplay by T.S. Nowlin from James Dashner’s 2010 sci-fi/thriller novel.
Black Mass to mark Johnny Depp critical and box office comeback?
The expected domestic opening of the R-rated Black Mass, in which a heavily made-up Johnny Depp plays real-life, Irish-American Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, is an acceptable – though hardly sensational – figure.
What may help Black Mass are solid reviews and good word of mouth, so the film can develop long legs throughout the fall season. Whether that’ll happen remains to be seen.
With nine reviews so far, Black Mass has a (at first glance impressive) 78 percent approval rating – but only 6.4/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
For comparison’s sake: Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, and Mark Wahlberg, Martin Scorsese’s $90 million-budgeted Boston mafia gangster drama The Departed, which eventually took home the Best Picture Academy Award, opened with $26.88 million (approx. $34.5 million today) at 3,017 locations back in early Oct. 2006.
The Departed went on to gross $132.38 million in North America, in addition to $157.46 million internationally. Worldwide grand total: $289.84 million.
Fast-dimming Johnny Depp box office clout
So, could Black Mass do for Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp’s box office standing what Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman did for former Batman star Michael Keaton’s box office standing?
Well, to begin with, Best Picture Oscar and Best Actor Oscar nomination or no, Michael Keaton’s box office clout remains virtually unchanged after Birdman.
As for the $53 million-budgeted Black Mass, it could theoretically earn Depp his fourth Best Actor nomination. Besides, the political crime thriller will surely outperform (at least in relative terms) Depp’s spate of domestic box office disasters going all the way back to 2010: Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary, The Tourist. But that’s really not saying much.
A couple recent Johnny Depp box office bombs:
- “’The Lone Ranger’: Johnny Depp in costly Disney flop.”
- “’The Rum Diary’: Johnny Depp Biggest ‘Very Wide Release’ Box-Office Flop?”
Black Mass movie cast
In addition to Johnny Depp as FBI darling Whitey Bulger, Black Mass features:
Joel Edgerton. Benedict Cumberbatch. Dakota Johnson. Kevin Bacon. Peter Sarsgaard. Jesse Plemons. Rory Cochrane. David Harbour. Adam Scott. Corey Stoll. Julianne Nicholson. W. Earl Brown. Bill Camp. Juno Temple. Mark Mahoney. Brad Carter. Scott Anderson. Erica McDermott. Luke Ryan. Owen Burke. Lewis D. Wheeler. David De Beck. David Conley.
Black Mass was directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) from a screenplay credited to Mark Mallouk (executive producer on Everest) and Jez Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow, Fair Game), itself based on Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr’s book.
More box office predictions: Everest & Sicario
As found in Variety, Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest, opening in limited release, is expected to score $5 million, while Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, covering the same ground as James Marsh’s 2008 Academy Award winner Man on Wire, should take in about the same amount. A French-accented Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as wire-walking man Philippe Petit.
Geared to the “faith-based” crowd – i.e., Fundamentalist Christians, apparently the only “faith” in the United States as far as U.S. filmmakers and film-related media are concerned – Jerry Jameson’s thriller Captive is expected to collect $2 million from 800 sites. David Oyelowo (Selma) and Kate Mara (Fantastic Four) star. (Captive, I should add, isn’t a remake of Atom Egoyan’s 2014 mystery thriller The Captive, featuring Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, and Bruce Greenwood.)
And finally, Sicario – about the drug trade at the U.S. / Mexico border and the United States’ disastrous “war on drugs” – opens at six locations in New York and Los Angeles. Early estimates for this platform release reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic haven’t been made available. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Traffic Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro star for director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies).
Jack Nicholson as Whitey Bulger
 Jack Nicholson’s The Departed character was loosely based on Whitey Bulger, and so was Pete Postlethwaite’s Fergus ‘Fergie’ Colm in Ben Affleck’s critical and (moderate) box office hit The Town.
Johnny Depp Oscar nominations
 For the record, Johnny Depp’s three Best Actor Academy Award nominations were for the following movies:
- Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).
Winner: Sean Penn for Mystic River.
- Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland (2004).
Winner: Jamie Foxx for Ray.
- Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood.
Hotel Transylvania 2 far surpasses expectations at domestic box office: Adam Sandler a hit when heard but not seen
Adam Sandler has been having his share of domestic box office flops lately. Chris Columbus’ Pixels, which opened in late July to scathing reviews and indifferent audiences, was the latest one: a reported $88 million production (plus marketing and distribution expenses) that earned $76.67 million in the U.S. and Canada (plus an estimated $145.1 million elsewhere). But now comes the Sony Pictures release Hotel Transylvania 2, the concisely titled sequel to the late Sept. 2012 hit Hotel Transylvania.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the $80-85 million-budgeted animated feature should open around $48 million from 3,754 theaters according to early weekend box office estimates found at Deadline.com.
The report adds that some “rival studio box office analysts” believe Hotel Transylvania 2 may actually pass the $50 million mark. On Friday, Sept. 25, it collected a better than expected (estimated) $13.5 million.
September domestic box office record?
Either way, Hotel Transylvania 2 will beat the official September opening weekend box office record for a North American release, surpassing its predecessor’s $42.52 million from 3,349 venues.
That is, unless one takes into account a little something called inflation. As any box office journalist should, lest their reporting be perceived as part of the studios’ movie marketing campaign.
According to inflation-adjusted figures – which better reflect actual ticket sales – found at Boxofficemojo.com, even if it debuts with $50 million Hotel Transylvania 2 will still trail a couple of other movies:
- Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour (1998), featuring Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, and Tom Wilkinson. Adjusted domestic opening weekend gross: approx. $59 million.
- Andy Tennant’s Sweet Home Alabama (2002), starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, and Mary Kay Place. Adjusted domestic opening weekend gross: approx. $51.5 million.
Bear in mind that neither movie had the box-office-boosting advantage of 3D / PLF surcharges or Thursday evening shows, which has become commonplace these days.
Sun., Sept. 27, update: Hotel Transylvania 2 debuted with an estimated $47.2 million.
Biggest Adam Sandler weekend box office debut ever?
As for Hotel Transylvania 2 becoming the biggest Adam Sandler weekend opening of all time as some are already proclaiming … Well, once again, think inflatedly.
- Frank Coraci’s Nov. 1998 release The Waterboy opened with $39.41 – which translates into approx. $70.5 million in 2015 dollars. Adam Sandler was featured opposite Kathy Bates and Fairuza Balk.
- In June 1999, Dennis Dugan’s Big Daddy debuted with $41.53 million, or about $68.5 million today. Also in the cast: Rob Schneider and Leslie Mann.
- Peter Segal’s The Longest Yard opened with $47.6 million in May 2005, or approx. $62.5 million today. Also in the cast: Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds.
- Another Peter Segal-Adam Sandler collaboration, Anger Management, opened with $42.22 million in April 2003 – or approx. $59 million today. Also in the cast: Jack Nicholson and Marisa Tomei.
- The Segal-Sandler combo also struck gold with 50 First Dates, a February 2004 release that debuted with $39.85, or approx. $54 million today. Also in the cast: Drew Barrymore.
Click and Mr. Deeds are a couple of other Adam Sandler movies that, once their opening weekend take is adjusted for inflation, debuted with more than $50 million at the North American box office.
It should be noted that Sandler can actually be both heard and seen on screen in the movies listed above.
‘Hotel Transylvania 2’ cast
Co-written by Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel, Hotel Transylvania 2 features the voices of Sandler as Dracula, Andy Samberg as Jonathan, Selena Gomez as Mavis, and Kevin James as Frankenstein. Also in the cast:
Steve Buscemi. David Spade. Keegan-Michael Key. Asher Blinkoff. Fran Drescher. Molly Shannon. Megan Mullally. Nick Offerman. Dana Carvey. Rob Riggle. Mel Brooks. Nick Swardson. Chris Parnell. Jon Lovitz. Robert Smigel.
Dracula and Frankenstein movies
Long before (the voices of) Adam Sandler and Kevin James in Hotel Transylvania 2, Dracula and Frankenstein were played by the likes of:
- Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922).
- Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931).
- Carlos Villarías in Drácula (1931).
- Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939).
- Christopher Lee in Dracula / The Horror of Dracula and numerous variations and spin-offs, e.g., Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).
- Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein (1974), directed by Hotel Transylvania 2 voice cast member Mel Brooks.
- Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).
- Frank Langella in Dracula (1979).
- George Hamilton in Love at First Bite (1979).
- Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).
The Martian fights Gravity for October box office record; actual winner, however, is an Earthbound comedy
Released by 20th Century Fox, Ridley Scott’s extremely well-received The Martian, starring Matt Damon in the title role as a U.S. astronaut fighting for his life after being left behind all alone on Mars, opened with an estimated $18 million on Friday, Sept. 30 at 3,831 North American theaters, about two thirds of which in 3D. Bear in mind that the Friday estimate includes $2.5 million from Thursday evening and midnight screenings.
Directed by eventual Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, Warner Bros.’ Gravity, another extremely well-received space movie about a pioneering American fearlessly kicking death’s ass while stranded in a – literally – alien realm, collected $17.5 million over the same weekend back in 2013. Sandra Bullock starred as the lost-in-space astronaut and middle-American Mom struggling to find her way back to Earth, with George Clooney as a country-music-loving space cowboy who bravely sets out to meet his maker.
Gravity cost a reported $100 million. The Martian‘s budget is a reported $108 million. Neither figure includes marketing and distribution expenses.
Gravity officially holds the record for best opening weekend in October at the North American box office. As found at Boxofficemojo.com, Cuarón’s mix of adventure and soap opera collected $55.8 million, going on to earn a domestic total of $274.1 million, in addition to $449.1 million overseas, for a grand worldwide total of $723.1 million.
Hurricane Joaquin is currently causing catastrophic floods in North and South Carolina, but the U.S. and Canada’s main urban centers – where most of the box office dough is collected – should remain either dry or wet but in business. For now, The Martian is expected to gross $55 million by Sunday evening, thus placing it only slightly behind Gravity.
Could a Saturday surge make The Martian beat Gravity? Sure. If so, The Martian will officially become the biggest October debut ever at the North American box office. Just remember that “officially” doesn’t mean “actually.”
See also: “Did Gravity really break October box office record?”
The actual October box office record holder
When inflation is taken into account – as it always should so we can have a better idea about actual ticket sales – by Sunday evening the biggest opening weekend in October at the North American box office will belong neither to The Martian nor to Gravity.
Try instead Scary Movie 3.
Directed by David Zucker, the 3D-deficient spoof/comedy collected $48.11 million at 3,505 locations in late October 2003. That represents approximately $67 million today. In other words, what you have is the likes of Pamela Anderson and Charlie Sheen kicking Matt Damon’s and Sandra Bullock’s box office butts.
Also in the Scary Movie 3 cast: Jenny McCarthy, Anna Faris, Simon Rex, Jeremy Piven, Regina Hall, Denise Richards, Queen Latifah, Leslie Nielsen, George Carlin, Macy Gray, and RZA.
At no. 2 in October is DreamWorks Animation’s A Shark Tale, with $47.6 million – or approx. $64 million adjusted for inflation. The animated flick features the voices of Will Smith, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Falk, among others.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Paranormal Activity 3 would be movie no. 3, with $52.6 million, or about $56.5 million adjusted. Gravity is right behind it at no. 4.
‘The Martian’ movie cast
Besides Matt Damon, The Martian movie cast features the following:
Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty). Kristen Wiig. Kate Mara. Jeff Daniels. Sebastian Stan. Sean Bean. Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). Michael Peña. Aksel Hennie. Mackenzie Davis. Nick Mohammed. Enzo Cilenti. Donald Glover. Chen Su. Eddy Ko. Jonathan Arris. Gruffudd Glyn. Naomi Scott. Brian Caspe. Matt Devere.
For the record, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, a Paramount (domestic) release starring Matthew McConaughey and The Martian‘s Jessica Chastain – plus Matt Damon in a smaller role – debuted with $47.5 million in Nov. 2014.*
* Warner Bros. distributed Interstellar internationally.
Matt Damon in The Martian movie trailer and image: 20th Century Fox.
Hotel Transylvania 2 cast info via the IMDb.
Hotel Transylvania 2 trailer and image: Sony Pictures.
Maze Runner 2: The Scorch Trials Dylan O’Brien image: 20th Century Fox.
Joel Edgerton and Johnny Depp Black Mass image: Warner Bros., via People magazine.