Jack looms large at the box office, but not big enough
By Kim Hollis
March 3, 2013
After several weeks of mind-numbingly dull box office results, we were hoping for a little bit of excitement this weekend with the release of the big budget Jack the Giant Slayer. Alas, it simply wasn’t to be.
Although Jack the Giant Slayer is the winner this weekend at the box office, it does so by opening significantly softer than expected. Early tracking estimates had predicted that the Warner Bros. fairy tale fantasy would open to about $40 million. With rollicking, fun commercials and a distinct lack of family fare in recent months, this seemed like a reasonable prospect. Instead, Jack the Giant Slayer debuted with just $28 million, a number that looks a little suspect when you consider the Friday-Saturday-Sunday split ($7.7 million / $12 million / $8.2 million). That breakdown would amount to a weekend multiplier (weekend total divided by Friday total) of 3.63, theoretically possible for a family film but still a number that defies recent box office trending.
It’s tough to discern a reason why Jack the Giant Slayer didn’t break out better. Reviews were average (52% at Rotten Tomatoes) and the Cinemascore was a B+, meaning that while there wasn’t anything super positive with regard to word-of-mouth, it wasn’t negative enough to keep people away, either. The marketing was pretty solid, with commercials and previews making the film look fun and lighthearted, something that sets it apart from recent fairy tale adaptations like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Red Riding Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman. Most likely, the glut in fairy tale re-imaginings may be taking its toll, from a lackluster second season of Once Upon a Time to the recent blah performance of Hansel & Gretel.
The lack of real star power may have also been an issue. Nicholas Hoult is coming off a solid mid-level performer in Warm Bodies, but he’s still not really a known commodity. Ewan McGregor is terrific, but no one is ever going to claim that he’s a big box office draw. Jack the Giant Slayer might have been able to overcome the fairy tale ennui of the potential audience had there been a truly recognizable star to rally around.
Under any circumstance, Jack the Giant Slayer is going to struggle to come anywhere near its $190 million budget, at least domestically. Of course, as we’ve learned over the past couple of years, the global market is expanding to such a degree that Warner Bros. may come out okay once all the ancillary revenues are added in. With Oz the Great and Powerful hitting theaters next weekend, Jack the Giant Slayer pretty much had one weekend and one weekend only to establish itself. It failed in that regard, enough so that plans for future fairy tale reboots/retellings ought to be considered very carefully.
Second place goes to Identity Thief, which takes advantage of a weak crop of films to hang in the top two for yet another weekend. Its $9.7 million three-day total is good enough to take the Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy comedy past the $100 million mark, as its cumulative total now sits at $107.4 million. The weekend-to-weekend decline is just 31%, not bad for a movie that has been absolutely savaged by critics. While we’re thrilled that McCarthy is a bona fide star, we hope that by doing a crappy but profitable film that she now has enough credibility to pick up leading roles in some quality stuff.