All Pain and No Gain in Pre-Iron Man 3 Weekend
By John Hamann
April 28, 2013
At the box office this weekend, we’ve got a "small" Michael Bay film, so it must still be April. If you wanted to see a movie this weekend, the best thing to do was fly to Europe for Iron Man 3.
It’s the weekend before the summer bonanza starts, at least in North America, so Hollywood is not pulling out any big guns with Iron Man 3 only a few days away. Overseas it’s a different story, as the Robert Downey three-quel is already in play, and it’s grossing even more than the last Iron Man. In North America, this weekend is about positioning smaller films, as low budget is the only way to go against the first of the behemoths and still survive financially. That means we get Pain & Gain, the Mark Wahlberg/Dwayne Johnson/Michael Bay combo, a film that cost $169 million less than Bay’s last film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Also opening this weekend is The Big Wedding, a film that features a mature, all-star cast, but is getting Scary Movie 5 kind of reviews. We also get a slew of smaller, art house type movies this weekend, including Mathew McConaughey's Mud, a film I am excited to see.
The number one film of the weekend is Pain & Gain, Michael Bay’s bargain-basement film that cost only $26 million to make. This number is $114 million LESS than the director spent on Armageddon 15 years ago in 1998. Pain & Gain opened to a meh $20 million this weekend from 3,277 venues, giving the "plucked from the headlines" story a venue average of $6,103. For Paramount, this is going to be a decent sized success given the budget, but with a cast that includes Wahlberg and The Rock, and Bay directing, one has to wonder how much the studio is giving up on the back end. Still, with the weekend take, Pain & Gain is going to be a success – the question is how big.
While a the debut is decent, it doesn’t look like Pain & Gain is going to have much of a future. The film received a disastrous C+ Cinemascore from viewers (C+ = "hated it"). Reviewers call it sleazy, and while the Rotten Tomatoes score throws over Bay’s 40% fresh average, the 47% rating for Pain & Gain is not likely to draw more viewers. Simply put, Michael Bay is just not a very good movie director. Everything he does is some style and no substance, and unfortunately Pain & Gain is no different. Paramount released this over the pre-Iron Man 3 weekend for a reason. It would be on the road to profitability after one weekend (the simple extrapolation of a $12-$15 million opening frame puts it into the black) - and the opening frame we see today supports that. There was little-to-no risk for Paramount here, which makes Pain & Gain the perfect candidate for a weekend like this one – cheap and forgettable, but with enough star power to get it to #1. Someone thank The Rock.