Friday Box Office Analysis

By David Mumpower

August 10, 2013

Future fight club is crazy.

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A rare box office showdown was expected on Friday. A high concept science fiction film, an originally planned as straight-to-DVD family film and a good old-fashioned 1990s style sloppy T&A MILF comedy all squared off in a battle to be champion. Elysium won the battle. We’re the Millers won the war. As for Disney’s Planes, its raison d'être has nothing to do with movie ticket revenue so anything it grossed this weekend is found money for the industry’s most important distributor. Also, a Percy Jackson was released.

The takeaway headline from Friday is that Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium finished in first place with a lower-than-expected but still tolerable $11.2 million. Blomkamp became an overnight sensation in 2009 when his directorial debut, District 9, shocked the industry. The action parable about the madness of racism and xenophobia proved to be a financial triumph, grossing a factor of seven more in worldwide box office than its modest financial outlay of $30 million. Simultaneously, District 9 became a hallmark achievement in critical and audience reception. Blomkamp’s debut is 90% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes while also claiming an 8.0 among IMDb users. District 9 is a perfect project.

Obviously, a follow-up to such an acclaimed production faces all the dangers included with heightened expectations. Elysium has been oftentimes cited as one of the most important movies on the 2013 schedule. As is regularly the case with second releases from heavily lauded content creators, Elysium has failed to live up to the hype of its predecessor. The movie is “only” 66% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes while currently claiming a score of 7.2 at IMDb. Clearly, it falls into the category of good whereas District 9 is undeniably quantified as great.


The similarities include the opening weekends as well. District 9 launched into 3,049 locations, grossing $14.2 million on opening day on the way to a $37.4 million weekend. As a de facto sequel, Elysium was expected to debut slightly higher. Alas, an $11.2 million start is not only $3 million lower (not adjusting for four years of box office inflation) but also troubling due to the staggering difference in production costs. Elysium cost just under $100 million, more than triple Blomkamp’s first film. That’s the bad news. The good news is that an opening weekend of $29 million combined with solid prospects overseas virtually guarantees that Elysium will be a profitable endeavor for Sony.

What is troubling is that the addition of bona fide A-list talents Matt Damon and Jodie Foster added nothing to the bottom line of Elysium’s box office potential, while significantly increasing the production expenses. As such, Elysium’s debut is a relative draw, and probably something of a sophomore slump for Blomkamp. Even so, every male between the ages of 18-49 in the free world desperately wants him to announce that his next project is Halo, which was originally intended to be his directorial debut before Microsoft got too greedy.

Finishing in second place is We’re the Millers, surprising if only because its presence here demonstrates the disappointment of Disney’s animated release. We’re The Millers accrued $8.4 million on Friday, which brings its three-day total to $20 million. With a projected weekend take of $22.7 million, We’re The Millers will gross just under $35 million from Wednesday-to-Sunday. It is the real winner this weekend, at least with regards to box office.

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