Ender Leads, But Grandpa(s) Still Alive
By John Hamann
November 3, 2013
And just like that, it’s November, and we have five films grossing more than $10 million at the box office. Despite the glow of Gravity, we haven’t had a top five like this since mid-August.
Films trying to breathe a little bit of life into the box office this weekend include Ender’s Game, the $110 million Summit co-production that is seeking to land the Twilight audience for some reason, Last Vegas, a comedy for senior citizens with a cast which would have lit it up in 1985, and Free Birds, a kids' movie about Thanksgiving starring turkeys (I don’t see how that one ends well). The biggest winner this weekend just might be last weekend’s number one film, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, as after it doubled its production budget with its opening weekend gross last weekend, it beat that budget this weekend. In other words, Bad Grandpa is going to be big, big money.
Our number one film of the weekend is Ender’s Game, the huge gamble from a number of companies, including Summit Entertainment (purchased by Lionsgate), OddLot Productions, and Digital Domain, the effects visionaries. These companies assembled $110 million to bring the novel Ender’s Game to the screen, which would likely mean a necessary worldwide gross of $300 million in order to see profit - and potentially the birth of a franchise. Following some hefty disappointments from other films based on novels for young adults like Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($80 million worldwide, $60 million budget), Beautiful Creatures ($60 million worldwide gross, $60 million budget), and The Host ($48 million worldwide, $40 million budget), the trio of companies was on some shaky ground heading in to the weekend. A $30 million opening would be successful; a $20 million debut would leave the film with some work to do. Anything less would be disastrous.
Following a $1.4 million showing from Thursday’s previews, Ender’s Game finished Friday with $9.9 million, or $8.5 million once those Thursday numbers are removed. While not terribly good or terribly bad, Ender needed a strong weekend to follow its decent Friday. The Summit release got what it needed, as Ender’s Game had a decent weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.8. That pushed it to a weekend take of $28 million from 3,407 venues. With the opening, the Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) film still has a long way to go to get to profitability. The Cinemascore was decent at B+ and reviews were okay at 63%, but neither are strong indications of legs. An opening-to-total multiplier of about 4.0 would be needed to get this one to $100 million on the domestic side, and then foreign audiences would need to follow suit with another $200 million.
While not impossible, it will be tough for Ender’s Game to reach those lofty heights. The Golden Compass, which cost $180 million to make, opened to a similar $25.8 million in early December of 2007. It only earned a 2.7 opening-to-total multiplier with $70 million domestically, but it scored overseas, bringing in $300 million. The $110 million Real Steel with Hugh Jackman opened to $27.3 million in October 2011, went on to earn $85.5 million domestically, and earned $214 million overseas. Ender’s Game got off to a slow start in the UK and Germany last weekend, earning only $2.7 million between the two countries, so it will have to hope for improved numbers as it expands globally. Having Thor: The Dark World debut next weekend (it opened overseas on Wednesday to accumulate a massive $109.4 million by the end of the weekend) makes Summit’s choice of releasing Ender’s Game this weekend highly questionable. I would have waited until after Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens on Thanksgiving weekend, and positioned Ender’s Game on December 6th, but even then, you'd have to deal with The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug the following frame.