Chappie Short Circuits, Unfinished Business Implodes
By John Hamann
March 8, 2015
After last weekend’s box office dip with Focus, I thought we would be back in business this weekend with Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie, but the sci-fi flick starred something that sounded like Jar Jar Binks, and we are left with our third consecutive box office disappointment.
It could have been a big box office weekend. Chappie, the new sci-fi actioner from District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp, debuted this weekend. This is the type of March release that should work regardless of quality. If John Carter can debut to $30 million plus, one would think Chappie could, too. Also opening this weekend was Unfinished Business, a comedy with Vince Vaughn. Regardless of quality, if this was released prior to 2009 it would have been huge, but this is Vince Vaughn now, coming off of films like The Internship, The Dilemma and Delivery Man, all films that crashed and burned at the box office, and now audiences have caught on. Our last opener is the small piece of good news this weekend in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film for the old and beautiful. This is a sequel to a film that never had a weekend over $7 million, so you knew it wasn’t going to break out over its opening frame. Still, at least one demographic was served well this weekend.
Our number one film of the weekend is Chappie, Neil Blomkamp’s robot movie that looks like a mix of Short Circuit and Robocop. That combination, along with some scathingly bad reviews and word-of-mouth, led to a disastrous debut at the box office this weekend. For the second weekend in a row, what should have been a big opener did Thursday preview business of less than a million, which at least preps us for the weekend failure. Last weekend it was Focus, earning $900,000 on Thursday night, which was followed by Chappie, which earned only $750,000 on Thursday night. Given that Focus failed to hit the $20 million weekend mark after a soft Thursday, things were not looking good for Chappie. This was not good news for Neill Blomkamp, who burst onto the scene with District 9 in 2009 before seeming to take a step back with Elysium in 2013.
On Friday, Chappie earned only $4.6 million, a much softer than expected opening day figure. Chappie was expected to open to over $20 million, but to do so it would have needed an opening day amount of at least $7 or $8 million. The Cinemascore for Chappie came in at only a B, which gives an indication that legs aren’t likely for the sci-fi film, and the opening weekend take proved that. Chappie, which opened at 3,201 venues, recorded a weekend gross of only $13.3 million, well below where tracking had it opening.
Why did it fail? Reviews were horrible, as Chappie earned only a 30% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes from all critics. From the site’s “Top Critics,” Chappie did even worse, scoring an 18% fresh rating. The Hugh Jackman star power failed at least domestically, as Wolverine played the villain in Chappie and was almost unrecognizable with the mullet. The ad campaign seemed confused at best and seemed to change strategies constantly. Sony certainly tried turning Chappie into a success, advertising on what seemed to be every TV event program over the last month and a half. I’m thinking someone should have watched the movie first.