UPDATE 1-Box Office: 'Chappie' Stumbles, 'Unfinished Business' Bombs
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES, March 8 (Variety.com) - Neill Blomkamp's "Chappie" and "Unfinished Business" with Vince Vaughn added up to a weekend to forget at the U.S. box office.
Overall ticket sales plunged as "Chappie," a science-fiction adventure about a sentient robot, topped charts with a weak $13.3 million from 3,201 locations. Going into the weekend, Sony Pictures was aiming for a debut of roughly $15 million and some analysts expected the film could hit $20 million. Reviews were tepid, and the picture is the latest in a long line of R-rated new releases such as "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Focus," which may have hurt it with moviegoers looking for something that appeals to kids as well as adults.
"There's been a glut of R-rated movies starting from the first of the year," said Rory Bruer, Sony's worldwide distribution chief. "I think there's some R-rated fatigue."
The odds may have been against "Chappie" from its inception. Original science-fiction films have had a rocky go of it at the box office of late, with "Seventh Son," "Jupiter Ascending" and "Project Almanac" all crashing on the shoals of audience indifference. Blomkamp may be on safer ground with his next project, a new installment in the "Alien" franchise.
"Chappie" was produced for $49 million, and Sony isn't ready to concede defeat on the picture just yet, predicting it could make a profit when foreign markets are taken into account. Bruer notes that Blomkamp's previous films, "District 9" and "Elysium," were able to stick around for a long time after their debuts.
"The movie plays well, and the uniqueness of the characters is going to drive a conversation that I do believe will help the film in the coming weeks," he said.
It was a dispiriting weekend overall for the business, with ticket sales down roughly 35% from the year-ago period - a weekend that saw the debuts of "300: Rise of an Empire" and "Mr. Peabody and Sherman." That also took a chunk out of the substantial lead that the exhibition industry had maintained over 2014's first quarter numbers. Ticket sales are now up roughly 5% over the previous year's, but two weeks ago they topped them by roughly 10%. Continued...