Box Office: 'Blair Witch,' 'Bridget Jones's Baby' fall flat as 'Sully' soars
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Some things aren't worth the wait.
"Blair Witch" and "Bridget Jones's Baby," sequels to films that first hit theaters a generation ago, both stumbled in their debuts this weekend, earning a meager $9.7 million and $8.2 million, respectively. They were easily overpowered by "Sully," the Clint Eastwood drama about the s0-called "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency plane landing that features Tom Hanks as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. The Warner Bros. release topped the domestic box office for a second consecutive weekend, earning $22 million and pushing its stateside total to $70.5 million.
"It's just a well-made story," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. "The word-of-mouth is sensational."
The weekend's other wide-release launch, Oliver Stone's "Snowden," was also over-shadowed by the aeronautical heroics, picking up $8 million from 2,443 locations for a fourth-place finish. The look at Edward Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and got a warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, with some calling it a return to form for Stone, a director whose recent work such as "The Savages" has failed to capture the renown of earlier efforts like "Platoon" and "JFK."
However, the NSA leaker remains a controversial figure in American politics, a whistle blower to some and a traitor to others, which might have limited the picture's appeal. Open Road is distributing the film domestically, and if it continues to attract some awards heat, it's possible it could chug along to a respectable gross. "Snowden" cost a reported $50 million to produce.
It's a disappointing result for "Blair Witch," which fell short of tracking. Heading into the weekend, some rival studios expected the film to earn $20 million, potentially toppling "Sully" from its throne. A lot went wrong, starting with some bad reviews and a D CinemaScore. Moreover, younger moviegoers may not have been familiar with the horror franchise. The first film in the series revolutionized theatrical distribution and kicked off the trend of "found footage" stories when it hit theaters in 1999. Made for a mere $60,000, it rode some eerie marketing to a $248.6 million global gross. A poorly received follow-up hit theaters in 2000, when it was pulverized by critics and made a fraction of the first film's massive haul.
Lionsgate produced the latest sequel for an economical $5 million and pushed it out over 3,121 locations. It debuted the film at Comic-Con to generate buzz, screening it under its working title "The Woods" and surprising fans who had no idea they were watching a new "Blair Witch." But there are a lot of horror films in theaters, with "Don't Breathe" and "When the Bough Breaks" already scratching the itch to be scared and leaving little room for "Blair Witch" to break through.
At a corporate level, Lionsgate is undergoing a transition and could use some new film franchises. The studio has wrapped up its "Hunger Games" films and is moving the "Divergent" series to television. It also announced Friday that Rob Friedman, the motion picture group co-chair and one of the guiding forces behind the "Twilight" saga, is stepping down. The studio is earning strong buzz on "La La Land," a musical that is expected to be an Oscar player, "Hacksaw Ridge," a World War II drama from Mel Gibson, and "Deepwater Horizon," a true-life action tale with Mark Wahlberg. Continued...