Another weekend, another big-budget misfire at the summer box office.
Following the failure of the pricey action flicks "After Earth," "White House Down" and "The Lone Ranger," Guillermo del Toro's $190-million "Pacific Rim" also found itself unable to attract moviegoers to the multiplex in droves. Instead, the top spot in box office receipts went to "Despicable Me 2," the animated kids flick that opened last weekend with half the budget of the 3-D sci-fi extravaganza.
The 3-D family film collected $44.8 million domestically this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures, raising its domestic total to an impressive $229.2 million. Close behind was "Grown Ups 2," a critically panned comedy starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade, with a robust $42.5-million launch.
As for "Pacific Rim," its third-place, $38.3-million opening is at least slightly better than pre-release audience surveys had suggested on Thursday. Heading into the weekend, industry tracking projected the movie would launch with between $30 million and $35 million. Still, with such a substantial budget, the movie will have to do massive business overseas if it is to avoid being considered a disappointment.
Meanwhile, "Grown Ups 2" narrowly beat the opening of its 2010 predecessor -- not adjusting for inflation. Three years ago, the original opened with $40.5 million and went on to collect $162 million in the U.S. and Canada -- roughly 60% of its overall $271.4-million global total. The film is the second-highest live-action debut ever for Sandler, behind the $47.6-million opening of 2007's "The Longest Yard."
After years of regularly hitting the $100-million mark at the box office, Sandler had been on somewhat of a cold streak. His last two non-animated movies, "That's My Boy" and "Jack and Jill," were roundly disliked by both critics and audiences. Though "Grown Ups 2" received dismal reviews, moviegoers didn't hate it, assigning the film an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
“I don’t understand the gap, and find it mind-boggling that critics are so out of touch with audiences on a film like this,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution president. “As for Adam, he deserves props for always trying to switch it up. His resume is still probably one of the most successful in Hollywood.”
Financed by Sony for roughly $80 million, “Grown Ups 2” attracted males and females in nearly equal measure. Moviegoers of all ages were interested in the film about friends returning to their hometown, as about 54% of the crowd was under age 25. The film played particularly well in “the heartland and the South,” Bruer said, noting that theaters in Florida and Texas did especially strong business.
"Pacific Rim," however, did well in big cities but not small towns, said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., which distributed the film.
"We played to the fanboys," Fellman said. Indeed, the movie did good business in 3-D: Roughly half of the film's weekend business came from the format -- a record for the summer, according to Fellman. (By comparison, 46% of the sales for "Star Trek Into Darkness" came from 3-D; 34% for "World War Z.") In addition, eight of the top 10 theaters for "Pacific Rim" were IMAX locations.
This weekend, the movie about monsters battling robots appealed more to males, who comprised 62% of the audience. Roughly 67% of the crowd was under the age of 35.
“Going back three weeks ago, it looked like we were going to struggle to do over $25 million on opening weekend, so I’m feeling pretty good about this,” Fellman said. “We need to settle in a little. We need to have a second week to see if this all comes together.”
Overseas, the movie debuted in 38 foreign markets and grossed $53 million. The picture did well in Korea and Russia, where it sold $9.3 million worth of tickets. In Del Toro's native Mexico, the film grossed $5.3 million -- 2.2 times higher in admissions than any of the director's past releases in the country.