Movie fans slipped into Oblivion as the Tom Cruise science-fiction thriller led Hollywood with a $38.2 million (Dh140.2 million) debut in the north America, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
That domestic haul comes on top of $33.7 million Oblivion added in overseas markets, where the film began rolling out a week earlier. Oblivion raised its overseas total to $112 million and its worldwide receipts to $150.2 million.
Though many people on Friday were caught up in coverage of the manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosions, it seems to have had little effect on how the film fared.
Oblivion took in $13.3 million on opening day on Friday and $14.9 million on Saturday. That 12 per cent increase is not unusual for big new releases, which typically do better business on Saturday than Friday.
While Boston was on lockdown much of Friday, that market only accounts for about 1 per cent of the nationwide box office, said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, which released Oblivion. The manhunt mainly affected matinee business, with theatres reopening on Friday night, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody after his older brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a gun battle with police.
“Once the guy was arrested, I think people got back into their regular routine,” Rocco said.
The previous weekend’s top film, the Warner Bros. baseball drama “42,” held up well, slipping to second-place with $18 million in its second weekend. The Jackie Robinson biography about the first black player in Major League Baseball starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford raised its domestic total to $54.1 million and is on its way to the $100 million mark, said Dan Fellman, Warner’s head of distribution.
Overseas, Paramount’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” got a lift with $40 million, most of it coming from a $33 million debut in China. The action sequel has topped $200 million internationally and $300 million worldwide.
“Oblivion” came in a bit higher than industry expectations. But despite its strong opening, Hollywood’s 2013 revenue funk continued, with overall domestic receipts at $109 million, down 19.4 per cent from the same weekend last year, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
A year ago, two new romances — the comedy Think Like a Man and the drama The Lucky One — combined for $56 million that weekend, while the blockbuster The Hunger Games remained strong with nearly $15 million.
“Even Tom Cruise was unable to beat the strength of two really strong newcomers that were devoid of stars anywhere near in his league,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “That tells you the difference between last year and this year. Even when we have a good weekend like this in 2013, generally these weekends, they pale by comparison to what happened last year.”
Revenues north America in 2013 total $2.76 billion, down 11.2 per cent from where business was at last year, when Hollywood took in record cash.
Business slumped a bit in summer 2012 with some high-profile duds, so studios have a shot at gaining ground over last year with this season’s upcoming blockbusters, which include Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hangover Part III and the Superman franchise reboot Man of Steel.
Still, the gap almost certainly will continue to rise in the early part of the summer season.
Disney’s Marvel Studios sequel Iron Man 3 is expected to open with a whopping $125 million-plus domestically over the first weekend in May, Dergarabedian said. But that would fall far short of the record-breaking $207.4 million debut for the Marvel ensemble smash The Avengers over the same weekend last year.
Even so, Cruise’s Oblivion provides a solid action lead-in to summer. The film stars Cruise as a repairman fixing machines in the wastelands of Earth after an alien attack.
Despite upheavals and odd behaviour in Cruise’s personal life in the last six or seven years, he remains one of Hollywood’s surest box-office draws. Universal reported that in exit polls, fans cited Cruise as the No. 1 reason they saw the film.
“He’s a global star,” Rocco said. “People love Tom Cruise. If you put him in the right vehicle, they love him even better.”
In narrower release, Rob Zombie’s latest horror tale The Lords of Salem flopped with $622,000 in 355 theatres, for a dismal average of $1,752 a cinema. That compared to an average of $10,085 in 3,783 theatres for “Oblivion.”
The low-budget hip-hop drama “Filly Brown” opened solidly with $1.4 million in 188 theatres, for an average of $7,250. The film stars Gina Rodriguez and the late Jenni Rivera in the story of a young talent with a shot at stardom on Los Angeles’ hip-hop scene.