SUNDAY 6 AM, 4TH UPDATE: Welcome to one of the slowest weekends at the domestic box office. The movie season is off to a weak start – just $70M total filmgoing. Yes, that’s +20% over last year but only because of higher ticket prices and more 3D premiums. And no don’t blame this on some outages at online ticketseller Fandango on Saturday – because the studios aren’t. It doesn’t help that Hollywood once again is determined to churn out unnecessary sequels and threequels.
#1 – In this case, blame Vin Diesel who now owns the Riddick role and is keeping the $38M independently financed sci-fi franchise on life support. He leveraged a lot of his own assets because he loves this galactic ex-con character or hopes to earn more coin from it or both. Universal released in 3,107 U.S. theaters while eOne Entertainment is distributing in Canada. The R-rated pic opened mediocre with $7.3M Friday and $7.1M Saturday for what Universal says is a mediocre $18.6M weekend (but Hollywood estimates at $19.2M). it opened on 314 IMAX screens in North America, delivering about $2.5M. That’s after earning a middling ‘B’ CinemaScore from audiences and grossing an unimpressive $900K from Thursday night’s domestic late shows and Friday’s midnights. Even though this actioner had this first fall weekend all to itself, it took in only 1/2 what the original made and 1/3 what the sequel earned. The 3rd installment clearly didn’t expand beyond core fanboys since the outlaw character hasn’t been featured in a film in 9 years – although it’s been in a succession of DVDs and video games. Exit polls showed the audience was 59% male/41% female, 47% under age 30/53% age 30+, and 37% Hispanic/31% Caucasian. Written and directed (again) by David Twohy, produced (again) by Ted Fields, and starring Diesel (again), Riddick follows 2000’s Pitch Black which earned $39.5M and then 2004’s The Chronicles Of Riddick whose bloated budget made $57.8M gross. Diesel has been both savvy and stupid behind the scenes of this pic. When Universal wanted him for a cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, he asked for the rights to the Riddick character instead of an acting fee. Diesel and Twohy tackled the script problems and went into production on the threequel. When a completion bond fell through, Diesel personally advanced funds until bank loans were secured. Eventually Universal came back in with an equity position but also insisted on a PG13 rating. Diesel fought the studio for an R rating – and the result is more bone-crushing and blood gushing violence. Oh joy. (more…)