The national expansion of “Steve Jobs” and new releases including “The Last Witch Hunter” with Vin Diesel and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” defied box office expectation -- but not in a good way.
Universal's “Steve Jobs” -- directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin and starring Michael Fassbender as the Apple co-founder -- had the highest per-screen grosses of the year when it opened in four theaters two week ago. And it was projected to be the No. 1 film this weekend when it expanded to 2,493 theaters in North America. But the $30 million biopic, which averaged an A-minus grade from the audience polling firm CinemaScore, finished seventh at the weekend box office, with an estimated $7.3 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada.
The weekend's No. 1 movie, again, was 20th Century Fox's “The Martian,” which added about $15.9 million to its coffers in its fourth weekend. The film has made a total of $166.4 million domestically.
In the case of “Steve Jobs,” Universal “never actually went out and said, ‘Here is what we think we are going to do this weekend,’” said Nick Carpou, the studio’s president of domestic distribution, in challenging reports that the film had fallen short of expectations. “Steve Jobs,” he said, is not your typical wide release.
“This is a long-haul project for us. This is a film that has an A-minus CinemaScore and will be part of the dialogue going forward in box office for many weeks to come. It is absolutely doing very, very well in upscale sophisticated major markets.”
Last week's No. 1 movie, Sony Pictures Animation's “Goosebumps,” based on R.L. Stine's stories, made about $15.5 million for second place this weekend. That raises its cumulative total to $43.7 million.
The same studio also scored with “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which dropped only 29% in its fifth weekend; it finished in fifth, adding $9 million to its total gross of $148.3 million.
Disney's “Bridge of Spies,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, finished at No. 3. It dropped just 26% in its second weekend, earning an estimated $11.4 million for a domestic total of $32.6 million.
Of the weekend’s new releases, the Lionsgate thriller “The Last Witch Hunter” starring Diesel as an immortal witch hunter did the best, taking in $10.8 million on 3,082 screens to finish at No. 4. “The Last Witch Hunter” failed to impress critics or audiences, earning positive reviews from a paltry 14% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a B-minus from CinemaScore.
The per-screen average of $3,512 for “The Last Witch Hunter” was lower than “The Martian,” “Goosebumps,” “Bridge of Spies” and even the weekend's No. 6 film, the new “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.”
The Paramount horror sequel “Ghost Dimension” had a per-screen average of $4,952 at 1,656 locations. Its $8.2 million opening weekend was the poorest showing for any of the “Paranormal Activity” films. The last one, 2014’s “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” opened with $18.3 million.
“Ghost Dimension” did appear on 55% fewer screens than “The Marked Ones.” Several theater chains including Regal and Cinemark didn’t show the new film. The studio made a deal with AMC Theatres and Cineplex Entertainment to make “Ghost Dimension” available on VOD just 17 days after the film theater count falls below 300.
“We went into the movie with a very specific goal, and the goal was to learn something, because there is no doubt in our minds for the longtime financial health of our business, we need to come up with a more modern approach to exhibition,” said Megan Colligan, head of Paramount’s worldwide marketing and distribution.
Open Road's new “Rock the Kasbah” also didn't rock the box office. The film, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Bill Murray, managed to make just $1.5 million on 2,012 screens, good for 13th place. The film impressed only 8% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and received a B-minus from CinemaScore.
Rounding out the top 10: Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic thriller “Crimson Peak,” which dropped 57% in its second week to No. 8 with an estimated $5.6 million; the comedy “The Intern,” No. 9 in its fifth weekend, earning about $3.9 million; and the Christian sports drama “Woodlawn,” in 10th with $3.1 million.
Universal's new release “Jem and the Holograms,” a $5 million movie based on the 1980s Hasbro animated television series, was expected to open with between $5 million and $7 million. Despite a CinemaScore of B-plus, the movie finished in 15th place for the weekend, making only $1.3 million for a per-screen average of $545.
“There’s no denying it’s a disappointment,” Carpou said, “but when we consider our partners at Blumhouse -- for Jason Blum this was a passion project. This was something we definitely went into with good hopes for. It is also true with a CinemaScore like that and the qualities of the film that resonated most, there is life in this film in ancillary markets later.”
Of the new art house releases, Focus Features’ historical drama “Suffragette” starring Cary Mulligan earned an estimated $77,000 in just four theaters for a per-screen average of $19,250, the weekend’s highest.