‘The Martian’ Returns to No.1 as New Films Disappoint

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“The Martian,” the space drama from 20th Century Fox, retook the box office lead as new releases failed to capture moviegoers’ attention.

The Matt Damon-led feature collected $15.9 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to a statement from Rentrak Corp. Sunday, rising from second place into the top spot for a third time in a month. It beat a slew of poorly reviewed new releases including a musical from Universal Pictures. “Steve Jobs” came in a disappointing seventh place in its first week of wide release.

“It has been a long time since Hollywood has seen a weekend this bad,” Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., said in an interview. “Across the board it’s kind of unimaginable that every film would miss the target audience on the weekend. These just aren’t strong titles.”

The 21st Century Fox film division has had a welcome hit with “The Martian” in a year where the unit has failed to compare with a record 2014 and has slipped to fourth place by market share. The movie is its biggest this year, and may remain so, with only “Home,” which it distributed for Dreamworks Animation, generating more.

This weekend “The Martian” was forecast to earn $12.5 million domestically, according to Boxoffice.com.

Another returning film, Sony Corp.’s “Goosebumps,” based on the books of R.L. Stine, was one of five horror-related movies to place in the top 10 the week before the Halloween holiday in the U.S.

‘Goosebumps’ No. 2

“Goosebumps” placed second and collected $15.5 million, Rentrak said. It had been forecast to garner $15 million. Walt Disney Co.’s “Bridge of Spies,” a Cold War drama directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, stayed in third place with $11.4 million.

“The Last Witch Hunter,” featuring Vin Diesel, was the only new release to place in the top five, landing in fourth place. It collected $10.8 million on its debut, missing a forecast of $14 million, according to Boxoffice.com.

In the Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. action feature, Diesel plays Kaulder, a witch hunter in a fantasy world where vicious supernatural creatures roam. Kaulder claims the Queen Witch in his cull but she curses him in the process, separating him from his family and making him immortal.

The Queen Witch is resurrected and seeks revenge, leading to an epic battle that will determine the survival of the human race. Michael Caine also features. It had an estimated budget of $90 million, according to IMDB.com. The film was panned by critics, earning only 15 percent positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com.

Apple Co-Founder

Universal’s “Steve Jobs,” which chronicles key events in the life of the deceased Apple Inc. co-founder, earned just $7.3 million, well below its estimate of $21 million. The film has generated almost $10 million since its limited release earlier this month.

The Jobs movie, which moved to Universal from Sony Corp. after internal disagreements, is based on the book by Walter Isaacson. The film, starring Michael Fassbender, was criticized by Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, as well as Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who succeeded Jobs. Jobs died in 2011 at the age of 56.

The movie, which cost $30 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, garnered positive reviews, with 85 percent of critics tracked by RottenTomatoes.com giving it a thumbs-up. That didn’t put fans in their seats. A 2013 release starring Ashton Kutcher didn’t fare well either.

“If he were a great guy and did all these wonderful things, then maybe people would be inclined to go see his life story,” Bock said, adding moviegoers may just feel they don’t need another retelling of Jobs.

Watched Closely

Paramount Pictures’ “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” debuted in sixth place with $8.2 million. Industry executives are closely watching this weekend’s performance of the film, which only a handful of theater circuits agreed to show as part of a deal to release the film much sooner to home video than is standard.

Showing in about half the theaters than for previous episodes, the sixth installment of the horror franchise had been forecast to earn $10.5 million. It only secured 14 percent positive reviews.

“Rock The Kasbah,” via Open Road Films, another new release, finished outside of the top 10 in 13th place with $1.5 million. The comedy, directed by Barry Levinson, whose credits include “Rain Man,” stars Bill Murray as Richie Lanz, a down-on-his-luck music manager who discovers a teenage girl with an extraordinary voice.

While touring Afghanistan, Lanz takes her to compete on the popular television show, “Afghan Star.” Critics didn’t like the movie, which also features Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson and Zooey Deschanel.

‘Misguided Dud’

“An acclaimed film director, a legendary comic actor, lots of fun rock and pop songs, and a noble story at its core can’t save ‘Rock the Kasbah’ from being one hugely misguided dud,” Gary Goldstein wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures’ youth-targeted “Jem and the Holograms” failed to make waves, placing 14th. It had a modest budget of $5 million, according to Box Office Mojo, not including marketing costs. It earned $1.3 million, less than half the $3.8 million it had been estimated to make, according to Boxoffice.com.

Of the new films on offer, critics liked this the most, awarding it 22 percent positive reviews. The musical tells the tale of Jem, played by Audrey Peebles, a small-town girl catapulted from underground video sensation to global superstar.

“It was one of those weekends where the overcrowding of this marketplace scared some audience members away,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Rentrak. “The fact that you have a movie like ‘The Martian’ in its fourth weekend elevating itself back to the No. 1 spot tells you none of the newcomers were able to get traction and rise above.”

Weekend sales for the top 10 films fell 6.7 percent to $90.6 million from a year earlier, Rentrak said. Sales for the year to date have increased 5.3 percent to $8.84 billion. The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on actual ticket sales for Oct. 23 and Oct. 24 with estimates for Sunday.

                     Rev.    Pct.             Avg./   Total
 Movie              (mln)    Chg. Theaters  Theater   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
 1 The Martian       $15.9  -25    3,504   $4,538   $166.4    4
 2 Goosebumps         15.5  -34    3,501    4,427     43.7    2
 3 Bridge of Spies    11.4  -26    2,811    4,043     32.6    2
 4 Last Witch Hunter  10.8   --    3,082    3,512     10.8    1
 5 Transylvania 2      9.0  -29    3,154    2,854    148.3    5
 6 Paranormal Activity 8.2   --    1,656    4,952      8.2    1
 7 Steve Jobs          7.3  380    2,493    2,915     10.0    3
 8 Crimson Peak        5.6  -58    2,991    1,860     22.5    2
 9 Intern, The         3.9  -29    2,061    1,870     64.7    5
10 Woodlawn            3.1  -23    1,475    2,102      8.5    2

Top 10 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $90.6 $97.1 -6.7

Year-to-date Revenue

2015 2014 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $8,840 $8,396 +5.3 Source: Rentrak Corp.
(Corrects Walt Disney name in seventh paragraph.)
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