Sony’s ‘Elysium’ Tops Cinemas With $29.8 Million Debut

“Elysium,” the Sony Corp. science-fiction film featuring Matt Damon, fell short of a weekend forecast in theaters, tallying sales that may heighten scrutiny of the company’s entertainment unit.

“Elysium” collected $29.8 million to lead sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters, researcher Box-Office said today in a statement., another researcher, had projected $34.5 million. “We’re the Millers,” a comedy from Time Warner Inc.’s film division, was second with $26.4 million.

The entertainment unit of Tokyo-based Sony has come under criticism from billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb following disappointing box-office sales this year for “After Earth,” another sci-fi picture, and the action-thriller “White House Down.” He has pushed, unsuccessfully so far, for a partial sale of the division as a way to boost its performance and increase accountability.

Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution, predicted “a long shelf life” for the film when taking into account good word of mouth and sales outside the U.S.

“Elysium” had sales of $10.9 million in 17 overseas markets, with it scheduled to open in 18 more next weekend, including Australia, Germany and France.

Haves, Have-Nots

The futuristic picture focuses on a world of haves and have-nots, where those with means live in gated communities on a space station named “Elysium” and can have ailments cured in an instant. The rest live on a decrepit, polluted Earth. Damon plays Max, an ex-con factory worker suffering from lethal radiation exposure. He reluctantly agrees to a dangerous mission that could bring equality to the world and cure him.

“The movie aims to fill a space left by the Occupy movement, but, like its underfunded freedom fighters, it relies on crude weapons,” wrote Bloomberg News critic Craig Seligman. “To the film’s credit, the writer-director, Neill Blomkamp, keeps the action coherent and fills the plot with clever twists that make up for some of the insulting obviousness of the political allegory.”

He gave the film three stars out of a possible five.

The film was made for about $115 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.

Loeb Proposal

This year’s film slate from Hollywood has seen some science-fiction movies click with fans. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” from Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, garnered $70.2 million in its opening weekend in May, and “World War Z,” the Paramount picture featuring Brad Pitt, topped forecasts with $66.4 million in June.

Sony shares fell almost 10 percent over three days through Aug. 8 in Tokyo after directors turned down a proposal by Loeb’s Third Point LLC hedge fund to sell as much as 20 percent of the company’s movie and music assets in an initial public offering. Full ownership of the movie, TV production and music units is integral to Sony’s strategy for revival, the board said in a letter to the billionaire.

Loeb, whose New York-based Third Point has built a 6.9 percent stake in Sony, is still pressing the company to set targets for improving the entertainment business.

Shares of Sony slipped 0.6 percent to 1,932 yen at the close in Tokyo today. The stock has more than doubled this year.

Disney’s ‘Planes’

Second place’s “We’re the Millers” stars Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. The movie, about a small-time pot dealer who becomes a big-time drug smuggler after being mugged and left in debt to his supplier, was forecast to take in $21.5 million.

“Planes,” an animated feature from Walt Disney Co., opened with $22.2 million to place third.

A low-cost feature, “Planes” began life as a direct-to-DVD project. Inspired by the Pixar hit franchise “Cars,” the movie, made for about $50 million, was forecast to collect $21 million.

“Planes” is about a cropdusting aircraft named Dusty with a fear of heights and dreams of racing. It has a similar look and feel as the two “Cars” movies, from Disney’s Pixar, which have collected a combined $1 billion worldwide in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.

Comedian Dane Cook supplies the voice for Dusty.

Also opening in wide release was “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” from 21st Century Fox Inc. The second film based on a series of young-adult novels took in $14.4 million in fourth place, against a projection by of $19.5 million.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 7 percent to $142.3 million from the year-earlier period, said. Attendance year to date is down 2.9 percent, while revenue is up less than 1 percent.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Box-Office. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Aug. 9 to Aug. 11.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 ELYSIUM            $29.8    3,284   $9,077   --    $29.8    1
 2 WE’RE THE MILLERS   26.4    3,260    8,104   --     37.9    1
 3 PLANES (ANIMATED)   22.2    3,702    6,005   --     22.2    1
 4 PERCY JACKSON       14.4    3,031    4,751   --     23.3    1
 5 2 GUNS              11.2    3,028    3,715  -58     48.6    2
 6 SMURFS 2             9.3    3,867    2,412  -47     46.5    2
 7 THE WOLVERINE (3-D)  8.0    2,867    2,799  -62    112.0    3
 8 THE CONJURING        6.6    2,650    2,501  -49    120.7    4
 9 DESPICABLE ME 2      5.9    2,395    2,470  -42    338.5    6
10 GROWN UPS 2          3.6    2,102    1,734  -54    123.8    5
11 TURBO (3-D/ANIMATED) 2.4    1,771    1,328  -62     75.1    4
12 BLUE JASMINE         2.3      119   19,709   26      6.0    3

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $142.3 $133.1 +7.0

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $7,064 $7,036 +0.4 Year-to-date Attendance: -2.9% Source: Box-Office
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