Even a starry cast led by Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, a counter-programming bid against action-heavy “San Andreas,” a romantic Hawaiian setting and a beloved director weren’t enough to keep “Aloha” afloat in its opening weekend.
Sony’s long-awaited Cameron Crowe romantic comedy, which washed ashore laden with a heavy cargo of bad buzz and brutal reviews, landed in sixth place this weekend with $10 million at 2,816 locations in the U.S.
But Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said the opening was “within the studio’s expectations,” and pointed to the B+ CinemaScore for the Cooper, Stone and Rachel McAdams starrer as indication that the troubled film could hold well in coming weeks.
“We’re proud of the film,” he said Sunday. “Our very talented cast is great and we believe it will leg out nicely. There are so many special moments, so it’s very satisfying for audience members.”
Even before the Sony hack, rumblings of trouble began last July when “Aloha,” originally scheduled for a Christmas 2014 opening, was pushed back five months. Originally known by the working title “Deep Tiki,” it made headlines again last winter during the Sony hack, when emails were leaked from then-studio chief Amy Pascal which disparaged the film and its script.
Among the scathing messages from Pascal were, “I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous. I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors,” and “It never … Not even once … ever works.”
It also came under fire for featuring Hawaiian actors only in supporting roles, and making Stone’s character one-quarter Asian.
The critical drubbing — a bruising 17% score on Rotten Tomatoes — had a significant impact on the initial performance, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.
“I think audiences are always rooting for Cameron Crowe to succeed, but since the heyday of his first five films as director (“Say Anything,” “Singles,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous” and “Vanilla Sky”) he has had a rough time finding an audience for his unique vision,” he noted. “Sophisticated moviegoers who are generally the bread and butter target for Crowe. They actually read reviews and are not easily swayed by marketing efforts and in this case the universally negative critical response really hurt the film’s chances.”
Dergarabedian also noted that the PG-13 rated “Aloha,” which explores the relationships between Cooper’s military character and the female stars, may have not been edgy enough to generate much initial traction.
“Romantic comedies in general in the summer are most usually successful if they have an R-rated edge and some sort of over-the-top hook (like last year’s ‘Neighbors’ or even going back 10 years, ‘The Wedding Crashers’) and thus ‘Aloha’ faced an uphill battle heading into the weekend,” he said.
Sony isn’t taking a big financial risk on “Aloha,” which cost a modest $37 million with financing from Regency Enterprises, LStar Capital and RatPac Entertainment.
Crowe’s 2005 romantic drama “Elizabethtown” took in just $52 million worldwide while 2011’s “We Bought a Zoo” was more respectable with $120 million, including $75 million in the U.S. after a $9.4 million opening weekend.
Sony pointed to “We Bought a Zoo” Sunday, noting that it wound up grossing eight times the launch weekend in a show of strong word of mouth.
As for romantic comedies generally, studios have been measured about returning to the genre. Next up is Universal’s Amy Schumer vehicle “Trainwreck” on July 17, followed by Liosngate’s action-comedy “American Ultra,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart on Aug. 21; Warner’s “How to Be Single” on Feb. 12; and Universal’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” on March 26.
The original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” remains the highest-grossing romcom of all time with $241 million domestically in 2002.