Box Office Massacre: ‘Last Witch Hunter,’ ‘Paranormal Activity 6’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ Flop

Box Office: 'Last Witch Hunter,' 'Paranormal
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

It was a pre-Halloween massacre at the multiplexes.

Four new films, including “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and Vin Diesel’s “The Last Witch Hunter,” crowded into theaters this weekend and were swiftly pulverized and left for dead. Another, “Steve Jobs,” expanded after a brisk limited run in a few key cities, only to be given the cold shoulder by the general public.

Their failures allowed a trio of holdovers — “The Martian,” “Goosebumps” and “Bridge of Spies” — to retain the top three spots on the box office chart.

“The quality of many of these films was so atrocious that it didn’t matter where you opened them,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “They were never going to do well.”

When the dust settled it was Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” in first place, adding $15.9 million to the Fox release’s impressive $166.4 million domestic haul. Sony’s “Goosebumps” showed some endurance in its second weekend, slipping a mere 35% to end the period with $15.5 million. The family film’s total stands at $43.7 million. And “Bridge of Spies,” the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks Cold War drama, got a lift as older crowds caught up with the awards contender. It earned $11.4 million, a mere 26% drop from its opening weekend, bringing its stateside gross to $32.6 million.

But the results for the rest of the bunch were bleak. The glut of new releases was partially attributable to the timing of Halloween. The holiday falls on a Saturday, the busiest day for moviegoing, so studios were hoping to steer clear of what is shaping up to be a deadly period by pushing lots of new content into this weekend. The plan backfired spectacularly.

Lionsgate’s “The Last Witch Hunter” cost $70 million to make and only brought in $10.8 million across 3,082 theaters for a fourth place finish. This paltry result came despite Diesel’s recent success with “Furious 7” and his robust social media presence. Any ambitions of launching a new franchise have been extinguished.

The top five was rounded out by “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which made $9 million to push its domestic results to $148.3 million after five weeks.

Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity” sequel whiffed, producing the lowest-grossing opening in franchise history with $8.2 million. That said, it’s a hard film to assess. The studio partnered with exhibitors like AMC and Cineplex in a move that allows the film to make its home entertainment debut early. The exhibitors will receive a cut of digital revenues in return for allowing the studio to release the latest “Paranormal Activity” electronically 17 days after the movie leaves most theaters. Usually they have to wait 90 days.

However, many chains balked, worrying that the plan threatened theatrical exclusivity and thus their business models. They refused to show the picture, leaving it to open on 1,656 screens, roughly 1,000 less than the previous film in the horror series.

Paramount is pointing to “Paranormal’s” strong results in circuits like AMC, where it was the top-grossing film for the weekend, as evidence that audiences didn’t stay away because they could see the film digitally early.

“There’s no question it cost us a lot of box office that major circuits wouldn’t play the film,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. “It wasn’t about consumer rejection.”

Perhaps the most frustrating stumble was “Steve Jobs.” After scoring the year’s best per-screen average two weeks ago and slowly expanding with positive results, “Steve Jobs” failed to stick the landing when it was finally ready to go nationwide. It made a disappointing $7.3 million from 2,443 locations. That barely beat the $6.7 million that Ashton Kutcher’s critically excoriated “Jobs” made in its initial weekend.

The talky drama always faced commercial headwinds — something that caused one studio, Sony, to pass on the project, before producer Scott Rudin found a backer in Universal. But for a brief time, it appeared that the strong reviews and eye-catching posters would work, allowing moviegoers to warm to the picture and its chilly protagonist. Ultimately the buzz didn’t translate into box office, making it unlikely that “Steve Jobs” will earn back its $30 million budget and the millions more in marketing costs. So far it has made just under $10 million.

Universal said the picture is doing well in major markets like New York and San Francisco, and the studio believes that mounting Oscar buzz will help “Steve Jobs” attract audiences going forward.

“Where this film works, it works like a champ,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “There is a tremendous amount of sophisticated, major market appeal.”

The weekend also hosted two low-cost duds in Universal’s “Jem and the Holograms” and Open Road’s “Rock the Kasbah,” which opened to $1.3 million and $1.5 million, respectively. That wasn’t even good enough to crack the top ten and mark the lowest openings ever for studio films released in at least 2,000 theaters. At least these films won’t result in oceans of red ink. “Jem and the Holograms,” which adapts the 1980s cartoon of the same name, has a $5 million budget. “Rock the Kasbah,” which features Bill Murray as a rock promoter in Afghanistan, cost $15 million to make.

What’s particularly alarming is that pre-release tracking had many of these films doing substantially better (“The Last Witch Hunter” was expected to do as much as $17 million, while some estimates had “Steve Jobs” expanding to the tune of $19 million). It’s a sign that gauging audience behavior is getting a lot more difficult.

In the art house world, Focus Features debuted historical drama “Suffragette” in four locations where it made $77,000 for a per-screen average of $19,250, while Broad Green fielded the Sarah Silverman drama “I Smile Back” in two locations to $16,036, for a per-screen average of $8,018.

Overall, box office revenues were down more than 10% from the year-ago period when “Ouija” and “John Wick” topped charts.

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  1. Iván el Terrible says:

    1. Vin Diesel is supposed to be an actor for action movies. Don’t take him seriously. People love the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone because they don’t want to be taken seriously.
    2. Let’s hope the flops of Paranormal Activity and Jem make Hollywood realize we don’t want more unnecessary sequels/live action remakes.
    3. Good to see Jobs flopping. It’s just another pretentious snobbery, just like all the Oscar-bait movies made during the last twenty years. Nobody liked the first Steve Jobs flick, what made them think we wanted a second one?

  2. CalR says:

    Very disappointed that Steve Jobs isn’t doing well. It’s an excellent film with good directing and writing and a brilliant performance from Fassbender. (I say this as someone who detests Apple products and disliked The Social Network and The Newsroom). The death of well-crafted, non-showy mid-range dramas. Damn shame.

  3. HPR says:

    Watching Vin Diesel try and do period acting and/or deliver expositional dialogue was pretty painful. I’m shocked more critics gave him a pass.

    • Carl says:

      He is one of the worst actors alive today. EVERY single FCKING movie he’s in he acts the same god damn way mumbling all his lines. How is he still in this business? Because brainwashed idiots watch garbage like Fast and Furious.

  4. mm says:

    Dinsel is not an actor, he really isn’t. Without the franchises Fast and the Furios and now Guardians of the Galaxy, he would be a complete nobody.

  5. mm says:

    “This paltry result came despite Diesel’s recent success with “Furious 7” and his robust social media presence.”
    Zac Efron has MILLIONS of followers on instagram and twitter, that still didn’t assist him on stopping his film We are Your Friends from becoming a total flop. IT DOESN’T MATTER how popular you are on social media.

    That goes for actors in comic book films, Chris H., Chris E., Robert D., Tom H., they have a huge fan base but that fan base are never around when they staring in films that Marvel is not part of.
    *cough* Crimson Peak *cough*

  6. Alexander says:

    In regard to Paranormal Activity’s release strategy….

    No average theater goer would stay away from the film because of the post-17 day digital release. The reason? No average theater goer KNOWS about that release strategy. They’re not savvy enough in the industry to have read an article describing the terms of this release, and likewise this release strategy is not something that is being advertised (there are no posters for the film saying “In theaters October 23rd and watch it digitally 17 days later!” Not to mention, due to Halloween, a lot of viewers would probably prefer to watch the film pre-Halloween rather than afterwards, and thus would want to go see it in the theater. A LOT of people still like to specifically watch scary movies in the weeks and days before Halloween.

  7. Alexander says:

    “This paltry result came despite Diesel’s recent success with “Furious 7” and his robust social media presence.”

    I’m sorry, but if anyone thought that film was going to do well (trash is trash is trash) and actually banked on flimsy facts like Furious 7’s success and his social media presence, they should be fired. People aren’t going to follow Diesel around the box office simply because of a film that, honestly, could have starred an entirely different actor other than him and still done just as well. While he seems like a nice guy, Diesel is nothing more than a charismatic meat head; people don’t *love* him. Social media presence also means nothing when it’s simply coming from the tweets of one of the lead actors. Sure, maybe that’ll take in a few more sets of eyes, but the keyword there is few. Social media presence is important in regard to that of the IP’s influence, not a single solitary person unless it’s something HUGE HUGE HUGE like Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games, for instance. “Hollywood insiders” need to learn how to reevaluate. I can’t tell if it’s still simply because a bunch of old white men run things, or if the newer, mixed, younger crowd that is coming into the workforce is so afraid to shake things up in the grand scheme of things that they’re making just as many mistakes, if not more-so, than said old white men.

  8. Willie says:

    Maybe now people can stop complaining about the endless superhero movies, big action franchise sequels, remakes and reboots. Because we simply don’t deserve nice things. An artsy movie with brilliant actors/director/scriptwriter, with critical acclaim, and hardly anyone bother to watch. It’s a shame. But studios are right to just keep making brainless popcorn flicks.

  9. BillUSA says:

    Making movies for the sake of making movies is just a waste of time for anyone not involved with the movie. The audience gets cheated when the dictates of market analysis are the motivation behind casting and the go-ahead’s to produce something that only the producer’s want to see come to life to return an investment.

    I’m not some artsy-fartsy type who believes that movies should be solely about art. But whatever happened to making a film for the sake of good entertainment rather than trying to take advantage of or attempting to create a market?

    That’s the problem of proliferation. Sure, more people get to do what they love for a living, and more choices are available for the movie-goer to choose from for their entertainment. But the quality is always the first to suffer. There is little to no quality to films any longer. I still watch some movies, long after their theater run and long after they’ve made their internet debut so that I don’t feel that I’ve wasted a ten spot on some production that would also make me feel that I’ve wasted my time.

  10. Carl says:

    I glad that Jem and the Holograms flopped. Payback.

  11. porchmonkey4life says:

    It was racist they didnt do well.

  12. Joel says:

    Perhaps the Ashton Kutcher JOBS film was more than enough

  13. Cath says:

    Is it just me or are they releasing too many movies all at once each weekend? So many movies that the Steve Jobs movie which I did want to see was not playing in my theaters. Went to see Bridge of Spies instead which was very good. They should have opened the Steve Jobs movie wide on a quiet weekend. We’ve certainly seen enough ads for it…for months.

  14. Gabe says:

    I’m not surprised

  15. John says:

    “Last Witch Hunter” was just plain bad, I fell into sleep halfway watching it. The script was poor, dialogues were cliche, Vin Diesel looked like he took a long steroids hiatus. The best part of the movie was at the end when Vin Diesel jump into that Maserati fishtailing out. His best screen asset is behind the wheel. But the reality is outside of the Fast & Furious franchise, Vin Diesel has no commercial appeal whatsoever.

  16. Kenmandu says:

    too many trips to the well for these genres and four terrible films with zero appeal – Result- Meh!

  17. Honestly, I feel like I’ve seen Steve Jobs already – after seeing literally dozens of different TV Spots. And maybe now you’ll stop this soft release crap – they would’ve loved those numbers all in one weekend now, I’ll bet.

  18. FISH STORY says:

    Having a hard time believing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: GHOST DIMENSION is really a flop when you manage to include four paragraphs of caveat. That tells me this is going to end up a box office bonanza for Paramount when all is said and done with its theatrical run and home entertainment sales.

  19. Box Office Massacre? Really? You think thats an appropriate headline to post after the theater shootings of the last couple years?

  20. Jacques Strappe says:

    The public just isn’t into tyrannical techie Steve Jobs. Bad idea for a feature film. B-O-R-I-NG

  21. david k says:

    looks like it’s back to the gym for Vin-oh wait I forgot he already has the “best body in New York City”

  22. wordswithsam says:

    What did Paranormal Activity take in though?

  23. James says:

    With this box office failure, unless Steve Jobs has low drops in the following weeks, Fassbender might lose his nomination. He’ll have to either campaign harder or pray for his contenders’ films to flop too. Hanks is already showing good results with Spies, Damon is the king with Martian and we still have Caine, Smith, Dicaprio, Redmayne to come. Funny how things change, isn’t it? Another 2011/2012 awards season coming for the Irish guy.

    • AB says:

      So you bought Variety’s article that this year only the actors who played “hero” could get the nominations. The campaign against Depp in american media is more and more visible.

    • kain says:

      Cannot wait for Chris Rock’s Jude Law joke on Fassbender. Rudin/Sorkin/Boyle should have abandoned the project when Bale/Sony dropped the project.

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