Box Office: ‘Ant-Man’ Tops Charts, ‘Pixels’ Opens to Lackluster $24 Million

Pixels Adam Sandler
Courtesy of Sony

Adam Sandler’s star appears to have dimmed significantly, after “Pixels,” a slice of arcade game nostalgia that recruited the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to appear alongside the funnyman, opened to a bland $24 million at the domestic box office.

The critically derided comedy finished up just behind Disney and Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” which picked up first place and $24.8 million in its second weekend. That marks the most anemic chart-topping performance since late April when “Furious 7,” then in its fourth week of release, bested all challengers with $17.8 million. So far, “Ant-Man” has earned $106.1 million Stateside.

The weekend box office race unfolded in the shadow of a shocking act of violence after a gunman opened fire during a Thursday night screening of “Trainwreck” in Louisiana, killing two women and injuring nine people before turning the weapon on himself. Safety concerns across the country may have caused some consumers to steer clear of cinemas.

Among the weekend’s other new releases, Fox’s “Paper Towns” picked up $12.5 million from 3,031 locations, while the Weinstein Company’s “Southpaw” snagged $16.5 million from 2,772 theaters. “Paper Towns” missed analysts’ projections. Most estimates had the latest tween romance from “Fault in Our Stars” author John Green debuting to north of $20 million. With a production budget of $12 million, it still stands to be profitable, but the results seemed to puzzle the studio, which thought it had a hit on its hands.

“I’m really somewhat mystified,” said Chris Aronson, domestic distribution chief at Fox. “It’s something we’re going to have to look at and review on a post-mortem basis and find out why we didn’t get more people in.”

“Southpaw,” an uplifting boxing drama with Jake Gyllenhaal, did better than expected, potentially setting the $25 million drama up for a healthy run with those moviegoers who have grown weary of dinosaurs and costumed heroes. The picture attracted a diverse crowd that was 24% Latino, 21% African-American and 60% under the age of 35. The film’s star was front and center, doing interviews on everything from “Fresh Air” to “Sports Center,” and fielding questions about the physical transformation he underwent to believably play a fighter.

“Jake was everywhere, and people responded to him,” said Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Company’s distribution chief.

Lomis predicted a long run for “Southpaw,” noting, “It appeals to the people on a mass level and it’s a very satisfying film.”

In the case of “Pixels,” the Sony release cost $88 million to produce, a budget that is moderate by summer blockbuster standards, and the studio touted its overseas performance. The picture has made more than $25 million at the foreign box office to date, Sony said. In the U.S., the opening weekend crowd was comprised was 62% under the age of 25 and 55% male.

“It’s a world play,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s worldwide distribution chief. “Adam’s films tend to have high multiples, and I think this will turn out well here, but it will do even more worldwide.”

The opening ranks as another disappointment for Sandler. Four years ago, he was perhaps the most consistent comedian in terms of box office performance, fielding hits like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Grown Ups” and “Just Go With It.” More recently, he has struggled mightily — headlining flops and duds like “Blended” and “That’s My Boy.” Only a sequel to “Grown Ups” and “Hotel Transylvania,” an animated film that only featured his voice, have worked. He will now look to salvation in the form of a multipicture deal with Netflix.

“Adam Sandler’s audience is really no longer there theatrically like it once was,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “They’re not following him any more…it’s not that Netflix is purgatory, but he probably wouldn’t have made that deal if his films were still doing $100 million or more at the box office.”

It’s also bad news for Sony, which is in eighth place in terms of domestic market share, and was pinning its hopes of fielding a major summer hit on “Pixels.”

Holdovers “Minions” and “Trainwreck” picked up $22.1 million and $17.3 million, pushing their totals to $261.6 million and $61.5 million, respectively. In milestone news, “Jurassic World” has now blown past “Marvel’s The Avengers” on the domestic all-time list, becoming the third biggest film in history, when not adjusted for inflation, with $623.8 million. It earned $6.9 million.

Among arthouse releases, Roadside Attractions’ “Mr. Holmes” broke into the domestic top 10 in its second week, picking up $2.8 million after expanding from 361 theaters to 686 screens. The look at an aging Sherlock Holmes has earned $6.4 million. Also expanding, Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man” picked up $260,902 after moving from five to 28 screens. The murder mystery is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and has earned $519,243.

Overall, the domestic box office couldn’t match the year-ago period when “Lucy” and “Hercules” duked it out at the top of charts, falling by roughly 5%.

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  1. guy says:

    This is a nicely-written article, but the honest, blunt version goes like this: Reports show that back when former comedic actor Adam Sandler actually attempted to be kind of be funny, audiences would pay to chuckle softly to themselves and go on their way. However, now that he makes what sources call “complete garbage that a delinquent 13-year-old would find immature,” people have shied away and gravitated toward “things that don’t slowly and painfully kill their brain cells.” This could be an alarming trend of audiences having what insiders call “standards.” Some analysts have gone as far as saying that people will go to something if it’s “good” but will not go if it is “bad.” It turns out this is quantified by whether or not anyone involved in the film-making process “cared or tried in the slightest bit.” Studio heads, through the power of hypnosis, are able to forget the last ten years of Sandler’s career and are certain is next project “might not completely and totally be a waste of mankind’s time.” Stay tuned.

  2. Michael says:

    Please stop letting Adam Sandler and Kevin James make movies. They haven’t produced anything worth seeing in many years.

  3. loco73 says:

    How ANYBODY still gives Adam Sandler ANY money to make movies is beyond me…but whatever, given today’s society, go figure… But is seems that finally people might be waking up to the fact that this guy is a talentless hack…who has gotten worse and worse as time has passed, despite his pretentious attempts at more “serious” roles in “Punch Drunk Love” and “Funny People”…

    When your best days, consisting of “The Water Boy”, “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore”, are behind you, and that is what passes for comedic high-points…it clearly means that you are now the Uwe Boll equivalent of comedic actors!

    Please stop allowing Adam Sandler to make movies, .stop giving him money! He is independently wealthy and has his own production company. Let him fund, produce and distribute his movies on his own…

  4. Pat says:

    It sucks that the pixels concept got wasted on the annoying Adam Sandler crew. This could’ve been amazing in the hands of…well almost any other comedy crew.

  5. A says:

    People are tired of Sandler’s conservative politics will no longer support his movies because of it.

    Okay, his politics have nothing to do with how his movie did. I just get sick of people watching B.O. results and then saying, “It didn’t do well because of so & so’s politics.” That almost never has anything to do with a movie doing well/doing poorly.

  6. buffalobilly says:

    dear lord, no more sandler movies.
    ever….

  7. LOL says:

    Paper Towns will have Sony revaluating its intentions to go all-John Hughes and teen high school with the Spider-Man reboot.

    • Pixels, Paper, and Paw- three dead films says:

      I thought PAPER TOWNS was a FOX release and PIXELS was the SONY release. Both did horrendous first weekend numbers so it doesn’t really matter.

  8. jhs39 says:

    Adam Sandler is having the same problem Eddy Murphy had. For a while he was a big enough star that fans kept turning out for his movies even when they sucked but after enough bad movies you wear out audience goodwill and Adam Sandler finally did that. He actually had a longer run as a top comedy star than Eddy Murphy did. Adam Sandler’s obvious desperation for a hit is also what ultimately killed Blended. His two previous movies with Drew Barrymore were sweet and he avoided the tasteless, frat-house comedy that appealed to his normal fan-base but in Blended he was no longer confident enough to do that and included crude gags that didn’t fit with and ruined the romantic comedy aspect of the movie. Pixels was expected to be a hit as late as early summer because it was a high-concept film with special effects rather than Sandler’s normal fare and exhibitors reacted strongly to the clips they were shown. Pixels probably marks the end of his big screen career and he will likely be doing Netflix type deals from now on to accommodate the smaller audience he now commands. Of course he could go the Sylvester Stallone route and do Grown Ups 3 and maybe try to come up with another franchise that pairs him with other over-the-hill comic actors that were once movie stars like Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Martin Lawrence–that’s likely the only way people will pay to see him in a theater at this point.

  9. Dan says:

    I think Paper Towns made the same mistake as Tomorrowland. Instead of promoting the film, they just promoting the one “star” that they thought will bring in people in (Cara and Clooney). Once again, showing that being quirky, weird, and/or funny won’t sell tickets.

  10. Jacques Strappe says:

    Oy, Adam Sandler is a no talent putz. $24 million for his film opening is $24 million higher than it deserves.

  11. Jason says:

    Sandler couldn’t sell water in a desert

  12. Cale says:

    LOL, Paper Towns in sixth place?? And to think some people thought it was gonna win the weekend.

  13. Michael Johnson says:

    Yes.

    Michael Duane Johnson

  14. Bill says:

    So after Friday when it looked like Pixels might have a $25m weekend and was #1, missing Ant-Man by a mere $800K makes its performance “disappointing?”

    I’ll never understand Variety’s performance analysis.

    • Matrices says:

      No, $25 million would have been disappointing too. It’s a summer Adam Sandler movie with a $100+ million budget. They’d be expecting at least a $40m open.

      • BeReal says:

        Only a fool would believe $88mil as the pricetag of PIXELS. The VFX cost was at least $40mil — and the A/L cost with Columbus, Sandler, and James, plus rights to the video games was at least $40mil if not more. Are we supposed to think they made the rest of the movie for $8mil?

      • duke says:

        The article says the budget was $88 million.

    • Bill B. says:

      One’s a first week performer and the other is in its second week. Big difference since these kinds of films usually make a bundle in their first week & tumble greatly the second week. I suspect this one will decline even more than the norm this upcoming week as bad word of mouth spreads. I am surprised that Ant-Man hasn’t been bigger than it has been. It’s a success, but I thought it would be much more popular.

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