Box Office: ‘Spectre’ Back on Top, Angelina Jolie’s ‘By the Sea’ Sinks

Courtesy of Sony/MGM

James Bond is back on top as “Spectre” led the U.S. box office for the second weekend in a row.

Of course, the dashing super spy wasn’t exactly facing off against Ernst Stavro Blofeld. “Spectre’s” main competition was the second weekend of “The Peanuts Movie” and a lackluster crop of new releases such as the Chilean mining drama “The 33” and the faith-based football film “My All American.”

“Spectre” added $35.4 million to bring its domestic total to $130.7 million. The weekend results represent a 49% drop from its opening. Sony is distributing the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions film which carries an enormous $250 million price tag.

It’s a picture that needs to be a global smash to turn a profit. To that end, the worldwide box office for “Spectre” has reached nearly $550 million, including a $48 million opening weekend in China.

“The Peanuts Movie” also showed some impressive endurance, sliding a mere 45% to make $24.2 million. The Fox-backed adaptation of Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip about Snoopy and Charlie Brown has earned $82.5 million stateside.

Not even two of the biggest stars in the world could keep “By the Sea” afloat. The European art house-influenced look at marital dysfunction featured real-life couple Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt as a bickering twosome. But the pleasures of voyeurism extend only so far.

“By the Sea” grossed a measly $95,440 at ten sites in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. for a doleful per-screen average of $9,544. Universal, the studio behind the picture, pegs the budget at $10 million, but industry figures believe the cost of the movie is higher, citing its extended shoot in Malta and the oceans of mascara spilled by Jolie Pitt.

Universal wasn’t ready to write off  “By the Sea” just yet. The studio plans to widen the film’s release to 40 markets and roughly 100 theaters next week. It will continue expanding the picture based on how it performs.

“We’re in the middle of releasing this film,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “We are very proud of this movie and our collaboration with the filmmakers. We look forward to seeing this expand into new markets next week.”

But analysts say that “By the Sea” is dead in the water. Audiences flocked to see the Pitts do battle in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” but that picture boasted glossy action scenes, not bruising moments of a marriage in crisis. That’s a problem when trailers and promotional material made “By the Sea” look about as light and fluffy as “Revolutionary Road.”

“These marital dramas haven’t sold at the box office for a long time even when they’ve had big stars in them,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “People want some escapism and there was nothing about this movie that says, ‘This is going to be great fun.'”

Of the new wide releases, CBS Films’ yuletide-flavored “Love the Coopers” fared best. The ensemble comedy about a family gathering to ring in the holidays nabbed $8.4 million from 2,603 locations. Distributed in conjunction with Lionsgate, “Love the Coopers” stars Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Alan Arkin and cost $17 million to produce.

“We wanted to launch the film in advance of the lucrative holiday box office that’s ahead of us,” said David Spitz, executive vice president of distribution at Lionsgate. “There aren’t other feel good, all ages, Christmas themed or holiday themed films playing during the period.”

Warner Bros.’ “The 33,” a look at the 2010 rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners, was less fortunate. The drama eked out $5.8 million from 2,452 theaters — a poor showing and less than the $8 million to $10 million it was expected to generate. The film is backed by Alcon Entertainment with a $25 million budget. The audience was 51% female and 73% over 25. Warner Bros. is hoping that the picture’s A minus CinemaScore indicates that word-of-mouth will be strong.

“Alcon always looked at this as a special story with themes of hope and faith,” said Jeff Goldstein,  executive vice president for domestic distribution for Warner Bros. “Whether it comes in a million higher or lower than estimates, their investment was minor and this was more about having an emotional attachment to the material.”

And then there was “My All American,” a true story about college football player Freddie Steinmark whose career was derailed due to medical setbacks. The film, starring Finn Whitrock and Aaron Eckhart, had hoped to snag the Christian crowds that made “War Room” and “God’s Not Dead” hits, but struggled to complete the play. “My All American” earned a lowly $1.4 million in its debut for Aviron Pictures, playing best in Texas and the South.

Fox’s seventh weekend of “The Martian” finished ahead of “The 33” in fourth place with $6.7 million, declining only 26%. The Matt Damon sci-fier has topped “Cinderella” as the year’s seventh-largest domestic grosser with $207. 4 million.

Open Road’s expanded the release of awards-season contender “Spotlight,” a look at the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. It picked up $1.4 million from 60 theaters for a solid per-screen average of $23,306. Its cume has hit $1.8 million. Next weekend the picture will move to between 400 and 500 screens. The key for “Spotlight” will be to maintain its momentum as it adds theaters. Other films like “Steve Jobs” have performed well in limited release only to collapse when mainstream audiences got a look at them.

“We’re taking it slow,” said Jason Cassidy, chief marketing officer at Open Road. “We don’t want to go too wide, too quickly. It’s all about building a base and spreading word of mouth.”

Fox Searchlight expanded “Brooklyn,” another awards-season entry, with $485,000 at 23 sites for a location average of $21,087. Starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant in the 1950s, the period drama has made $832,996 in 10 days.

Overall business hit $108 million, down 23% from the year-ago weekend, which included the $36.1 million launch of “Dumb and Dumber To,” $34.6 million from the second weekend of “Big Hero 6” and $28 million from the second weekend of “Interstellar.” Rentrak estimated that year-to-date grosses are $9.3 billion, up 4.4% from the same point a year ago.

The muted box office returns trickled in as much of the world was gripped by the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris. Despite the fact that the coverage of the carnage was wall-to-wall, analysts said they did not think the media attention dissuaded people from checking out the multiplexes.

“It’s tough to prove a negative,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. “But it was always on track to be a slow weekend.”

Next week brings the final film in the “Hunger Games” series and with it a chance to re-ignite ticket sales.

“This is the calm before the storm,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst and vice president at BoxOffice.com.