“Ender’s Game”opened to $1.4 million during Thursday late shows, according to studio estimates.
That’s a solid start for the effect-heavy production considering that it was debuting on Halloween, when most moviegoers are more concerned with trick-or-treating than with intergalactic warfare.
The adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction novel has battled controversy over the author’s anti-gay views, but is the favorite to win the box office this weekend. Analysts project that it will score $25 million,which should outpace the other two films debuting in wide release this weekend: the animated turkey adventure “Free Birds” and the “we’re a couple of years away from Depends” bachelor-party comedy “Last Vegas.”
Produced by Summit Entertainment, Odd Lot Entertainment and Digital Domain, the visual-effects company behind its scenes of space combat, the hope was that the film would launch a new franchise. However, with a $100 million production budget, an opening of under $30 million could prove problematic.
Reviews for the film have been positive, with “Ender’s Game” scoring a respectable 62 percent “fresh” rating on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. That’s important, because box-office analysts say the film will depend on strong word-of-mouth in order to compete against films like “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” both of which debut over the next few weeks.
“If it’s a quality film, it could sustain itself through the holidays,” Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, said. “There’s usually room for a good family picture, but there’s a lot of movies coming into the marketplace and there’s not a lot of space to breathe.”
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in the film, which is directed by Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”).
Free Birds,” which features the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, should finish in second place with roughly $18 million, analysts say. While third place will be a deathmatch against last week’s first place film, “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” and CBS Films’ “Last Vegas.” The latter production stars a cavalcade of aging Oscar winners — Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline – and should debut to around $14 million.