While it doesn’t pack the box-office punch of, say, a “Transformers” or “Harry Potter,” Sony/Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil” franchise has ascended into elite status -- at least in terms of franchise vitality.
How many franchises grow their opening 11 percent after eight years and four movies?
That’s what happened over the weekend, when the 3D-enhanced “Resident Evil: Afterlife” opened to $26.7 million. The Monday actuals were $1 million lower than the $27.7 million Sunday projection, but the performance was still the best start yet for the eight-year-old Paul W.S. Anderson-directed "Resident Evil" franchise.
Each installment of the post-apocalyptic Milla Jovovich series -- not adjusting for inflation or primo 3D ticket prices -- has done better than the last.
“Its fan base had been pretty strong for the last couple of films, but this one took it to another level,” said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer.
In fact, few franchises have achieved that benchmark. Even for Warner’s mega-profitable “Harry Potter,” none of the five sequels released so far have matched the $974.7 million worldwide figure achieved by 2001 original “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (although most of them have certainly come close enough).
Perhaps the closest simile is Warner/New Line’s “Final Destination” series, with last year’s part-four installment, “The Final Destination,” spiking 43 percent in opening gross from film three to $27.4 million.
On Monday, New Line started production in Vancouver on the 3D-native “Final Destination 5,” with longtime James Cameron worker bee Steve Quale directing.
As for a fifth “Resident Evil,” Sony has made no official sequel announcement. But it seems almost a foregone conclusion, with star Jovovich -- who’s married to director Anderson -- saying in no uncertain terms at a New York event over the weekend, “So we’re going to make another one.”
With Sony paying producers Constantin Film, Davis Film and Impact Pictures $52 million for domestic rights, as well as those in most key foreign territories -- the movie also grossed $41.4 million abroad -- “Afterlife” represented only the latest profitable venture for the studio.
In fact, Sony had four films finish in the top 10 in the box office, with moderately budgeted ($32 million) ensemble crime drama “Takers” finishing second in its third weekend, and upping its domestic gross to $47.7 million.
Now in in its sixth week, $100 million Will Ferrell comedy “The Other Guys” finished in sixth place and has now grossed more than $112 million domestically.
Rounding out the top 10, $60 million Julia Roberts best-seller adaptation “Eat Pray Love” upped its domestic take to $74.7 million after five weeks.
“These (Sony) guys aren’t spending a lot of money, but they keep eking out these doubles,” said one exhibition chain executive to TheWrap. “When you reduce your cost, but still have success, you can do a lot of damage at a public company.”