Fox’s pricey Marvel superhero saga “Fantastic Four” fell flat in its box office debut this weekend, allowing Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” to claim its second consecutive triumph with $29.4 million.
Abysmal reviews, bad buzz and a director who bashed his own project added up to a major misfire for the $120 million “Fantastic Four,” ending a 12-film streak of No. 1 openings for Marvel movies. It was the lowest-grossing debut from Marvel since Nicolas Cage’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” opened in third to $22.1 million in 2012.
“The Gift,” a low-budget psychological thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton and the first release from STX Entertainment, opened in third with $12 million. It was followed by two holdovers, “Vacation” ($9.2 million) and Disney/Marvel’s “Ant-Man” ($7.8 million).
Meryl Streep’s “Ricki and the Flash,” the first film from Sony Chairman Tom Rothman’s relaunched TriStar Pictures, debuted out of the top 5 with $7 million.
Lionsgate’s British import “Shaun the Sheep,” Aardman Animation’s spinoff from “Wallace and Gromit” and the weekend’s other wide opener, finished with $5.5 million after debuting on Wednesday.
Universal/Illumination Entertainment’s “The Minions” stole the show on the animated front, though. The little yellow guys added $7.2 million over the weekend to pass $300 million at the domestic box office and $900 million globally to become the highest-grossing animated movie of 2015.
With a China release still ahead, “Minions” is on pace to become the third movie of the year to top $1 billion for Universal, which last week broke the record for the highest-grossing year ever for a studio in record time. “Furious 7” and “Jurassic World” were the first two billion-dollar grossers.
Fox came in with high hopes that director Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” could revive a dormant franchise. Despite the presence of young stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, the film’s debut was less than half the $56 million that the first “Fantastic Four” managed in 2005 and $58 million pulled by its 2007 sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
“It was combination of the film being panned by critics and the speed with which word of mouth travels on social media today,” Chris Aronson, Fox’s distribution chief, told TheWrap. “We’re disappointed, but there’s no hiding from the critical response to the film.”
Just 13 of 137 reviews compiled at Rotten Tomatoes were positive, and “Fantastic Four” had a fresh rating of 9. To put that in perspective, Johnny Depp’s bomb “Mortedecai” has a 12 earlier this year. Audiences — 60 percent male and 51 percent under the age of 25 — agreed, giving the film a weak “C-” CinemaScore.
The bad word began spreading on Thursday night, when Marvel fans and moviegoers started getting a load of “Fantastic Four” in previews. When director Trank answered the film’s critics that night, in a Tweet he didn’t delete quickly enough, the negativity kicked into overdrive.
“A year ago, I had a fantastic version of this. And it would have received great reviews. You’ll probably never see. That’s reality though,” tweeted Trank, who landed the job based on his stylish 2012 sci-fi film “Chronicle.”
But there were widespread reports of conflicts during production with producers Simon Kinberg, who rewrote Trank’s original script, and Hutch Parker. And earlier this year, the young auteur was bounced by Lucasfilm from a “Star Wars” standalone film that he had been attached to direct.
The “Fantastic Four” flop opened the door, and “M:I-5” from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions stepped right up. It dropped off just 47 percent from its opening weekend, a very strong hold, particularly for typically front-loaded action fare.
The film again got a big boost from giant screens, and the top five and nine of the 10 highest-grossing theaters were IMAX, which accounted for $4.3 million of its haul. “Rogue Nation” brought in $65.5 million from overseas this weekend. After two weeks, its domestic total is $109 million and globally, it’s at $265 million.
“The Gift,” a $5 million Jason Blum production that starred Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Edgerton, plainly benefited from its very strong reviews (92 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and positive buzz, which generated a 10 percent rise in Saturday grosses from Friday’s.
Audiences, which were 73 percent over the age of 25 and 53 percent female, gave it a “B” CinemaScore. Ethnic moviegoers made up 53 percent of the crowd.
“The Gift” averaged $4,797 in 2,508 theaters, well under the 3,988 locations of “M:I-5” (which averaged $7,372) and the market-high 3,996 of “Fantastic Four”($6,558).
“Ricki and the Flash,” directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, is among the lowest openings ever for three-time Oscar winner Streep. But it managed a decent $4,637 average in 1,608 theaters.
The mature female audiences targeted by “Ricki” typically don’t rush out for debut weekends, so the film’s seventh-place finish didn’t disappoint Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “We’re in for the long haul and we’re going to expand to around 2,000 screens next weekend,” he told TheWrap. “We open internationally in September and we’ll still be in theaters here when we do.”
Moviegoers gave the dramedy “Ricki” a “B”CinemaScore, so fans were more impressed than critics, who were lukewarm (59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). The audience was 70 percent female and 78 percent over the age of 30.
Also heartening for Sony is fact that two other Streep films, “Bridges of Madison County” and “Death Becomes Her,” opened in the same range and went to succeed commercially. “Ricki” was produced for $18 million by Marc Platt, Mason Novick, Gary Goetzman and Cody.
“Shaun the Sheep” failed to crack the top 10, but will still be a financial win for Lionsgate. It acquired “Shaun,” which has grossed more than $70 million worldwide, for a minimal cost.
The film’s lack of dialogue and quaint-seeming claymation format meant it was going to be a tough sell to U.S. kids, but sterling reviews (99 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) gave it an unexpected boost. Good word of mouth and not a lot of family film competition should help it in the coming weeks. It received a “B+” CinemaScore.
Here are this weekend’s top five at the box office:
1. “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” — $29.4 million
2. “Fantastic Four” — $26.2 million
3. “The Gift” — $12 million
4. “Vacation” — $9.2 million
5. “Ant-Man” — $7.8 million