Fox’s pricey Marvel superhero saga “Fantastic Four” was first but fizzling in its box office debut Friday, opening the door to a repeat weekend win for Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.”
Horrific reviews — 9 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes — and bubbling bad buzz had “Fantastic Four” on pace for just under $30 million for the weekend after it took in $11.3 million Friday. That would be $10 million under analysts’ projections, not what Fox was looking for as it sought to reboot the franchise behind director Josh Trank and young stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell.
Paramount’s”M:I-5” was second with $8.4 million but could well steal the top spot if negative word of mouth takes the expected toll on the $120 million “Fantastic Four,” produced by Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker, and its dismal “C-” CinemaScore suggests it will.
Meanwhile, writer-director Joel Edgerton’s “The Gift” opened in third Friday with $4.1 million. The low-budget thriller starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall from producer Jason Blum, the first release of STX Entertainment, is looking to top projections with around $11 million for the weekend. Sony TriStar’s Meryl Streep rock dramedy “Ricki and the Flash” was heading for a soft $7 million in its first weekend, after taking in $2.5 million from roughly 1,600 theaters on Friday.
The weekend’s fourth wide opener, Aardman Animation’s “Shaun the Sheep” had a shot at cracking the top ten for the weekend, after just missing with $1.2 million Friday for Lionsgate.
Reports of a troubled shoot had plagued “Fantastic Four” during production under Trank,. The young director got the job based on his work on his first film, the stylish 2012 sci-fi film “Chronicle,” but was said to have clashed with the studio and Kinsberg, who rewrote Trank’s original script, while filming last year in Baton Rouge, La.
Trank, who was subsequently bounced by Lucasfilm from a “Star Wars” standalone film, probably didn’t help matters when on the eve of the “Fantastic Four” debut in a since-removed tweet, he addressed the lousy reviews: “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.”
It would be easy to question Fox for entrusting such an expensive project of consequence — the studio would love to see “Fantastic Four” take over from Marvel’s “X-Men” as its primary superhero franchise — to the relatively inexperiened Trank. But it’s worth noting that Universal took a similar gamble on young director Colin Trevorrow, who in just his second outing guided “Jurassic World” to 2015’s biggest box-office score.
On its current pace, the “Fantastic Four” opening will be the lowest for a Marvel film since Nicolas Cage’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” debuted to $22 million in 2012, and the lowest for big-budget superhero movie since “The Green Hornet” opened to $33 million in 2011. And it will be well under the openings of 2007’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” ($58 million) and 2005’s “Fantastic Four” ($56 million).
STX’s “The Gift,” on the other hand, appeared to be getting a lift from its very positive reviews, which had at 92 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. First-night audiences, which were 73 percent over the age of 25 and 53 percent female, gave a “B” CinemaScore to the film that marks the directing debut of Edgerton, who produced the $5 million psychological thriller along with Rebecca Yeldham and Blum.
“The Gift” averaged $1,642 in 2,508 theaters, a rollout well under the 3,988 locations of “M:I-5” and the market-high 3,996 of “Fantastic Four.”
“Ricki and the Flash” is off to a relatively slow start and could be among the lowest of three-time Oscar winner Streep’s openings ever. The good news for the first release from Sony chairman Tom Rothman’s TriStar label was that it averaged a solid $4,492 on its 1,608 theaters.
The mature audiences targeted by “Ricki” typically don’t rush out for debut weekends, and two other Streep films, “Bridges of Madison County” and “Death Becomes Her,” opened in the same range and went to succeed commercially, so TriStar executives were upbeat and pointing for next week’s expansion to 2,000 theaters. Its “B”CinemaScore indicated fans were more impressed than critics, who were lukewarm (59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
The best reviewed of all the weekend’s offerings is “Shaun the Sheep,” a spinoff from “Wallace and Gromit” that has a glowing 99 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It opened Wednesday and may not crack $5 million by Sunday, but that could still be a financial win for Lionsgate, which paid minimally for U.S. rights to “Shaun,” which has taken in $70 million globally. It received a “B” CinemaScore.