The stellar $54 million box-office debut of “Home,” the family film about a wayward purple alien visiting Earth, gave struggling DreamWorks Animation the best news it’s received in months on Sunday.
The small-fry sci-fi tale knocked “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” out of the top spot and held off a strong $34.6 million debut by the R-rated Kevin Hart-Will Ferrell prison comedy “Get Hard.” “Home’s” stunning opening weekend was roughly $20 million over analysts’ projections, and it kept alive DWA Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg’s hopes for a profitable 2015 at the animation studio, which last month posted a $247 million fourth-quarter loss.
After two years of mainly misses at the box office, DWA in January pink-slipped 500 employees and put its Glendale campus on the block as part of a massive restructuring. It cut back on its film slate too, and when “Kung Fu Panda 3” was pushed to next year, it left “Home” as the studio’s only release this year and the key to its bottom line.
Distributor Fox landed the 3D family film in a market-high 3,708 theaters and it delivered with DWA’s best opening since “Kung Fu Panda” ($60.2 million in 2008) and “Monsters vs. Aliens ($59.3 million in 2009).
“Home” was produced for $135 million and featured the voices of Jim Parsons as the friendly alien invader Oh and Rihanna as the teen girl Tip. Jennifer Lopez provided the pipes for Tip’s mom and two new songs for the film. Tim Johnson directed and Steve Martin also lent his voice to “Home,” which was adapted from Adam Rex’s 2007 kids book “The True Meaning of Smekday.”
“This vaults DreamWorks Animation back into the forefront,” Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson told TheWrap. “We’re very happy for our partners.”
“Home” received an “A” CinemaScore from hungry family audiences — 60 percent female and 57 percent under 25 — who hadn’t seen a new animated movie in the marketplace since “The SpongeBob Movie” in early February. That top grade from moviegoers is significant, because the PG-rated “Home” will have the family film field to itself until June 19, when Disney-Pixar’s “Inside Out” arrives. The reviews for “Home” haven’t been great (48 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes), but the positive word of mouth and open field make a lengthy run likely.
Aronson gave special credit to the film and marketing team and noted that producer Mirielle Soria (“How To Train Your Dragon”) was recently named along with Bonnie Arnold to head creative at DWA.
“This film is the start of a new era for DWA, and it’s going to be playing a long time,” Aronson added. The crowd reflected the cast’s diversity. African-Americans made up 22 percent of the audience, Hispanics 15 percent and Asians and others 15 percent.
“Get Hard” received a “B” CinemaScore from audiences — 61 percent over the age of 25 and 54 percent male — who weathered the storm of criticism directed at the prison satire over its humor that some found racist and homophobic.
“The reality is, when you put Will and Kevin together, if you don’t get controversy there’s something wrong,” said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros. “They both have a tendency to get out there on the edge and that’s what makes them the stars they are. Some people are offended, but most weren’t.”
“Get Hard” is a financial win for the studio given its $40 million budget, and could bring a sequel. Nothing’s official but Fellman said Sunday, “It’s something we’ll certainly talk about.”
The “Get Hard” debut is the best ever R-rated opening for both Hart and Ferrell, but fell short of the opening of the PG-13 “Ride Along,” another buddy comedy that starred Hart and Ice Cube and opened to $41 million in January 2014, and 2006’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky and Bobby,” Ferrell’s top debut at $47 million.
Lionsgate’s “Insurgent,” the second film in the young adult sci-fi series, posted a $22 million second weekend for third place. “It Follows,” the R-rated teen horror film, took in $4 million from 1,218 theaters for Radius-Dimension.
That’s impressive, because Radius delayed its standard video-on-demand strategy on “It Follows,” after the well-reviewed (95 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and sexy thriller scored big in its limited opening. It averaged $3,301 per-theater and is headed for profitability since its budget is under $2 million.
The solid debut “bodes well for what’s possible with a predominantly digital and social media targeted campaign,” said Tom Quinn, Radius-Dimension co-president. “We’re looking forward to an even wider theatrical expansion coming into next weekend.”
“Cinderella” easily beat “It Follows” for fourth with $17.5 million however, and the Disney fairy tale upped its domestic total to $150 million. It took in another $38.7 million from overseas and raised its global haul to $336 million after three weeks.
Fox’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and Fox Searchlights’s “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” followed. The Colin Firth spy spoof finished its seventh week in the top ten with $3 million and is up to nearly $120 million domestically. The “Marigold Hotel” sequel took in $2.2 million and topped $28 million domestically in its fourth week. Both films dropped just 35 percent from last week.
“Serena,” an R-rated drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper that Magnolia Pictures rolled out on a modest 60 screens, took in $111,000. That’s a soft per-screen average of $1,855 for the film starring two of Hollywood’s hottest actors, who previously teamed in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”
The overall box office was up roughly 15 percent over the comparable weekend last year, when “Noah” led the way with $43 million.