Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Chappie’ Starts With $750,000 at Thursday Box Office

The sci-fi tale is expected to top Vince Vaughn comedy “Unfinished Business” and knock off Will Smith’s “Focus” this weekend

Last Updated: March 6, 2015 @ 9:53 AM

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi movie “Chappie” got off to a $750,000 start at the box office in preview shows Thursday night.

That puts the R-rated robot action film from Sony Pictures starring Hugh Jackman on course to take in around $15 million this weekend, which should be enough to unseat the current No. 1 movie “Focus.” The Will Smith caper comedy was No. 1 Thursday with $1.2 million and has taken in roughly $25 million domestically since opening last Friday for Warner Bros.

This weekend’s other wide openers are “Unfinished Business,” an R-rated Vince Vaughn comedy from Twentieth Century Fox, and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a sequel to director John Madden’s surprise 2012 hit from Fox Searchlight. Neither is expected to top $10 million, but “Unfinished Business” brought in $250,000 from 1,985 locations on Thursday night.

“Chappie” will be in 3,201 theaters Friday, with “Unfinished Business” in 2,777. The PG-rated “Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which adds Richard Gere to the original’s cast, will be in 1,573 theaters.

Sharlto Copley voices the robot at the center of the action in “Chappie,” the third film from Blomkamp. The South African made his debut in 2009 with “District 9,” a Best Picture Oscar nominee and a box office hit with $210 million in worldwide grosses. His 2013 followup “Elysium” starred Matt Damon and took in $286 million globally.

The reviews for “Chappie” are 38 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes, well below those of “District 9” (90) and “Elysium (68). Its $49 million production budget falls between those of his $30 million debut film and his $115 million sophomore effort.

The Thursday night number for “Chappie” fell short of the $1 million put up by “Jupiter Ascending” in its preview shows.

That original sci-fi tale from Andy and Lana Wachowski opened to $18 million in early February and is up to $44 million domestically and $125 million worldwide for Warner Bros. That’s disappointing, given its $175 million production budget.

Terri Tatchell co-wrote “Chappie” with Blomkamp, who also produced along with Simon Kinberg.