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Nicholas Sparks’ ‘Best of Me’ Marks Author’s Worst Box-Office Opening Ever

The romance starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden debuts with $10.2 million

Nicholas Sparks’ “The Best of Me” got very little love this weekend at the box office.

The $10.2 million opening of the ninth big-screen adaptation from the famed romance author was the lowest ever for an adaptation of his novels, below the $12 million that “A Walk to Remember” debuted with back in 2002. And it wasn’t even half the $21 million that his last film, “Safe Haven,” managed in its opening.

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Relativity Media was standing by its man, however. “We have had great success with Nicholas Sparks over the years and are always glad to be in business with him,” the distributor said in a statement Sunday. “We are confident the film will play well over the coming weeks given its word of mouth and strong CinemaScore.”

It did get a “B+” grade from audiences, but it was savaged by the critics, and just four of 60 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were positive.

Also read: ‘The Best of Me’ Gets ‘Worst’ Reviews: 11 Critics Who Love to Hate the New Nicholas Sparks Movie

“The key for this movie was always how much excitement the cast and marketing were able to generate,” said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock, “and it wasn’t enough.”

“Best of Me” stars Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden — who got the call to play the male lead a month after the November 2013 death of Paul Walker. The film and its lead actors failed to connect with audiences in the way that other young stars like Ryan GoslingRachel McAdamsChanning Tatum and Zac Efron have in earlier Sparks films. Liana Liberato and Luke Bracey co-starred in “The Best of Me,” which was directed by Michael Hoffman.

The timing wasn’t the best for “The Best of Me.” Both “Dear John” and “Safe Haven,” the second- and third-highest grossing of Sparks’ films, were released by Relativity in February, the former opened to $30 million on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010 and the latter to $21 million on Valentine’s Day weekend last year.

Those are both more female-friendly dates than the middle of fall, which is often dominated by darker, R-rated fare, and that was likely a factor too. Next Valentine’s Day weekend might have been a possibility, but that slot is already taken by Universal’s adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Also read: ‘The Best of Me’ Review: Nicholas Sparks, At His Worst and Most Warmed-Over

An encouraging sign for Relativity is that one of the films among the slowest starters, “The Notebook,” went on to become Sparks’ highest-grossing, rolling up $81 million after debuting with $13.4 million in 2004.

If “The Best of Me, ” produced for $26 million by Relativity, DiNovi Productons and Sparks, can find an audience over the next few weeks, it could still turn a profit. And in any case, it won’t be a huge financial hit. Relativity said Sunday that with pre-sales and tax credits, its exposure was limited to $5 million.

Hollywood remains bullish on Sparks, and several adaptations are in the works.

“The Longest Ride” is set up at Temple Hill Entertainment, the company behind “The Fault in Our Stars” and the “Twilight” franchise, and is set for April next year from Fox. And Lionsgate recently cast another Sparks adaptation, “The Choice.”

Here’s how Sparks’ previous films have done at the box office: