Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Strong Focus on Will Smith

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Will Smith (left) and Margot Robbie in Focus.


Will Smith's conman caper Focus disrobed Fifty Shades of Grey at the box office over the weekend, but the film's modest US$19.1-million opening still left questions about the drawing power of the once unstoppable star.

According to studio estimates yesterday, the Warner Bros' Focus easily topped all competitors on a weekend with little competition at North American multiplexes. In second place was the Colin Firth spy thriller Kingsman: The Secret Service, which made US$11.8 million in its third week of release.

After two weeks atop the box office Fifty Shades of Grey continued its steep slide, landing in fourth with an estimated US$10.9 million for Universal Pictures. Fifty Shades, which has made US$486.2 million globally, fell just behind Paramount's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, which earned US$11.2 million in its fourth week.

The weekend's only other new wide release, Relativity's horror film The Lazarus Effect, opened in fifth place with US$10.6 million.


Smith's star power


However, the weekend was largely seen - fairly or not - as a referendum on Smith's star power. Focus is written and directed by the Crazy, Stupid, Love duo, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. It is Smith's first film since 2013's After Earth, the sci-fi flop in which he co-starred with his son, Jaden.

Smith has been frank about the sting of that film's box-office performance. "I can't allow the box-office success, or lack thereof, to determine my self-image," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

But Focus, made for about US$50 million and co-starring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), was never intended to be a summer-sized blockbuster. It had been predicted to make around US$21 million.

"This is a mid-budgeted film with a result that matches," said Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros, who added that winter storms accounted for a drop of US$1-2 million. "There's no question we got hammered because of inclement weather in the South and the Midwest," Goldstein said.

The R-rated Focus overwhelmingly appealed to adults, with 88 per cent of its audience older than 25 years old - not a good sign for Smith's appeal to a new generation of moviegoers who weren't around for his triumphs in Independence Day.


international appeal


Nevertheless, there aren't many stars who could do better with a drama in late February. And Focus should play well internationally, where Smith's popularity remains strong.

"This still goes on his balance sheet as a number-one debut," said Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office data firm Rentrak. "He can still draw an audience, particularly with a film that's R-rated and not aimed at the young crowd."

Some of last Sunday's Oscar winners saw slight bumps at the box office.

Best Picture winner Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) added some 800 screens to bring in US$2 million over the weekend, pushing its total past US$40 million. Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won Best Actress, added 553 screens and earned US$2.7 million. It has now made US$12 million for Sony Pictures Classics.

American Sniper, by far and away the biggest box-office hit of the Best Picture nominees, was also easily the top post-Oscars draw. It added another US$7.7 million, to bring its cumulative domestic gross to US$331.1 million.

The following are the estimated ticket sales for Friday through yesterday at United States and Canadian cinemas, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers are indicated.

1. Focus, US$19.1m (US$12.2m international)

2. Kingsman: The Secret Service, US$11.8m (US$25.8m international)

3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, US$11.2m ($14.2m international)

4. Fifty Shades of Grey, US$10.9m (US$36m international)

5. The Lazarus Effect, US$10.6m

6. McFarland, USA, US$7.8m

7. American Sniper, US$7.7m ($19.5m international)

8. The DUFF, US$7.2m

9. Still Alice, US$2.7m

10. Hot Tub Time Machine 2, US$2.4m