Home animates cinema audiences
NEW YORK (AP)
Business was brisk at the weekend box office where the DreamWorks animated alien adventure Home beat out the Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard with a resounding debut of US$54m, according to studio estimates yesterday.
While the two films had been expected to vie for the top spot at North American cinemas Home came in well above expectations, handing DreamWorks Animation a much-needed hit. Though a distant second Get Hard also opened strongly, with an estimated $34.6m, rewarding the Warner Bros. pairing of two of the most bankable stars in comedy.
Last week's top film, the young-adult sequel The Divergent Series: Insurgent, slid to third with US$22.1m.
With a US$100 million-plus debut expected next weekend for Furious 7 - a franchise built on street-racing adrenaline and a diverse cast - Hollywood scored with two films that sought a variety of audiences.
Get Hard united the fans of Hart and Ferrell, albeit while coming under some criticism for its racial humour. And Home is the rare animated film led by an African-American girl protagonist (voiced by Rihanna). She plays a teenage girl left alone after an alien invasion of Earth. Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin round out the cast.
"It's a diverse cast and we drew a diverse audience, which I think is really special and something you don't see in animated films," said Chris Aronson, Domestic Distribution head for 20th Century Fox, the film's distributor. "That just ends up broadening the appeal of the film."
Minorities made up more than half of the audience for Home, according to Fox. The strong performance of an original release, based on a children's book by Adam Rex, provides Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks with a welcome lift. After a series of box-office disappointments, the studio cut about 500 jobs earlier this year.
Aronson called the success of Home "indicative of the direction, quality-wise, that DreamWorks is going to get back to". In January one of the film's producers, Mireille Soria, was named co-president of DreamWorks Animation, along with How to Train Your Dragon producer Bonnie Arnold.
Despite the lure of the college basketball championship tournament on TV screens, Home (which capitalised on the relative dearth of family friendly options) and Get Hard drove moviegoers to cinemas. Overall, the box office was up about eight per cent from last year, according to box-office data firm Rentrak.
Get Hard had been dogged by controversy, as some questioned the tastefulness of humour that critics called homophobic and racist. The directorial debut of Etan Cohen, it stars Ferrell as a hedge fund manager sentenced to a maximum security prison for fraud. To prepare for life in prison he turns to the only black person in his orbit, a family man played by Hart.
"When Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart get together, you hope to have some criticism," said Dan Fellman, head of Domestic Distribution for Warner Bros. He added that it's the biggest R-rated opening for both Hart and Ferrell.
The wild card of the weekend was It Follows, a critically acclaimed indie horror film from Radius, the Weinstein Company label. After the film drew packed cinemas in limited release, plans for a subsequent video-on-demand release were postponed and It Follows expanded to 1,218 cinemas over the weekend. It pulled in US$4 million over the weekend.
"It's an interesting test case," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak, who applauded Radius for having the confidence in a small, very low budget movie. "It's rare for a horror film to enjoy those kind of reviews. Ordinarily, you don't see a platform building of cinemas for a horror movie. Usually, you see them drop like a rock in the second week."
Following are estimated ticket sales for Friday through yesterday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through yesterday are also included.
1. Home, US$54m (US$24m international).
2. Get Hard, US$34.6m (US$4.6m international).
3. The Divergent Series: Insurgent, US$22.1m (US$29.9m international).
4. Cinderella, US$17.5m (US$38.7m international).
5. It Follows, US$4m.
6. Kingsman: The Secret Service, US$3.1m (US$25m international).
7. Run All Night, US$2.2m (US$2.1m international).
8. Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, US$2.2m (US$2.3m international).
9. Do You Believe?, US$2.2m.
10. The Gunman, US$2m
Following are estimated ticket sales for Friday through yesterday at international cinemas (excluding the US and Canada), according to Rentrak:
1. Cinderella, US$38.7m.
2. The Divergent Series: Insurgent, US$29.9m.
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service, US$25m.
4. Home, US$24m.
5. Focus, US$8.2m.
6. Twenty, US$6.9m.
7. Taken 3, US$6.1m.
8. The SpongeBob Movie, US$5.4m.
9. Lost and Love, US$5.2m.
10. Get Hard, US$4.6m.