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Box office hits and misses: Jem bombs while The Martian returns to the top

weekend box office the martian jem and holograms movie 0018
20th Century Fox
This weekend was a particularly rough one for movie premieres, but a trio of recently released films continued to stay strong at the box office amid all of the record-breaking flops.

After being knocked out of the top spot last week, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi drama The Martian was once again the highest-grossing film of the weekend. The film is proving to be one of this year’s biggest hits — which says a lot, given how massive of a year it’s been for movies — and added another $15.9 million to its domestic gross so far. Four weeks into its run, the story of an astronaut (played by Matt Damon) stranded on Mars has earned $166.3 million in U.S. theaters and $384.3 million worldwide, putting it just behind the box-office pace of 2013’s Oscar-friendly sci-fi drama Gravity.

The big-screen adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps was last weekend’s top movie, but slipped to second place at the box office this week with an estimated $15.5 million. The family-friendly scary movie stars Jack Black and has earned just over $43.7 million domestically so far, but it remains to be seen whether the film will benefit from — or be hurt by — next weekend’s Halloween holiday. Given that many U.S. families head out for trick-or-treating instead of heading to a movie, this upcoming weekend is a bit iffy for Goosebumps.

Also continuing its run this week was Steven Spielberg’s latest collaboration with Tom Hanks, the Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, which added another $11.4 million to its gross in its second weekend, bringing its total earnings so far to $32.6 million. While it’s still on pace to be one of the lowest-grossing collaborations between Spielberg and Hanks, its earnings this weekend suggest that it could have a longer-than-expected stay in theaters.

Of the four major films debuting this weekend, Vin Diesel’s supernatural action movie The Last Witch Hunter had the best premiere of the bunch with $10.8 million in U.S. theaters and $13.4 million internationally. The film’s underwhelming performance doesn’t bode well for it, and ranks it near the bottom of Diesel’s projects over the years — right between 2003’s A Man Apart ($11 million) and 2008’s Babylon A.D. ($9.4 million) in U.S. theaters. Given that The Last Witch Hunter isn’t exactly earning rave reviews from critics or audiences, the film might have a tough time covering its production costs in the long run, but Diesel’s films have typically done better overseas so the story’s certainly not over.

Closing out the top five films for the weekend was another returning film, with Hotel Transylvania 2 adding another $9 million to its impressive box-office gross. With more than $148 million in U.S. theaters so far, the animated feature is Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing project of the year.

The long-awaited conclusion of the Paranormal Activity franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension debuted in theaters over the weekend and earned just $8.2 million — but its ticket sales were drastically affected by the relatively small number of theaters where it was screened. The found-footage horror sequel ran in just 1,656 theaters, giving it a per-theater average of $4,952 from each screen and the best per-theater average of the weekend’s ten highest-grossing films. As usual for the franchise, it performed even better overseas and earned more than $18 million, bringing its worldwide gross to around $26.2 million and — as is also typical for the franchise — quickly covering its low production costs (estimated to be around $18 million).

In its first weekend in wide release, Danny Boyle’s biopic Steve Jobs was a surprising flop, adding just $7.3 million to its total gross. It’s worth noting that the 2013 biopic of the Apple co-founder that starred Ashton Kutcher, Jobs, earned $6.7 million in its first wide-release weekend. This has to be a pretty major disappointment for the studio and the film’s creative team, as Steve Jobs was widely expected to be this weekend’s biggest film and use its first weekend in wide release to gain momentum heading into awards season.

The rest of the ten highest-grossing films over the three-day span were Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror movie Crimson Peak ($5.5 million), Nancy Meyers’ comedy The Intern ($3.9 million), and the drug-war thriller Sicario ($3 million).

The two other major releases to arrive in theaters this weekend ended up being some of the year’s biggest bombs, with Bill Murray’s comedy Rock the Kasbah opened to just $1.5 million, earning just $750 from each of the 2,012 theaters where it screened. Its performance is being blamed on a lack of marketing for the film, which was directed by Rain Man filmmaker Barry Levinson and stayed under the radar for most general audiences.

Universal Pictures’ Jem and the Holograms managed to set the wrong kind of record with its $1.3 million debut across 2,400 theaters. The film’s release included early screenings on Thursday night in addition to the usual Friday-Sunday period, which makes its premiere that much more of a flop. The live-action adaptation of the ’80s cartoon series now ranks as the fourth-worst opening of all time for a film in wide release, with Rock the Kasbah in fifth place — making this a particularly record-setting weekend.

Next weekend features the release of the political campaign drama Our Brand is Crisis starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, as well as Bradley Cooper’s cooking drama-comedy Burnt. As for Halloween fare, the horror comedy Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse also arrives in theaters.

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Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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