After one of the biggest winters in box office history, audiences unexcited by new releases left the movie theatres empty on one of the poorest March weekends in recent memory. Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi flick Chappie led the weekend with an estimated $13.3 million – mediocre by the genre’s standards and a far haul from the director’s two previous hits. Its opening was 55% lower than his 2013 flick Elysium ($29.8 million) while the Johannesburg-set film made less money in its first three days than District 9 made on its opening day ($14.1 million).
Despite recent news that Blomkamp would help to revitalize the Alien franchise, few were excited about the director’s latest. A muddled marketing campaign that failed to set a tone of whether Chappie was a sci-fi comedy or thriller, mixed with poor reviews, ensured that the genre’s fans hesitated to give this one a shot. The film opened far below the initial takes of 2014’s RoboCop ($21.7 million) and Real Steel ($27.3 million). With an average B CinemaScore, it is unlikely that Chappie will hold on well enough to make back its $49 million budget domestically.
Falling to second place was the Will Smith con artist drama Focus, which dropped 46% from its opening weekend to earn another $10 million. Considering the lack of intriguing new options in theaters this weekend, that was a heftier fall than expected. With $34.6 million so far, this will likely finish with just over $50 million, making it Will Smith’s lowest-grossing film since The Legend of Bagger Vance from November 2000.
Making a moderate mark in third place was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which debuted to $8.6 million from around 1,500 theaters. That is a bigger opening than its predecessor in its first weekend of wide release, when it made $8.4 million over the long Memorial Day weekend in 2012. However, by that point, the first film had made around $10 million in limited release. With Oscar winners fading and few options for adults in theatres now, the opening was expected to reach double-digit millions.
Still, movies aimed at senior audiences usually have exceptional legs and stronger weekdays, so good results throughout March are expected. The first Marigold Hotel film eventually found its way to a $46.4 million finish due to strong legs and one expects the sequel will come close to that total.