'After Earth' Crashes While 'Now You See Me' A Surprise Success At The Box Office

There was plenty of hype surrounding “After Earth.” With a big budget, the star power of Will Smith and relatively no competition during its debut weekend, “After Earth” was expected to rule the weekend’s box office. Instead, early estimates indicate the movie grossed a disappointing $27 million, well short of estimates and finishing behind the much-smaller-budgeted “Now You See Me.”

“Fast & Furious 6” led all movies at the box office, earning $34.5 million, adding another $75 million overseas, Variety reported. The sixth entry in the franchise has proven to be an incredible success for Universal Pictures as the film has grossed $480.6 million globally. Last week’s other big movie, “The Hangover Part III,” had a domestic gross of $15.9 million but an overseas take of $82.3 million this weekend, bringing its global total to $198.8 million thus far.

While there will be plenty of discussion about why “After Earth” performed so poorly at the box office, the weekend’s other big story is “Now You See Me,” a magician caper movie starring Jesse Eisenberg, which earned $28.1 million. The film, with an estimated budget of $75 million, was expected to perform modestly at the box office, as Friday estimates projected a $15 million-$20 million take, but “Now You See Me” performed even better than the highest estimates.

The Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:LGF), or Lionsgate, will consider the movie a tremendous success if it continues its steady earning through next weekend and overseas. Variety reported that Lionsgate is responsible for $50 million of the “Now You See Me” budget after licensing and foreign sales. The film was well received by audiences who gave the film an A- CinemaScore rating, based on exit polls. “Now You See Me” also had strong advance ticket sales, said Variety, which helped the movie keep pace with, and ultimately surpass, the heavily marketed “After Earth.”

For Will Smith, “After Earth” is among his lowest-grossing film debuts, in line with his comparatively low-budgeted dramas such as “The Pursuit of Happyness” instead of big summer movies such as “Men in Black 3” or “Hancock.” As the Hollywood Reporter noted, the third-place debut ends Smith’s run of summer movies making their debuts at No. 1, beginning with “Independence Day” in 1996.

“After Earth” will premiere in foreign markets next week, which could make the film a success if it performs well. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rory Bruer, Sony worldwide president of distribution, said of the film’s domestic disappointment: “Would we have liked to do more? Certainly. But the film has always been a world play. It’s going to to be opening in 60 countries. It’s a movie everyone worked very hard on, and everyone is proud of the film. But its always ben a world play, and will open in 60 countries next weekend.”

The final box-office numbers released Monday will provide a clearer picture of the weekend, breaking the fourth-place tie between “Epic” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Based on current estimates, however, the weekend will be remembered for the underdog success of “Now You See Me” and the disappointing gross of “After Earth.”

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