Not even a winning second appearance on "Saturday Night Live" could save Chris Hemsworth's "In the Heart of the Sea" in its opening weekend. The Ron Howard-directed Warner Bros. film, about the sinking of the whaling ship that inspired "Moby Dick," beached itself with an initial domestic haul of only $11 million.
Worse, that $11 million was a figure inflated by IMAX and 3D ticket sales. Nevertheless, that was still good enough for second place behind Lionsgate's still reasonably strong "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2," starring Hemsworth's younger brother Liam. But with an estimated budget of $150 million for "Heart of the Sea," WB executives are likely to be singing sad whale songs and wishing they could hibernate until March, when what should be a sure-fire hit, "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," will burst onto the scene.
For perspective, the WB-produced "American Sniper" grossed $89.3 million its first weekend in wide release in January of this year. A comparison to this weekend's box office last year shows "Heart of the Sea" would have placed third behind Fox's "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and "Mockingjay – Part 1."
Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures' "The Big Short," a story of the 2008 financial collapse that stars Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale, was only released in eight theaters this weekend, but has already taken in $720,000, or a whopping $90,000 per theater. That's good news for Philippe Dauman, CEO of Paramount parent company Viacom. Dauman has recently had to answer questions over Paramount's continued viability after a bad year in addition to dealing with lawsuits over Viacom majority shareholder Sumner Redstone's mental competency.
Things aren't going to get any easier for "Heart of the Sea" next weekend, either, when the box office Death Star that is "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" arrives to obliterate all other films in theaters. Presale ticket figures alone for the seventh "Star Wars" film were up to $50 million last month.