Earlier today, I told my readers to "stay tuned for the second post of Entertainment Sunday, which I plan on being about 'The Martian' and other speculative fiction movies in theaters this weekend." It's time for that second entry, beginning with the top five from Entertainment Weekly.
1. The Martian — $55 millionIn addition to "The Martian," "Hotel Transylvania 2" (barely, as it's really a kids comedy with horror movie characters), and "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," one other speculative fiction movie made the top ten, "The Visit," which earned $3,950,000 this week to land in eighth according to Cinema Blend. That's a pretty respectable showing for speculative fiction, especially since all the three movies in this week's top five have all taken turns at number one and "The Visit" narrowly missed to "The Perfect Guy" to land at number two during its premiere weekend. "The Visit" is getting the last laugh, as it's two places ahead of "The Perfect Guy" this weekend and has outgrossed it by over four million during the past month.
2. Hotel Transylvania 2 — $33 million
3. Sicario — $12.1 million
4. The Intern — $11.6 million
5. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials — $7.7 million
But enough of the horror films. What about the two science fiction movies? Follow over the jump for reports on "The Martian" and "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials."
Daily Variety gushed about the film in Box Office: ‘The Martian’ Triumphs With $55 Million Debut.
“The Martian” blasted off with a massive $55 million this weekend, nearly surpassing another space-based adventure, “Gravity,” as the highest-grossing October debut in history.My wife and I are already planning on watching the movie when it gets to pay-per-view. I'm sure it will be on our ballots when we vote for the Saturn Awards.
The Ridley Scott release was bolstered by rapturous reviews, with critics calling the picture among the director’s best and heaping praise on Matt Damon’s performance as an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. It marks the second-best launch of Scott’s career, behind only “Hannibal’s” $58 million debut, and the second-best premiere for Damon, trailing “The Bourne Ultimatum’s” $69.3 million bow.
“It’s going to hold up really well,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s got everything. It’s got suspense, action, heart and humor, and the ending is really satisfying. People will walk out of the theater and talk it up to their friends.”
In addition to the strong notices, media reports about the possible discovery of water on Mars kept the distant planet front-and-center in people’s minds.The coincidence of water flowing on the surface of Mars with the release of "The Martian" struck me as a fortuitous coincidence, too.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “The fact that there was the announcement on the same week as our film just excites people. Human beings are just interested in other worldly things right now.”
Overseas, the film is performing strongly, grossing $45.2 million from 49 markets, including such major territories as the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Mexico. Domestically, the film attracted an audience that was older and slightly more male. Fifty six percent of ticket-buyers were men while 72% of the opening weekend crowd was over the age of 25.I expect "The Martian" will get a lot of attention from awards shows, beginning with the Golden Globes. I'm looking forward to covering that.
“Tremendous critical support with amazing audience reaction conspires for ultimate success,” said Aronson. “Having audience reaction be the same as critics is as rare as surviving on Mars.”
The other science fiction movie in this weekend's top five is "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials." It's the youth dystopia I'd mentioned when I first wrote about "The Martian" last Sunday. Here's what Forbes wrote about it two weeks ago in Weekend Box Office: 'Maze Runner 2' Opens Lower Than 'Maze Runner,' Tops $100M Worldwide.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opened with $30.3 million this weekend, slightly lower than the $32.5 million debut of The Maze Runner but still a solid bow. And it has already topped $100 million worldwide.There are comparisons to make than to the "Divergent" series, which I happen to enjoy. Unlike "Divergent" and "Insurgent," I've only mentioned "The Maze Runner" once before in Science Fiction and Fantasy at the 2015 Teen Choice Awards, although the movie played a small part in the controversy around Hugo Awards. The first installment was on the slates of the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies, but didn't get nominated. Good thing, as that might have backfired.
That Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials didn’t break out as big as I hoped is a judgment on my own optimism, not the film’s actual performance. I really thought that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials would open on a genuine uptick compared to its predecessor. The original was well-reviewed, well-liked, and had a remarkably leggy run last September. But alas, it was not to be. Maze Runner 2 basically plays exactly like Maze Runner 1...
But considering that The Maze Runner did pretty darn well last year, that’s not exactly a loss. To wit, The Maze Runner earned strong reviews and nabbed a $32.5 million domestic debut on its way to a $102m domestic total and whopping $340m worldwide cume. All of this came with a budget of just $34m. Now The Scorch Trials, which is again directed by Wes Ball and again stars Dylan O’Brien, cost $61m to produce. To be fair it has a larger scale and scope than the first film which mostly took place on a deserted island and within the monstrous iron maze of death. But that’s a hearty budget increase, so merely doing the same as last time or over/under the last film will only count as “pretty darn good” as opposed to “super-duper awesome.”
The better news is that the film already debuted overseas last weekend and has already earned $73.6m overseas as of today, for a strong $108m worldwide cume. So yeah, it’s definitely a hit, but it might play more like a conventional young adult fantasy installment as opposed to the really leggy original that played nine weekends before it dipped below 50% on a weekend-to-weekend basis.
It’s closer to the Divergent franchise, which ironically was my chief critical complaint with this second installment.
As for the future, this is what the Forbes reviewer forecast.
Sadly this one will be a fan’s only affair going forward. We’re already getting a Maze Runner: The Death Cure in February of 2017, which the third and final book in the series. All that matters at this point is whether or not the surprisingly talented Wes Ball (Mr. Ball is an exquisite action director) uses his capital for passion projects or franchise plays and/or whether or not Fox goes ahead with the two prequels that have been released or will be released in book stores next year.I'll be watching both the second and third movies in the trilogy, although it looks like I'll have to wait for number three. Number two should show up on pay-per-view before ballots are due for the Saturn Awards.
That's it for this week's Entertainment Sunday. I'll be back online after my wife and I watch the season finales of "Fear the Walking Dead" and "The Strain." As for next week, it's the season premiere of "The Walking Dead." Zombies!