Ever since Independence Day‘s $50.2 million debut on July 4th weekend in 1996, Will Smith has been the undisputed king of the summer box office. He’s led films like Men In Black; Bad Boys II; I, Robot; and Hancock to massive grosses — both domestically and around the world.
But his latest effort, After Earth, landed with a major thud on opening weekend, grossing just $27 million (distributor Sony told outlets it was expecting $35 million before the weekend) and opening in third place with a tepid “B” CinemaScore. The $130 million M. Night Shyamalan-directed sci-fi film, based on an original story idea by Will Smith himself, also starred the A-lister’s son, Jaden. The father/son duo previously found success with 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, which earned $163.6 million, but this time around, the casting gimmick wasn’t enough to get audiences into the door.
After Earth‘s opening weekend was Smith’s lowest summer debut since his first wide release, Made In America, which bowed with $11.8 million in 1993. Discouragingly, After Earth opened with even less than Smith’s oft-ridiculed Wild Wild West, which wrangled $27.8 million in its opening weekend in 1999.
So what went wrong? Well, M. Night Shyamalan’s name certainly repelled many potential viewers. The director has lost credibility with audiences after films like Lady In The Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender, and Sony wisely kept his name out of all marketing materials. Still, film buffs (and anyone that read the scathing reviews) weren’t fooled. The blame can’t lie solely with the director, though, especially at a time when people seem to feel little affection for the Smith family. Between accusations of Hollywood nepotism, backlash against eyebrow-raising interviews, and lingering suspicions about their involvement with Scientology, Will, Jaden, and the rest of the gang seem to be in a bit of a public opinion rut.
Whatever the reason for After Earth‘s domestic under-performance, Sony is hoping that international grosses can make up lost ground. And that certainly could happen since Will Smith’s film’s often gross more overseas than they do in America. Last year, Men In Black 3 took in $179 million domestically and $445 million internationally, and time will tell whether After Earth enjoys a similar fate.
But there were other movies at the box office this weekend, too. Let’s talk about those! READ FULL STORY