Many assumed that the weekend before the debut of Man of Steel would be a calm one at the box office, but that was not the case. Universal’s thriller The Purge surged into the top spot this weekend and shattered all expectations with a massive $36.4 million debut.
The film, produced by Paranormal Activity mastermind Jason Blum, cost only $3 million to make, and because its marketing campaign was predominantly digital (read: inexpensive), the micro-budgeted film will become a hugely profitable release for the currently on-fire Universal.
The Purge had an intriguing premise: for one night every year, all crime (including murder) is legal. Universal’s marketing team effectively communicated that twisted plot in trailers and ads, and the premise helped pack theaters, though it didn’t deliver on audiences’ high expectations. Crowds issued the film a discouraging “C” CinemaScore grade, and the film sank 38 percent from Friday to Saturday — a sign of poor word-of-mouth.
The Purge gave star Ethan Hawke his best opening weekend ever — trouncing Training Day‘s $22.6 million debut in 2001. Hawke also thrived on the indie circuit this weekend, as his film Before Midnight scored $585,000 from just 52 locations for an early $1.5 million total. Before Midnight‘s robust $11,243 per theater average trailed only one other film in the Top 20: The Purge, which had a sizzling $14,353 average at its 2,536 locations.
Universal reports that audiences for The Purge were quite diverse, with Hispanic moviegoers making up 33 percent of ticket buyers. Interestingly, the film also played predominantly to women, who accounted for 56 percent of the audience. READ FULL STORY