There are certain failures that you can attribute to failed spectacle (R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger), there are others that owe their failures to bad ideas (Rush, Carrie ), and yet others to the failure of an anticipated audience to materialize (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures). In some cases, however, there are certain movies that hire certain actors with an expectation that those actors will drive the box-office grosses. Will Smith, for instance, is the only reason anyone saw After Earth which managed a healthy profit once international grosses were accounted for because of Smith (I can’t imagine anyone chose After Earth because of the “spectacle” of it).
But then there are those times when you bring in a cast from whom you expect a certain baseline, that you’d think audiences would show up for even if the movie was an hour and a half of line-reads from the phone book. Out of the Furnace was that movie for me: I was one of the few to see it over the weekend, and even if reviews had been abysmal, there was very little doubt that I was going to pay to watch it for Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, and Forrest Whitaker. That’s a movie that screams $20 million based on the cast alone, and yet it opened with less than $6 million, which I’m sure had to do with a variety of factors that had nothing to do with Bale: A grim premise, bad marketing, lack of awareness, and opening on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is typically dominated by holdovers.
Still, Relativity has to feel incredibly disappointed in the results, because Scott Cooper could’ve hired a bunch of nobodies and wouldn’t have fared much worse. You can’t really count on actors to open a film by themselves anymore (although, last year, Jennifer Lawrence managed to generate $31 million for House at the End of the Street, which should’ve gone straight-to-DVD), but when you put together certain ensembles, you expect better than the results of the 10 star-driven vehicles below that probably didn’t earn much more than the actors who were paid to star in them.
Gangster Squad (Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin) — $46 million
The Family — (Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer) — $36 million
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Jim Carrey, Steve Carell) — $22 million
Delivery Man (Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt) — $22 million
Runner Runner (Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake) — $19 million
Broken City (Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe) — $16 million
The Counselor (Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem) — $16 million
Out of the Furnace (Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson) — $5 million opening weekend
Stand Up Guys (Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Christopher Walken) — $3 million
Oldboy (Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee) — $1.6 million
That Oldboy gross is downright atrocious (and for those who have asked, I apologize: I had planned to review the film for the site, but it never opened in my town, and it likely never will).
Meanwhile, the Quadrifecta (star, spectacle, premise, and core audience) in Catching Fire had no problem keeping the box-office grosses flowing, as Jennifer Lawrence and company added another $27 million in its third weekend, although it was Frozen that jumped into the top spot with $31 million in its second weekend. Frozen has notched $136 million in 10 days, while Catching Fire has gone over $335 million domestically, on its way to $1 billion internationally.
The big story at the box office, however, was the showing of Inside Llewyn Davis, which put up a monstrous $100,000 per screen (on four screens). The Coens’ flick should roll out nationwide in two weeks. Go see it.