By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times -
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood didn’t so much celebrate this weekend as breathe a sigh of relief.
Three new movies — “The Bourne Legacy,” “The Campaign” and “Hope Springs” — opened right around where their studio backers had hoped. All fell well short of out-of-the-gate hit status but none flopped, leaving plenty of hope that they could turn into financial successes.
“Bourne” opened to a studio-estimated $40.3 million in the United States and Canada, while “The Campaign” took in $27.4 million and “Hope Springs,” which opened Wednesday, grossed $20.1 million over five days.
With “Bourne” and “Hope Springs” both getting an average audience grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore, and “The Campaign” a B-minus, there’s little evidence yet to judge which of the movies may have a long box-office life and which might quickly fizzle.
The biggest risk going into the weekend was “Bourne,” a fresh take on the franchise on which Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent about $130 million. In addition to a new direction for the story, Matt Damon was replaced as star by Jeremy Renner, in his first leading role for a tentpole picture.
The opening was well below that of the last two “Bourne” movies. However, other recent films that restarted franchises, such as “X-Men: First Class” and the James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” saw similar drops but were good enough to generate sequels.
“It’s nice to not have to go in tomorrow and say, ‘Well, that’s that,’ ” Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco said Sunday. “This opening provides the studio with a number of opportunities and directions to continue with ‘Bourne.’ ”
About 69 percent of audiences for “The Bourne Legacy” were over age 30, a sign that most who turned out were already familiar with the series.
Overseas, “Bourne” opened in 13 small markets and took in $7.8 million. Given its cost, the movie will ultimately have to perform well overseas to become a hit for Universal.
“The Campaign,” meanwhile, demonstrated that star Will Ferrell still has plenty of commercial appeal despite such recent disappointments as “The Other Guys” and “Land of the Lost.” The new political comedy, which co-stars Zach Galifianakis, is Ferrell’s first lower-budget, mainstream picture since 2008’s “Step Brothers.”
The North Carolina-set movie performed particularly well in the Midwest and South. Warner Bros.’ domestic distribution president, Dan Fellman, said he believed “The Campaign” could ultimately do as well as previous Ferrell hits such as “Talladega Nights” and “Anchorman.”
“Will’s movies all get a CinemaScore of B or B-minus, and they usually have multiples of 3.5,” he said, using the industry term for a film’s total gross compared to its opening weekend. A multiple of more than three is considered very good.
Warner Bros. spent about $60 million to make “The Campaign.”
“Hope Springs,” starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a sixtysomething married couple working with a therapist played by Steve Carell, is the latest film aimed at older audiences to open at the end of a summer, following in the path of such successes as “The Help” and “Julie & Julia.”
Its five-day box-office take is about the same amount that 2009’s “Julia,” which also starred Streep, grossed in its first three days. That film went on to collect a very healthy $94.1 million, and distributor Sony Pictures is hoping for a similarly long run on “Hope Springs.”
Sony and partner Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid about $15 million for domestic distribution rights to the film, which was produced by Mandate Pictures for about $30 million.
After three weeks at No. 1, “The Dark Knight Rises” dropped to No. 3 at the box office over the weekend. Its domestic total of $390.1 million is about $50 million behind where director Christopher Nolan’s last Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” was on its fourth weekend.
Overseas, however, “The Dark Knight Rises” is running 28 percent ahead of “The Dark Knight,” with a total box office so far of $445.3 million.
Meanwhile, “Total Recall,” which opened last weekend to a soft $25.6 million, tumbled 68 percent in the U.S. and Canada to $8.1 million, as bad word-of-mouth is turning the sci-fi remake into a flop for Sony.
Kids comedy “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” held on much better, declining 44 percent on its second weekend, to $8.2 million.
And in limited release, Spike Lee’s new “Red Hook Summer” opened in four theaters in New York City, including one in Harlem and another in Brooklyn, to decent results. It took in $42,100. It will expand to more theaters in New York and New Jersey next weekend and then debut in six more cities, including Los Angeles, on Aug. 24.