‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ comes in an obvious first-place finish

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: I honestly can’t figure out for the life of me why there was only one new release this weekend, especially when there are four wide releases next weekend. But be it fear of opening a film on the weekend of September 11th, concerns about getting your press stolen by the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, or sheer stupidity on the part of the studios, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” was left with a wide-open field this weekend, and it took advantage of it accordingly. The fourth “Resident Evil” picture, this time shot in 3D (not converted), took in $27.7 million for an obvious first-place finish.

The series, based on a horror video game franchise, has been one of the more consistent genre franchises over the last decade. The first film opened in March 2002 to $17 million, and it eventually grossed $40 million domestic and $102 million worldwide on a $33 million budget. “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” set the release template two years later, opening in early September 2004 to $23 million and grossing $51 million domestic and $129 million worldwide on a $45 million budget. “Resident Evil: Extinction” pulled the same trick in 2007, opening to $23 million and grossing $50 million domestic and $147 million worldwide on a $45 million budget. So now, three years almost to the day, we have the $60 million-costing “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” which comes with the added gimmick of being shot in 3D film. The marketing was pinpoint precise, with Sony sticking to theatrical trailers, the occasional poster, and targeted TV spots, since this series has a built-in fanbase that doesn’t seem to be expanding.

Heck, take away the 3D ticket-price upcharge, and this $27.7 million opening is similar to the $23 million openings of the last two sequels. Adjusted for inflation, the sequel openings would be about $28 million apiece, with the original opening to just-under $25 million. The three prior films had weekend-to-final gross multipliers of about 2.2x. So “Resident Evil Afterlife” should finish with about $60 million. Given how consistent the domestic fanbase is, Sony has to be hoping that the international audience that these films have experienced continues to expand. Otherwise, Sony just spent an additional $15 million to gross an additional $10 million in domestic box office (and a depressed DVD market won’t be as bountiful as it was for the prior three pictures). Still, any franchise that makes it to part IV is to be commended, as the video game-to-movie genre especially is littered with would-be franchises that never got past part I (Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon, Doom), let alone part II (Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider). So assuming the film doesn’t implode overseas, expect Sony to spend another $60 million in three years on “Resident Evil: Resurrection.”

There is little to report among holdovers. Takers and The American battled it out for second place. The surprisingly leggy heist picture pulled in $6.1 million for a $48 million seventeen-day gross. George Clooney’s arthouse variation on Bangkok Dangerous grossed $5.9 million. “The American” plunged 55%, which was the likely scenario considering the fraudulent advertising, but the $20 million artfilm has amassed $28 million thus far. “Machete” plunged 63% in weekend two, as expected since it was always intended as a cheap one-weekend gimmick. The $20 million picture has now grossed $20 million in ten days. “Going the Distance” dropped 42% in weekend two, a distressingly mediocre hold after a soft opening. The well-liked romantic comedy has grossed just $14 million in ten days, so it will hopefully gain a second chance on DVD/Blu Ray.

In other holdover news, “The Expendables” just missed crossing the $100 million mark, as it now has $98.5 million. Give it a couple days. “Inception” is now over $280 million domestic, and it finally crossed the $700 million mark in worldwide grosses this weekend. And, spurred by a re-release that was advertised as um, a birthday celebration for Bella Swan, “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” increased 71% from last weekend, but still came in just below $300 million in domestic grosses ($299.6 million). “The Switch” is at $25 million and “Vampires Suck” is at $35 million. The arrival of the “3D Resident Evil” picture was a fatal blow to three others who all lost their 3D screens, as “Piranha 3D” crumbled 69%, “Toy Story 3” plunged 63%, and “Avatar: Special Edition” collapsed 68%. In limited-release news, “The Romantics” opened on two screens with $44,400.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos.

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