“The Expendables 4,” an action-thriller starring Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, misfired in its box office debut, tumbling to a franchise-low $8.3 million.
It landed in ever-so-slightly second place behind “The Nun II,” which collected $8.4 million in its third weekend. It’s possible the order could flip by the time the final tally is revealed on Monday. Even so, this weekend’s collective ticket sales resulted in the lowest-grossing box office frame of the year as not a single film managed to clear $10 million.
Despite the abysmal results, there are reasons to be more optimistic about the future of theatrical. Studios may be close to a deal with the writers on strike, and there’s hope that means a similar agreement could be looming for the actors union as well. This would give stars the ability to promote their upcoming films, which in turn could goose box office returns. The Game Stop stock-inspired “Dumb Money” and Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery “A Haunting in Venice,” both of which have ensembles filled with famous faces, have suffered because the A-list casts weren’t allowed to talk about or promote their work during the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Heading into the weekend, the Lionsgate and Millenium “Expendables” fourquel was expected to open to $15 million from 3,400 North American theaters. Instead, audiences felt the film was, well, expendable. Without encouraging reviews or positive word-of-mouth, opening weekend figures weren’t anywhere close to its series predecessors of 2014’s “Expendables 3” with $15.8 million, 2012 sequel with $28.5 million and 2010’s original “Expendables” with $34.8 million.
“The last two ‘Expendables’ have dropped sharply from the previous episodes, and the weekend figure is below average for the genre,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research Critics. “Reviews are poor and audience ratings are dull.”
Though the “Expendables” series has declined in popularity at the domestic box office (the original ended up with $103 million in North America, while the most recent tapped out with a paltry $39 million), these films have been much bigger draws with international audiences. All three installments have earned at least $200 million globally. The fourth installment cost $100 million to produce, roughly the same as its predecessors. Scott Waugh directed “The Expendables 4,” which sees the teflon operatives attempting to stop a terrorist group that threatens to ignite a conflict between Russia and the United States.
“The movie was not cheap to make,” Gross adds. “While ancillary income should be strong, it appears the film will have a hard time getting to profitability after marketing and distribution costs.”
Elsewhere, it was a quiet weekend at the box office as “A Haunting in Venice,” “The Equalizer 3″ and “Barbie” continue to round out domestic charts.
“The Nun II” has been a lone bright spot in September as the supernatural sequel nears $70 million at the domestic box office and $204 million worldwide. It cost $38 million to produce and will be profitable for its backers, Warner Bros. and New Line.
“A Haunting in Venice” took third place with $6.3 million from 3,305 locations in its second weekend of release. So far, the Disney and 20th Century film has grossed $25.4 million in North America and $71.6 million globally.
At No. 4, Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer 3” added $4.7 million in its fourth weekend of release. This brings its domestic tally to $81.26 million, just trailing “The Equalizer” ($101 million) and “The Equalizer 2” ($102 million). At the international box office, the third “Equalizer” has generated $67.4 million, bringing its worldwide haul to $148.66 million.
Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster “Barbie” rounded out box office charts with $3.2 million, remaining in the top five for its 10th consecutive weekend. The Warner Bros. movie has earned $630 million at the domestic box office and $1.427 billion worldwide.
This weekend’s other new release, Neon’s low-budget supernatural demonic thriller “It Lives Inside,” opened in seventh place with $2.6 million from 2,005 venues. It’s not a great result for a film that landed in more than 2,000 screens, but luckily for its distributor, the film wasn’t all that expensive to make.
“It Lives Inside” beat “Dumb Money” on box office charts. Sony’s comedic drama, starring Seth Rogen, Paul Dano, Pete Davidson and America Ferrera, took eighth place with a so-so $2.4 million from 616 million locations. The R-rated film has grossed $2.8 million to date.
At the specialty box office, A24’s re-release of the classic Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” generated $800,637 from just 264 Imax screens over the weekend and an impressive $1.4 million to date. According to the studio, over 60% of audiences were not born when the original 1984 film was released.
“The film expands nationwide this weekend and will undoubtedly have audiences dancing in the aisles for another 40 years,” A24 wrote in a note to press.