By JAKE COYLE of AP via Huff Post Entertainment
NEW YORK (AP) — Will Smith’s con-man caper “Focus” dethroned “Fifty Shades of Grey” at the box office, but the film’s modest $19.1 million opening still left questions about the drawing power of the once unstoppable star.
According to studio estimates Sunday, Warner Bros.’ “Focus” easily topped all competitors on a weekend with little competition at North American multiplexes. In second place was the Colin Firth spy thriller “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” which made $11.8 million in its third week of release.
After two weeks atop the box office, “Fifty Shades of Grey” continued its steep slide, landing in fourth with an estimated $10.9 million for Universal Pictures. “Fifty Shades,” which has made $486.2 million globally, fell just behind Paramount’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” which earned $11.2 million in its fourth week.
The weekend’s only other new wide release, Relativity’s horror film “The Lazarus Effect,” opened in fifth place with $10.6 million.
But the weekend was largely seen, fairly or not, as a referendum on Smith’s star power. “Focus,” written and directed by the “Crazy, Stupid, Love” duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is Smith’s first film since 2013’s “After Earth,” the sci-fi flop in which he co-starred with his son, Jaden.
Smith has been frank about the sting of that film’s box-office performance. “I can’t allow the box-office success, or lack thereof, to determine my self-image,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
But “Focus,” made for about $50 million and co-starring Margot Robbie of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was never intended to be a summer-sized blockbuster. It had been predicted to make around $21 million.
“This is a mid-budgeted film with a result that matches,” said Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros., who added that winter storms accounted for a drop of $1-2 million. “There’s no question we got hammered because of inclement weather in the South and the Midwest.”
The R-rated “Focus,” overwhelmingly appealed to adults, with 88 percent of its audience older than 25 — not a good sign for Smith’s appeal to a new generation of moviegoers who weren’t around for his triumphs in “Independence Day.”
Nevertheless, there aren’t many stars who could do better with a drama in late February. And “Focus” should play well internationally, where Smith’s popularity remains strong.
“This still goes on his balance sheet as a number one debut,” said Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office data firm Rentrak. “He can still draw an audience, particularly with a film that’s R-rated and not aimed at the young crowd.”
Some of last Sunday’s Oscar winners saw slight bumps at the box office.
Best-picture winner “Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” added some 800 screens to bring in $2 million over the weekend, pushing its total past $40 million. “Still Alice,” for which Julianne Moore won best actress, added 553 screens and earned $2.7 million. It’s now made $12 million for Sony Pictures Classics.
“American Sniper,” far and away the biggest box-office hit of the best-picture nominees, was also easily the top post-Oscars draw. It added another $7.7 million, to bring its cumulative domestic gross to $331.1 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Focus,” $19.1 million.
2. “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” $11.8 million.
3. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” $11.2 million.
4. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” $10.9 million.
5. “The Lazarus Effect,” $10.6 million.
6. “McFarland, USA,” $7.8 million.
7. “American Sniper,” $7.7 million.
8. “The DUFF,” $7.2 million.
9. “Still Alice,” $2.7 million.
10. “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” $2.4 million.