LOS ANGELES - Warner Bros. may need to dial 911 after suffering its fifth consecutive box-office disappointment this year.
Last weekend, the Warner comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone lost out to the lower-profile The Call, starring Halle Berry as an emergency call line operator. According to an estimate from distributor Columbia Pictures, the low-budget thriller debuted with a respectable $17.1 million, while Warner Bros. reported its Steve Carell magic flick launched with a poor $10.2 million.
Both films came in behind the behemoth Oz the Great and Powerful, which claimed the No. 1 spot with $41.3 million during its second weekend in release, raising its domestic total to $144 million. Overseas, the Walt Disney Studios production collected a decent $46.6 million from 55 foreign countries, performing best in Russia and Britain. The picture’s foreign tally stands at $136.8 million.
The solid opening for The Call is good news for Berry, who hasn’t been able to attract crowds to the box office in anything other than ensemble films for the last decade. In her latest movie, acquired by Columbia’s TriStar label from production company Troika Pictures, her character is attempting to save a kidnapped girl played by Abigail Breslin.
Heading into the weekend, pre-release audience surveys indicated that The Call was resonating strongly with black moviegoers. Columbia on Sunday declined to release a breakdown of ticket sales by race.
Although Warner Bros.’New Line division spent only $32 million to produce Burt Wonderstone, the film would have to perform box-office magic to transform itself into a financial winner for the studio. The few who saw the poorly reviewed movie last weekend - 44 percent of whom were under age 25 - didn’t like it, giving it a C-plus grade. That doesn’t bode well for word of mouth on the picture, which stars Carell as a Las Vegas magician facing off against a more outlandish rival (Jim Carrey).
Earlier in his career, Carell did best with broad comedies like Wonderstone - after all, it was Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin that made the actor a movie star in 2005. But the 50-year-old hasn’t had a bona fide comedy hit as a leading man since 2010’s Date Night, in which he appeared opposite Tina Fey.
It’s been a tough year for Warner Bros. as the historically successful studio has released a string of films that have underperformed at the multiplex. The only film to do even decent business was the noir crime drama Gangster Squad, which grossed just $45.9 million domestically but made up a bit of ground overseas, raising the film’s global total to about $100 million.
The Sylvester Stallone action thriller Bullet to the Head couldn’t even top $10 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, while the pricier teen fantasy Beautiful Creatures didn’t even make it to $20 million. The biggest bomb, however, came this month with the fantasy adventure Jack the Giant Slayer, a near-$200 million production that has collected less than $80 million worldwide.
MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 03/22/2013
Print Headline: Incredible Burt loses magic