By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - “Deadpool” dominated the box office for a second consecutive weekend, racking up $55 million.
That’s roughly what Fox, the studio behind the $58 million comic-book adaptation, had predicted that the film would open to a week ago. Of course, it shattered those projections, destroying February records with a $152.2 million President’s Weekend launch.
After two weeks, “Deadpool” has now earned $235.4 million domestically, re-established Ryan Reynolds as a major Hollywood star, and created a new superhero franchise to rival the likes of Iron Man and the X-Men. The picture, a very R-rated affair, centers on a mercenary with accelerated healing abilities and a penchant for bawdy humor.
“It’s one of those times where a movie becomes a touchstone in culture,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “It just becomes part of the zeitgeist and one of those movies you just have to see. That’s due to its uniqueness. People have never seen anything like this before.”
A few brave new releases tried to ride out “Deadpool” mania. “Risen,” a faith-based drama about a soldier investigating the death and resurrection of Jesus, fared best, pulling in a solid $11.8 million from 2,915 locations to snag third place. Sony’s Affirm label produced the picture for $20 million, and courted church leaders with the hopes of producing another “War Room” or “Heaven is for Real,” two films that turned out Christian moviegoers in droves. The studio will follow the same formula with the upcoming Easter release “Miracles From Heaven.”
“This is in our wheelhouse,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “We’ve really embraced being in the faith-based business and it’s certainly paid off.”
“The Witch,” a critically acclaimed look at a Puritan family torn apart by supernatural terrors, debuted to $8.7 million from 2,046 theaters for a fourth place finish. The picture is the widest debut in the history of A24, the indie label behind “Ex Machina” and “Room,” and its biggest ever premiere.
The roll-out marked a change in plans. A24 acquired “The Witch” out of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival with DirecTV for roughly $1 million, and planned a multi-platform release that would match a limited theatrical debut with a speedy on-demand launch, but the studio rethought that idea after screening the picture.
“We all knew it was an excellent movie and saw a potential opportunity to do something different with it and sort of went for it,” said Heath Shapiro, the studio’s distribution chief. “This weekend is a terrific result that exceeded our expectations.”
Going forward, “The Witch” may have some problems with word-of-mouth. Consumers handed the picture a C-minus CinemaScore rating.
“A lot of great movies have a polarizing response,” said Shapiro.
Then there’s “Race,” a Focus Features biopic about Olympian Jesse Owens’ Gold Medal-winning triumph at the 1936 Berlin games. The film struggled to hit its stride, earning $7.3 million from 2,369 locations. Focus, which recently underwent a major overhaul that saw its former CEO Peter Schlessel ousted in favor of Peter Kujawski, bought domestic rights to the film for $5 million. As part of the reshuffling, the indie label is being tasked with making more prestige fare, along the lines of “Race.” Although the sports drama didn’t exactly set the world on fire, the company’s financial exposure is relatively minimal and it believes that strong exit scores will keep it in theaters over the coming weeks.
Holdover “Kung Fu Panda 3” captured second place on the charts, sliding in behind “Deadpool” with $12.5 million. The animated sequel has earned $117.1 million since debuting at the end of January. Romantic comedy “How to Be Single” rounded out the top five with $8.2 million, pushing its domestic total to $31.8 million.