Despite a vigilant campaign of secrecy at Sony, audiences managed to catch wind of After Earth's big twist: that the once-beloved, now-detested M. Night Shyamalan directed the movie. The futuristic Will Smith vehicle—the year's second Scientologist-headlined abandoned-earth project, after Oblivion—made a not-so-spectacular $27 million, presumably because large swathes of ticket-buyers fled the theater and demanded refunds once Shyamalan's name flashed onscreen. Since they were already at the theater, said ship-jumpers must have then decided that a movie about Jesse Eisenberg doing magic and robbing banks was an okay alternative. Now You See Me, which has a pretty Shyamalan-worthy twist of its own, ended up making about $28 million—only a hair more than After Earth, but enough to be considered a surprise success, given its modest budget and the fact that it's about magicians who rob banks. Hollywood hierarchies are surely being shuffled. In an after-After Earth landscape, Eisenberg will now star in a series of July 4th blockbusters, while Smith will henceforth play only nebbish, stuttering geeks.
Neither Copperfield's 11 nor Wild Wild Earth could compete with Uh Guys, They Got A Tank, which took a big dip in its second week to $34.5 million, but still made enough to win the weekend. (Claims made in this column six days ago that the Fast & Furious franchise would soon become so successful that America would mindlessly destroy all other movies in a Fahrenheit 451-style blaze may have been…premature.) F&F6 wasn't the only holdover to dramatically lose momentum. Nearly all of the summer's movers and shakers took a fall, percentage-wise. While Star Trek Into Darkness and Epic tied for fourth place with $16.4 million apiece—a statistical improbability that the universe's leading Vulcans are now investigating—The Hangover Part III sobered up to a measly $15.9 million. Right now, Todd Phillips is nursing a Blood Mary, holding his head, and whispering to himself, "never again."
Hovering outside of the ten top were two of the year's best films, Frances Ha ($552,000, on 133 screens) and Before Midnight ($431,000, on 31 screens). Both are pulling solid numbers, but have a long way to go to catch up with the year's big indie success story, Mud. The boyhood adventure yarn has made $16.8 million in 6 weeks, which proves either that America is finally catching up with Shotgun Stories or that it just likes to see Matthew McConaughey take his shirt off. Probably the first one.
Submit your Newswire tips here