Weekend Box Office: Small, intimate passion project Pain & Gain somehow wins big

Weekend Box Office: Small, intimate passion project Pain & Gain somehow wins big

In a Cinderella story sure to warm the hearts of discerning cinephiles everywhere, Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain—the little studio film that could—overcame its modest budget and deeply personal subject matter to win the weekend box-office. Proving to skeptical suits that there’s a real appetite in this country for small movies about coke-snorting meatheads going on crime sprees, the action-comedy muscled its way to a $20 million gross, nearly recouping its production budget in three days. But while all of this is clearly great news for champions of idiosyncratic art cinema, it throws a wrench in Bay’s obvious plans to reinvent himself as a Sundance darling. How will the Transformers director ever make good with the indie elite when even his glorified home movies can’t help but crush the competition?

At least Bay can take solace in the fact that his success will be short-lived, as Pain & Gain—along with every other film on the planet—will soon be swiftly vanquished by Iron Man 3. Marvel’s first post-Avengers movie doesn’t open stateside until later this week, but it’s already turned its proton cannon on the overseas market, scoring $195 million (or what Tony Stark would call “chump change”) in foreign box-office. Provided Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t spend the next three days stomping on puppies and lighting American flags on fire, expect the sequel to do similarly strong business in domestic release.

Has the nation’s love affair with seeing Robert De Niro half-ass his way through awful studio comedies finally ended? Ensemble yukfest The Big Wedding, which currently rocks a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, made a dismal $7 million its first weekend out. That’s not much more than Jeff Nichols' Mud ($2.2 million) picked up on roughly 2,000 fewer screens. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as a mysterious outlaw who spends at least some of his screen-time shirtless.  Lesson for the weekend: Even in tiny art-house fare like Mud and Pain & Gain, sweaty abs sell tickets.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.