As cynical as I am about the sorry state of the American movie star, never in a million years did I expect Will Smith to be anything less than a superstar. “Seven Pounds,” Smith’s humiliating 2008 dramatic flop, appears to be a demarcation point in the 45 year-old actor’s career that still hasn’t recovered. Mr. Fourth-of-July is now Mr. Fail-In-February.
Smith’s “Focus,” a sexy con-artist noir-thriller that opened wide this weekend, might barely crack $20 million, which means it will likely flame out before reaching $65 million. This was unthinkable 10 years ago. Like Tom Cruise in his heyday, Smith once had the power to effortlessly drag everything he touched over $100 million and beyond.
After “Seven Pounds,” Smith took 4 years off to focus on his son Jaden’s budding film career. He returned in 2012 with “Men In Black III.” Despite being a much better film than both of its predecessors, it grossed less domestically. The rumor is that Sony bet big on Smith and the franchise’s return, so big the threequel failed to break even despite a $625 million worldwide gross.
Smith then went on to star in the infamous flop “After Earth,” which many saw as a Scientology-themed vanity project for himself and son Jaden.
“Focus” makes Smith’s fourth disappointment in a row.
After 7 weekends in wide release, “American Sniper” is still screening in nearly 3000 theatres and just passed the $330 million mark. Eastwood’s masterpiece is now guaranteed to blow past the Marvel sensation “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($333 million) and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” ($336 million) to take the crown as the highest grossing film released in 2014. An absolutely remarkable feat for a non-franchise, non-superhero blockbuster.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” continues to flame out fast. In its third weekend, the S&M romance dropped -54% to take in just $10 million (total $147 million). “Fifty Shades” also fell into third place behind the conservative action-comedy “Kingsman,” which grossed $11 million, for a total of $85 million. “Kingsman” is looking like a bona fide hit.
Make no mistake, “Fifty Shades” is a big success. But due to the fact that Universal has a trilogy on its hands, the flame-out matters. Right now the UniSuits have to be wondering and worrying if the novelty of watching bondage in a studio film has worn off, and what that might mean for the sequels. “Fifty Shades” was a sensation, but a front-loaded one with the life-span of a house fly. Worse, no one liked the movie. Earning C+ from CinemaScore is about as bad as it gets.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC