Will Smith’s “Hancock” scored a strong $66 million in domestic ticket sales over the weekend, affirming his drawing power but leaving Hollywood short of the peaks it hit during last year’s Fourth of July holiday period.
Since opening with previews Tuesday evening, “Hancock,” Sony Pictures Entertainment’s comic action movie about a damaged superhero, took in $107.3 million at the domestic box office and $78 million more from 50 countries around the world, studio executives said.
That marked a personal triumph for Mr. Smith, as audiences flocked to the film despite soft reviews. “He’s just the guy everybody loves,” said Rory Bruer, the Sony Pictures distribution president. “Everybody wants to see what he’s up to.”
Mr. Bruer noted that the film was Mr. Smith’s eighth consecutive No. 1 opening, beginning with “Men in Black II,” which opened over the July Fourth holiday in 2002.
The current Top 10 films took in about $155.5 million for the weekend, down 2.9 percent from $160.1 million for the Top 10 during the equivalent weekend last year, according to figures compiled by Screenline, the box-office reporting service.
“Hancock,” an unusually complex take on the superhero genre, took in far less over the extended holiday period than did Paramount Pictures’ toy-based action film “Transformers,” which had $155.4 million during the equivalent period last year.
“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” a G-rated film, took in just $3.6 million over the weekend for Picturehouse to place No. 8 as it expanded in its third weekend from a handful of screens to more than 1,800 in a bid to capitalize on the popularity of the American Girl doll line.
Other top performers included “Wall-E” from Walt Disney, which placed at No. 2 with $33.4 million in sales for its second weekend; “Wanted” from Universal Pictures, which was No. 3 with $20.6 million in its second weekend; and “Get Smart” from Warner Brothers, which was No. 4 with $11.1 million in its third weekend.
The weekend performance by “Hancock” may have been dampened slightly by unusually intense fan anticipation for a more conventional superhero movie, “The Dark Knight,” another entry in the Warner Brothers Batman series. While that movie will not open in the United States until July 18, the Fandango.com and Movietickets.com ticket services have reported high levels of advance sales, with midnight and 3 a.m. showings on opening day already selling out.
Still, the weekend was a vindication not just for Mr. Smith and for Sony, but also for the director Peter Berg and a producing team that included Akiva Goldsman, Michael Mann and Mr. Smith’s longtime partner James Lassiter. The filmmakers had bucked conventional wisdom by casting Mr. Smith as a drunken antihero who needs as much help as he can offer others.
Some critics rebelled — and Variety caused ripples in Hollywood by comparing the film to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed turn in the action movie sendup “Last Action Hero,” released by Sony in 1993. Yet the audience galloped past the reviews to give Mr. Berg the highest ticket sales of his directing career in just five and a half days.
Much of Hollywood, meanwhile, spent the weekend pondering a tally of another sort. A closely watched vote on a tentative contract between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Aftra) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is expected to be completed on Tuesday. As of late last week, industry players with ties to Aftra and the Screen Actors Guild were privately predicting that the Aftra contract would be approved by a clear margin, though without the overwhelming support that is common in union ratification votes.
The SAG leadership has campaigned strenuously against the pact, contending that its terms undercut the guild’s ability to reach a new agreement of its own. The guild’s contract with producers expired last Monday, but actors have continued working without a new pact.
Because the unions have overlapping membership, the Aftra vote is expected to provide a gauge of SAG’s ability to hold out for better terms. [NyTimes]