Weekend Box Office: ‘I, Frankenstein’ stays dead in slow weekend

It looks like most of America took cover from the polar vortex instead of trekking it to the movie theater last weekend. With only one new wide release, most films had a light to moderate drop from the robust MLK weekend.

While the weekend following any holiday weekend tends to drop off, the snowstorm and generally awful weather throughout the East Coast likely kept potential moviegoers indoors — not to mention those who stayed in to watch the Grammys on Sunday night.

The Top 5 films remained unchanged, with Ride Along repeating at number one, with a solid $21.296M for a total of $75.5M. With a lack of competition next week, expect the cop comedy to be the first 2014 release to gross over $100M. It’s surprising that a sequel hasn’t been announced (is the name Another Ride Along too on the nose?).

Lone Survivor also repeated in second place, with $12.9M and should reach over $100M by next weekend. So far, this is proving to be a great year for Universal, having accomplished the rare feat of having both the No. 1 and No. 2 films two weeks running. It makes up for 47 Ronin costing the company an estimated $175M.

Frozen actually hopped back into fourth place over Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with $9.12M for the weekend and a fantastic $347.9M total domestically. It is now the highest grossing original animated feature ever, eclipsing Finding Nemo’s $339.71M. With a sing-along re-release due next week and a possible Oscar win in March, the Disney musical has captured widespread critical and commercial attention.

The big loser of the weekend though was the lone new release: I, Frankenstein was dead on arrival with a paltry $8.61M, which is less than half of what Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters ($19.69M) did a year ago and even less than The Legend of Hercules ($8.87M), which had a modest marketing campaign that generated less awareness.

From the producers of the Underworld franchise, the film, based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, reinterprets Mary Shelley’s classic novel as a deathly serious action thriller about a war between demons and gargoyles. Rather than telling the story of a creator and his creation, Aaron Eckhart stars as Frankenstein’s monster, reimagined as a demon-hunter.

From the first trailer, the film was unable to present anything coherent or compelling in this reinterpretation. Say what you will about the Underworld franchise, but at least there was never any confusion about what, exactly, was the core conflict. Taking the character of Frankenstein’s monster and forcing him into a battle that involves angels, demons, gargoyles and reanimated corpses makes everything more muddled.

It also didn’t help that the film seemed to take itself so seriously. Hansel & Gretel was able to get away with interpreting a fairy tale as a swashbuckling R-rated action film because it never took itself too seriously, which is why the film, despite poor reviews, has built a bit of a fanbase. Instead, I, Frankenstein took the serious tone of Underworld to near-parodic levels (Did every character need to have a graveling voice in this film?) and also fell prey to the obnoxious “sexy monster” trend that the Twilight series popularized (I’m hideous, just don’t look at my immaculate six-pack.).

Interestingly, Fox is planning their own Frankenstein for next year, with James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor. Fortunately, it seems that film is more based in the source material, although it greatly expands the role of Igor, who was not in the book. Considering how resoundingly the public rejected this “dark and gritty” version, perhaps moviegoers will appreciate something more true to the original novel.