The Marvel Studios blockbuster Captain America: The Winter Soldier retained its No. 1 spot over Easter weekend, dropping a soft 38 percent to $25.59M, bringing its robust total to $200.5M. This is one of the best third weekend drops ever for a superhero film and raises the possibility of it pulling off a rare four-peat next weekend, where it will face some lesser competition like The Other Woman and The Quiet Ones.
The holiday weekend actually saw three films over $20M; the Blue Sky Studios sequel Rio 2 dropped in line with its predecessor to $22.5M and a total gross of $75.04M. While this may seem like a hard drop for a family film over a holiday weekend, Easter is a rare circumstance where families will stay home or go to church instead of going to the movies, at least in comparison to Christmas. However, Easter Monday has proven to be a good day for a Easter release to make up for a hard drop.
The real surprise this weekend was TriStar Pictures’ faith-based Heaven is for Real, which opened in third place with $22.52M and has grossed $29.56M since Wednesday. Starring Greg Kinnear, the film, based on a true story about the near-death experience of a pastor’s four-year-old son, is just the latest Christian-based success story after God’s Not Dead, which was just edged out of the top ten.
Heaven is for Real had the advantage of being backed by a bigger company and a slightly more prestigious cast — the film was directed by the screenwriter of Braveheart and Greg Kinnear is certainly more well known than Kevin Sorbo — not to mention that the book it was based on was a New York Times bestseller. The heavenly premise was also less controversial than God’s Not Dead’s atheist/devout debate.
The weekend’s bust was Transcendence, the sci-fi thriller from Warner Bros, which opened to a poor $10.89M. Starring Johnny Depp as a singularity advocate who uploads his conscience digitally (think a higher budget remake of Lawnmower Man) along with Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman, the film was the directorial debut for Wally Pfister, known for his work as cinematographer on all of Christopher Nolan’s films, including Inception and The Dark Knight.
Despite that level of pedigree, the buzz for the film became progressively worse as time went on. In a confusing move, none of the posters emphasized the fact that Nolan was associated, although he produced the film. It could no longer rely on Johnny Depp’s celebrity, who was coming off of two big-budget duds in Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger, but the previews seem to have taken itself too seriously even if the visuals, as expected by Pfister, were memorable.
The final nail in the coffin was the rancid reviews; the film currently holds a 19 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with some saying that it approaches its theme with the resonance of a bad TED Talk and the bravado of a college student cramming for an exam in ethics. Johnny Depp needs a rebound badly; don’t feel too sympathetic, though, as the man owns more islands than most people own shoes. He’ll next star in the fantasy detective drama Mortdecai and as the Wolf in Into The Woods.
In fifth place was the Wayans Brothers sequel A Haunted House 2, which opened to about half the level as the first one with $8.84M. While the first one wasn’t what you’d consider a runaway success, it still did well enough to constitute a sequel. Focusing its satire on last year’s horror hits Mama, The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2, the jokes seemed on point, but it’s hard for any comedy sequel to do well. A Haunted House 2 also faced more competition than the first, and releasing counter-programming on Easter weekend hardly ever works out.