Weekend Box Office: “Awkward” debut for new films over Super Bowl Weekend

Super Bowl Weekend is typically one of the slowest weekends at the box office and this year was no different. Weak new releases, poor weather across the Northeast and South and, of course, the big game, allowed Ride Along to pull off a rare three-peat at No. 1, with $12.03M for the weekend.

While it’s a commendable achievement, it was able to do so because the two new films, That Awkward Moment and Labor Day, barely made a pip. Nonetheless, the Ice Cube-Kevin Hart comedy stands at $92.7M total and should get to $100M by next week.

Both new releases lost to Frozen, which reached $8.93M thanks to a special sing-along re-release. The animated phenomenon, which earned five Annie Awards including Best Feature on Saturday, now sits at $359.61M domestically and is all but guaranteed to overtake Despicable Me 2. Expect it to make a play for $400M when all is said and done.

In third place was That Awkward Moment, a male-centric romantic comedy starring Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller as a set of twenty-somethings dealing with relationships in the modern world. The feature did have some buzz going into it, due mostly to the young stars involved.  Both Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan had breakout turns last year, with Teller starring in The Spectacular Now and Jordan in an award-worthy role in Fruitvale Station. Zac Efron has opened his own films moderately well, maintaining a dedicated fanbase since his turn in the High School Musical franchise.

However, it just couldn’t overcome its vague marketing and terrible reviews, like the 22 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com. The main criticism seems to be that, while it tried to be subversive, it ended up being trite, even misogynistic. While this shouldn’t hurt the careers of Teller or Jordan (both are up for roles in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot), this won’t do any favors either.

Debuting at #7 was the romance Labor Day, which managed only $5.17M for the weekend, one of the weakest openings for any romance drama ever. This is rather stunning considering the pedigree behind the film. Starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation, and written and directed by Jason Reitman, the Oscar-nominated director behind Young Adult, Juno, Up in the Air, and Thank You For Smoking, the film appears to have the makings of an Oscar contender.

Paramount had, at one point, scheduled Labor Day for December for awards consideration but abandoned that strategy, delaying it to January. The initial thought was that it was too competitive a time, but the reviews didn’t back it up, with many critics wondering what drew Reitman and the cast to the script in the first place.

If there’s any film that’s been able to succeed on a Super Bowl weekend, it’s typically a romance, or at least something that acts as counter-programming to the Big Game. Last year, zombie flick Warm Bodies had a lively debut, sci-fi thriller Chronicle and horror thriller The Woman in Black both had great debut the year prior, and Dear John had one of the best romantic debuts back in 2010. And Labor Day seemed to be going after the Nicholas Spark niche but just failed to connect with audiences. The involvement of an Oscar-nominated writer-director and an Oscar-winning actress can only go so far if the concept isn’t appealing.

With neither romantic film making an impact, maybe couples decided that staying inside to watch the game was the weekend’s best date option.