After Earth will go quite a ways towards answering this question at the box office over the weekend: how bankable is Will Smith anymore?
This is a very open question. The Fresh Prince has kept a relatively low-profile over the past few years. His only high-profile summer pic since 2008’s Hancock was last summer’s Men in Black 3. It earned $179 million domestically – not a bad number, but also the lowest of the trilogy. Smith had an incredible run from 1996 to 2008 where four of his films (Independence Day, Men in Black, I Am Legend, Hancock) earned over $200 million and seven others crossed the $100 million mark.
After Earth does not have the advantage of being a sequel or being based on a known property. The trailers, in my opinion, have been unimpressive. Earth features the actor costarring with his son, Jaden. The younger Smith had a giant hit of his own two years ago with the Karate Kid remake, produced by his dad. The story is based on Will’s original idea and is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. At one time, the fact that M. Night is behind the camera would have been a selling point for the studio. Those days have passed and I wrote an extensive post just yesterday focused on Shyamalan’s career:
So – let’s get to the prediction, shall we? As I see it, anything above a $50 million opening should be considered a nice surprise for all involved here. I just don’t see that happening and I’m not seeing enough in the marketing campaign to justify that prediction. A better question is whether After Earth reaches $40 million. And I’m not even sure of that.
There’s a big part of me that wants to project a low-30s opening here. However, I’m going to give Smith a little bit of credit here with his ability to open a science fiction picture. This is a tough one and I could see this falling anywhere between $30-$50 million. Neither extreme would shock me. I may regret this, but I will say:
After Earth opening weekend prediction: $39.1 million
That’s all for now. Check back tomorrow for my opening weekend projection for Now You See Me, which also debuts Friday. On Wednesday, I’ll predict next weekend’s top five, including projections for how Fast and Furious 6, The Hangover Part III, and Epic hold up in their sophomore frames.
**Update: my opening weekend prediction for Now You See Me can be found here: