Sylvester Stallone stars in "The Expendables 2."
Lionsgate Films
Sylvester Stallone stars in "The Expendables 2."

Story highlights

"The Expendables 2" debuted well this weekend

"The Bourne Legacy" came in second place

The remake "Sparkle made $12.0 million —  

Four weeks after the shootings in Aurora, Colo., the box office remains in a relative slump — despite performing over 20 percent better than the same weekends in 2011 and 2010.

According to industry consulting firm Screen Engine, 17 percent of moviegoers are still reluctant to head to the theater following the shooting. While that number has dropped from the 21 percent who claimed they were reluctant one week after the shooting, it’s still telling — and discouraging — for Hollywood. Fortunately, moviegoers have a lot of options to choose from. When the top seven movies at the box office all earn over $10 million, it’s clear that the box office isn’t in totally dire straits, but it doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.

Sylvester Stallone and his weathered crew of grizzly action stars (and fresh-faced Liam Hemsworth) pushed their explosive sequel “The Expendables 2” to a $28.8 million debut, 17 percent lower than the $34.8 million bow of 2010′s original “Expendables.” The number one debut marks the first time pop culture icon Chuck Norris has ever topped the box office. There really is nothing he can’t do.

Lionsgate spent $35 million to acquire the film, which was made by Nu Image for a reported $90 million. Audiences, which were 63 percent male and 65 percent above the age of 25 (both older and more male despite the addition of Hemsworth), issued the film a healthy “A-” CinemaScore grade. The explosive action entry also earned markedly better reviews than its predecessor, which could spur positive word-of-mouth, which Expendables 2 will need in order to match the original’s $103.1 million domestic finish and for Stallone to justify another sequel.

“The Bourne Legacy” held second place after dropping 55 percent to $17 million. Universal’s $125 million sequel, which replaced star Matt Damon with “The Avengers’” Jeremy Renner, has now earned $69.6 million after ten days. By comparison, “The Bourne Ultimatum” earned $69.3 million during its opening weekend in 2007.

Focus Features’ “ParaNorman” kicked off its run in third place with $14 million — a touch behind the $16.8 million that Coraline, which was also made by Laika Entertainment, earned in its debut. The 3-D flick, about a boy who can communicate with the dead, launched very wide in 3,429 theaters, and it achieved a rather lackluster $4,085 venue average — the least of any of the newcomers, including “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” which found about $4,199 at each of its 2,598 theaters. Audiences gave “ParaNorman” a “B+” CinemaScore grade, which, again, was the lowest of any of the new releases, despite the fact that it earned the strongest critical reviews by far.

“ParaNorman” will need some incredible holds in order to match Coraline’s $75.3 million finish, but that film benefited from being part of the 3-D craze that peaked in 2009. “ParaNorman” is entering a very different marketplace where 3-D affection has long since passed.

In fourth, Will Ferrell and Zack Galifinakis’ comedy “The Campaign” dipped 50 percent to $13.4 million, which lifted the R-rated hit’s total to $51.7 million. While “The Campaign” will likely miss the $100 million mark, it cost Warner Bros. only $30 million to make, and it should prove a profitable venture for the studio.

The allure of Whitney Houston’s final performance didn’t drive many crowds to Sparkle, which began in fifth place with $12 million. As a point of comparison, the concert doc Michael Jackson: “This Is It” – which arrived four months after Michael Jackson’s death — started off hotter than “Sparkle,” earning $23.2 million in its opening weekend in October 2009 on the way to a $72.1 million finish. Sparkle didn’t have 3-D ticket prices working on its side, but still, its less-than-stellar box office is somewhat surprising given Houston’s status as pop royalty.

Fortunately, the ScreenGems release cost only $14 million, and that low cost will be its saving grace. Thanks to a narrow theater count of 2,244, “Sparkle” notched a sturdy, if uninspiring, $5,348 per theater average, and if it can garner strong word-of-mouth — which seems likely given its “A” CinemaScore grade — it could find legs in the weeks to come.

“Sparkle’s” leading lady Jordin Sparks, who won Season 6 of “American Idol,” isn’t the first Idol champ to show up at the box office, though she did garner the strongest opening weekend results. Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood had a supporting role in 2011′s “Soul Surfer,” which opened to $10.6 million on the way to a $43.9 million finish. Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson led the famously awful musical “From Justin To Kelly,” which earned $4.9 million total in 2003. Now, if only Sparks could match their album sales.

As reported yesterday, sixth place finisher “The Dark Knight Rises,” which grossed $11.1 million (down 41 percent) in its fifth weekend, passed the $400 million milestone. It has now earned $409.9 million total, and has passed “The Hunger Games” ($407.7 million) as the 12th highest-grossing domestic performer of all time.

The final new release of the weekend, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” started back in seventh place with $10.9 million.

Disney’s $25 million family drama, which stars Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner, earned $4.3 million on Wednesday and Thursday, which gives it an unremarkable five-day total of $15.2 million. “Odd Life,” which was issued an “A-” CinemaScore grade, will have to rely on (leafy) legs to drive its business.

Garner has had bad luck at the box office ever since her breakout leading role in 2004′s “13 Going on 30.” She has a few bright spots on her resume — namely the ensemble comedy “Valentine’s Day,” which earned $110.5 million, and, to a lesser extent, the Matthew McConaughey rom-com “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” which grossed $55.3 million — but she’s mostly starred in major misfires like Elektra ($24.4 million total), Catch and Release ($15.5 million), The Invention of Lying ($18.5 million), and Arthur ($33 million).

Bubbling under the Top 10 at number 13, the anti-Obama documentary 2016 Obama’s America expanded from 61 theaters into 169 locations, and increased its gross by 294 percent to $1.25 million. Tellingly, the film’s per theater average increased from $5,202 to $7,391 this weekend, a rare feat at the box office — but especially when a film’s theater count nearly triples. 2016 Obama’s America has grossed $2.1 million in six weeks, and if it maintains this sort of momentum, it could become a major sleeper hit. Keep an eye on it.

1. The Expendables 2 – $28.8 million

2. The Bourne Legacy – $17.0 million

3. ParaNorman – $14.0 million

4. The Campaign – $13.4 million

5. Sparkle – $12.0 million

6. The Dark Knight Rises – $11.1 million

7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green – $10.9 million

13. 2016 Obama’s America – $1.25 million

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