took the #1 spot at the domestic box office this weekend, but did so making around $3 million less than most analysts had projected on Friday.
Aimed at just over $30 million according to most experts, the film ended up generating $27.6 million opening weekend--just $200,000 more than the Will and Jaden Smith flop After Earth that hit earlier this year. Better reviews and a better CinemaScore might help Ender's Game to avoid After Earth's fate, but with Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hitting theaters soon, it's difficult to imagine anything having long legs right now.
It's not the controversy around Ender's Game that's likely at blame, though; ten or so percent below expectations puts it about on par with both Free Birds and Last Vegas, which were expected to make upwards of $20 million, but which came in at $16 million, give or take, each. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa surprised everybody by being one of only two movies to top $20 million at the U.S. box office, coming in at #2.
Last Vegas, though, cost only $28 million to make and will be likely to have a strong life on home video, since it appeals to older audiences who are less likely to go opening weekend. And Free Birds could be the Planes of the fall. Even with a disappointing opening, its relatively small budget ($55 million) and appeal to kids at a time when the other big movies in theaters are all PG-13 could help give it life at least through Thanksgiving, which was presumably the studio's plan.
Gravity made around $27 million worldwide this weekend, too, which was enough to push it past $400 million worldwide. Its $13 million at home gave it a boost into the top ten highest-grossing movies of the year, although with just $219 million, it will have to keep earning to stay there since Thor: The Dark World will pass that number in a couple of weeks.