The comparison that Sony hopes to emulate is not to the prior Underworld films (only the second of which crossed $100 million worldwide), but the late-2010 Sony release Resident Evil: Afterlife. That too was a series that had a big budget increase on the fourth film as well as the 3D gimmick. The previous three films in that series had done between $41 and $50 million in domestic box office and between $102 and $147 million worldwide. The fourth entry pulled in $60 million domestic off a series-high $26 million debut, but it earned an absolutely stunning $296 million worldwide thanks to massive overseas numbers. As I've noted any number of times elsewhere (like HERE and HERE), 3D is still a major factor in overseas markets, where 2D options are less plentiful and 3D films are that-much harder to pirate. Sony would like for Underworld: Awakenings to surpass the $62 million gross of Underworld: Evolution, but merely surpassing that film's $111 million worldwide take won't justify the $70 million budget this time around. Sony is playing a risky game, that those who flocked to one female-driven science-fiction action franchise that happens to be in 3D the fourth time around will flock to another with equal verve. So in this case, like a number of summer tent pole films, the domestic numbers are almost beside the point (it's done $13 million overseas thus far). But for what it's worth, the film played 59 percent 3D, 15 percent IMAX, and 7 percent other 'large-screen' venues. Meaning that just 28 percent of the audience watched Underworld IV in regular 35mm 2D.
The last wide-release opening was Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, which opened with $9 million. The film cost just $23 million and was the experimental auteur's foray into pure action film making. The gimmick is that he cast a completely untested actress name Gina Corano, whose prior claim to fame is being an MMA champion. Point being, she most certainly can and does fight convincingly onscreen, but she can't act worth a damn and everyone knows it. One of the perverse pleasures of the film is watching Soderbergh cut around and otherwise obscure the performance of his lead character, whose lack of acting ability really isn't her fault (she's not an actress, she's a professional ass-kicker). The film received a D+ from Cinemascore, which is a bit surprising. It surely is an artier and more at-arms-length clinical kind of action picture, but it certainly delivers the goods (my brother-in-law, who isn't exactly a hardcore fan of stereotypical art house cinema, loved it). Anyway, after the explosive success of Contagion ($135 million worldwide on a $60 million budget), Soderbergh has some leeway to play around a bit.
In holiday holdover news, Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (review) is just shy of the $200 million mark ($197 million), while Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (review) will cross $180 million this week (it's at $178 million now, having crossed $400 million worldwide late last week). The Iron Lady took just a 31 percent drop in weekend two of wide release, giving the film over $12.6 million thus far and a solid foothold when Meryl Streep's inevitable Oscar nomination arrives on Tuesday. The Descendants (review) and (non-Oscar bait) The Devil Inside have both passed $50 million, while would-be Oscar front-runner The Artist (review/essay) now sits with $12 million and should-be frontrunner Hugo (review) just crossed $55 million. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (review) now sits with $94 million while both Steven Spielberg films, The Adventures of Tintin (review) and War Horse (review) are at $72 million. Expect all three to disappear pretty quickly if Oscar doesn't shine on them this week. Holding somewhat strong despite the likelihood of Oscar love are Young Adult (review) at $16 million and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy (review) with $18 million. Both darn-well should be leading the pack on Tuesday, but alas...
That's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend when Liam Neeson battles snow, cold, and wolves in The Grey, while Katherine Heigl starts what could be a very large franchise with One For the Money (based on the first of 17 novels featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum). Sam Worthington leads a solid cast (Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris) in Man on a Ledge. Expect the usual Oscar nomination whining on Tuesday morning, but otherwise take care.