Eyes turn to Sony's upcoming movies to make up for weak "After Earth" opening

Published: Friday, Jun. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 19TICKET

In the aftermath of the weak $27.5 million opening for Sony Pictures Entertainment's "After Earth," all eyes are turning to the studio's upcoming slate of movies, which could help soften the blow of the film's disappointing bow.

Sony had expected the sci-fi thriller – which features Will Smith and stars the actor's son Jaden – to open in the range of $35 million to $40 million. But it finished No. 3 on the weekend, behind blockbuster "Fast & Furious 6" and fellow newcomer "Now You See Me."

While a Sony executive told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that the studio felt good about "After Earth's" potential with overseas audiences, the company will look to the domestic bows of several high-profile films in the coming weeks to improve its summer. After releasing just two films before "After Earth" in 2013, the studio enters a critical stretch with five pictures opening from Wednesday to Aug. 9.

"We have an outstanding slate through the remainder of this year, and we still feel strongly about the prospects for 'After Earth' as it opens overseas in the coming weeks," said Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer.

Up next for Sony is the comedy "This Is the End," which stars Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco. The film, which cost $32.5 million to produce, will be released Wednesday – two days before Warner Bros.' highly anticipated Superman picture "Man of Steel" unfurls.

Industry tracking had yet to paint a clear picture of "This Is the End's" opening-weekend potential, but pre-release audience surveys have the film opening with a five-day run that ranges from as little as $16 million to $31.5 million.

Other films slated for release by Sony this summer include the action movie "White House Down" (June 28), the comedy "Grown Ups 2" (July 12), the 3-D family film "The Smurfs 2" (July 31) and the sci-fi drama "Elysium" (Aug. 9).

Besides "After Earth," the only other movies distributed by Sony in 2013 were April's "Evil Dead," which took in $54 million domestically, and March's "The Call," which grossed $52 million.

The disappointing opening performance of "After Earth" shouldn't affect the long, fruitful relationship between Will Smith and Sony. The studio, a unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp., has made such Smith vehicles as "Men in Black 3" and "Hitch," and "The Karate Kid," which the actor produced as a vehicle for Jaden.

It was announced in January that Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, had collaborated with rapper Jay-Z to develop an "Annie" remake with Sony.

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