Fox's hopes of rejuvenating the comic book characters and turning the super-team into a cinematic juggernaut to rival "The X-Men" have flamed out given that the film debuted to a dreadful $26.2 million across 3,995 theaters. With a production budget of $120 million, plus millions more in marketing costs, the film will need to get a boost from foreign crowds if it wants to avoid being a write-off.
The studio was banking on a cast of up-and-coming actors like Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller and a wunderkind director in the form of "Chronicle's" Josh Trank to push the Human Torch, the Thing, Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic into the modern era, but production difficulties may have doomed the project. Trank reportedly exhibited bizarre behavior on set that was so extreme it cost him his gig directing a "Star Wars" spin-off. He seemed to acknowledge those tensions, blaming studio-mandated reshoots for the poor critical notices in a tweet Thursday that he subsequently deleted.
"Fantastic Four's" opening is well below the $40 million-plus debut that most analysts had projected and trails the $56 million launch of 2005's "Fantastic Four" and the $58 million bow of 2007's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." It's the worst opening for a movie featuring Marvel Comics' characters since "Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance" debuted to $22.1 million in 2012. A C minus CinemaScore means that word-of-mouth is going to be toxic.
"Fantastic Four's" weakness was good news for "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation," which edged out the comic book movie to capture first place on the box office charts. The Paramount sequel earned a strong $29.4 million in its second week in theaters, pushing its domestic total to $108.7 million.
It was a crowded weekend at the multiplexes with four new wide-releases. Among the new entrants, STX Entertainment's "The Gift" fared best, with the thriller picking up $12 million across 2,503 theaters and nabbing a third place finish. That's a solid debut considering the film, which Blumhouse co-produced, cost a mere $5 million to make. It marks STX's first theatrical release -- the studio was launched in 2014 by producer Robert Simonds with the goal of making the kind of mid-budget films that studios have abandoned in favor of superhero adventures.
Sony's "Ricki and the Flash" got off to a slower start, picking up $7 million from 1,603 theaters. The film stars Meryl Streep as an aging rocker re-connecting with her estranged family and the hope is that the picture, which appeals to older crowds, will gradually build its audience in the coming weeks. It cost $18 million to produce and is the first release from the rebooted Tri-Star, the label Tom Rothman was overseeing before he took the reins as head of Sony Pictures.
The final new release, Lionsgate's "Shaun the Sheep," didn't make much of a stir, opening Wednesday and earning $4 million this weekend and $5.6 million in its first five days in theaters. The studio paid roughly $2 million for the rights along with promotion and advertising costs. The break-even point is at approximately $15 million, making it a low-risk investment.
Among art house players, Sony Pictures Classics' coming-of-age drama "Diary of a Teenage Girl" earned $54,525 on four screens, with a per screen average of $13,631, while IFC expanded World War II thriller "Phoenix" from four to 27 screens
The top five was rounded out by Warner Bros.' "Vacation" with $9.1 million and Disney and Marvel's "Ant-Man" with $7.8 million, pushing their totals to $37.3 million and $147.4 million, respectively.
Final numbers are still being tallied, but the overall box office will be down steeply compared to the same weekend a year ago, as none of the new films could match the $65.6 million debut of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" or the $42.1million second weekend of "Guardians of the Galaxy." It's the second straight week of declines, a sign that ticket sales are slowing down entering the dog days of summer.