‘Fast & Furious 6′ Stays #1 As ‘After Earth’ Crashes

Big-budget Will Smith epic is savaged by critics and performs even more poorly than expected.

“Fast & Furious 6″ became the first entry in the franchise to hold on to the #1 box-office spot for two consecutive weekends, but it was the weekend’s #3 film that dominated the headlines.

Big-budget sci-fi epic “After Earth” marked a spectacular crash-landing for one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Savaged by critics (who dismissed it as a “vanity project” at best or Scientologist propaganda at worst), “After Earth” gave the always bankable Will Smith an opening more on par with “Wild Wild West” than “I Am Legend,” “Hancock” or any of his three “Men in Black” films.

The $27 million collected by “After Earth” since it opened last Thursday was even lower than most analysts had predicted , which not only allowed “Fast & Furious 6″ to hold on to the top spot but made room for ensemble flick “Now You See Me” to sneak in at #2. With another $34.5 million in receipts over the weekend, “Fast 6″ has now grossed $170.4 million domestically, while “Now You See Me,” a crime flick about a group of magicians, over-performed with a $28.1 million debut.

Smith has a story credit on “After Earth,” conceived as a vehicle for himself and his teenage
son, Jaden
, and co-produced through his Overbrook Entertainment. Co-writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has suffered plenty of critical and commercial lumps of his own since the halcyon days of “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable” (which has a sequel in development ). With a reported production budget of $135 million, “After Earth” will have to do big business overseas, as the domestic opening was even lower than last year’s infamous sci-fi flop “John Carter.” Previously announced sequel possibilities with new co-financer/co-producer Virgin Produced seem less likely to happen now.

Speaking of sequels, “The Hangover III” dropped 62 percent with $14.9 million during its second weekend. This gives the Wolfpack’s final adventure a domestic total of $88 million, less than half of what the similarly panned “Hangover Part II” had done in the same 11-day period in 2011.

The weekend’ s #1 film of course already has a follow-up in the pipeline, as a seventh “Fast & Furious” film was teased with an “Easter egg” scene in “6″ and is speeding toward a summer 2014 release date. At press time, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and non-sequel “Epic” were tied for #4 with an estimated $16.4 million haul for each. “Into Darkness” has now made more than $181.1 million domestically; kid-friendly flick “Epic” has earned $65.1 million in two weeks.

This weekend will see the “Wedding Crashers” team of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunited in “The Internship”; Ethan Hawke in “The Purge”; “Marvel’s The Avengers” maestro Joss Whedon’s low-key contemporary take on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”; and Joel Edgerton in the critically acclaimed “Wish You Were Here.” The following week, “Fast & Furious” will have to make way for “Man of Steel” even as Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and plenty more of their friends play themselves in the horror/comedy “This Is the End,” which has already received a solid review from Variety.