Splinter-limbed Scott Pilgrim would have killed for an opening like "Red's." But then, in 2010, a wiry Michael Cera can't mobilize Operation: Box Office the way a wily veteran like Bruce Willis does.
It's the Year of the Dependable Expendable. When it comes to recent comics-style fare, the grizzled senior has it all over peach-fuzzed prep seniors.
Willis and his fellow AARP-set assassins -- including Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich -- drew demographic-spanning audiences to "Red," which grossed an estimated $22.5-million in its domestic debut at this weekend's box office, according to boxofficemojo.com. (Malkovich also co-stars in "Secretariat," the week's No.-4 film at $9.5-million.)
The debuting "Jackass 3-D" won the weekend with an estimated $50-million -- beating "Scary Movie 3's" record ($48.1-million) for a fall opening; final numbers are expected Monday.
Willis was also in the surprise hit "The Expendables," which won the box office in August, soundly delivering a roundhouse to Cera's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," based on the Bryan Lee O'Malley comic books.
Both O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" and "Red" opened in the wake of serious fanboy anticipation, high San Diego Comic-Con profiles and solid-if-not-spectacular critical praise. But "Red," like "The Expendables," taps the decades of attachment that fans have with its graying/balding cast members, who also include Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox and Ernest Borgnine. ("Scott Pilgrim" -- about a 20something's gamer-style battles with a woman's evil ex-boyfriends -- took two weeks to hit the $20-million mark.)
"Red's" distributor, Summit Entertainment, said 53-percent of the film's audience was male and 58 percent was older than 34, according to boxofficemojo.
"RED" stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous," the stamp on the CIA file of Willis's former black-ops agent, Frank Moses. The film is based on the Warren Ellis (writer)/Cully Hamner (artist) series from DC Comics's WildStorm imprint Homage. DC recently announced that it will shutter WildStorm.
On Saturday, Ellis wrote on his blog: "I have a sneaking suspicion the [box office] numbers might even out at $23M for the weekend. But I'll take $21M."
Ellis also blogged: "Nikki Finke also says something in public that I wasn't cleared to, so I'm just going to quote her":
"I hear the film's negative cost is around $58 million after subsidies are realized; but because Summit always licenses its films out to distributors in territories around the globe, the upstart studio's financial exposure on the budget is only under $20 million."
"What this means," Ellis continued, "is that, in broad terms, the picture will have earned out what it cost to make and market it in a few weeks. I am sick with the Komodo Dragon Hantavirus, but I am at peace."
"Red" currently has an average critics' score of 70-percent on RottenTomatoes.com, and its audience score is 77-percent.
Post critic Ann Hornaday writes in her review of "Red": "The one-liners zing right along with the bullets in a playful pas de deux of mayhem, misdirection and mordant humor."