For months, the ad campaign behind this weekend's experimental ensemble comedy asked filmgoers: What is Movie 43?
Now we know: a flop.
The collection of gross-out shorts, directed by big names like Elizabeth Banks and Brett Ratner and featuring Oscar-caliber actors including Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts, couldn't muster much excitement this weekend, collecting $5 million and just seventh place, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com.
The debut fell well below expectations and posed no threat to the latest craze in Hollywood: updated fairy tales. The latest, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, topped the box office with $19 million.
Movie 43's performance wasn't a complete surprise, as critics and fans pummeled the movie the moment it hit theaters. Only 5% of the nation's critics liked it, while only 43% of filmgoers said they could recommend it, says pollster Rottentomatoes.com.
Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.com says the film tried "to attract older teens and young adults with bold, R-rated humor and a head-scratching mix of stars." But word of mouth doomed the movie.
Not so Hansel & Gretel, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton.
While it didn't fare much better with reviewers - 17% gave it a thumbs-up - 69% of fans liked it, giving it enough momentum to meet analysts' expectations.
The horror film Mama took second place with $12.9 million, while the best-picture Oscar nominee Silver Linings Playbook was third with $10 million.
Another Academy Award hopeful, the Osama bin Laden story Zero Dark Thirty, continued its strong run, capturing $9.8 million and fourth place.
The Jason Statham/Jennifer Lopez action flick Parker rounded out the top five with $7 million, also meeting most projections.
Final figures are out Monday.
Despite the weekend's critical turkeys, 2013 maintained its healthy start from the gate. Ticket sales and attendance are up 10% over the same period last year, Hollywood.com says.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)