Does 'After Earth' end reign of Mr. Box Office?

Does 'After Earth' end reign of Mr. Box Office?
Film star Will Smith gestures as he attend at a photocall for the film After Earth in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - It used to be that if a summer flick starred Will Smith, it was a guaranteed moneymaker: First place at the box office, maybe a franchise in the making.

But the 44-year-old actor's latest film opened with a thud.

"After Earth," a futuristic action-adventure co-starring Smith's 14-year-old son, Jaden, debuted in third place, collecting a disappointing $27.5 million over the weekend.

"It's tough because we're very proud of the film," said Sony's president of worldwide distribution, Rory Bruer.

Box-office analysts had predicted the sci-fi tale that cost an estimated $130 million to make would open just behind the international street-racing romp "Fast & Furious 6," which held onto the top spot with $35.2 million after its huge debut last week. Instead, second place went to Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment's "Now You See Me," which exceeded expectations with $29.25 million. The magic-heist thriller's ensemble cast includes Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo.

"When you're a Tom Cruise or Will Smith, there are huge expectations placed on a movie that are not placed on an ensemble," said Paul Dergarabedian of box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "It just shows you how competitive the summer marketplace is and star power isn't necessarily what gets you there."

Based on a story by Smith, "After Earth" follows a father and son stranded on an abandoned Earth after a crash landing. Dad is injured, so the son must overcome his fear and brave the planet's dangerous creatures and conditions to get help.

The film was deemed "rotten" by review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com, with only 12 percent of critics offering praise.

"Quite simply, this is one of the worst films of 2013," Richard Roeper wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The poor reception by critics and fans also hurts director M. Night Shyamalan, whose last several films flopped. Sony spokesman Jeff Blake called the director "a world-class filmmaker" in a recent statement, but Shyamalan was notably absent from "After Earth" marketing and promotions.

"Shyamalan is clearly a director-for-hire here," Scott Foundas wrote in Variety, "his disinterest palpable from first frame to last."

Sony's president of distribution said the studio still has high hopes for the film internationally as it expands to 60 more countries Friday. Said Bruer: "We're still feeling confident that as the film plays out throughout the world, we're going to be absolutely fine."