Few sparks from romantic melodrama

13 April, 2015 by Don Groves

The once-winning Nicholas Sparks formula of a young couple’s quest for love being derailed by illness, death or other misfortune seems to be losing its allure at cinemas.

The Longest Ride, a romantic melodrama based on Sparks’ 2013 novel, rang up $1.45 million on 220 screens, including previews, last weekend.


That’s better than the anaemic $758,000 debut last year of The Best of Me, which ended up with $2.2 million,  but it's debatable whether the film will have the legs to match previous Sparks adaptations such as The Notebook (which made $6.4 million back in 2004) and Nights in Rodanthe  ($4.55 million in 2008).

The Longest Ride follows the star-crossed love affair between Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint), a former champion rodeo rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophie (Britt Robertson), a college student who's about to embark on her dream job in New York City's art world.

Alan Alda is along for the ride as Ira, a widower who, recovering from a car accident, inspires the couple by reading a collection of letters recounting his courtship and marriage to his late wife.

The weekend B.O. dropped by 21% after the Easter holidays, tallying $21.6 million according to Rentrak’s estimates, as six titles each earned more than $1 million.

Year-to-date, grosses are up 19% on 2014 but that doesn’t include the figures from Easter last year, which was a week later.

Fast & Furious 7 motored through its second lap, grabbing $7.7 million, down 47%, a remarkably sturdy hold after notching the fifth-highest opening weekend of all time, propelling its haul to $30.3 million, streaking past the lifetime cume of the sixth edition.

In the US, Furious 7 notched $US60.6 million (off 59%) to reach $252.5 million in 10 days, already ranking as the franchise’s highest earner.

In Oz, Disney’s Cinderella slipped by 5% to $3 million in its third frame, raking in $15.5 million so far, while Fox/DreamWorks Animation’s Home fetched $2.7 million in its fourth, banking $13 million.

Kids kept flocking to SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge out of Water, which climbed to $5.2 million after earning $1.5 million in its second weekend, and Shaun the Sheep, which reached $3.8 million after pocketing $1 million in its third.

The diminishing art house market, however, proved inhospitable to four debutantes. X + Y, Morgan Matthews’ autism-themed drama starring Asa Butterfield and Sally Hawkins, took $105,000 on 35 screens, with previews.

Black Sea, Kevin Macdonald’s submarine thriller featuring Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy, surfaced with $38,000 on 18.

Mommy, Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s melodrama starring Anne Dorval as a widowed single mother struggling to raise her ADHD-afflicted son, brought in $15,000 at seven cinemas.

The Salt of the Earth, a portrait of the work of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, co-directed by his son Juliano and Wim Wenders, snapped $12,500 at two sites, but with festival screenings it's collected $102,000.