Marking a misstep for one of the world's top stars, Will Smith's sci-fi adventure After Earth narrowly lost to magician heist pic Now You See Me in one of the most surprising box office battles in recent memory.Sony's After Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, took in $27 million in its North American debut, compared to $28.1 million for Now You See Me, from Summit Entertainment.
Universal's Fast & Furious 6 beat both films to stay at No. 1 in its second weekend, declining 65 percent to $34.5 million for a stellar domestic cume of $170.3 million. The action pic earned another $75 million overseas for a dazzling worldwide total of $480.6 million.
Heading into the weekend, After Earth was expected to easily outpace Now You See Me with a $35 million to $40 million opening, still one of the lowest numbers for a summer film starring Smith, but in line with Tom Cruise's sci-fi adventure Oblivion.
STORY: 'After Earth' as Scientology Propaganda: What Critics Are Saying
Hindered by dismal reviews and a B CinemaScore, After Earth vastly underperformed. The pic -- starring Smith opposite his son, Jaden -- will now need to make a strong showing overseas if it is to make up its $130 million budget, plus a major marketing spend.
After Earth is a passion project for Smith, who came up with the idea for the story and helped tap Shyamalan to direct the film for Sony. The actor's character sits out much of the action in the film, with the younger Smith taking top billing. Numerous reviewers raising parallels between the film and Scientology.
Now You See Me, designed to serve as counterprogramming to summer studio fare, wasn't expected to open much past $20 million. Directed by Louis Leterrier, the indie pic's ensemble cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.
The film, receiving an A- CinemaScore, cost just north of $75 million to produce, with much of the budget offset by foreign presales.
Warner Bros. and Legendary's The Hangover Part III tumbled 62 percent in its second weekend to place No. 6, grossing $15.9 million for a disappointing domestic total of $88.1 million.
See Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco tell Yahoo! Movies about "Now You See Me"...
See Jaden and Will Smith talk to Yahoo! Movies about "After Earth"... Twitter: @PamelaDayM