On one hand, Ender's Game opened No. 1 at the weekend box office. On the other hand, Ender's Game grossed almost exactly as much as Will Smith's After Earth did when that sci-fi summer movie "bombed."
So, did a more-than-yearlong boycott campaign, which called out Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card for his anti-gay-marriage writings and work, make a dent or not?
"'Skip Ender's Game' was a grassroots campaign with the primary goal of raising awareness of [Card's] activism against the LGBT community," Patrick Yacco of Geeks OUT said via email. "To that end, we succeeded."
Geeks OUT, a pop-culture-focused lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group, issued the boycott call in April 2012, as the film was ramping up. At the time, Ender's Game, based on Card's popular young-adult, sci-fi novel, was a hot property. Wall Street saw the film, which landed Harrison Ford as its star, as another potential blockbuster franchise for Lionsgate following the studio's successes with Twilight and The Hunger Games.
The boycott storyline stayed with Ender's Game, finally prompting Lionsgate to release a statement denouncing Card's views and touting its own LGBT credentials.
On Sunday, the studio was mum, neither touting Ender's Game's box-office win nor offering its take on the impact (or not) of the boycott.
The weekend numbers tell this story: The reputedly $110 million Ender's Game grossed an estimated $28 million. The three-day domestic take was on the high end of projections, and was more than enough to assert itself as the top holiday-season movie out of the gate. It was in line with the starts for the $115 million Elysium and the $130 million After Earth, to name two other recent sci-fi films. Elysium had box-office legs; After Earth didn't.
Exit polling showed that people who saw Ender's Game over the weekend liked it; the movie's CinemaScore grade was a B-plus. The audience was mostly male (58 percent) as might be expected of a sci-fi film; the audience was mostly Hollywood-old (54 percent of moviegoers were age 25 and above) as might not be expected of a movie pegged to be the next Hunger Games.
"Ender's Game I believe was unfairly excepted to be the next Hunger Games by some who figured that since it was a Lionsgate release and had appeal to young adults that it somehow would replicate the astronomical success of that franchise—a very high bar indeed," box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak said in an email.
Yacco said he guessed the film's mixed reviews were a factor in the film's mixed box-office performance.
"But our campaign made Ender's Game a truly controversial project," Yacco said, "and it's almost impossible to deny our efforts as playing a role in the film's returns."
In the end, the success of Ender's Game will be defined by the answer to two questions: Will the movie still be standing after Thor: The Dark World opens on Friday; and, will a sequel be produced?
As Ender's Game director Gavid Hood told the Los Angeles Times, "We've got a complicated film here."