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Why did 'Our Brand Is Crisis,' 'Burnt' flop at the box office?

For the second weekend in a row, new movies didn't hit at the box office, with new releases 'Brand' and 'Burnt' grossing far less than holdovers like 'The Martian' and 'Goosebumps.' Why didn't these movies find an audience?

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    'Burnt' stars Bradley Cooper.
    Alex Bailey/The Weinstein Company/AP
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The end of October brought another underwhelming weekend for new releases at the box office, with new films like “Burnt” and “Our Brand Is Crisis” performing poorly this past weekend.

The new movie “Burnt,” which stars Bradley Cooper as a chef, grossed only $5 million this past weekend, coming in fifth at the domestic box office.

“Our Brand Is Crisis,” which stars Sandra Bullock as a political consultant who travels to Bolivia to work on a presidential campaign, grossed even less this past weekend, taking in only $3.4 million. By way of comparison, it grossed less than “The Last Witch Hunter,” which opened last weekend and was viewed as performing poorly.

The lack of returns from these new movies meant films that opened earlier this month were still ruling the box office. “The Martian,” which opened in early October, grossed more than $11 million this past weekend, to come in at first place, while the kids’ book series adaptation “Goosebumps” came in second, grossing more than $10 million. Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama “Bridge of Spies” came in third, grossing more than $8 million, followed by the spooky animated movie “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which grossed more than $5 million and came in fourth.

What was behind the underwhelming performance of “Our Brand” and “Burnt”? Both received negative reviews, so the star power of Cooper and Bullock were possibly not enough to draw moviegoers. In addition, Halloween celebrations this year most likely happened on Friday and Saturday night, since the holiday fell on a Saturday, leaving many potential moviegoers were otherwise engaged. And neither "Brand" nor "Burnt" is a Halloween-themed movie, so it wouldn't have been a festive option if people wanted to head to the multiplex. 

In addition, “The Martian” and “Goosebumps” simply may have had a wider audience appeal. “Burnt” and “Brand” are both movies aimed at an adult audience and are marketed around the performance of their leads rather than big special effects or any literary source material. “The Martian” is a crowd-pleaser, with its inspiring narrative and the special effects used to create the many space- and Mars-set scenes. Meanwhile, “Goosebumps” is a family movie that can prompt nostalgia from a Millennial audience and has a simple and entertaining enough concept (scary creatures from books coming to life) that the film can also bring in families unfamiliar with the books. 

If “Burnt” or “Brand” had gotten positive reviews, they could have drawn older moviegoers looking for a quieter movie than “The  Martian.”

But Spielberg’s “Bridge,” which doesn’t have the big effects or well-known story of such previous movies of his as “Lincon” or “War Horse,” was aiming for the same audience and since “Bridge” was better received critically, these moviegoers most likely headed for Spielberg’s movie rather than either of this weekend’s new releases.

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