'Ant-Man' triumphs over 'Pixels' in close box office race

'Ant-Man' just managed to triumph over the Adam Sandler comedy 'Pixels' this weekend, while the animated movie 'Minions' and the Amy Schumer comedy 'Trainwreck' held on in third and fourth place. The teen movie 'Paper Towns' performed less well, coming in at sixth place.

George Kraychyk/Sony Pictures/AP
'Pixels' stars Adam Sandler (second from l.), Peter Dinklage (r.), Josh Gad (second from r.), and Michelle Monaghan (l.).

Adam Sandler and assorted video game characters couldn’t take down the newest Marvel superhero at the box office this weekend.

Sandler’s new movie “Pixels,” which stars Sandler, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad as video game champions fighting real versions of classic video game personalities, opened at the box office this weekend but came in second to “Ant-Man,” the new Marvel comic book movie starring Paul Rudd. It was a very close battle, however; “Ant-Man” grossed $24.8 million over the weekend, while “Pixels” debuted with $24 million.

The effects-heavy film was a change of pace for Sandler compared to such previous summer releases like 2013’s “Grown Ups 2” or 2012’s “That’s My Boy,” neither of which involved anything approaching the effects of the giant Donkey Kong or Pac-Man seen in “Pixels.” This means that there’s more pressure for “Pixels” to do well at the box office to make up its budget. 

In addition, “Pixels” was very poorly received by critics. One notable film that succeeded this summer despite negative reviews was “Jurassic World,” which recently became the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time. However, though it didn’t get overwhelmingly positive reviews, some critics noted that the movie had good points like the performance of actor Chris Pratt, while others wrote that it still has “old-fashioned Saturday matinee-like pleasures.” By comparison, few critics could find much to praise for “Pixels.” In addition, Sandler has had several recent misfires at the box office – the 2014 romantic comedy “Blended” did not do well, nor did 2012’s “That’s My Boy” or 2011’s “Jack and Jill,” though his 2013 comedy “Grown Ups 2” performed better. 

As for the rest of the films this weekend, the animated “Despicable Me” spin-off “Minions” hung on in third place and Amy Schumer’s comedy “Trainwreck” came in fourth place this weekend. Meanwhile, the new release “Southpaw,” which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer, came in fifth, grossing more than $16 million. The drama performed well against such summer tentpoles as “Ant-Man” and “Pixels.”

Meanwhile, the film “Paper Towns,” which is based on the young adult novel of the same name by John Green, opened in sixth place with more than $12 million. The film “The Fault in Our Stars,” which debuted last summer and was also based on a book by Green, grossed far more in its opening weekend, taking in $48 million. 

What accounts for the lower performance of “Towns”? Some teenagers, the movie’s target audience, may have headed for “Pixels.” When “Fault” opened in 2014, it went up against the Tom Cruise action film “Edge of Tomorrow,” which was obviously a much different film from the teen drama "Fault." By contrast, 62 percent of the audience for “Pixels” was under the age of 25 this past weekend – it had some success drawing in younger moviegoers. “Edge” only brought in 27 percent of moviegoers under 25 when it opened.

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