'Rock the Kasbah,' 'Jem and the Holograms' hit wrong notes at box office

'The Martian' triumphed at the box office this weekend while new releases like 'Jem,' 'Kasbah,' and 'The Last Witch Hunter' all struggled. What made audiences stay away?

Kerry Brown/Open Road Films/AP
'Rock the Kasbah' stars Bill Murray.

New releases such as “Jem and the Holograms,” “Rock the Kasbah,” and “The Last Witch Hunter” fared poorly at the box office this past weekend, allowing less-recent movies such as “The Martian” and “Goosebumps” to triumph. 

The new movie that performed the best was the supernatural film “The Last Witch Hunter,” which stars Vin Diesel as a man who is hundreds of years old and who must stop his enemies from destroying New York City. While it performed the best of the new movies, “Hunter” still came in only at fourth place, grossing almost $11 million domestically. 

First place went to “The Martian,” which opened on Oct. 2. The movie, which stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars, earned very positive reviews and has topped the box office for multiple weeks. This weekend, it grossed almost $16 million.

Meanwhile, “Goosebumps,” which stars Jack Black and is based on the spooky children’s series of the same name, placed second, grossing more than $15 million. The film opened last week at No. 1 at the box office .

Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” which stars Tom Hanks and centers on Cold War politics, came in third, grossing more than $11 million this past weekend. It had opened earlier this month as well.

The other movies debuting this weekend grossed even less than “Hunter.” The possible Oscar contender “Steve Jobs” went into wide release this past weekend (it opened in limited release on Oct. 9) but it grossed only a little more than $7 million this past weekend. 

Other new movies didn’t even make the list of the top 10. “Rock the Kasbah,” which stars Bill Murray as a music manager who travels to Afghanistan, grossed only $1.5 million. And “Jem and the Holograms,” a movie version of the 1980s animated TV series about a group of young women who form a band, took in just $1.3 million.

What accounted for the lack of tickets sold, especially for “Hunter,” “Kasbah,” and “Jem”?

All three received reviews warning audiences to stay away. "Hunter" was not based on a pre-existing story, though it did star "Furious 7" actor Vin Diesel. The only name recognition “Kasbah” had was Murray. But the box office performance of some of Murray’s recent films has been mixed. This year’s movie “Aloha” also did poorly at the box office, as did 2014's "The Monuments Men," though 2014's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "St. Vincent" did better.

As for “Jem,” fans of the cartoon series apparently stayed away from the movie adaptation. This may have been because they saw trailers for the movie, which show a very different plot from the original TV series. In the original show, protagonist Jem, or Jerrica, used a holographic computer called Synergy to make herself look like a pop star.

But in the new movie, Jem is discovered via YouTube, and the part of the story involving Synergy includes a plotline in which the band must find missing parts for the machine, a significant deviation from the original story. After hearing about these changes, the negative reviews for the movie may have confirmed the decision of fans of the cartoon series to stay away.

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