"Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" couldn't find absolution at the multiplex over the weekend as the neo-noir sequel from Robert Rodriguez and Miller utterly bombed, grossing just $6.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, way down in eighth place.
The paltry opening put "Dame" behind "Guardians of the Galaxy" in its fourth weekend, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in its third, newcomers "If I Stay" and "When the Game Stands Tall," and even last week's notable flop, "The Expendables 3." The "Dame" delivered a fraction of its predecessor, "Sin City," which bowed to $29 million.
What went wrong? Here are five of the film's sins.
Striking while the iron is cold: The first "Sin City" was a surprise success back in 2005, grossing more than $158 million at the worldwide box office, but it took nearly a decade for a follow-up to capitalize on its popularity.
Erik Lomis, head of distribution for the Weinstein Co., cited the nine-year gap as a reason for "Dame" tanking. He told The Times, "The first thing that your gut says is it took too long to get it on the screen. I think when the first one came out, it was unique, it was different, it was a really cool concept and clearly people didn't think that about this. It didn't resonate."
Worth a second look? As Lomis indicated, the original "Sin City" was a uniquely striking film with its high-contrast black-and-white imagery and gritty action, both ripped from the pages of Miller's comics. In recent years, however, other films have taken similar aesthetics and pushed them forward.
Movies such as "300," "Watchmen" and "300: Rise of an Empire" have splashed comic-book panels on the big screen, while blockbusters such as "Avatar" and "Gravity" have put actors into eye-popping digitally created environments. That's not to mention the countless dark superhero movies that have come to dominate the box office. By the time "A Dame to Kill For" finally showed up, it looked and felt familiar, and not in a good way.
Word on the street: Critics weren't impressed by "A Dame to Kill For," panning the film as vapid and violent. Once again, that's in contrast to the original film, which boasts a "78% fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with 44% for "Dame."
And although critical approval isn't a requirement for box-office prosperity, audiences who did turn out to see "Dame" weren't enthusiastic about it either, assigning it a lackluster CinemaScore of B-, indicating bad word-of-mouth.
Muddled marketing: The most notable moment in the publicity campaign for "A Dame to Kill For" came in May when the MPAA banned a poster of Eva Green, who plays the titular dame, for being too risque. Other than that headline-grabbing moment, the Weinstein Co.'s marketing failed to capture the public's attention.
Attempts to highlight the movie's steely-but-sexy women couldn't elevate "Dame" over the female-driven drama "If I Stay," and young male audiences seemed to prefer "Guardians" and "Ninja Turtles."
The Rodriguez rut: "A Dame to Kill For" continues co-director Rodriguez's cinematic cold streak. He hasn't made a movie that crossed the $40-million mark domestically since the original "Sin City," and his two most recent films were also underwhelming sequels: "Machete Kills" and "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World." Rodriguez may well get his mojo back, but it won't be with "A Dame to Kill For."