Brad Pitt wasn't killing them softly so much as boring them stiffly.
Pitt's crime story Killing Them Softly flatlined at theaters this weekend, mustering just $7 million and seventh place, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com.
Despite featuring the biggest star on the planet and earning strong reviews, the drama couldn't get a bead on audiences. Forecasters projected that the film, facing no new major competition, would do nearly twice the business it did with at least $13 million.
"Star power can only go so far," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com. Briody adds that Pitt "has never been an automatic draw."
Indeed, the actor's willingness to do small and independent films makes him more a guarantee of magazine sales than box-office returns.
Before Softly, Pitt had done 33 films for an average of $66 million, according to Box Office Mojo. By comparison, Gary Oldman (who benefited from the Batman franchise) has done 32 movies for an average of $86 million. Eddie Murphy's 38 movies have averaged $100 million, while Ben Affleck's 32 movies took in about $51 million apiece, the site says.
Despite earning a thumbs-up from 78% of critics, Rottentomatoes.com says, audiences weren't as kind. Only 65% of moviegoers liked it, the site says, while other polled viewers gave it an "F," according to CinemaScore.
Some analysts expected Pitt to give a boost to the $15 million film, much like he did last year with the $19 million Moneyball, which would do $75 million and earn six Oscar nominations, including a best-actor nomination for Pitt.
But history would not repeat itself. Todd Cunningham of trade site Thewrap.com says that the film's date change from Oct. 19 to a traditionally slow weekend "didn't help."
The post-Thanksgiving weekend, which is typically lethargic at the multiplex as kids who have been on break gear up for school, was ruled by holdovers.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 took the top spot for the third straight weekend with $17.4 million. The final installment of the vampire love story has done $254.6 million.
Skyfall, the 23rd chapter of the James Bond series, took second place with $17 million. It has raked in $246 million since its release Nov. 9.
Lincoln earned $13.5 million, just edging out Rise of the Guardians for third. Ang Lee's Life of Pi, which did $12 million, rounded out the top five. Final figures are expected Monday.
The only other wide release, the horror story The Collection, managed just $3.4 million and 10th place.
Despite the middling weekend, attendance and revenues for 2012 remain up 6% over the same period last year, Hollywood.com says.