Public sentiment aligned with critical disapproval for Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi spectacle as Chappie delivered an anaemic estimated $13.3m debut via Columbia Pictures.

The result marked a low point for the South African-Canadian director despite being his third number one debut in a row.

District 9, the film that came out of nowhere and established Blomkamp’s reputation, grossed $38.4m from 3,049 venues in August 2009 while Elysium took $29.8m from 3,284 in August 2013.

Chappie, which stars Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and the voice of Sharlto Copley, led a weak North American top 12 that trailed last weekend by 15.4% and the comparable 2014 session by 40% when 300: Rise of An Empire opened top on $45m.

Roughly $2m of Chappie’s gross came from 358 Imax screens.

Fox Searchlight’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel debuted well enough in third place on $8.6m from 1,573 sites and features Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel and Richard Gere.

The 2012 original opened in limited release and went on to amass $46.4m in North America and $136.8m worldwide.

Fox’s Vince Vaughn comedy Unfinished Business flopped at number 10 on $4.8m from 2,777 theatres.

Warner Bros’ caper Focus with Will Smith and Margot Robbie slipped to number two in its second session on $10m for $34.6m.

Two releases stand on the cusp of milestones. Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service ranks fourth on $98m after four sessions and Paramount’s children’s hit The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water ranks fifth on $148.9m after five.

Still Alice starring Academy Award winner Julianne Moore has grossed nearly half its total since February 22 Oscar night. The film fell three places to number 12, adding $1.7m from 1,197 for $14.7m.

The Pantelion Films comedy A La Mala added $850,000 for $2.6m in its second weekend via Lionsgate.

SPC opened its global warming polemic Merchants Of Doubt on $20,300 from four sites and An Honest Liar arrived via Abramorama on $15,000 from two.

This week’s wide releases are: Disney’s Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter; and the Warner Bros thriller Run All Night that reunites Liam Neeson with his Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra.

Estimated top 10 North America Mar 6-8 2015
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Chappie (Columbia) SPRI $13.3m –

2 (1) Focus (Warner Bros) WBPI $10m $34.6m

3 (-) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Fox International $8.6m –

4 (2) Kingsman: The Secret Service (Fox) Fox International $8.3m $98m

5 (3) The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (Paramount) PPI $7m $148.9m

6 (4) Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal-Focus) UPI $5.6m $156.4m

7 (6) McFarland, USA (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $5.3m $29.4m

8 (5) The Lazarus Effect (Relativity) Lionsgate International $5.1m $17.4m

9 (8) The DUFF (CBS/Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $4.9m $26.1m

10 (-) Unfinished Business (Fox) Fox International $4.8m –