If there is a “box office trend,” it cannot be reversed by the success of one or two or three movies. You see, that would negate the presumption of there being a trend at all. This is one of the hard parts of covering box office for journalists, especially for those without much history of doing so… box office is neither weather nor sports. Have you ever read a sports writer talking about the history of a team as though there is a new manager/head coach or 40% or more of the team has been turned over… as though the uniforms are out there playing? This is a false narrative. Likewise, the idea that change in the weather somehow colors the entire season that has already occurred or which can and will often change on the day.
So… Lucy. Far and away the biggest opening for Scarlett Johansson outside of The Marvel Universe. It’s was little surprising, looking back at her numbers. If you discount He’s Just Not That Into You as a group movie, The Prestige as a Jackman & Bale movie, The Horse Whisperer as her first film and a Redford movie, and Just Cause as Connery/Fishburne – and I think that is all more than fair – you realize that she has never led or been Top 3 in a movie that’s opened over $10 million.
It’s a little mind-blowing, really. The machinery around this young woman and the media hyperventilation is remarkable. And we are finding out, more and more, that she is actually a talented actress with serious aspirations about the work, not just a blonde with puffy lips and big boobs. Ironically, Lucy, which is, to its core, a genre movie, continues to make the case for Johansson as a quality actress. It was interesting talking to Luc Besson about her…
Anyway… here is one of those great twisty stats. Lucy will be the #2 all-time late July opening for an original film behind only The Village, which could be argued was a title in the Shyamalan franchise, empowered by his previous smash hit, Signs. So in that context, this is a huge success. Since the first couple of weekends of July are considered the sweet spot, you don’t see a lot of big openings in the second half of July and the ones that venture there come with a pedigree. Parts 2 and 3 in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Simpsons, Austin Powers 2, Burton’s Apes, the 1st Captain America, Mangold’s Wolverine, Jurassic 3. These films and the Shyamalan are the only ones out ahead of Lucy in this release window. (And for the record, the choices the industry makes about when it releases movies is much more trackable than the box office fates of specific movies in specific years.)
Hercules is more on the Apes reboot tip. But the number will be more like the Lone Ranger or Wild Wild West reboots. Both of those films had the crap killed out of them for being very, very expensive and starring the hottest actors on the planet at their retrospective moments. The Rock is a real star, but not that star. Funders on the film surely looked not only at The Rock’s numbers, but international on movies like Clash of The Titans which did $330m international and even the sequel, Wrath, which did $220m international.Domestic will be okay. $100m is not out of the question. But the win or loss on the film will be in the international market… $200m minimum ($300m ww) before this isn’t seen as a mistake.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will pass Rise next weekend, domestically, it would seem. But we’re still waiting on international to load up, thanks to the World Cup. So only judging domestic… a bit of a disappointment, given the bigger opening on this one and another round of rave reviews. Still a likely success, but maybe a franchise with a glass ceiling.
It tells you a lot that studios are now handing out weekend estimates for international box office on Friday night/Saturday morning… nothing good about journalism or a strong interest in the detailed truth when it comes to these numbers. Nonetheless, Paramount has projected a $202 million international weekend for Transformers 4, driven primarily by China and a pre-estimated $92m opening weekend gross. This pretty much guarantees the first billion-dollar worldwide gross of 2014. As noted before, Chinese grosses should probably start being discounted significantly in box office coverage, especially when they are such a large percentage of the overall number. Why? Nothing against Transformers or any other film, but Chinese box office grosses return less than half of what other markets return to the distributor. But that detailed reporting (which is so easy) won’t be happening anytime soon, so…
Woody Allen’s seventh release by Sony Classics is opening a lot like their 2012 release, To Rome With Love… if a little softer in that its one more screens (17 vs 5). SPC seems to have found a “new normal” with Allen, grossing low teens with the not-sensational ones and doing serious numbers for arthouse with the ones people love. This trend is actually not new for Allen, but the lows are less low and the highs are higher.