A weird weekend. Fury is a win, for sure. It’s a better number than some expected, but it’s not a sensational Brad Pitt opening or a giant commercial number. It’s good. (First person who mentions Cinemascore as though it matters gets shot.) There was a sense going into the week that the film was going to underperform and that it was out of the awards race as a result. That presumption can no longer be made. This launch is about 20% better than Moneyball, which got 6 nominations. So a hard push for the movie, the screenplay, Ayer’s direction, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt – if he’ll push – and a slew of below-the-line nominations (sound, costume, and production design, particularly) can be expected.
Gone Girl remains solid, dropping under 35% again. There was a sense of waning Oscar prospects there, too… that may be turned around as the film heads north of $150m domestic, by far Fincher’s biggest commercial hit.
The Book of Life, a personal beloved, got off to a weak start for an animated film. As noted before, I think Fox was shy about the age issue on the film – which they had no reason to be – and also didn’t sell as intensely to girls as they might have. It really is a love story. For all the very, very, very smart people in big studio marketing departments, movies that get a little complex are often a problem for them. You would think it wasn’t so, but it keeps getting proved, over and over and over again.
Speaking of which, the board looks a bit painful for Warner Bros lately. There is no question that the studio is great with big movies. But right now, they have The Judge, This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, and The Good Lie all underperforming. (The decent number on Dolphin 2
is 20% behind where the first film was at this point.) The only hit is Annabelle, a horror movie. But more so, no other studio has as many films on the big board this week. Fox and Sony each have 3. Disney and Par, 2. Universal only 1. Every movie has its own life and there have certainly been times when WB having a lot of movies in play has worked well. But with the studio in some transition again, at least strategically on spending, you have to wonder whether the further avoidance of middle and small movies will be a natural reaction for the company moving forward.
Warner Bros has four more movies left to release in this calendar year. One is a guaranteed mega-hit (Hobbit 3). One is a sequel to a cash cow (Horrible Bosses 2) that was driven by brilliant marketing the first time around, so expect big profits there. There is an Eastwood movie (American Sniper), which looks commercial, though awards people are hopeful as well. And there is the challenging title, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a comedy that seems to be made for the very smart and those who think they are very smart. It’s going to be an excellent quarter for WB… but the story to look at will be whether they can get Vice past the $20m mark domestically. The future of smaller films at the studio may depend on it.
One last note. I have to laugh at those who are so dazzled by Marvel/Disney’s commercial success that they assume that Batman vs Superman is guaranteed to be a lightweight in comparison to Captain America 3… now with Downey! They assume that because Superman did okay, but not a billion, that it’s soft. But Batman is the key and that is why he has top billing. Batman films still own the #4 and #5 all-time best openings and of the 5 other Batman films, 3 were the biggest opening weekends in history when they happened. Warner Bros knows what it is doing with Batman. 100% The only opening of the franchise that can be remotely considered soft was Batman Begins, which was a reboot.
Warner Bros really needs a team that specializes in the smaller and middle budget movies that require more intimate hand-holding. It’s not a slap about the team that’s there. It is just the reality that it is rare that a team that does big releases is equality expert with smaller films that are more challenging. This was the real – and long lost – value of Warner Independent as a concept. Paramount is really the only big studio team in town that shrinks well, but a lot of that is that they don’t release nearly as many movies as WB. Screen Gems, Searchlight, and the evolving Focus all report up, but have their own strong voices in releasing specialized films. I’d hate to see WB completely out of that game, but… well… we’ll see…
The Equalizer – which I keep thinking is a WB film – is on its way to $100 million. It’s not going to get to the $126m domestic that Safe House did, but it will be Denzel’s #4 or #3 film of his career. He hasn’t has d a film gross less than $130 million in the last 5 years and this will be his third time over $160m worldwide in the last 3 years. If you’re looking for a consistent movie star out there, Denzel’s high on your list.
Nice expansion for Weinstein with St Vincent to 68 screens. An estimated $9880-per is a really strong number at that screen count. But it’s not clear what happens next. This film isn’t making a serious awards run, so… we’ll see.
Birdman is the big new indie release in exclusive release. 4 screens at over $105k per. Strong. What will expansion look like? We really won’t know until it happens. But a happy weekend in Century City.
Also doing great in exclusive releases are Dear White People ($32k per on 11), The Tale of Princess Kaguya ($16.5k per on 3), and Listen Up Philip ($12.5k per on 2).