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The horror… the horror…
Anyone surprised by Don’t Breathe doing slightly better than Lights Out on opening day and heading to a $22m opening with a $68m domestic cume?
The niche works as a niche. Keep that budget under $10 million and wait for the profits. There is no gold ring in this niche these days. The top horror grosser of 2014 was Annabelle with $84 million, then the first Purge sequel with $72 million. Last year, it was Insidious 3 with $52 million. And this year, The Conjuring 2 managed to crack that $100 million barrier with $102 million, but the #2 is another sequel, Purge 3, with $79 million, then the aforementioned Lights Out with $65 million.
There is nothing wrong with these numbers. It’s a good business, so long as the films don’t start getting up to the $25 million – $35 million range again. But the days of a movie like Paranormal Activity opening out of the box with over $100 million seem to be over. Now we’re seeing the higher numbers only for sequels/franchises/IP.
Of course, the real genius of Paranormal at Paramount is that they sold it as a grass roots experience, invested less than usual but still at a studio level in ads and theaters, and got the film itself for almost nothing. Nowadays, the studio marketing spends for these films are not as high as some of the mainstream product, but as they become brands, the creeping spends require caution.
The Mechanic: Resurrection opening is about the standard Statham starring opening now. The first of this franchise was Statham’s last $10m as lead star opening (2011), so no real surprise here.
Nothing else new opening wide in this end-of-August wasteland.
The Hollars, John Krasinski’s new film, is going to be in the 30,000s per screen on just 4.
The Obama meet-cute, Southside With You, is smooth niching it with $1 million estimated for Friday on just 813 screens, heading to as much as $3500 per screen for the weekend.
Hell or High Water almost doubled its screen count (472) to 909 and should still do over $2500 per screen for the weekend.
Hands of Stone is soft with less than $2k per screen on 810 on the way.
Perhaps the surprise of the weekend is that Howard’s End – which is a really wonderful film – is getting a solid arthouse audience in a 3-screen 4K re-release.
So, like it or hate it, Suicide Squad is the #8 domestic movie of the year and will remain so until November, right behind Batman vs Superman. BvS will generate around $175 million more internationally and even so, it is seen as a disappointment.
So you make the call. What does the $875 million outcome mean and what does the $675 million outcome mean? Both figures (will) rank in the Top 90 worldwide grosses of all time. BvS improved on the gross of Man of Steel. Suicide Squad will be the third best performing first film among comic book adaptations after Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy.
I don’t think either movie is very good, but opinion is opinion and numbers are numbers. The real smack on the two WB comic titles this year is that neither was so strong that they will slingshot the other DC titles the way that Iron Man has, leading to the billion-dollar success of Avengers and the billionaire build-outs for Captain America and, they hope, the upcoming Thor/Hulk combo film.
This is the problem for Warner Bros. The Zack Snyder extended universal is doing mediocre (in context) business and shows the huge muscle of these characters, regardless of quality. Yet, it has not collapsed… not by a long shot.
This phenomenon really started with Sony and the Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Both films grossed over $700 million worldwide. And yet, Sony was anxious to dump this iteration and took on Marvel as an active partner in relaunching as a MCU-connected series.
Keep in mind… only 16 comic-based films have grossed $700m+ worldwide. If that is the standard now, the future looks rough. Batman, Iron Man, and/or Spider-Man have been in 12 of those 16 titles. No comic book film has ever grossed more than $800 million without at least one of those characters (Cap: Civil War features two of the three).
Newcomers Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool were both seen as underdogs and hit home runs. Fox went all-in on X-Men: Days of Future Past, all hands on deck and the biggest budget in studio history, and got the $748m worldwide gross… then backed off a bit and grossed $543 million worldwide this summer.
Peak Comic Book may have been 2014. There were four $700m+ worldwide grossers. Last year, one. This year, three. There are six mainstream comic book titles scheduled for 2017. Among them, only one Batman and one Spider-Man (and Guardians 2). There are seven such titles scheduled for 2018, with probably just one Batman and one Iron Man (and I am betting on a Deadpool sequel).
So we will know a lot more about the future of comic book movies in these next two years, for better or worse, with two brand-new solo films and two sequels to modest hits that aspire to step up to the $700m+ level. We’ll also see if Guardians is a growth business (it should be) and we’ll have the two major team-up franchises (Justice League and Avengers) within 6 months of one another.
Meanwhile, can we stop whining about comic book movies as though they are all that exists?
This massive business of very expensive, very high grossing movies has taken position on top of the film industry that already existed. But this didn’t start three years ago or 8 or 10. It was not the natural evolution of Jaws that led to Star Wars that led to Burton’s Batman.
The beginning of the CG revolution was 1991’s Terminator 2. It was the first time that massive audiences in the post-studio-system era came out to see, primarily, a CG effect.
Until that film, there were only four films that had grossed $500 million worldwide in unadjusted dollars. Two were Star Wars films, then E.T. and Ghost.
Of the 14 films that grossed over $400 million worldwide in original release, before or concurrently with T2, the only ones that were not genre/action/fantasy/animation were Home Alone, and Pretty Woman, and Dances With Wolves… all three from 1990 (suggesting that those numbers were part of a rising worldwide gross profile).
The first film to crack E.T.‘s $619 million worldwide (original) gross was Jurassic Park… not coincidentally, the next massive CG-driven experience blockbuster. Soon we would see that massive numbers were possible for The Lion King and Forrest Gump (which was also driven by a lot of seems-real CG technology). Then Independence Day.
And then Titanic. Could not have been what it was without the CG, even though it was shot with a ton of on-set, in-camera production. It was also the most expensive film ever made at the time (except perhaps for Batman & Robin, earlier that year… whole different discussion).
But still, as of 1997, the first year ever with three $500m+ worldwide grossers, there had still only been 27 films ever to gross over $400 million worldwide. In the next six years (end of 2003), that list would more than double, with 61 titles having hit the mark. Also in that six year period, we went from 5 films to ever have grossed $700m in their initial worldwide runs to 14,
Event movies, with lots of CG content, were driving a new kind of theatrical business on top of a still-robust DVD business. Potter and Rings and Spider-Man and Pirates and Pixar and Shrek changed the game in that window.
2003 set a record with 9 films grossing over $400 million worldwide. 5 were sequels. 1 was animated. One was the first Pirates. One live-action comedy (Bruce Almighty) and one original drama (The Last Samurai). There has only been one year with fewer than 7 such films since (2007) and in 2015, we had 18.
In the 100 or so years of theatrical films before 2004, 61 films had grossed over $400 million worldwide. In the 12.5 years starting with 2004, there have been another 169. And of those 169, I count 20 of them that are not overtly driven by computer graphics or franchise status. Three years stand out with threevsuch films… 2009 (Sherlock Holmes/Angels & Demons/The Hangover), 2012 (Les Miserables, The Intouchables, and Django Unchained) and 2015 (The Martian/Fifty Shades of Grey/The Revenant).
The change, I would argue, did not come with a lowering of the standards or a pandering to international or anything so nefarious. The change has come because technology allowed what has always been most appealing to moviegoers, in the US and across the globe, to rise to another level. Obviously, the expansion of international theatrical has also been a huge factor in grosses.
I have made the comparison before, but I will make it again.
What you are looking at is the old Soldier Field, which is next to Lake Michigan and was mightily cold during winter games and the new Soldier Field, which hasn’t moved or changed a lot… except that they build a modern facility on top of the old Soldier Field that adds sky boxes and high tech stuff and a wind break from the lake so the “outdoor” seating is not nearly as frigid.
That is how I see the CG-driven industry of the moment. Yes, it does take up a significant amount of the studio slates. And it takes up a wildly oversized amount of the media’s attention. But it is, essentially, an expansion of the industry and not an overall replacement for what was.
The 2000 worldwide Top 10 is how things once were:
Mission: Impossible II -$546.4m
Gladiator – $457.6m
Cast Away – $429.6m
What Women Want -$374.1m
Dinosaur – $349.8m
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – $345.1m
Meet the Parents – $330.4m
The Perfect Storm – $328.7m
X-Men – $296.3m
What Lies Beneath – $291.4m
It’s probably not quite a pretty as the memory people have in their heads. Dinosaur was an early CG effort by Disney on which they lost money. X-Men was pretty low tech, emphasizing character over computers when CG movies were insanely expensive and Fox was fabulously cheap. And The Perfect Storm was the first CG-driven drama, really.
Last year, the only non-CG-driven or franchise or animated (though it had plenty of CG) movie in the Top 10 was The Martian. So I understand the feeling that there has been a massive change.
But… The Martian did $630 worldwide. Mission Impossible 2 did $546m. Pretty similar.
Gladiator did $357 million in 2000. The Revenant did $535m last year.
Cast Away… $430m. Can’t find a great analogous film, though The Revenant has some connectivity.
What Women Want, $374m. Fifty Shades of Grey, $571 million.
Meet The Parents, $330m. There was no uber comedy last year, but Pitch Perfect 2 did $288m, Daddy’s Home did $240m, and Spy did $236m. Even the disastrous Ted 2 did $231 million.
What Lies Beneath did $291 million. Can’t find a great analogous film.
So the two Zemeckis films, a long drama with a major movie star and his throwaway Hitchcock movie (which I love) don’t match up. The rest? The business is still making those movies and people are still going to them in large numbers.
Of course, there was a Zemeckis film last year (The Walk), But it flopped.
And there were a bunch more $100m+ grossing films last year that are “the kinds of films that studios aren’t making,” including Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Bridge of Spies, The Hateful Eight, Trainwreck, The Big Short and even Joy.
“But why are all the pretty girls with the 5′ 2″ non-English speaker who is betting $20,000 at a time at the Baccarat table when we $20 blackjack players are so much more fun?!?!”
Same as it ever was, gang.
Spielberg has made 5 movies in the last 5 years. Retired Soderbergh is making his fourth film of the last 5 years while also doing three seasons of very hands-on television. Scorsese hasn’t pumped out as much over a 5 year period since the early 90s. Even Zemeckis (who I revere), who crashed a whole business for Disney in 2009 and was movie-jailed, has made 3 films in the last four years.
I love what is happening on TV and have endless respect for many of the former movie makers who shifted to the medium in recent years… but can you name any of the great TV success stories who made hit films before they made the leap (except as exec producers)? There aren’t many examples. I love Jill Soloway’s work, but Afternoon Delight did $175k in theatrical and Vince Gilligan has never directed a feature. He did write two of my 1000 favorite features, Wilder Napalm and Hancock, both of which showed the glorious kink that would show up on Breaking Bad. But not really a movie guy. Frank Darabont is brilliant… and was a decade away from his last film hit before “The Walking Dead” happened. Etc.
We go from reading and often mocking trend stories to believing them to being convinced of their absolute veracity.
There is no “normal.” The film industry changes constantly. We have seen four major paradigm shifts in the last 30 years. That’s a ton of change. There are great successes and great failures. Important and unimportant trends.
But every time I see a movie these days with a bunch of Chinese company names on the front credits, I remember the German money and the Japanese money and the French money and the corporate money and on and on and on.
You can play the complaints about movies by almost anyone over 40 on a loop that could have been created any time since the 1960s… we all try to rationalize how it really is different now… but it’s not… not by much.
On a one-on-one or internal studio level, there is a lot of room for improvement. Absolutely. Start with more inclusion, continue with more creative ideas about engaging audiences, and then focus on improving the same old same old, because there is a ton of room for that. But big picture?
Everyone’s first rodeo is their first rodeo.
Go see Pete’s Dragon and Kubo or go to your local arthouse and see art, because art is lovely and enriching. But stop the whining. We’ve never had more options or more movies at our disposal to enjoy and appreciate.
The calendar of weekends looks different this August, so direct comparisons are iffy. That said, this third opening weekend of August looks a lot like most third weekends in August, give or take a blockbuster. Following behind only Guardians of the Galaxy and the super-leggy The Sixth Sense, Suicide Squad has the #3 all-time August domestic gross. And by a good margin, one that continues to grow, no matter how much the media has moved on.
In terms of newbies, this is a standard launch weekend for this time of year. None of the openers are major… not even strong minor ($20 million launch). But they will still be #4, #5, and #6 for the month. And an opening like The Butler ($24.6 million) was really the exception to the rule in these dog days of summer in recent years.
Last summer, for instance, $10.5m for Sinister 2 led the newcomers “this date” with Hitman: Agent 47 landing $8.3 million and American Ultra doing $5.5 million. This weekend’s three openers will beat that group of weekend newcomers by more than 25%. The strength of the month, in terms of quality, is getting lost in the sauce. That would be two family films, Pete’s Dragon and Kubo & The Two Strings.
Florence Foster Jenkins is dropping like a regular movie, though there is still some hope that its legs will get stronger as older audiences are inspired by word of mouth.
On the exclusive front, not much excitement. Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love & Death is having a decent start, cracking $10k per on two… but not exactly fireworks.
So… in spite of everything, Suicide Squad had a normal second weekend drop for a huge opening. There is nothing shocking or even disappointing about 67%.
Sausage Party is right there with the best Rogen/Goldberg openings (Superbad/Green Hornet), so anything less than joy around this opening seems silly.
Pete’s Dragon is a mediocre opening in the perspective of the success of The Jungle Book. But if you look at the history of Disney family films released in August, you see Planes opening at $22.2 million, The Princess Diaries opening at $22.8 million, and Freaky Friday (2003) opening at $22.2 million. In other words… Pete’s Dragon, which has no cult following of the size that would drive nostalgia box office, did the number you would expect.
And it’s not just Disney. You will find no family films opening in August to more than $23 million… ever. (That is, unless you choose to include the very violent GI Joe II or Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as family films… which I would not.) Even Princess Diaries 2 came in within a few hundred thousand of the launch of the original, stuck under $23 million.
Also worth noting… the worst performance by a Disney family August opener was $90m domestic. So expect the Pete’s multiple to be strong (added leg value for being a great film). They have a teen problem, in that many seem resistant because the film seems young to them. But if they can get some word of mouth going, there could be a Frozen slingshot, though the domestic ceiling is probably around $130 million.
And Florence Foster Jenkins sung her way into the hearts of more than half a million people this weekend, which should be the start of a surprisingly solid run for the Paramount title. The film is on the fewest screens in the Top 10 this weekend, as Paramount wades in a bit. The meat of the audience for this film – older people – will start attending next weekend and the weeks after based on word of mouth. Four times opening is doable here. That would be a big success, given the material, in the eyes of most observers. So… this opening has got to be seen as a success.
Meanwhile, Hell or High Water slid out on 32 screens to a pretty good result ($9930 per screen). I don’t know that this film is particularly scalable.
Likewise, the rest of the limited space was soft, not a single $10k per-screen title. Little Men, Disorder, and Equity were the strongest of a weak group.
It’s the biggest animated opening ever in August!!! It’s the biggest opening ever for a movie in which the lead is a dick joke!! In the PC 2010s, there has been no protest over turning Salma Hayek into a vaginal colloquialism (though it is a breakthrough for the Salma-obsessed to be focused on her taco and not her papayas)!
Sausage Party is funny. It’s cleverly animated. It’s aggressively non-PC, but perhaps a step less clever than it aspires to be. I’m curious to know how big the family audience is for this one. A $30 million opening (and maybe even a couple million better than that) is really as much as should be expected. This will be Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s biggest opening aside from, perhaps, Superbad.
Suicide Squad is where most would have expected in weekend two. But there is a legit question about whether it would be any different if the film was better.
Florence Foster Jenkins kinda danced into the marketplace with a wide, but not WIDE opening. The result is… similar to that. It’s almost exactly where Sony went with Ricki And The Flash last August. I mean, dead on. And, indeed, $26m domestic for FFJ would be a success for Paramount by any reasonable expectation.
Pretty much any way you cut it, Suicide Squad will be the #2 or #3 opener of the year/summer with a number almost identical to the $166m Batman v Superman launch. Go figure.
Many like to believe that people are done with superhero movies or that Millennials aren’t going to the movies, but the evidence continues to make both claims stink of the excrement they are built upon. Audiences don’t want half-ass versions of their favorites and audiences don’t want to see films just because there is a franchise connection. The only franchise disappointment that wasn’t obvious from a year away was Alice 2… but only because no one understands how the first film did a billion. (BTW, that film is nearing $300m worldwide, making it a disappointment, but not an outright disaster.)
Suicide Squad is not going to lose a fortune. So what is the lesson?
1. Have Batman (or in MarvelLand, Iron Man) in every movie you can.
2. Sellable elements will open anything, no matter the critics, geek buzz, or degree of failure.
3. Millennials are suckers, just the same as Gen X and Boomers.
Jason Bourne took a hit yesterday. We’ll see if it evens out over the weekend.
Bad Moms had already delivered STX the crown of highest-grossing indie non-sequel this year. $67 million will make it top indie release through mid-August, full stop.
The 1995 headline for Nine Lives would be that Kevin Spacey’s pussy was not widely accepted… but aside from Clint Eastwood resurrecting that sexist chestnut this week, not okay for 2016. Instead, Nine Lives opens to a $277k per-life average.
I don’t need to offer up spoilers to write about this movie. However, if you want to stay truly pristine, don’t read this. Broad strokes that you probably already know about… but broad strokes.
Too much. Way way too much.
And too little.
This is what is so brutally wrong with Suicide Squad.
This movie started pushing me away from almost the very beginning. Each character is going to be introduced with a 3 – 5 minute set-up along with a pop hit appropriate to each story. Wait. No. Only 3 are… and one of those only in a half-ass way.
The first great challenge when you turn on the word processor to write a movie about 5 or more characters coming together in a group is how you establish character for all these people, on top of developing a shared goal for the group, the second act “it’s all over” head-fake, then the rousing third act comeback where they finally are a team and as a group can overpower the thing that is too big for any one of them to overcome themselves.
I’m not mocking the cliché. I am fine with this cliché. Seriously. It’s a foundation and you can find true genius depending on how it is executed.
Suicide Squad starts to fall apart from the minute the filmmakers try to push together in-depth set up for the two biggest stars in the film and then half-ass it for everyone else. The movie is on wobbly tires because the structure of the movie isn’t established to accommodate two big stars and then a supporting group. Of course, there will be a lean toward Will Smith and Margot Robbie. That’s how movies work. But in a good movie, you don’t feel it in such a pronounced way.
So… by the time the group is assembled and about to be dispatched on their mission, there is no balance. And then they add another squad member. And another… like the 40 minutes you just spent on the set-up is followed by, “OH YEAH… we forgot!”
You can take your time setting up this stuff. Quentin Tarantino has made a career of it. But you either need some true genius breaking structure in a way that makes an uneven landing wonderful and surprising or, as in this case, it just looks like you don’t know what you’re doing or the finished product was edited to avoid terrible mistakes. Make a choice.
The second HUGE problem with the movie is the choice of villain. And no, it’s not The Joker, so if you don’t want to know more, check out now…
Superheroes fighting the supernatural simply doesn’t work. The supernatural has too much power. The tool that Suicide Squad uses to “control” the supernatural is weak. WEAK. But that isn’t the worst part. The execution of the supernatural is hideous… straight out of Ghostbusters II… that was a looooong time ago, folks. And the whiole idea of what the group needs to fight against and how they might do it is just a giant, horrible mess.
I’m not going to get into details, but how does it work when guns are ineffective, but an explosion is effective. Why? Where is the logic?
And there is this… and she is probably a lovely person… but Cara Delevingne cannot act… never has been able to act… and unless something very dramatic changes (like people stop hiring her to screw up their films), she will never learn to act.
Others in this film, like Joel Kinnaman and Jai Courtney, can probably act quite well… but not here. In a big blur of a cast, you need to hire people who light up the screen when they are doing nothing. Neither of these guys has that. And neither has an interesting enough character to make you care. So: dead weight.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie and Viola Davis and Jared Leto deliver. Eventually, Jay Hernandez gets to turn it up and he gives us great moments. But a complete waste of a very compelling actor in Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Cool croc skin, but it kept him from giving a performance, which he is very capable of doing. Karen Fukuhara is fine… but a minor character, even if her physicality actually dominates at times.
I have no problem with the added Justice League footage. It’s fine.
BUT THERE IS TOO MUCH MOVIE!!!
I don’t buy that it is too dark. The action, while not exceptional, is fine. The whole “lightweight Marvel” is a crock of crap. This movie is nothing like Guardians or, really, any of the Marvel films. Chris Nolan’s Batman films is the natural progenitor (which gave WB hope, I guess). I think that “the industry is making too many comic book movies” is a bullshit claim and/or excuse. The rest of those movies didn’t make this film not work. And I don’t think that management ruined the movie… except for greenlighting it with this idiotic villain story and without demanding something great in terms of allowing the audience to care about everyone of the squad.
I wish there was more to say. There really isn’t. The details are not the problem.
I will leave you with this… there is a character with a name who dies fairly early in the film. And the audience could not care less. And that tells you everything wrong with this movie.
I love David Ayer’s work and hope that he will find his way to another great tough-guy story with fewer effects and fewer moving parts. The guy who did Fury knows how to have a bunch of characters and give everyone their moment. But he didn’t eat the giant movie… the giant movie ate him. Happens.
As we move into the silly season for media, with many “sky is falling” stories about theatrical box office sure to clog our bullshit filters beyond capacity, I will lay out a simple list of things that should be considered when writing or reading box office stories.
1. Every Movie Is A Business Of Its Own – There are slates at distributors, yes. But the reality of box office is that every film has its own story to tell.
The most obvious unique point is budget, both in production and marketing… neither one of which box-office writers have a clear view of in most cases. With due respect, imdb and Mojo post publicly acknowledged production estimates… which could be off enough to falsely make a film appear profitable or a loser.
But in the big picture, as journalists love to bring up such misleading stats as market share, estimated (aka guessed) numbers of tickets sold, grosses of multiple movies weighted as though alone they can define success in anything more than the simplest way.
Here is an easy one… What percentage of tickets for Finding Dory have been for 3D and how many in 3D for The Secret Life of Pets? Do you know? If you don’t, you have know idea how many tickets were sold for either. Even if you do know, you have other details that change the stat. IMAX? Adult tickets vs chuldren’s? Matinee pricing?
Here’s another… Universal has less than half the domestic gross that it had at this time last year. But only one eof their films has any chance of losing money. So what kind of year is the studio having?
And of course, domestic analysis only is 100% idiotic. International box office is a part of the construction of every budget for every film made with the involvement of a major studio. Now You See Me 2 did almost 4x overseas what it did here… so the idea that the film is a disappointment is factually inaccurate. Now… how problematic was it for Lionsgate, which distributed hands-on here vs profitability in the rest of the world, where they share success, but have partners country by country. And $100 million gross in China returns 50% less (at best) than if that same $100m was earned in another international market.
And how do you balance all of that with Café Society, which Lionsgate is releasing for Amazon Studios, and for which Amazon does not hold worldwide theatrical rights?
Wild headlines are fun and easy… but are terrible journalism. The margins, pro and con, in the details of each film can make all the difference between success and failure.
2. Think Beyond The Broadest Statistical Claims – How many times have you heard that Millennials aren’t going to the movies anymore? Lots, I bet.
So who bought all those tickets to Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse, etc, etc, etc.?
THINK, people! The biggest grossers are driven by Millennials and kids whose families take them to animated films. Still.
And for that matter, who do you think is going to Lights Out and The Shallows? Your parents?
And hey… there were some movies with high expectations that didn’t perform to expectation. Does anyone really think that is a generational issue? That the iPad kept them from showing up? Just silly.
3. If You Sell It, They Will Come – If there anything that has changed dramatically in the last 5 years, it is that it is now 100% clear… if you are selling a movie that people really want to see, it doesn’t matter what date you are on, what the history of that week or moth is, or what your film is up against. People show up.
Records are being broken in domestic and worldwide theatrical again… yet, many insist that it’s all over for theatrical. Recently, a bright light at a trade espoused the dim-bulb theory that major studio/distributors are on their way out because they no longer have absolute control of all distribution.
Everything is not perfect. Far from it. But Peter Guber told the story decades ago and it remains relevant today. A Sony exec asked him why they make the flops and not just the hits. Executives tend to know more than nothing, especially when they have a finished film. But by the time the film is done, it’s generally too late.
That said, great marketing can sell almost anything… at least, for a weekend. Of course, there are boundaries put on most marketing efforts, starting with budgets and continuing with approvals, general risk aversion, marketer disinterest on mediocre or crap movies, and many other possibilities.
Most recently, I have written in detail about the new Ghostbusters, which I think took a big hit because of how it was sold. But I can’t blame the Sony marketers, because the ambitions of the film, because of the pedigree, means that it didn’t start with the marketing department sitting down, clean, to consider how best to sell that particular movie. There were also outside forces (Twittiots), which I think we overstated, but are certainly a distraction.
4. Everything Is Cyclical – Universal would have told you, had you listened, that this year was going to be way down off of last year… guaranteed… they knew what they had in the shoot and it was simply less hugely commercial. The hero thing will peter out at some point. Has it yet? Probably not. That doesn’t keep Marvel or any other studio from having misses. But the media is so anxious to be able to “FIRST” that they saw it coming, there is premature speculation all over the place.
The stock market insanely demands annual growth every year. The film business is not the stock market.
5. Things Will Change – I am not saying that things will not change. The industry turmoil of the last 50 years has been remarkable. It hasn’t been 20 years since 1997, which was when the first studio DVD was released (Twister), changing the business to sell-thru instead of rental and allowing the launch of Netflix a few years later, which eventually would lead to streaming.
I see one more big paradigm shift coming, which is access to virtually everything post-theatrically for a flat rate.
What is most shocking, at this moment, is that things haven’t changed more. If you look closely at the box office, what is shocking is the ongoing commercial success of dramas and comedies and small indies – on a certain scale – and certainly the blockbusters.
We went almost 100 years into the movie business before we has the first billion-dollar grosser. It took 6 years to get to the second one. And since three years later, in 2006, we not only haven’t gone a year without a billion $ movie, but since 2010, multiple billion $ films have become the norm. A new record of 5 such films was set last year… and will very likely be broken this year.
Don’t give me your adjusted grosses. No one pays bills with adjusted grosses. Respect the past for what it was and respect now for what it is.
The decrease in the number of people going to the movies has been a consistent leak for over 30 years now. 60 years ago, there was television… which didn’t kill movies, but did change the industry. And now, streaming and access to massive amounts of content are making for change again.
For the record, I wrote about the death of DVD before anyone… and years before major media caught on. I am not an ostrich. But I look at history and I don’t see the high drama that so many love to make into headlines.
The only people likely to kill movies are the studios, getting too greedy and losing perspective. It could happen. It’s not happening today, for all the flaws in the process. (Some of my favorite people believe in day-n-date for studios and I think they are dead wrong… suicidally wrong.)
I think that’s it… the broad strokes. I probably forgot something and will follow up.
The biggest thing is… think… dig deeper… challenge the media position of The End forever being around the corner. Every writer who pisses me off in this regard is much, much smarter than their writing on the subject. They just don’t seem to push themselves to take it seriously. It is not brain surgery. And it is not defined by panicky or excuse-making execs.
And so it goes…
As indicated by opening day, Jason Bourne arrives right in between the domestic openings of the last two Bourne films… not the dream, but hardly a surprise after a 9-year layoff for DaGrass. Bad Moms opens over $20 million, putting nascent STX right where they want to be. Nerve brings in just enough to be frustrating to struggling Lionsgate. And in arthouse, another really strong per-screen weekend for Don’t Look Twice, as well as Indignation and Equity… plus nice numbers for Miss Sharon Jones!, the Bosch doc, and Gleason.
Jason Bourne also got off to franchise-best $50 million international in 46 markets… which suggests that this franchise is reliable as a $300m – $350m worldwide grosser with Damon in the lead. It’s not going to go crazy and break out like Fast & Furious all of a sudden. But if U is happy with that number, they can probably go in and get it a few more times.
Bad Moms is a big deal for STX. The opening is the second best by a non-major this year-to-date (below only LGF’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant). The problem going forward for STX is that the rest of their 2016 looks a lot more like what came before this hit, and it’s not likely we will see as commercial a film from them again this year. The films may be profitable, but niche product and tough release dates are not in their favor. They need to pick a niche to work hard while they do other genre stuff. Can you build a studio in 2016 on being The Home Of Female Comedy? Maybe so. (I’d probably resist the urge, however, to rename The Edge of Seventeen – although a bad title and too evocative for arthousers of the Sundance coming of age beloved – “Bad Teens.”)
Nerve is a head-scratcher. A $15 million 5-day isn’t a horror show… but it’s not great. Lionsgate threw expensive standees, Virtual Reality games, Emma Roberts in her underwear, and everything else they could thing of… but in the end, they got Ms. Roberts’ best opener as a sold-on-her lead. That would be the target, right? And Dave Franco is still “fetch” as a box office star. So they did okay, given that pedigree. But… not much of an opening. Yet… definitely could have been worse. The film was made by the Catfish and Paranormal 3/4 guys, so I would guess that it was very cheap. So there is that. (shrug)
Who knew that this would be the Wild West in arthouse land? We have six films with a per-screen over $9k, from the still-huge $33k per-screen of Don’t Think Twice to the $9,170 on the powerful ALS love story, Gleason. In between, high per-screen to low, Indignation, Equity, Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil, and Miss Sharon Jones!. And you have the full range of players in this group as well, from the most established, Sony Classics, to Summit releasing via Roadside Attractions to tiny specialized Kino to ambitious distributor on the rise The Film Arcade. Then the streamer/cable net group has Amazon through Open Road behind Gleason and Starz taking out its made-for-cable Miss Jones. Interesting times.
Woody Allen has had four hits outside of his normal gross range since Match Point kind of rebooted him in 2005 via DreamWorks. Two of the hits – including his biggest, Midnight in Paris – were released by Sony Classics. The fourth of this group was Weinstein-driven Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But most of his career has been under $20 million domestic and really, $15m and under. Anyway… hard to get a read on where Café Society is headed. If you go by recent expansions, it is headed to the low-to-mid teens, likely between Magic in the Moonlight and To Rome With Love. The tricky part is that one hit $10 million in 5 weeks and the other in 10. Patience…
Really good horror drop for Lights Out via WB… and really bad animation drop for Ice Age: Collision Course, which passed $250 million worldwide this weekend in spite of crap business in the U.S.
Sp… born-again Bourne opens solidly. No leap. No letdown.
Right between the second and third Bourne entries, the gross is closer to the higher than the lower. Solid.
What will be more interesting is how international grosses rollout in a market that has changed dramatically in the nine years since the previous Damon Bourne. It was the #13 international grosser in 2007 with $215 million. The #13 international grossing title right now – 7 months into the year – is $238 million. The #13 international grosser by the end of 2015 was at $349 million. Obviously, these numbers may not follow… but it will be interesting to see if they do… and interesting to see if Bourne can make a significant step-up overseas.
Big moment for new distributor (staffed with a lot of well-established studio execs) STX, which has its first $20 million opening (first over $12m, actually) with Bad Moms. Moreover, this will be the best opening of the year for a movie that isn’t CG action/animation/horror or starring Kevin Hart, passing Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss. Also… the biggest opening aside from Divergent 3 coming from a non-major studio this year to date.
This film asserts the intention of STX to be in the category with Weinstein, Lionsgate, Open Road, and the studio Dependents, but not the glorious and beloved A24, Roadside Attractions and their kind. And even the Dependents (Searchlight, Focus, Sony Classics) have not opened any movies to $23 million-plus. Wide openings are not their bread and butter. STX clearly wants to play that field, as Screen Gems has as a division at Sony. This makes STX one of the most interesting stories in the business right now.
Speaking of Lionsgate… it’s not really fair to judge Nerve‘s Friday as “the same” after a Wednesday opening. Still, we’re looking at a $15m 5-day, so not a real success. Yet, not a disaster either… especially if word-of-mouth is good. It will top their Dirty Grandpa opening (over the first 5 days), but not by much.
At the end of the second weekend of the most recent Star Trek film, $146 million. This one? $100 million. One has to wonder if this will be the final frontier before a reboot.
The Secret Life of Pets will have to wait until Wednesday to cross $300 million domestic. A sluggish 27 days… which will be #3 for 2016 when it happens, ahead of The Jungle Book and Zootopia. Most of the international market is still to come and will define whether this is a huge hit or a mega-hit.
Lots of $10k per-screen starts this week. Gleason will lead the way with over $25k per on nine. Equity draws almost $20k per on four. Indignation will also be near $20k per on four. And Miss Sharon Jones could be just over or under the $10k-per line.
I think we covered most of this yesterday.
Star Trek, as a film franchise, faces what the old TV-based film series faced… a glass ceiling. No one should be complaining about a $59m opening. But the films are too expensive for that number not to be, uh, problematic. So do you raise the bridge or lower the water? I believe that Paramount needs to find a scrappy young filmmaker to reboot the whole thing again – perhaps with the central 3 to 6 cast members – as a $100 million an “episode” series. More digital mayhem will simply continue to see a release-by-release decline in gross. Get back to character over CG and they have a chance to do a consistent $250m – $300m worldwide gross, make some money, and if they got very, very lucky, it could actually break out with a new voice.
Ghostbusters – again – did this to some degree. Feig humor is not UCB humor or even, really, Apatow family humor (even though Paul and Judd came up together in part). This Ghostbusters had a very different energy than the original, but it was recognizably the energy of Feig’s films. But the power of the previous legendary franchise, both pro and con, really kept Columbia from selling the change. They were either trying to capitalize on the original or to fight off obnoxious pigs pushing the anti-woman agenda. As a result, this film won’t even do good Feig business. This could have – in theory – been a Fey/Poehler film or a Rogen/Goldberg film or a Nancy Meyers film (ghostbusters who are inconvenienced by ghosts while getting their Bentleys detailed). Really, you could have gone all Furious and put together a beautiful, multi-ethnic cast of rising stars pretending to be underdogs, up-ed the action and lowered the brain density. Someone could still do that under another name. Ghosts are not copyrightable.
What Ghostbusters (2016) never was going to be was the original… even more so with Harold Ramis gone… but even with Ramis, it was never coming back together. Feig was a direction. And though I would have liked a bit more aggressive/specific a character from one of the two leads, he gave them what he does. And it works on that level. So I don’t question why it didn’t do monster business. But I do wonder why it didn’t do Feig business, at least.
The Ice Age: Collision Course number – somewhat irrelevant as noted yesterday – is a horror show. An animated film very specifically directed to kids can’t do 3x Friday? Wow. That sucks. I mean, a big Thursday/Friday number and okay… but coming off of $7.5 million? FUGLY. And the movie will still probably play overseas and make good money. But oh my my… embarrassing. A tipping point of some kind? When we look back?
The chart is loaded with sad numbers… Mike & Dave didn’t blow up… The BFG is a low moment for Spielberg… ID4-2 passed $100m domestic (even though international may keep red ink from spilling, now at $365m ww)… Now You See Me Again (#3 headed to Netflix?). But there is balance from surprises up and down the chart as well. Central Intelligence, Conjuring 2, Pets, The Shallows, the size of Dory, etc.
Of the 24 films worldwide that have passed $150m worldwide to date this year, only 3 are under 50% of revenue from overseas… 2 of which (Dory/Pets) are pretty much guaranteed to flip and the third of which (Central Intelligence) could catch up even though it is at multiple commercial disadvantages overseas. So I suspect there will be no more than 1 such title released in the first 7 months of 2016.
There were 2 such films last year by this time (Pitch Perfect 2 and Spongebob with Compton about to arrive)… and 6 released by end of July 2014 (Ride Along, 22 Jump St, Neighbors, Lego Movie, Divergent, Monuments)… and I suspect that number just keeps increasing as you go back.
Per-screen winners for the weekend are AbFab: The Movie, Cafe Society, and murdering it on 1 screen, with an epic $86,500 (especially for a non-awards player just releasing like a normal film), Don’t Think Twice.
If you go by the numbers on the first film of the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot, this third film, Beyond, will open to about $61 million, which is in a galaxy far far away from what the TV-based films opened to back in 2002 and onwards. (Yes, it’s been that long.) But it will be written about only as another disappointment in the summer of falling skies. The real issue for Paramount on this film is whether it can continue to improve as a series overseas, which at these production costs could drown it in red ink.
The first two JJ Abrams Treks made big strides for the franchise in international as it also transported the baseline for domestic gross for the series. But this domestic gross will be less than the last, as was true from the first reboot to the second. I have always understood – though Paramount vigorously disagreed – that the first of these films was only borderline profitable, if not a slight loser. The sequel, if it really cost $200m or less, would have been modestly profitable. And now this film is in danger of being the first the studio would name publicly as a money loser. The key will be international, which was up to $238 million the last time. If that number can be maintained or improved upon, the film will make a little money. If it starts sliding like domestic has (this is likely to be the first JJ Trek under $200m domestic), the studio and their partners will take a loss.
Ice Age: Collision Course is a whole different animal. Domestic is a disaster. The franchise has been losing ground bit by bit, the last film (4 of 5) grossing less domestically than the original. But this one, #5, is looking like it will less than half of #4, putting the film under $160m domestic for the first time in the franchise history… but even worse, under $100m domestic.
However… the international is going the opposite direction. Film #4 hit an international record $716 million. That international number alone would make Continental Drift the #17 animated worldwide grosser of all-time, just behind Up and Monsters University. It was the #3 best animated gross internationally (higher than any Pixar) and the film, including domestic, was #10 all-time.
So America is the write-off on this one… the afterthought. And that probably is why the film is opening so poorly here. Somehow, people know. But it is still likely that the bottom for this film is $600m worldwide, whihc would make it a legitimate hit… so don’t cry for Fox or Blue Sky… not unless international drops by more than 40%.
The Secret Life of Pets, by the way, is way out ahead of Zootopia three weekends in on the domestic front and has barely begun international. Holds are not as strong, but if international is anything like Zootopia, we could be seeing yet another billion-dollar animated film on the charts this year. Domestic will pass Despicable Me today.
Lights Out is cash money for WB. It will likely fall to the #4 slot from #2 by the end of the weekend, but still, a $23 million-plus start for a cheapie horror film is excellent. Does WB know how to do this trick better than other tricks? Maybe. But this has not been a big part of their portfolio. That may change.
Ghostbusters is drowning. I don’t feel like doing an autopsy today. But as I continue to glimpse marketing materials as I drive around Los Angeles, I am struck by how confused Sony was by this film. They sold it like a sequel with a bunch of big, familiar stars. It isn’t that. The film really needed to be worked like an underdog. It wasn’t. It flipped between being scared of being rejected and boldly hoping the audience would feel differently than the internet mean-memes. The result was a pretty standard release.
I have mentioned this standard before and been slapped for it, but please understand that it is not about me or how important I think I am… but… a real underdog movie would have hungrily wanted me to do DP/30 interviews with Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. It’s not the biggest track to lay down, my show, but it would be a chance for people – especially media – to meet these little-known actors outside of the boundaries of marketing or slick magazine pieces. But it was a regular junket and I completely get that their schedules didn’t allow a long interview with the likes of me.
My point is not that DP/30s would have changed the fate of Ghostbusters. It wouldn’t. But if they had made that effort – along with others in this range – it would have represented a different kind of thinking in how to push out this movie. And that different thinking could well have changed the fate of Ghostbusters. It still wouldn’t have been a Marvel movie. But it wouldn’t have been, I don’t think, Paul Feig’s lowest-grossing domestic movie of the last decade. It could have certainly been his #1 worldwide grosser, which it may well not be at this point. He delivered a Paul Feig movie writ large. It works as that. It should have at least done that much business.
To be fair to Sony, as much as they sweated this film and worked their asses off for it, my sense is that the only options that were on the table were “huge hit” or “massive flop.” The middle did not seem to be a target. But the movie – and its casting and character choices – called on a focus on the middle. That was where this movie, once made, was always headed. It’s damned hard to give up the intensity of hope and/or fear of failure for “let’s do okay.” But sometimes, that is the only sane answer.
And that isn’t even cracking the chest on this autopsy.
The Legend of Tarzan passed $200 million worldwide yesterday. Still a red inker, but not as much blood spilt as Pan.
Finding Dory just keeps swimming. It will likely pass Avengers 2 and Star Wars (inc all the re-releases) this weekend. And international has barely launched. It is almost certain to be the second billion-dollar animated film of this year and could well be the #1 Pixar film worldwide (already owns domestic.. but $50m/>10% by the end of this weekend).
Absolutely Fabulous went out on 313 screens domestically and is doing quite well. My guess is that this Searchlight release has no uptick coming. They will add some screens, but this is likely its best audience hit, targeted precisely by Steve Gilula.
Also opening strong on just 1 screen is the Mike Birbiglia film, Don’t Think Twice, a tale of improv, faux-SNL, and the funny people who inhabit that universe.