Led by two movies not primarily targeted at the studios’ preferred young male demo (16-25) for summer fare– Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters University” and the female buddy cop comedy “The Heat” (Twentieth Century Fox) — the weekend box office top 10 totaled some $182 million, down $7 million from last year.
Family and female audiences tend not to be opening-night driven, but a stronger than usual Saturday led to a rebound in grosses this weekend from Friday (which was down 20% from last year’s more conventional lineup). So many action/tentpole films playing at the same time, with budgets usually $150 million or higher, remind that pursuing a diverse market is a smart way to stay in the game.
Three action films ate into each others’ grosses, as Paramount’s “World War Z” took a higher than usual drop, Sony’s “White House Down” opened much weaker than expected and Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel” fell to fifth place in only its third week. Despite the industry’s focus on the male audience, particularly at this time of year, too much of one thing has limits, even if each film is individually satisfying.
With the rest of the summer somewhat less frantic and more diverse (although no tentpole looks to reach the level of last July’s “The Dark Knight Rises”) further stabilization could still salvage the season. But catching up to 2012’s total domestic gross remains a major challenge.
1. Monsters University (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend: #1
$46,180,000 (-44%) in 4,004 theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $11,534; Cumulative: $171,006,000
The second week drop is in normal range for a summer animated film, but it’s more impressive because it comes from a higher than usual opening figure, as this latest Pixar film retains the #1 spot for a second weekend.
Internationally, with about half of territories already opened and grossing $129 million so far, this already has a combined worldwide gross of $300 million. With a lot more to come in the U.S./Canada and many more openings ahead, this looks to score $750 million or better before it’s through.
What comes next: International so far has been competing with “Despicable Me 2,” which opens domestically this Wednesday and provides bigger than normal head to head competition among animation fans.
2. The Heat (20th Century-Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 60
$40,000,000 in 3,181 theaters; PSA: $12,575; Cumulative: $40,000,000
It isn’t unusual for female-centered films to thrive in the summer — “Bridesmaids,” “The Help,” “Julie and Julia” all dodged the action and franchise-centered summer fare to find success. But they all opened at lower levels, and as is typical for such films, thrived with much higher than normal multiples of the opening weekend grosses — films about women tend not to drive crowds to the first few days with the same level of intensity as front-loaded male-oriented fare.
The result is that “The Heat” opened to not only the highest gross of any film in Melissa McCarthy’s recently thriving career, but also the best in veteran star Sandra Bullock’s, even adjusting for higher ticket prices. “Bridesmaids” ((also directed by Paul Feig) did $26 million (getting to $169), while “Identity Thief” rose to $34.5 and $134.5 among McCarthy’s films. Bullock has been at her strongest recently — “Blind Side” launched to $34 million on its way to $256, while “The Proposal” initially did $33 million, getting to $164.
This is a strong gross, but not the best for a recent comedy. A year ago, the unheralded “Ted,” starring the reliable but hardly iconic Mark Wahlberg with a teddy bear as his co-star, and also R-rated, opened to $54 million. Still, with audience surveys showing an 85% “definite recommend,” this could hold much better than male-centered comedies.
The unanswered question is whether this has performed as an immediate hit more like male-centered movies, or whether it will have longer term appeal and do far better than the standard three-times opening weekend ultimate gross. With a thrifty $45 million budget, if it is the latter, it will turn out to be one of the more profitable films of the summer.
What comes next: Based on past history of female-based films, international will not be as big as whatever the U.S. take is, though Bullock has scored well in the past (“The Proposal did over $150 million internationally).
3. World War Z (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend: #2
$29,800,000 (-55%) in 3,607 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $8,262; Cumulative: $123,722,000
A fairly steep second weekend drop for this $200 million+ budget film, with the intense action competition clearly one factor after its surprisingly strong opening last week. Still, it came out on top among similar films, which has to make Paramount happy.
What comes next: This looks headed to around $200 million domestically, making the international performance for this — most of which is still ahead — crucial to giving this a chance to break even.
4. White House Down (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 52
$25,700,000 in 3,222 theaters; PSA: $7,976; Cumulative: $25,7000,000
A disappointing number both compared to similar films and to its cost (reported at $150 million), the bright sign for Sony is upbeat audience reaction (per its A- Cinemascore), far better than the studio’s earlier disappointment “After Earth.”
The picture looks grimmer when looking at past performance of similar openings. The most significant one is FilmDistrict’s recent “Olympus Has Fallen,” with a similar setting/plot, which had a surprising $30 million opening weekend earlier this year. That film’s playoff likely is the single biggest factor in this weaker than hoped for start for this.
But significantly, this comes below the initial grosses for its main participants. Channing Tatum has been on fire recently — he’s had four films open to at least $36 million and gross more than $100 million in the last two years. Jamie Foxx’ four most recent live-action films scored $28 million or better initially. And director Roland Emmerich, for whom this a return to action spectacles (best exemplified by “Independence Day”). this is his lowest opening for a wide release since “The Patriot” in 2000.
Sony’s “original” script came from writer James Vanderbilt, whose other screenplays include “Zodiac” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
The weekend was expected to be a close battle between this and “The Heat” for the top film. But unlike that comedy, this film had to fight off not only the familiarity problem of the earlier “Olympus,” but also several other strong action films. That clearly took its toll.
What comes next: The word of mouth is going to have to kick in quickly for this to have a chance of reaching even $100 million domestically (which would be a better than average four time multiple of the opening weekend) — and that would mean international, still to come, would have to overperform mightily to push this into profit. But look for Sony to be strongly supportive still and give this every chance to hang in.
5. Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend: #3
$20,820,000 (-50%) in 4,131 theaters (-76); PSA: $5,040; Cumulative: $248,660,000
A much smaller percentage drop in its third week, more in line with normal front-ended tentpole performance than last week as this becomes (for the time being at least) the second highest-grossing film of 2013. Still, fifth place, and ranking third among the action-oriented films, is not where Legendary Productions and Warner Bros. expected this to be at this point.
What comes next: The competition doesn’t let up, but the film looks now to get to around $315 million domestic and at least that much worldwide.
6. This Is the End (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend: #4
$8,700,000 (-34%) in 2,710 theaters (-345); PSA: $3,210; Cumulative: $74,681,000
Continuing to be a bright spot for Sony, this all-star younger comedy actor hit had another small drop, and looks to sustain itself in the top 10 for a few more weeks and an easy $100 million total.
What comes next: International comes later, but this should be close to profit already by that point.
7. Now You See Me (Lionsgate) Week 5 – Last weekend: #5
$5,500,000 (-30%) in 2,564 theaters (-259); PSA: $2,145; Cumulative: $104,681,000
Another strong hold for this magician caper sleeper that continues to thrive, now passing the $100 million mark domestically (which among other things is ahead of what the Jesse Eisenberg-starring “The Social Network” achieved).
What comes next: This was not an inexpensive film ($75 million budget), so the nearly $50 million this has taken in overseas, with many significant territories still to open, is a welcome sign for Lionsgates.
8. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) Week 6 – Last weekend: #6
$2,400,000 (-51%) in 1,550 theaters (-876); PSA: $1,555 ; Cumulative: $233,300,000
Finally coming down to earth after a great run (which worldwide is now at $682 million), with a result some other even more expensive summer action films look at with envy.
What comes next: This series should be able to sustain itself for several more episodes.
9. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) Week 7 – Last weekend: #9
$2,040,000 (-36%) in 1.035 theaters (-530); PSA: $1,971; Cumulative: $220,501,000
Two things are encouraging at this point — word of mouth seems to be keeping the PSA consistent as the theater count continues its drop, and more importantly, unlike previous “Trek” entries, this will have an international total better than domestic, which is a major improvement.
What comes next: With the worldwide total better, the franchise looks set to continue, although its high budget suggests some fresh elements could help next time around.
10. The Internship (20th Century-Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend: #8
$1,425,000 (-58%) in 1,008 theaters (-908); PSA: $1,414; Cumulative: $41,705,000
Just barely edging out “Iron Man 3” for 10th place, which is a minor victory for a film that has had a disappointing performance.
What comes next: By contrast, Fox’ female-centered comedy grossed in its first three days almost as much as this has through 24.