Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla” reboot took in more than half of the Top 10 gross this weekend, and became the third $90 million-plus opener since early April. The haul brought the total gross for these films to $169 million, a decent jump from $146 million last year — when “Iron Man 3” was king of the box office. The strength of 2013’s late May releases, which included “Fast and Furious 6,” “Hangover 3” and “Epic,” may be tough to match. But for studios, the decent showings for the more expensive films, along with the continued strength of a lower-budgeted series, hits make the overall results positive as we head into the biggest grossing period of the year (Memorial Day weekend – through mid-July).
1. Godzilla (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 62
$93,205,000 in 3,952 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $23,584; Cumulative: $93,205,000
If it’s May 16-18, it must be Godzilla’s turn to open to $90 million+ for a weekend (+Thursday night early shows). This was actually higher than pre-opening estimates suggested, although the film ended up dropping more on Saturday than expected (-17% from the combined Thursday night/Friday number, more than either other recent huge openers “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” did).
“Godzilla” was a bit more of a mystery than those two films, in part because it doesn’t have the surefire Marvel pedigree or the benefit of the presell of being a sequel. Though it is an iconic name brand, the 16 years since Roland Emmerich and Sony first tried to reboot it is an eternity in the movie franchise world. (The lack of sequels back then also made this fresher). Another real boost is its greater-than-normal appeal in 3D — Warner Bros. reports that 51% of attendees bought higher-priced tickets in that format, above normal these days, with IMAX also reporting the best number for the year so far.
This is performing much better than the original so far – the 1998 version opened to $44 million without the 3D price enhancements; the inflation adjusted figure would still have been much less (under $70 million). That film went on to $136 million and $379 million worldwide in 1998 figures. For its time, the international take was extremely high — which is more common now. Warner Bros. will shortly report initial international totals, but they should be strong.
This is one of the last Warner Bros. films co-financed by Thomas Tull’s Legendary Productions (they left for Universal with future projects last year). At $160 million, it is relatively economical these days. It has an unusually smart group of people involved — director Gareth Edwards, who has a strong visual effects background, previously made the highly regarded if low-grossing “Monsters.” The eclectic cast includes among others Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins (not that the monster isn’t the main thing here). The producers include veterans of last year’s “Pacific Rim” (ultimately a modest success because of foreign appeal). Though the writers don’t have extensive credits, they seem to have had the prerequisite knowledge of their subject. The resulting package managed to get better reviews than the prior “Godzilla” and the sense that the film turned out to be meant for more than just a quick buck.
What comes next: It’s way too early to project how big a hit this might be, or whether it is big enough to launch another lengthy series of followups. But its initial impact shows that a new recycling of an established brand, if in the right hands, can yield success.
2. Neighbors (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$26,000,000 (-47%) in 3,311 theaters (+32); PSA: $7,850; Cumulative: $91,500,000
$91 million in 10 days for an $18 million production budget film (over $140 million worldwide so far) is a terrific achievement for this Seth Rogen-centered comedy that has outperformed expectations and seems headed to as much as $150 million domestic, $300 million worldwide and likely sequel if not franchise status. The minor fly in the ointment is a 47% second weekend drop (“Ted,” which opened to $6 million more, fell 41%). But this remains a clear success and should top fellow Universal hit “Ride Along” as the biggest comedy hit of 2014 so far (and more impressive, both are originals, not sequels).
What comes next: Two new comedies (the Adam Sandler “Blended” and Universal’s own “A Million Ways to Die in the West”) open over the next two weekends, but this should continue to fare well on its own.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony) – Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$16,800,000 (-53%) in 3,991 theaters (-333); PSA: $4,209; Cumulative: $172,170,000
Sony, a Japanese-based company, made the first American remake of “Godzilla” but not the recent one, which makes the competition-enhanced drop done to their current fantasy character franchise entry ironic. Still, they got their entry out early enough (particularly in foreign territories) and marketed it precisely and smartly enough to get it up to $633 million worldwide so far.
That said, in fairness this is a better gross than the far-more front loaded earlier initial series reboot. Its third weekend fell 69% and took in only $11 million, although the total at that point was much higher ($228 million).
What comes next: This still looks on track to end up in the $700-750 million range considered the minimum needed to enter a profitable range.
4. Million Dollar Arm (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 52
$10,511,000 in 3,019 theaters; PSA: $3,482; Cumulative: $10,511,000
Disney has been touting advance research screenings of this fish-out-of-water baseball story as being among the best in their history, which set up expectations for possible sleeper success and a summer hit somewhat outside of their norm as an original, more adult-oriented story. They got their adults in — the audience was a majority over 35, 73% 26-plus. They also got a gross (along the range of last-minute predictions) around expectations. What we don’t have though yet is a clear sign that this will be successful. The figure is only slightly better than the most recent sports-themed release (Lionsgate’s “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner, which managed to only get to the mid 20s for its run), and behind “Moneyball” ($19.8 million, which became a sizable success ultimately) and even “Trouble With the Curve,” which turned out to be a real disappointment. The last baseball-set hit was “42” last year, which played off its biofilm core to reach almost $100 million.
The A- Cinemascore suggests a decent response, and the history of successful sports films as well as those with older audiences is that they end up frequently with a higher multiple from opening weekend during their runs (for most films, 3X considered standard). But even with a modest $25 million budget, with equivalent marketing costs and lesser foreign prospects because of its American sport subject (though it is set in India, adding some extra interest) this has a long way to go to match the expectations Disney set up (it likely needs at least a $50 million domestic take, probably more).
The creative team included director Craig Gillespie, whose eclectic career has included “Mr. Woodcock,” Lars and the Real Girl” and “Fright Night,” with Tom McCarthy, director of “The Station Agent,” “The Visitor” and “Win Win” as the writer (he also contributed to “Up”), and Mad Man’s Jon Hamm as the lead. Hamm’s previous successes in film have been in supporting roles (“Bridesmaids,” “The Town”). Veteran Joe Roth (currently also with “Heaven Is for Real” in play) was a producer.
What comes next: Next weekend will be a better indication of this film’s future, more than most second ones.
5. The Other Woman (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #3
$6,300,000 (-34%) in 3,054 theaters (-252); PSA: $2,063; Cumulative: $71,664,000
Falling about a third shows continued appeal for this surprisingly successful female comedy, looking like it could be headed to $200 million worldwide on an initial budget of $40 million.
What comes next: This should stay in play for a few more weeks to get it to about $100 million domestic.
6. Heaven Is for Real (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #4
$4,400,000 (-41%) in 2,893 theaters (-155); PSA: $1,521; Cumulative: $82,249,000
After three weeks of overperforming and holding extremely well, “Heaven” came down to earth a bit this time around, but still with a modest drop and nothing standing in the way of its achieving one of the best gross to production ratios of the year (this only cost $12 million) even with international returns likely to be not quite in the same league.
What comes next: This should play well into June, far longer than seemed likely before it was released.
7. Rio 2 (20th Century Fox) Week 6- Last weekend #6
$3,800,000 (-%) in 2,371 theaters (-602); PSA: $1,603; Cumulative: $118,051,000
The small drop — it helps to be the lead animated film around in the 6th week — led to a PSA barely reduced from last week (the drop in gross is about the same as that for loss of theaters, meaning those films holding grossed about the same). This is a decent domestic performer, but the big news is the international take – this now looks like it should combined exceed $500 million.
What comes next: “Rio 3” hasn’t been set yet, but expect Fox to try to play off of the 2016 Olympics to be held there.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Buena Vista) Week 7- Last weekend #5
$3,759,000 (-35%) in 2,271 theaters (-430); PSA: $1,655; Cumulative: $250,627,000
Note that the drop here was smaller than “Spider-Man” with “Godzilla” opening, another sign of the strength of this Marvel smash, now at a combined $703 million worldwide.
What comes next: This is nearing the end of its Top 10 run, but the year’s biggest hit so far looks even better for having opened in April and boosting both its chances and the health of the business overall.
9. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Clarius) Week 2 – Last weekend #8
$ (-48%) in 2,578 theaters (-80); PSA: $757; Cumulative: $6,599,000
Falling more than most second weekend’s for animated films, and then from a weak level, this not inexpensive independent effort looks head for losses for all involved.
What comes next: This should serve as a warning for those who think animated films are a license to print money, even if they involve name brands.
10. Mom’s Night Out (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #7
$1,900,000 (-56%) in 1,046 theaters (+2); PSA: $1,816; Cumulative: $7,327,000
Though this had similar faith-based marketing and production ties that helped “Heaven Is for Real” and “God’s Not Dead,” the comedy and more female orientation may have made it less vital to its intended audience. Even though its smaller theater count (intentionally targeting specific theaters and regions) in part accounts for the small gross, the minor second weekend PSA and big drop shows that this just never caught on.
What comes next: With a $5 million budget and smaller than usual marketing expense, this won’t be a major loss even though it will be one of the smallest studio gross totals of the year.