With summer grosses in a downward spiral, partly due to the releases’ appeal this year but also because of intense World Cup competition, much hope had been extended to this weekend’s opening of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (20th Century Fox) to turn things around. Though "Dawn" had a strong opening, with no other new films and last weekend’s three already having come in below expectations, it was unreasonable to expect one film could turn the ship around. That said, the $135 million Top 10 total once again is a big fall from last year’s $184 million.
The standout news of the week comes from Richard Linklater’s "Boyhood," which grossed $359,000 in 5 theaters for a per screen average of $71,800.
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 79
$73,000,000 in 3,967 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $18,432; Cumulative: $73,000,000
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$16,500,000 (-55%) in 3,913 theaters (-320); PSA: $4,217; Cumulative: $209,031,000
3. Tammy (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$12,910,000 (-40%) in 3,465 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,726; Cumulative: $57,354,000
4. 22 Jump Street (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #3
$6,700,000 (-32%) in 2,811 theaters (-513); PSA: $2,383; Cumulative: $171,961,000
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox) Week 5 – Last weekend #5
$5,865,000 (-35%) in 2,885 theaters (-412); PSA: $2,033; Cumulative: $152,068,000
6. Earth to Echo (Relativity) Week 2 – Last weekend #6
$5,500,000 (-34%) in 3,230 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,703; Cumulative: $24,597,000
7. Deliver Us from Evil (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #4
$4,700,000 (-52%) in 3,049 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,541; Cumulative: $25,002,000
8. Maleficent (Buena Vista) Week 7 – Last weekend #7
$4,169,000 (-32%) in 2,077 theaters (-312); PSA: $2,007; Cumulative: $221,994,000
9. Begin Again (Weinstein) Week 3 – Last weekend #15
$2,935,000 (+134%) in 939 theaters (+764); PSA: $3,126; Cumulative: $5,286,000
10. Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #8
$2,510,000 (-51%) in 1,968 theaters (-662); PSA: $; Cumulative: $41,705,000
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" continues trend of smart franchise creative choices
The second film in the second reboot of the original series (third if one includes the TV show) opened 33% better than 2011’s "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." It needed to (aided by 3D this time around) — the film cost nearly double the previous one. Although many of the creative team repeated, the humans were recast, the title suggested a new start and most importantly an up and coming director, Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield" and "Let Me In") was brought on board. Though some tentpoles stay with the tried and true (see under Michael Bay’s "Transformers"), it has become increasingly common for studios to reach out to promising younger talent to bring some freshness to their big budget efforts. This year has already seen the Russo Brothers ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), Marc Webb (continuing with the "Amazing Spider-Man" series) and Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla") enhance the inherent appeal of their films with at least some degree of creative originality more than what is assumed from these films. "Dawn" actually received the best reviews of any new wide release film this summer. That this opened up to an improved number despite the lengthy history of these films suggests Fox and producer Peter Chernin made the right choice.
The film filled the mid-July slot that in recent years has showcased some smart (mainly comic-based) high-cost films that have thrived, including both "Dark Knight" films and "Captain America." "Ant-Man" has claimed the date for next year.
Once again, Andy Serkis – a mainstay in many prime actors playing non-human roles ("Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit, "King Kong," as well as the previous "Apes" and appearances in the upcoming "Avengers" and "Star Wars" films) is getting the kind of reviews that most actors would kill for, though still with little chance at awards attention. Maybe an honorary one some day?
Is there a negative? Saturday was down eight-percent from Friday’s number (which included strong Thursday evening grosses), compared to "Dawn" (which also had preview shows) dropping 1% its second day. But this sort of second day fall has been common this summer.
This latest success from Fox propelled them into becoming the first studio with a domestic gross of $1 billion this year.
"Transformers" continues its domestic lag while soaring worldwide, yet still looks like summer’s biggest gross.
Before this weekend foreign numbers are reported, Michael Bay’s fourth franchise effort already has passed $750 million worldwide, even more impressive despite it opening against the World Cup (the lack of other new films though helped its cause). But it is the weakest in domestic take, with its third weekend 55% drop and $209 million total falling far short of where the the three previous films stood after their third weekends (in order from the first film, $263, $339 and $302 million respectively). It appears likely to be the best grossing film of the year so far, but should fall short of $300 million, making this the first summer since 2001 (unless something yet to be released or "Dawn" holds on extraordinarily well) not to have at least one film reach that level, despite many of those years having much lower ticket prices and/or no 3D/IMAX surcharges to help.
"Tammy"’s more modest fall isn’t all good news.
Despite its horrific reviews and C- Cinemascore (the latter not always the most reliable gauge of audience response or future prospects), "Tammy" fell less than expected with a 40% drop. Why isn’t this encouraging without any caveats? Star Melissa McCarthy’s two previous lead role efforts fell less after opening better – "Identity Thief" was down 31%, "The Heat" 37%. And most films this weekend benefited from only one new film opening and not much other heat in the market.
"22 Jump Street" joins "Maleficent" as the word of mouth success of the summer.
In a summer with way too rapid falls for top grossing openers, "Maleficent" becomes the first to stay in the Top 10 for a seventh week. This isn’t a common experience this time of the year (with a much faster track and overall higher grosses), but usually two to four films manage this. With Disney’s Angelina Jolie-starring role film heading for a possible 8th week, "Jump" looks like it could do the same, or at least reach 7. It also looks to end up over $200 million domestic, almost 50% better than "21 Jump Street." Both films dropped under 33% this weekend, impressive at this point of their runs when they are losing theaters every week.
"Earth to Echo" Shows Signs of Life
The kids market usually is still going strong in mid-July, and with no other new recent releases aimed at them, Relativity’s lower-budget kids-befriend-aliens film "Earth to Echo" had the best hold among last week’s 3 openers with a 34% fall, getting it to almost $25 million with a production budget of $13 million (marketing costs likely will come in higher). No other new live-action family film is due in the next few weeks (though Disney has a "Planes" sequel on tap this Friday), so this could turn into a success.
"Begin Again" Makes the Top 10
Weinstein has been quiet most of the year since its awards releases, so it isn’t surprising that their decent limited opening of John Carney’s lower Manhattan-set music scene drama quickly broadened out. The #9 placement for under 1,000 theaters shows they are finding some success so far, although some comparisons make it look somewhat less impressive. Open Road’s very successful "Chef" – now nearing $25 million – expanded more slowly. Its third week saw just over half as many theaters (498 compared to 939) gross $2,266,000, about 75% of the total for "Begin." Weinstein had a similar number of theaters for "August: Osage County" when it went to 905 theaters. Boosted by greater ads buys and concurrent awards hoopla, its gross was more than double ($7.1 million). The best news, apart from the visibility of its Top 10 showing, is that the film had the biggest pickup yesterday from Friday, a bit ahead of "Chef"’s third Saturday jump. Word of mouth is crucial if this is going to sustain a run that gets it into the $25 million or better level this likely needs with its acquisition and subsequent marketing expense.
"America" Has Best Hold for the Weekend
It fell a slot to #12, but Dinesh D’Souza’s rightwing retelling of American history (released by Lionsgate) dropped only 11% while staying at the same 1,105 theaters. It grossed $2,450,000 and is up to $8,268,000. With a major distributor managing (although not financing) the release this looks like it has potential to expand further in coming weeks.
Bad PR doesn’t seem to matter much.
Fox twice this summer has had to hold its breath to see if negative news – first, the unproven civil allegations against "X-Men"’s Bryan Singer and then "Dawn" star Gary Oldham’s controversial Playboy comments would rebound against their films’ openings. The impact? None to be seen, even in the age of deeper awareness due to social media.