This fourth of July weekend, the box office, led yet again by Michael Bay’s latest "Transformers," suffered a serious collapse.
The Top Ten grossed $113 million. That is $107 million less than last year (when the 4th fell on a Thursday). It’s worse than that — no June or July weekend has grossed this low since 2005, nor any grossed lower for the holiday weekend this century. Some anomalies contributed including the lingering effects of World Cup issues. The big current tentpole is in its second rather than first week (past "Transformers" have contributed to July 4th strength when they opened the same week). And the new releases didn’t perform that well.
But it’s hard to avoid the reality that a 2014 that was 9% above last year at the end of April is now down 4%. And the back half of last year plus the fall and holidays were strong, so it isn’t going to get any easier going forward, even with some potential blockbusters (led by "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" this week). The warning signs have been around for a few weeks, but they hit full force this holiday. Here’s another figure. Last year eight films grossed over $10 million for the holiday adjacent three-day weekend. This year only two did. Another disappointment is that after a weekend when four sequels led the gross list, three originals opened this week. Their relative weakness will do nothing to threaten the studio reliance on retreads and franchises.
Here are the Top Ten numbers, followed by what they actually mean.
1. "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$36,400,000 (-64%) in 4,233 theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $8,599; Cumulative: $174,746,000
2. "Tammy" (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: C-; Criticwire: D+; Metacritic: 39
$21,170,000 in 3,465 theaters; PSA: $6,110; Cumulative: $32,906,000
3. "Deliver Us from Evil" (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 41
$9,500,000 in 3,049 theaters; PSA: $3,116; Cumulative: $15,000,000
4. "22 Jump Street" (Sony) Week 4 – Last weekend #2
$9,400,000 (-41%) in 3,324 theaters (-102); PSA: $; Cumulative: $
5. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #3
$8,750,000 (-34%) in 3,297 theaters (-453); PSA: $2,654; Cumulative: $140,000,000
6. "Earth to Echo" (Relativity) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 52
$8,250,000 in 3,230 theaters; PSA: $2,554; Cumulative: $13,500,000
7. "Maleficent" (Buena Vista) Week 6 – Last weekend #5
$6,133,000 (-27%) in 2,389 theaters (-684); PSA: $; Cumulative: $213,882,000
8. "Jersey Boys" (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #6
$5,160,000 (-33%) in 2,630 theaters (-275); PSA: $1,962; Cumulative: $36,705,000
9. "Think Like a Man Too" (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$4,900,000 (-52%) in 1,729 theaters (-496); PSA: $2,834; Cumulative: $57,192,000
10. "Edge of Tomorrow" (Warner Bros.) Week 5 – Last weekend #7
$3,640,000 (-33%) in 1,538 theaters (-997); PSA: $2,367; Cumulative: $90,870,000
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" suffered the biggest second week drop of the franchise.
The fourth series go-round is the latest action tentpole to drop over 60% on its second weekend. All since "Captain America" have shared the same fate, even with none of them actually surpassing $100 million openings (Paramount claimed this did, but it likely fell just short despite being the top opener of the year). Even with the lower number, it still had the biggest fall of the series, which have dropped between 47 and 61 per cent previously. And that was despite the hope that the holiday weekend would buttress the number. It still is a clear number one, but with a lower gross than any top film for this weekend since 2001. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" should quickly take away much of its remaining strength, although $250 million still looks likely, International is now at $400 million, so $750-800 million combined total or more is likely. So it’s a success, even with its enormous expense. But the domestic take looks to be at the low end of hopes.
Is Melissa McCarthy joining Kevin Hart in risking good will?
Her recent successes earned her the right to take on a risky personal project (she cowrote "Tammy" with her husband, actor and first-time director Ben Falcone). But her three top-billed films since her breakout success in "Bridesmaids" all opened to $34 million-plus, more than the five day take here. The C- Cinemascore indicates disappointment from her fans. Kevin Hart likewise has been on a tear recently, with both "Riding Along" and "Think Like a Man Too" opening at #1. But the latter collapsed quickly (even with a much higher Cinemascore). Both stars have lots of success ahead of them — brand comedy names like Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy have come up with strong numbers despite less than worthy efforts. But neither McCarthy nor Hart can afford to go wrong again soon, even if their film’s budgets stay reasonable, if they hope to sustain their momentum.
Horror remains an underperformer.
"Deliver Us from Evil" remains, despite its #3 placement and $15 million five-day take, a disappointment. It used to be a truism in the business that a new studio horror entry after a period with none was a slamdunk opener. That hasn’t been true all year. This is little better than the nothing "I, Frankenstein" and "The Devil’s Due" did in January, despite a significantly higher budget ($30 million pre-marketing). Director Scott Derrickson is no horror novice –he made "Sinister" ($18 million opening) and the low-budget "Exorcism of Emily Rose" ($30 million). This is Jerry Bruckheimer’s first non-Disney produced film in over a decade, and the gross is lower than any of those among his wide-released efforts. The problem seems to be the genre — for routine efforts, it seems played out, with the core younger male audience no longer automatic ticket buyers.
Family audiences aren’t automatic
The low budget "E.T" retread "Earth to Echo" started as a Disney project that was then produced independently for around $13 million. Relativity was smart to release this in a period when family movies are scarcer than normal for the season, but they still weren’t able to open better than the fourth weekend of "How to Train Your Dragon 2," which itself has performed a little below expectations. "Earth" had no name draws, and its inadequate five-day take suggests that parents are wary of unknowns and non-brand name products.
The weaker the new films, the better the holds
Not all the results were weak. Five of the Top Ten holdovers dropped less than 50%, four under 35%. "Maleficent" — the word of mouth release of the summer, dropped only 27%. Two disappointing Warners films, "Jersey Boys" (which now looks like it might approach $50 million) and "Edge of Tomorrow" (edging toward $100 million domestic, with triple of that international) have managed to hold better than it first appeared they would. And "22 Jump Street" at a higher level continues to impress.
"America" impresses, but way below "2016: Obama’s America"
Just edged out of the Top Ten is Dinesh D’Souza’s "America," a revisionist imagining of the country’s history from a right-wing perspective. Lionsgate is distributing this, responding to the sleeper success of "2016," made by the same team and released by Rocky Mountain Pictures in 2012 ($30 million gross). That film was released slowly, jumping to 1,091 theaters in its seventh week and grossing $6.5 million. The take this go-round in 1,105 was $2,725,000 for the weekend, about $4 million so far. This was good enough for #11 for the weekend, mainly due to a better performance on Friday. It was however the only film among the leaders to gross less yesterday than Friday, which despite the reported A+ Cinemascore might suggest less audience appeal than "2016." Not surprisingly, this received scathing reviews, with a bottom of the barrel 14 Metacritic score. For good measure, the film joins "2016" and this year’s "God’s Not Dead" as Manhattan opening releases — in this case playing major theaters in Times and Union Squares — not reviewed by the usually all-inclusive New York Times).