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Box Office Top Ten Takeaways: ‘American Sniper’ Is Record Super Bowl Weekend Grosser

Box Office Top Ten Takeaways: 'American Sniper' Is Record Super Bowl Weekend Grosser

While the Super Bowl weekend always has a ready-made excuse for the box office blahs, nonetheless it continues strong due to the robust performance of “American Sniper” and thus outpaces last year. 2015 to date is up around 9% so far.

Little of note opened this week. The best of the new films, “Project Almanac” tied with holdover “Paddington” in second place. In previous years multiple titles have opened to over $20 million: two in 2012, “Taken” the year before, and both the Hannah Montana concert film and “Dear John.”

Even soaring “Sniper” shows signs of dropping a bit. “Paddington” and “The Imitation Game,” both from Weinstein, though not remotely in the same league, have established themselves as successes and both should continue to thrive.

The total for the Top Ten came to $82 million, up from $16 million last year. But next week is the one year anniversary of “The LEGO Movie,” so expect a downward result then.

The Top Ten

1. American Sniper (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last weekend #1
$31,850,000 (-51%) in 3,885 theaters (+180); PSA (per screen average): $8,198; Cumulative: $248,942,000
2. (tie) Project Almanac (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 46; est. budget: $12 million
$8,500,000 in 2,893 theaters; PSA: $2,938; Cumulative: $8,500,000
2. (tie) Paddington (Weinstein) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$8,500,000 (-31%) in 3,303 theaters (-52); PSA: $2,575; Cumulative: $50,540,000
4. Black or White (Relativity) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 45; est. budget: $9 million
$6,456,000 in 1,823 theaters; PSA: $3,541; Cumulative: $6,456,000
5. The Boy Next Door (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$6,093,000 (-59%) in 2,615 theaters (+15); PSA: $2,330; Cumulative: $24,684,000
6. The Wedding Ringer (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$5,700,000 (-50%) in 2,820 theaters (-183); PSA: $2,021; Cumulative: $48,100,000
7. The Imitation Game (Weinstein) Week 10 – Last weekend #6
$5,173,000 (-25%) in 2,402 theaters (+377); PSA: $2,154; Cumulative: $67,955,000
8. Taken 3 (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #5
$3,650,000 (-51%) in 2,533 theaters (-376); PSA: $1,441; Cumulative: $81,353,000
9. Strange Magic (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend #7
$3,441,000 (-37%) in 3,020 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,139; Cumulative: $9,899,000
10. The Loft (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: D+; Metacritic: 24; est. budget: $14 million
$2,879,000 in 1,841 theaters; PSA: $1,564; Cumulative: $2,879,000

The Takeaways

Super Bowl Weekend Comparisons

Because of “American Sniper”‘s continued showing at #1, the optics of the weekend grosses aren’t bad, but the actual numbers are more disconcerting (particularly after a strong two months). This weekend ties with 2012 as the best Super Bowl Top Ten total in the last five years. But take away the top film and the rest of the list falls short of any of the previous six up against the game. Often there is a strong female-centered new film this weekend, but with these in short supply (or aimed at more prominent playtimes, such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” set for Valentine’s Day), the three new releases looked to be short on breakout appeal.

“Sniper,” a third wide weekend player, has in raw numbers the top number ever for the weekend, but an appropriate adjustment for higher ticket prices places it third, behind “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus” and “Dear John,” both slightly bigger.

Three New Films Show Minor Appeal

The youth-oriented “Project Almanac” may not be low-budget enough to recoup despite its $12 million budget plus less expensive social media marketing. It will be lucky to total $20 million domestically (half back to the studio). The time-travel/found footage tale drew 63% under 25 — what used to be normal for many films, now a rarity. This audience is increasingly disinterested (or perhaps more selective) and routine entries like this are no longer close to a sure thing, even with a modest budget.

“Black or White” (Relativity) gained from being new for older audiences (much steadier these days), although for the demographic its 31% jump on Saturday was modest. It’s another of several recent releases that were acquired at Toronto and given a chance to test the awards market (this, like “Still Alice,” “Cake” and “The Humbling” all qualified in Los Angeles last year, with only “Alice” realizing its goal). Kevin Costner, post his career revival with cable’s “The Hatfield and the McCoys,” has been landing leading roles again, but this is the lowest opening of these. He financed and produced this story about a child custody battle over a biracial grandchild and clearly made a big commitment to the project. Its main hope is enough positive response (it has a strong Cinemascore, hardly the best gauge these days), but it doesn’t look to have quite the initial interest to sustain a multi-week run.

“The Loft” is a rare misfire from Open Road, though it was acquired cheaply. This remake (by its original director) of a Dutch thriller made its rounds among the studios, with Universal actually slated to release it last August. Open Road usually sets its films on dates with release schedule holes. They likely had minor risk with this, but it still shows the increasingly tough market for too-familiar genre films.

“American Sniper” Still Very Strong, But a Bit Less Phenomenal

Its 51% drop is a bit high for the third weekend of a film at this level, but of course the huge anticipated drop for today (even bigger because of its shared audience among those most likely to be watching the game) plays a big role. After a second weekend fall of only 27%, the most recent weekdays (discarding the weather-affected Monday) were off 50% from the first week. This Friday/Saturday fell 41%, more than decent, but again giving a clear picture of where this is headed. Whatever its final domestic total, it will be spectacular, and likely at least triple pre-release expectations.

But projecting ahead, and not assuming a boost with a possible Bradley Cooper Oscar win, this may not score an additional $90 million needed to reach pass the $340 million and beat “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” as top 2014 release. The high-end possibility of $400 million now seems unlikely. Warners’ recent new wave of TV ads has attempted to attract audiences (more female and upscale) that in some cases have been resistant, but it will take next week to see if this is having a major impact.

But let’s not kid ourselves — $31 million for a third weekend against the Super Bowl remains a stellar achievement. The closest in comparison is “Avatar” in 2010, which in its eighth weekend took in $22 million, dropping to second after seven at #1. By midweek, “Sniper” will surpass “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” in total domestic gross, with both films over the quarter billion dollar mark.

Holdover Report Card

Weinstein is head of the class by a big margin this week. “Paddington” (similar to many of the best children-aimed performers”) dropped only 31%. When all numbers are in it might end up in second place. The family movie has reached $50 million, the tenth to do so in the decade-long history of the Weinstein Company (a lower total than one might guess), with a considerable distance still to go. Already above that total and certain to hit $100 million is “The Imitation Game,” which saw a modest 25% drop this weekend (with a theater count uptick of 15% helping the cause).

The other top hold is “Strange Magic,” the Lucasfilm animated effort released through Disney. But 37% down from an awful start isn’t much to brag about. Last week’s #2 “The Boy Next Door” (Universal) shed 59% of its initial weekend’s gross, while later in their release “The Wedding Ringer” (Sony) and “Taken 3” (20th Century Fox) both dropped 50%, not bad considering football competition. The latter won’t make it to $100 million domestically (the previous two did between $140-145 million), but will much more than double that in its foreign haul.

Below the Top Ten, “Selma” (Paramount) was off 51% and a total of just under $44 million. Despite its awards-adjacent release and overall acclaim and media attention, it is likely to gross less than half of “The Butler” ($116 million). Just behind in 12th spot is “Into the Woods” adding another couple million (nearly $125 million, far above post-screening expectations). “A Most Violent Year” (A24) as well as “Birdman” and other awards contenders also showed degrees of strength in the very competitive upscale/adult audience (more details here in Arthouse Audit.

And the Flops

How mortifying it is for Johnny Depp that his “Mortdecai” (Lionsgate) dropped 2/3s from its abysmal opening, but even worse, in ten times as many theaters, it grossed less than the IMAX presentation of two already-seen episodes of “Game of Thrones.” If misery loves company, he can join Michael Mann and team, whose “Blackhat” in its third weekend will only muster $114,000. 2015 is only a month old but already has two high-end disasters.

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