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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Furious 7’ Hits $320 Million in 4th Weekend as Market Waits for ‘Avengers’

Top 10 Takeaways: 'Furious 7' Hits $320 Million in 4th Weekend as Market Waits for 'Avengers'

The weekend was significantly down from 2014–the second lowest of a decent 2015 so far; only Super Bowl weekend did worse. No distributor wanted to position a strong entry the week before a juggernaut like “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Also, this past week nearly all distributors, theater owners and film buyers were attending the annual exhibitors’ convention Cinemacon. All sides preferred an easy week without complications that could arise from an overcrowded release calendar.

Only one new wide release opened. Lionsgate targeted women with “The Age of Adaline,” which fared best on Friday, then fell to third overall for the full weekend. Yet another film from a Sundance/specialized director (“Celeste and Jesse Forever”‘s Lee Toland Krieger), the $30-million domestic-driven romance opened to less than $14 million, which will be a challenge to recoup given marketing costs.  

While another 1,000 theater-plus opener, Open Road’s acquisition of the $20-million cost faith-based World War II story “Little Boy,” got a boost from opening day group sales, it only managed to place 13th after a severe drop on Saturday. 

The Top Ten

1. “Furious 7 (Universal) Week 4 – Last weekend #1
$18,259,000 (-37%) in 3,808 theaters (-156); PSA (per screen average): $4,795; Cumulative: $320,526,000

2. “Paul Blart – Mall Cop 2” (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$15,500,000 (-35%) in 3,633 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,266; Cumulative: $43,950,000

3. “The Age of Adaline” (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 51; Est. Budget: $30 million
$13,375,000 in 2,991 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $4,472; Cumulative: $13,375,000

4. “Home” (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 5 – Last weekend #4
$ 8,300,000 (-22%) in 3,311 theaters (-177); PSA: $2,507; Cumulative: $15,784,000

5. “Unfriended” (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$6,244,000 (-61%) in 2,775 theaters (+36); PSA: $2,250; Cumulative: $25,158,000

6. “Ex Machina (A24) Week 3 – Last weekend #15
$5,411,000 (+581%) in 1,255 theaters (+1,216); PSA: $4,335; Cumulative: $6,920,000

7. “The Longest Ride” (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #5
$4,365,000 (-38%) in 2,276 theaters (-379); PSA: $1,390; Cumulative: $30,398,000

8. “Get Hard” (Warner Bros.) Week 5 – Last weekend #6
$3,905,000 (-21%) in 2,276 theaters (-379); PSA: $1,716; Cumulative: $84,066,000

9. “Monkey Kingdom” (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend #8
$3,551,000 (-22%) in 3,140 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,716; Cumulative: $10,258,000

10. “Woman in Gold” (Weinstein) Week 4; Last weekend #7
$3,501,000 (-24%) in 1,981 theaters (-30); PSA: $1,767; Cumulative: $21,635,000

The Takeaways

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Takes the Lead 

“‘Furious 7,’ you’ve done great, but get out of the way!” That’s the
message Marvel’s “Avengers” sent via its $200 million-plus opening in most of the world (except for China, Japan, Spain and the Western Hemisphere). Continuing the trend of launching American blockbuster studio films overseas (which reinforces the fact that the U.S. is second in importance
these days), this played at the very high end of expectations.

Staggering dates allows top talent to concentrate on Europe and
elsewhere separately from overlapping domestic appearances. It’s easier
to market to the world (far less critic-influenced, a minor factor) than at
home, so a studio gets a clear shot of establishing a sense of
hugeness as part of the lead-in to domestic openings. This level of
business gets theaters to commit even more seats and screens to a film,
in turn increasing its gross. And when financial deals aren’t yet
finalized, a strong
foreign opening convinces straggling exhibitors to bite the bullet.
Timing factors (holidays and other events) can come into play: May 1 is
a major holiday in much of the world (not the U.S.), so in this case
“Avengers,” already having had a huge start, gets a boost its second
weekend there.

“Ex Machina” – What Comes Next

A24’s release of Alex Garland’s artificial intelligence film (a Universal film overseas, oddly not assigned to their domestic specialized division Focus) placed sixth in 1,255 theaters in a quick expansion that showed strong faith in the film’s crossover potential. The company founded in 2013 has made some aggressive moves, with “Spring Breakers” their best so far at $14 million. “Ex Machina” has grossed just under $7 million in only 17 days, and grossed over $1 million more than that film’s 1,100 theater -plus second weekend. So this could be their biggest success yet. It’s $500,000 to the best weekend (the fourth) for “The Place Beyond the Pines” (which got to $21 million) and about the same as the second-week expansion of “Woman in Gold” in about 250 more theaters, with that film headed to over $25 million.

This has a more youth-oriented appeal (as has been A24’s forte) than the older-age demo mostly chased by specialized companies. The 32% rise yesterday from Friday, though below the Top Ten average (its audience possibly less distracted by the Bruce Jenner interview) is a positive sign. “Breakers” dropped 25% its first wider Saturday. And because of the “Avengers” juggernaut, which will of course will be an upcoming factor, the lack of other major new films should keep this a top alternative.

Success feeds on itself, and A24 should find it easy to get interest in further expansion and add to its marketing to help push the momentum. All of this with a first-time director and an original project without big star names. SXSW hosted the North American premiere right before the launch. This might not be the biggest-grossing specialized film of the year, but it brings a strong boost to those who maintain faith in theaters and the ability to attract younger crowds to the right film.

2015 Market Share Scorecard So Far

We are nearing the one third mark for 2015, settling in for the first weekend in May. With the new summer start date comes hopes of a blockbuster season to outpace the weak product from last year. Through today, total box office is up 3.7% from early 2014 — and last January to April was relatively stronger than summer, led by two $200 million releases, “The LEGO Movie” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Like last year, a solid core of $100 million hits (same number as this year) had opened. The 2015 difference is that we’ve seen two $320 million or better players — “American Sniper” and “Furious 7,” closing in on the top slot. Those two films alone–the former grossing far higher than anyone dreamed–combine to make over 20% of 2015 so far.

Through last Thursday, Warner Bros. with 20% market share leads all the studios so far, with “Sniper” more than half of their $632 million total (“Get Hard” has also been a strong performer). Universal at 19% found half its bounty from “Furious,” but “Fifty Shades of Grey” contributed $150 million. (Through this weekend, Universal has narrowed the margin.) Fox at 15% has been content to thrive with not quite as high-end totals, but “Home” ($145 million and rising), the surprise hit “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and even the somewhat below par “Taken 3” all hit $89 million or more. Fox is the only distributor with three entries in that range.

Buena Vista, soon to soar with “Avengers,” is currently in fourth, with “Cinderella” their only breakout release. Paramount’s fifth position is mostly due to “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.” Nearly two-thirds of Lionsgate’s sixth place just over 6% comes from “Insurgent,” while the Weinstein Company came in seventh on the awards run of “The Imitation Game” plus “Paddington.”

Things have to get better for Sony, currently eighth. Their top film “The Wedding Ringer” only hit $64 million, double its next best prior to this weekend.

Holdover Report

One of the strongest holding weekends of the year, with only one film out of line with the trend. The lack of much significant wide product along with decent reaction to most current films all helped.

Furious 7″ had its best hold yet, down only 37% to retain the top position. At $320 million, look for it to end up closer to $400 than $350 million domestic. It has already passed $1 billion worldwide.

The surprise to many is that critically derided Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2is down only 35%. Audiences clearly like the PG-rated more family-oriented comedy.

Three other Top Ten films held even better, all down between 20-25%, very good holds: “Home,” “Get Hard,” “Monkey Kingdom” and “Woman in Gold” are all thriving in the less competitive field, which will soon change.

Two of last week’s openers dropped more: “The Longest Ride” dipped 38%, in context not so bad since the opening “Age of Adaline” was 75% female, cutting into “Ride”‘s core audience. “Unfriended” fared by far the worst, off 61%, not unusual for the second weekend of a horror film, but looking worse when so many other films rebounded better.

Finally, this week’s Box Office coverage is dedicated to the memory of Richard
Corliss, not only a great film critic and writer, but who also in Time
Magazine and elsewhere showed a depth of knowledge about the movie
business beyond any other critic and helped expand the public’s
understanding about box office and popular culture. He transcended the
often artificial gap between mass market and specialized film the way
all critics should aspire to do. I am grateful beyond words for his
friendship and support, and will miss him deeply.

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