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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Furious 7’ Leads, Family & Indie Films Take Most Other Slots

Top 10 Takeaways: 'Furious 7' Leads, Family & Indie Films Take Most Other Slots

That’s great, but even with “”Furious 7″‘s April-best-ever showing, the overall total came in at $127 million, $4 million below last year. Part of the reason is seasonal –last year, Easter came two weeks later, prompting Fox to open “Rio 2” (which grossed $39 million), whereas the similar appeal “Home” (which is bigger) is in its third week.

“Furious 7” in the best case scenario might be headed to a $400 million domestic haul (and much bigger worldwide). It certainly raises the bar for upcoming highly anticipated films, led by “Avengers: Age of Vultron” on May 1. Universal made a brilliant move in going early and first, which is paying dividends worldwide, where combined grosses have it already at $800 million, the biggest hit since the first “Avengers” (which reached $1.5 billion).

Also opening, and competing for females with “Furious 7” (initially about half its audience) was the tenth Nicholas Sparks romance novel adaptation “The Longest Ride” (Twentieth Century Fox), which surpassed low-ball studio projections but still looks to be at most a breakeven film based on past performance and costs. In what might be an unprecedented event outside of the late-year awards push, four of the ten films are from specialized-companies, all under 2,000 dates (two less than 750). Smart distributors are taking advantage of what seems to be fewer studio films, but as relatively strong as their grosses are, they aren’t as robust as what normally qualifies in some cases for placement on the list.

More deep coverage on the overall specialized market, including “Danny Collins” and “While We’re Young” in Arthouse Audit.

The Top Ten

1. Furious 7 (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$60,591,000 (-59%) in 4,022 theaters (+18); PSA (per screen average): $15,065; Cumulative: $252,522,000

2. Home (20th Century Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$19,000,000 (-30%) in 3,703 theaters (-98); PSA: $5,131; Cumulative: $129,544,000

3. The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 32
$13,500,000 in 3,366 theaters; PSA: $4,011; Cumulative: $13,500,000

4. Get Hard (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$8,635,000 (-34%) in 3,132 theaters (-80); PSA: $2,757; Cumulative: $71,201,000

5. Cinderella (Buena Vista) Week 5  – Last weekend #4
$7,225,000 (-29%) in 3,025 theaters (-379); PSA: $2,388; Cumulative: $180,773,000

6. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Lionsgate) Week 4 – Last weekend #5
$6,850,000 (-32%) in 3,118 theaters (-324); PSA: $2,202; Cumulative: $114,848,000

7. Woman in Gold (Weinstein) Week 2 – Last weekend #7
$5,852,000 (+180%) in 1,504 theaters (+1,246); PSA: $3,891; Cumulative: $9,303,000

8. It Follows (Radius/Weinstein) Week 5 – Last weekend #6
$2,027,000 (-19%) in 1,633 theaters (-22); PSA: $1,241; Cumulative: $11,798,000

9. Danny Collins (Bleecker Street) Week 4 – Last weekend #17
$1,600,000 (+360%) in 739 theaters (+656); PSA: $2,165; Cumulative: $2,497,000

10. While We’re Young (A24) Week 3 – Last weekend #14
$1,377,000 (+185%) in 246 theaters (+212); PSA: $5,598; Cumulative: $2,355,000

“Furious 7” – How High Will It Go?

“Furious 7” (-59%) fell in the range that many top-grossing openers do. Compared to other non-prime summer releases, it lags behind “The Avengers,” but better than the “Twilight” films or “Hunger Games.” It stands just behind “Iron Man 3” (down 58 per cent, which opened bigger and faced big-grossing “The Great Gatsby” its second week.) However one looks at it, this is a strong gross, the best ten-day figure since “Iron Man 3” (whose domestic $409 million total hasn’t been surpassed in nearly two years). The latter came in at $285 million, some $30 million better than “Furious,” although much or all of the difference came from its 3D surcharges.

So does “Furious” have a shot at $400 million? It actually wasn’t the best second weekend this year — that honor goes to “American Sniper,” which started lower but held incredibly well at $64 million its second week. And that film has gotten to $347 million (so far) as one of the best holding films in a long time.

It has a chance because of a subtle shift in its audience. Universal didn’t release any moviegoer surveys for this weekend. But my suspicion is the good hold came not just from strongly positive word of mouth, but also from something that is becoming part of the new normal. Last weekend Universal reported the audience was a bare majority (51%) male, far below what might seem logical. That represented its only (very minor) weakness. Thus there was room for growth, and that is likely what we see now. And if that is happening (along with greater appeal in the overall audience as positive reactions and the benefit that comes from attention as a dominant hit), then combined with the lack of a potentially really big opener until the “Avengers” sequel, this could see the kind of lesser drops that could put this way over $300 million by May 1 and that film’s onslaught. (The “Mad Max” and “Pitch Perfect” sequels on May 15 could mark the first time it falls out of the top three.)

Next weekend is key. “Iron Man 3” dropped 51% its third weekend (just under $36 million). If “Fast” repeats at #1 and comes in over $35 million (about a 40% drop), it has a chance of getting close to $400 million. But wherever it ends up, it’s gravy for Universal — with new openings in major markets like China and Russia (both huge) this has already taken in $548 million outside of domestic, with several hundred million still to come.

Is Sparks Still Flying?

Nicholas Sparks’ novels have led now to ten movie adaptations, with Fox coming back with the “The Longest Ride” after Relativity did the last two (the very successful “Safe Haven” and the much lower “The Best of Me.” “Ride” opened about a third better than “Best” (which ended up under $27 million) and about 65% of “Safe Haven”‘s debut (later reaching $71 million).

The various films have been successful (averaging over $50 million domestic) because of relatively low grosses, with attractive if not expensive leads or high-end directors. (Curiously, the choice of directors has been eclectic, with veteran African-American George Tillman Jr. helming “Rider,” Michael Hoffman/”The Last Station,” Lasse Hallstrom /”Cider House Rules,” and Scott Hicks/”Shine” adding some personality and gloss to the process). Their economy has helped keep interest alive.

“The Longest Ride” had an estimated production of around $35 million before marketing (at the low end likely $20 million or more). It appears, with its A Cinemascore and no worse than average Saturday drop (typical for younger female demo) of about 10%, to have a shot at a three time multiple, getting it to $40 million possibly (next weekend will give a much better reading). That would get Fox about $20 million back in film rental, and then standard multiple millions back in various home viewing media (its romantic appeal and will elevate its long term non-theatrical prospects.) But against that in terms of its likelihood for profit (and thus incentive for more of the author’s output getting adapted) is that international recently has only come in at about a third of the domestic haul. At $13-15 million (and thus much lower amounts in film rental), that doesn’t get much ahead of overseas marketing costs.

Since the initial and then even bigger cult success of “The Notebook” (inflation adjusted still Ryan Gosling’s biggest success as lead), Sparks has been an eagerly sought after source for adaptation. I’m not sure based on recent results this is going to continue so readily. The next one — “The Choice” — is being independently produced with apparently Lionsgate handling. It might take a jump start from this or an unexpected strong worldwide results from this (could newcomer Scott Eastwood add interest along with Fox’ strong international division?) to keep the momentum going.

One non-sparks comparison: last June, Fox opened stand-alone best seller adaptation “The Fault in Our Stars” to $48 million, nearly four times bigger. Shailene Woodley coming after “Insurgent” clearly helped, and its $12 million budget and international success turned it into a major hit. But one key might again be what is becoming a trend – audiences, particularly women, are gravitating to projects that have an original feel. That doesn’t bode well for the Nicholas Sparks industry.

Holdovers

One note of interest this weekend. Despite the overall Top Ten total minor drop, and coming after a very strong Easter Weekend, the holdovers actually came in surprisingly strong, with other than “Furious 7” nothing dropping more than 35%. That means in some cases a revised outlook for some of these, making it worthwhile to look at several in some depth.

“Home” – Good news for Dream Works Animation. Through three weekends, “Home” is only $4 million shy of where “How to Train Your Dragon” stood at the same point, and significantly better than its sequel last summer. 30% off for a third weekend for an animated hit isn’t unusual, but it does put it in a position to approaching $200 million, excellent for a non-franchise animated film, particularly a spring release.

“Get Hard” – This has had a surprisingly strong hold, still in fourth place its third weekend. At 34% off and $71 million, it is a solid bet to make it to $90 million, better than seemed likely with its decent opening. Its $40 million budget positions it to end up a modest success.

“Cinderella” – Down 29% its fifth stanza, already at $181 million and a worldwide total that should approach $600 million (on a $95 million budget). “Home” cut into this a little with family audiences, but it is still very much a player for a few more weeks. We’re already seeing Disney running to make more live action versions of other cartoon classics.

“Divergent” – Down 32%, at $115 million. This didn’t have the second-in-franchise jump that many similar films get, and now is $10 million behind “Insurgent” at the same point. But that earlier film dropped 43% on its fourth weekend, so this in an improvement (the actual gross is $500,000 less). The best news for Lionsgate is that international is at parity with domestic, and likely ends up ahead, unlike last time when the former did better. So this series is in good shape.

“It Follows” – It has been tough to grade this challenging and improvised release since the decision to eschew early VOD was made. Last weekend’s 34% drop (nearly 50% in PSA) made it look that word of mouth (meant to make up for lower than normal marketing outlays) might not be strong enough to push this to $15 million. But we noted that this weekend would be important, and it turns out positive. With nearly as many theaters, this fell only 19%. That should help RADiUS keep most of the better grossing theaters (though it should face some attrition) and now ultimately pass the $15 million mark. Not knowing RADiUS’s marketing costs for this unusual release and uncertainty about how its VOD and other revenues will gross later on makes it tough to declare this a big success. But it is time to give their team credit for a bigger than expected success so far after a major struggle to find the right path.

“Woman in Gold” – Not really a holdover, but an expansion. With nearly six times as many theaters, “Gold” was just short of tripling its initial gross. This isn’t a great number — a few weeks back, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” opened to $8.5 million in about the same number of theaters. This has become better known more quickly than a limited opening, and looks likely to make it to around $25 million. At a $10 million budget, and TWC handling rights worldwide, this with elevated marketing costs actually has a chance to be a success based on creative distribution (similar to “It Follows” and its different path). And with recent bigger hits “Paddington” (domestic) and “The Imitation Game” (worldwide), it’s giving the company some momentum after a somewhat slow 2014.

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