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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Rules, Outgrosses Three New Openers Combined

Top 10 Takeaways: 'Straight Outta Compton' Rules, Outgrosses Three New Openers Combined

As “Sinister 2” was the best of the new releases without topping $11 million, Hollywood has to weather three more weekends ahead when other fresh product may struggle to even reach that level. While last week’s big opener “Straight Outta Compton” saved the weekend from complete disaster, otherwise the strong season isn’t ending on a high note.

The Top 10

1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$26,760,000 (-55%) in 3,025 theaters (+268); PTA (per theater average): $8,846; Cumulative: $111,483,000
2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) Week 4 – Last weekend #2
$17,186,000 (-40%) in 3,442 theaters (-258); PTA: $4,645; Cumulative: $138,323,000
3. Sinister 2 (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 30; Est. budget: $10 million
$10,633,000 in 2,766 theaters; PTA: $3.844; Cumulative: $10,633,000
4. Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 29; Est. budget: $35 million
$8,200,000 in 3,261 theaters; PTA: $2,515; Cumulative: $8,200,000
5. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$7,420,000 (-45%) in 3,673 theaters (+35); PTA: $2,020; Cumulative: $26,637,000
6. American Ultra (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 50; Est. budget: $28 million
$5,500,000 in 2,778 theaters; PTA: $1,980; Cumulative: $5,500,000
7. The Gift (STX)  Week 3 – Last weekend #5
$4,300,000 (-34%) in 2,303 theaters (-200); PTA: $1,867; Cumulative: $31,053,000
8. Ant-Man (Buena Vista)  Week 6 – Last weekend #6
$4,088,000 (-%) in 2,016 theaters (-290); PTA: $2,028; Cumulative: $164,524,000
9. Minions (Universal)  Week 7 – Last weekend #8
$3,710,000 (-28%) in 2,226 theaters (-414); PTA: $1,667; Cumulative: $319,965,000
10. Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox)  Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$3,650,000 (-55%) in 2,581 theaters (-1,423); PTA: $1,414; Cumulative: $49,625,000

The Takeaways

End of Summer Blahs – Worse than Usual?

The $85 million for the Top Ten is the lowest since early March, but does fall within the range of most late August weekends, down from $97 million in 2014. (This year boasts an extra weekend before getting to the Labor Day holiday, usually the low point of the year.) That weekend had nothing as strong as “Straight Outta Compton,” with the top two spots also taken by holdovers. The gross of the three new 2014 openers (led by “If I Fell”) combined for a mediocre $30 million, 25% more than this year’s two duds and one mixed result. The year to date total now is about 6% ahead of last year, but barely ahead of three of the four prior years. So the tepid August results have led to a decline in 2015’s relative standing (it was up almost 9% at the end of July).

Don’t expect any relief until mid-September. With only two big hits from early August to hold over and non-prime wide releases not likely to open better than “Sinister 2” ahead, the drop-off could continue.

How High Can “Compton” Go?

“Straight Outta Compton” fell 55%, a bit more than expected (the normal guess for a second weekend is a seven times multiple of the previous Thursday, which would have been about $32 million without accounting for adding 250 theaters). It’s at $111 million after ten days. With the weak time period ahead, this now looks more likely to end up at $175 million rather than a high-end $200 million, assuming normal drops ahead.

This weekend suggests that even with media coverage about the unexpected strong opening, no developing security issues (the elephant in the room last week) and strong word of mouth, the movie hasn’t expanded beyond its initial multi-racial (25% white) demos last weekend. That’s a disappointment despite its huge success. Unexpectedly big openers that draw well from some but not all segments sometimes find growth in later weeks as those less interested initially take a chance. With little competition ahead, and likely more positive reaction, this still could end up showing wider appeal. But this weekend’s drop suggests it wont be easy.

Who are Nima Nourizadeh, Ciran Foy and Aleksander Bach? 

These three 30-something men directed new releases this week. Despite being unknowns, they all contributed to combined production/marketing costs of perhaps $125-150 million. All are European, and did not launch from Sundance or other American indie starting points. 

“American Ultra” director Nourizadeh, a Persian Brit, is the only one with wide release experience. He directed the American found-footage $12-million thriller “Project X” in 2012, which grossed $54 million without stars. “Ultra” is more ambitious (budget $28 million) and less clearly defined generically, and boasts two known leads (Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg). 

“Sinister 2” director Foy is Irish with a college film education, a series of acclaimed shorts and “Citadel,” one previous indie feature shot in Scotland that had limited U.S. exposure but caught the eye of writer/producer Scott Derrickson.

“Hitman: Agent 47” director Bach, born in Poland, moved to Germany as a child. The most expensive of the three films was adapted from a popular video game series and was originally set to star the late Paul Walker. The project went forward after his death with Bach, an award-winning commercial and music-video director with no previous feature film experience. His attention-grabbing visuals landed him the gig.

All have accomplished backgrounds in a variety of visual fields and genres (conventional narratives not among the most important). While being European offers a different outsider perspective than the often insular American one, each man has multi-national roots and/or experience, which brings more exposure to a wider world. In an industry that now depends on international grosses, it doesn’t seem surprising that not being an American can be seen as an advantage.

They all brought savings to their producers, as better known, more experienced directors would have cost more upfront and at the back end, and might have demanded higher budgets as well. The three movies seem script and screenwriter driven. “Hitman” writer Skip Woods is known for work on “Die Hard, “X-Men” and “A-Team” films. “Sinister”‘s Scott Derrickson directed the first film as well as “The Day the Earth Stood Still” among others. Max (son of John) Landis broke through with his script for “Chronicle” before writing “American Ultra.” 

Two of the three directors were getting their big break with these films (Nourizadeh was a bit more established). Each came to projects deep into development and were hired for a specific task. It is hard to imagine that they had much chance to control these projects. They were intended to follow expectations mapped out to them before shooting started.

And now they must to varying degrees contend with whatever level of blame comes from their poor showings. Of the three, Foy and “Sinister 2,” which grossed more and cost less, likely fares best. Will they get another shot at this level? Perhaps they are not unlucky.

Holdovers

Between a 55% drop for “Compton” at the top and the disastrous “Fantastic Four” in tenth came others doing better, Last week’s weak opener “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” isn’t redeemed by a normal 45% drop. It still needs a much better showing overseas to move it into breakeven territory. 

“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” again was the standout, down 32% its fourth weekend, looking to near $200 million domestic and $600 worldwide. Paramount and Team Cruise were smart positioning it for the slightly less desirable August slot — they’ve gained by weaker competition.

More family-oriented “Ant-Man” (-26%) and “Minions” (-28%) also are showing lingering strength. The latter though no longer has a chance to overtake “Inside Out” as the top summer (and possibly full year) animated release.

Falling out of the Top Ten is “Ricki and the Flash,” with a 35% drop. To its credit, the Meryl Streep-starrer looks to quadruple its $6.6 million opening. But that likely only will get it to $26 million with minor international appeal, a disappointment considering its pedigree and past summer Streep successes.

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