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Top 10 Takeaways: Mid-November Blues as Box Office Again Falls Flat; Women Directors Make History

Top 10 Takeaways: Mid-November Blues as Box Office Again Falls Flat; Women Directors Make History

The box office remains spotty, between last week’s big opening (“Spectre”) and the lead-up to the final “Hunger Games” and new Disney/Pixar entry “The Good Dinosaur” over the Thanksgiving holiday. The top two performers are the same as least weekend, doing well enough to salvage worrisome ticket sales. Three new studio releases failed to top $10 million—in fact only one came in better than $6 million— total grosses fell flat yet again this fall. 

The Top Ten (+2)

1. Spectre (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$35,400,000 (-50%) in 3,929 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $9.010; Cumulative: $130,701,000
2. The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend #2 
$24,200,00 (-45%) in 3,902 theaters (+5); PTA: $6,202; Cumulative: $82,490,000
3. Love the Coopers (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 29; Est. budget: $18 million
$8,400,000 in 2,603 theaters; PTA: $3,227; Cumulative: $8,400,000
4. The Martian (20th Century Fox) Week 7; Last weekend #  3
$6,725,000 (-26%) in 2,788 theaters (-67); PTA: $2,412; Cumulative: $207,408,000
5. The 33 (Warner Bros.)  NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 54; Est. budget: $25 million
$5,845,000 in 2,452 theaters; PTA: $2,384; Cumulative: $5,845,000
6. Goosebumps (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #4  
$4,650,000 (-%) in 2,805 theaters (-246); PTA: $1,658; Cumulative: $73,487,000
7. Bridge of Spies (Buena Vista) Week 5; Last weekend #5  
$4,289,000 (-26%) in 2,688 theaters (-79); PTA: $1,596; Cumulative: $61,696,000
8. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (20th Century Fox)  NEW – Est. budget: $15 million
$2,400,000 in 286 theaters; PTA: $8,392; Cumulative: $2,400,000
9. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #6  
$2,350,000 (-35%) in 1,834 theaters (-440); PTA: $1,281; Cumulative: $165,245,00
10. The Last Witch Hunter (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #8
$2,598,000 in 1,479 theaters (-807); PTA: $1,014; Cumulative: $26,077,000
11. Spotlight (Open Road) Week 2; Last weekend #23
$1,398,000 in 61 (+56) theaters; PTA: $22,925; Cumulative: $1,815,000

The Takeaways

Jim Carrey Never Looked So Good

The Top Ten total gross was down a disconcerting 24% from the same weekend in 2014 (similarly sandwiched between a weekend with two high end openers and an upcoming “Hunger Games” entry. The $96 million initial total is reduced by the failure of four new films that didn’t amount to even half of “Dumb and Dumber Too” co-starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. That relatively insignificant Farrelly Brothers iteration managed $36 million two decades after the potent original.

But it played successfully to a younger, male audience (remember them?) and started the year-long stellar line-up of overachieving releases from Universal. And to continue the last-year comparison, this year’s #2 newbie, mining disaster movie “The 33,” came in behind the “Beyond the Lights” total of  $6.2 million. 

All four of the new releases (including one, “My All American,” which failed to make the Top Ten) were aimed at specific audience segments, all of which have shown the ability to provide films with higher numbers. “Love the Coopers” (a CBS FIlms production, distributed by Lionsgate) was aimed squarely at older females. It’s not a stellar opening (similar audience appeal “The Intern” had more than double a gross in its opening), but “Coopers” did exceed expectations as well as placing best among the new entries, surpassing “The 33,” and also went up 22% yesterday compared to the 18% second day jump for “The Intern,” despite lackluster reviews and a weak B- audience poll Cinemascore.

“The 33,” aimed at Latinos and faith-based groups, fared less well. Based on the Chilean mining rescue mission from several years ago, it continues Warner Bros.’ recent run of disappointing entries. Though never expected to be a big domestic hit, it failed to come close to the draw from similarly aimed films at their best in recent years. “Instructions Not Included” two years ago opened to nearly $8 million in far fewer (978) theaters as one top example. But Warners and production partner Alcon faced a problem that some of the purely Latino films didn’t. It was shot (among other reasons because of its international cast) in English. Both subtitled and Spanish dubbed prints were provided to some theaters. And its cast contained only major Spanish-language star Antonio Banderas with other top roles filled by Irish, French and Brazilian actors who don’t resonate with the base audience.

“My All American” fared worse, the latest in a seemingly never-ending string of religious sports films. “The 33” marketing campaign appealed to believers in presenting the rescue mission as led by God as much as humans, but at least didn’t limit itself to that. “American” (acquired for $1 million plus marketing) seems to be loved by those who did see it (an A Cinemascore) but went down slightly Saturday, and boasts limited appeal. Though faith-based films likely thrive ahead on a case by case basis, they remain problematic particularly when they repeat old formulas.

Then there’s “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo,” which managed eighth place and $2.4 million on only 286 theaters (though that number is a high for an Indian film). The market for subcontinent films has been growing since the 1990s, but it is becoming important enough for the majors. Despite no mainstream reviews and little awareness beyond its core audience, this was a 20th Century Fox release, which is not surprising because Fox is part of the worldwide Murdoch empire, which includes a major presence in India.

“Spectre” Still #1, But Will It Manage a Christmas Hold?

After a slightly disappointing domestic opening (which came in almost $3 million below the preliminary estimate, and almost $20 million less than “Skyfall”) the outlook is upbeat for the latest Bond entry. “Spectre” fell just under 50% its second weekend, compared to 53% from “Skyfall.” Its ten day figure is 81% of the last go-round, compared to 78% for the initial weekend. Worldwide, it is over $400 billion with new territories, like China, in some cases outpacing “Skyfall.” (The 2012 entry did just over $300 million domestic, $1.1 billion worldwide.)

“Skyfall” was helped by staying in over 1,300 US/Canada theaters through Christmas. Its playoff was a little different; its third weekend followed Thanksgiving, which will boost “Spectre” in its fourth week. 

The crucial hold a few weeks hence will determine whether “Spectre” will manage the same elevated holiday presence. And it is going to be a tougher task, with seats (and multiple theater showings) at a huge premium even by normal Christmas standards. But for Sony and partners, “Spectre”‘s lesser drop this weekend over last time gives them hope to still be around.

How Three Women Directors Came Together for an Unprecedented Week

Three big studio releases this week were directed by women, making the total nine for the year so far. Usually the combined total is less than half of that. It’s still a drop in the bucket, but with three successes (“50 Shades of Gray,” Pitch Perfect 2″ and “The Intern”) that’s not a bad average compared to the success rate among men.

The three come from disparate backgrounds. “Love the Coopers” is the third film directed by Jessie Nelson (1994’s “Corrina Corrina” and “I Am Sam,” which scored Sean Penn an Oscar nomination). It has been 14 years since her last feature as a director. She’s been an active writer and producer and worked in television. But her return after such a long hiatus underscores the hurdles accomplished women have building on early success. (Catherine Hardwicke, who directed “Twilight,” has never found similar easy followups like male counterparts might. Her low-budget drama “Miss You Already” has drawn minor reaction despite Drew Barrymore as a lead.) That “Coopers” has the look of a possible minor success.

Studios are also reaching out to Hispanic talent (beyond the obvious three Mexican amigos Cuaron, Innarittu and Del Toro). Also Mexican, Patricia Riggin fought for many years to direct $25-million “The 33” (she is mainly known in the U.S. for Fox Searchlight’s “Under the Same Moon”). This film likely will make most of its gross outside the U.S., so it could end up despite weak domestic results close to breakeven.

The last of the three (and it appears there has never been a week with even two live action female-directed major studio releases before) is Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea,” which Universal financed because of their relationship with her— “Unbroken” generated $163 million worldwide. No studio will automatically reject any Jolie/Brad Pitt pairing, and “By the Sea” could have more success in Europe ahead. Like the other two women, this is her third directed film. Many major stars have become directors, to a wide range of success and failure. “By the Sea,” which opened weakly in 10 theaters and will get a limit release ahead in the U.S.. To both Universal and Jolie Pitt’s credit, they are dealing with the film they have rather than what other stars’ egos might dictate. 

The three films didn’t grab much media attention, which is good news. Maybe this becomes less of an anomaly, and these films’ spotty response isn’t taken any more negatively than the many similar mixed reactions to different groupings of male directors.

Holdovers

Apart from “Spectre,” the holdovers were mostly on par with expectations and recent showings. “The Peanuts Movie” dropped 45%, the normal range for a routine animated family film, and should come in way over $100 million before Thanksgiving and competition from Disney’s “The Good Dinosaur.” The two broad-based Oscar contenders being fueled by older audiences – “The Martian” (now at $207 million, and for the second straight weekend ahead of “Gravity” and its take for the similar date, though still $33 million behind head to head gross) and “Bridge of Spies” both only dropped 26%. “Spotlight” going much wider in the next two weeks might cut into that, along with increased theater loss. “Goosebumps” and “Hotel Transylvania 2” also remain healthy, with 32 and 34% drops respectively.

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