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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘The Revenant’ Bests ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in Ticket Sales

Top 10 Takeaways: 'The Revenant' Bests 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Ticket Sales

In one of the more delicious box office duels in recent times, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Buena Vista) held off a strong challenge from “The Revenant” (20th Century Fox) this weekend, at least in gross.

Dig into the numbers, though, and you will find that in total ticket sales, the non-3D “Revenant” likely sold more tickets (though its R-rating skewed its ticket buyers to adult prices). Ironically, “The Revenant” stars Leonard DiCaprio 18 years after “Titanic,” a movie that has reportedly been eclipsed by the latest “Star Wars” entry.

Below, we examine how “Force Awakens” compares to that film and others (hint: not as high as Disney and the media would have you believe) and how “The Revenant” stacks up compared to other films at this time of year and to its star’s recent work. Plus we now have a clear picture of the Christmas season winners and losers.

The Top Ten

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Buena Vista)  Week 4; Last weekend #1
$41,630,000 (-54%) in 4,134 theaters (no change); PTA: $10,070; Cumulative: $812,011,000
2. The Revenant (20th Century Fox) Week 3; Last weekend #23
$38,000,000 (+8,385%) in 3,375 theaters (+3,371); PTA (per theater average): $11,259; Cumulative: $39,557,000
3. Daddy’s Home (Paramount)  Week 3; Last weekend #2
$15,000,000 (-49 in 3,483 theaters (+141); PTA: $4,307; Cumulative: $116,314,000
4. The Forest (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic 37:; Est. budget: $10 million
$13,088,000 in 2,451 theaters; PTA: $5,340; Cumulative: $13,088,000
5. Sisters (Universal)  Week 4; Last weekend #4
$7,170,000 (-44) in 2,864 theaters (-114); PTA: $2,503; Cumulative: $74,880,000
6. The Hateful Eight (Weinstein)  Week 3; Last weekend #3
$6,351,000 (-60%) in 2,938 theaters (+464); PTA: $2,162; Cumulative: $41,474,000
7. The Big Short (Paramount)  Week 5; Last weekend #7
$6,300,000 (-30) in 2,529 theaters (+941); PTA: $2,491; Cumulative: $42,850,000
8. Alvin and the Chipmunks – The Road Chip (20th Century Fox)  Week 4; Last weekend #5
$5,500,000 (-54) in 2,972 theaters (-502); PTA: $1,851; Cumulative: $75,608,000
9. Joy (20th Century Fox)  Week 3; Last weekend #6
$4,500,000 (-56) in 2,513 theaters (-411); PTA: $1,791; Cumulative: $46,556,000
10. Concussion (Sony)  Week 3; Last weekend #8
$3,050,000 (-61%) in 2,056 theaters (-785); PTA: $1,483; Cumulative: $30,969,000

Overview – A Good But Not Great Weekend

Led by a pair of films that combined for a total $80 million this weekend—$30 million more than the top two (“Taken 3” and “Selma”) last year—the Top Ten jumped $35 million, or about 33%, over last year. That means the rest of the list also jumped some as well, a positive early year result, although not close to the degree of improvement shown over the holiday period. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is coming down to earth (with its stratospheric ultimate performance not looking to go quite as high as seemed possible earlier), while “The Revenant” beat expectations while not exceeding a typical post-holiday wide opening as seen in the past years. “Taken 3” took in $39 million last year, while “Lone Survivor,” similar to “The Revenant,” expanding after a Christmas platform, managed almost $38 million.

After the holiday films have been sampled, audiences often turn to fresh films, as they did this year. “The Forest” came in a bit ahead of projections, although below what early-year horror/mystery films (both sequels in the “Paranormal Activity” and “Woman in Black” franchises) did the past two years. The enormous success of “Force” does not show signs yet of lifting all boats, even if the market is steady and overall improved mainly because of its presence.

“Force Awakens” Now #15 on All Time List – How Much Higher Will It Go?

Disney claims (correctly on the unadjusted level, for those who prefer to ignore the reality of vastly different ticket prices at different times) that their “Star Wars” reboot is now the biggest domestic grosser ever. They deserve massive praise for accomplishing this, even more so in under four weeks and over what previously has not traditionally been a period for dominating blockbusters.

It fell 54%, in the mid-range of this week’s results, and also similar to what most post-holiday weekend totals were last year. It retained the #1 spot after losing Friday to “The Revenant,” but this almost certainly is its last weekend at the top (“Ride Along 2,” among next week’s openers, should beat it). This showing also makes it easier to project its ultimate total.

Projecting ahead, and starting with a 40% drop next week (which will be enhanced by the holiday Monday), “Force” looks to end up between $900 million and $1 billion domestically, likely close to $950 million when it is complete. That is a staggering number, $300 million than the recent best for unadjusted domestic take, “Jurassic World.” (“Avatar” held the unadjusted record just broken.)

But unlike past Christmas blockbusters, it isn’t going to do the majority of its business after the holidays, or anything close to that. Both “Avatar,” which it will shortly best in adjusted numbers,” and “Titanic,” behind which it will end up for certain, had enough screens, seats, and pre-sold appeal to score huge initially. The two James Cameron films both got boosts from Oscar nominations as well as major repeat business along the way (“Titanic” in particular), which does not seem to be occurring to the same degree here.

“Avatar” remained the #1 film for seven weeks, and didn’t relinquish a daily best until Jan. 15, 2010, and then not another until early February. Its fourth weekend adjusted grossed about 30% better than “Force.” “Titanic” remains the gold standard of performers over the past 30 years. It held on to #1 for 13 weekends (through the end of March) and didn’t give up a day until another DiCaprio film—”The Man in the Iron Mask” —beat it on its earlier March opening day. Its fourth weekend adjusted gross was $52 million. “Force” most likely won’t even be in the Top Ten by its 13th weekend. 

Where will this (once again, outstanding) performance wind up historically? If it reaches $950 million, it will make the all time Top Ten, displacing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” If it gets a bit higher, it would end up ninth, ahead of “The Exorcist.” But that now appears to be as high as it will get—absolutely terrific, but nowhere near its claimed status as the best ever.

Worldwide, with China finally open, “Force” is up to $1.73 billion. Its international performance has fallen short of the usual blockbuster double or triple domestic numbers. In unadjusted numbers, it looks like it could displace “Titanic” as second best. It appears unlikely now to best “Avatar” by the same barometer.The “Titanic” adjusted is actually the best of recent times, and still looks unassailable with close to $4 billion worldwide at today’s ticket prices.

“The Revenant” Is Strong, But No Record-Setter

With “The Revenant”‘s strong weekend (its 151-minute running time amid tight competition for screens, including two other films from 20th Century Fox, may have slightly reduced its potential), DiCaprio looks to have his sixth out of his last seven films headed to a $100 million-plus gross, with his involvement a key element is all of their successes. He has (adjusted) had ten previously (“Titanic” grossed as much as the next seven combined). His sustained success is in no small part due to spacing out his films as well as his choice of high-end projects that combine both top directors and stand-apart appeal, like “The Revenant.”

For one thing, the frontier actioner is the second wide-release violent Western-set visual epic in two weeks. And though its greater number of theaters helps, despite the higher advance interest that “The Hateful Eight” had, its first wide weekend is 250% of Tarantino’s film—and on a non-holiday weekend. That indicates how important DiCaprio is to this film.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu is is coming off Oscar wins for “Birdman.” This is a not guaranteed case of a winner’s follow-up film totally obliterating the performance of his winning film. That film domestically totaled only about $2 million more than “Revenant” has grossed so far. Considering that the most recent Best-Picture-winning director to make a film after his win, “The Artist”‘s Michel Hazanavicius, has yet to score a U.S. distributor— this is an impressive leap forward.

With DiCaprio’s fan base and likely award wins ahead, the trajectory looks good for the film despite its high-end ($135 million) expense. This is getting a slower launch overseas, but his films tend to do strong worldwide business. 

“The Revenant” went up 6% from Friday, which included strong Thursday “preview” grosses. It does fall short of the February opening weekend of “Shutter Island,” as well as “The Great Gatsby” and “Inception,” so it is more business-as-usual than standout. Among January openers, it earned more than $50 million less than “American Sniper” when it expanded last year. And it is likely to quickly fall to #2 among 2016 wide release opening numbers, with “Ride Along 2” likely to open better next week.

Holiday Holdovers a Mixed Bag

Comedies again rule. “Daddy’s Home” fell 49%, but is still in third. It looks to be Will Ferrell’s biggest live-action hit in nearly a decade (since “Talladega Nights”) and Mark Walberg’s second-best comedy after “Ted.” The public embraced this movie more than most of the late awards contenders (and pretenders). And not far behind is another unheralded hit, “Sisters.” It should top $90 million before it’s done, ahead of such higher profile films like “Joy,” “The Hateful Eight,” and “Concussion.”

Those three films dropped 56 – 61% this weekend (“Sisters” was down only 44%). The 60% falloff for “Hateful” is made worse by its adding 464 theaters. “Django Unchained” opened wide, so exact comparisons aren’t possible, but that film’s third weekend grossed $11 million compared to $6,351,000, fell 44%, and had a total of $125 million. “Hateful” will struggle to get to $70 million domestic, less than half of “Django” and $50 million less than “Inglourious Basterds.” Its relatively thrifty $50 million budget and foreign sales should keep this in break-even territory, but as the Weinstein Company’s best hope for a needed breakout hit, it’s clearly a disappointment. Credit them for a smart move to beat “The Revenant” wide out of the gate.

“Joy” is also underperforming. It fell 56% and will struggle to hit $60 million (its pre-marketing production budget), with no certainty that its all-American family based story line will draw big overseas. This result marks a setback for Jennifer Lawrence as a guaranteed marquee draw away from franchises and ensembles, and is also a disappointment for director David O. Russell after three straight year-end breakouts.

“Concussion” fell the most, down $61%, and is likely to eke out just $40 million. Despite star Will Smith’s additional overseas appeal, its football story isn’t likely to make up the balance, but at least at $35 million it wasn’t expensive.

The most impressive hold of the weekend came from now surging Oscar contender “The Big Short.” Adding an additional 941 theaters, mostly lower-grossing than the ones already playing, it fell 31%. It likely stabilizes ahead, with a trajectory depending on awards and a certain theatrical-only presence until late March. “The Big Short” could end up at $80 million or possibly much higher. Timing is everything in Oscar campaigns. Although still in theaters, “Spotlight” continues with its strong run (see Arthouse Audit), and “Short” is now already much bigger and has momentum with public appeal clearly aiding its chances.

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