The studios are combining occasional blockbuster breakouts like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”—which performed far above other performers at Christmas—with lower-budget niche releases during non-prime play periods. All three of this week’s openers fit into that category. While none grossed over $10 million (only two movies met that bar this week, compared to five last year), all have a shot at breaking even. Going with expensive effects-driven projects seems to work out better for the studios than mid-range budget films, which often fall short and drag down profits—the likely fate of last week’s conventional openers “How to Be Single” and “Zoolander 2.”
Niche releases are also moving beyond the English-language market. Three studios released foreign films aimed entirely at targeted domestic audiences – Sony’s China smash “The Mermaid,” Lionsgate’s Mexican comedy “Busco Novia par Mi Mujer” and 20th Century Fox’s Indian “Neerja.”
The Top Ten
1. Deadpool (20th Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$55,000,000 (-58%) in 3,722 theaters (+164); PTA (per theater average): $14,777; Cumulative: $235,395,000
2. Kung Fu Panda 3 (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #2
$12,500,000 (-37%) in 3,448 theaters (-396); PTA: $117,105,000
3. Risen (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 56; est. budget: $20 million
$11,800,000 in 2,915 theaters; PTA: $4,048; Cumulative: $11,800,000
4. The Witch (A24) NEW – Cinemascore: C-; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 84; est. acquisition cost: $1 million
$8,685,000 in 2,046 theaters; PTA: $4,245; Cumulative: $8,685,000
5. How to Be Single (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$8,220,000 in 3,357 theaters; PTA: $2,449; Cumulative: $31,674,000
6. Race (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 51; est. budget: $
$7,225,000 in 2,369 theaters; PTA: $3,071; Cumulative: $7,225,000
7. Zoolander 2 (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$5,500,000 (-60%) in 3,418 theaters (+24); PTA: $1,609; Cumulative: $23,718,000
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Buena Vista) Week 10 – Last weekend #7
$3,826,000 (-38%) in 1,618 theaters (-192); PTA: $2,371; Cumulative: $921,642,000
9. The Revenant (20th Century Fox) Week 9 – Last weekend #5
$3,800,000 (-42%) in 1,939 theaters (-327); PTA: $1,960; Cumulative: $165,167,000
10. Hail, Caesar! (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #6
$2,640,000 (-59%) in 1,726 theaters (-522); PTA: $1,530; Cumulative: $26,153,000
1. The weekend Top Ten total was up about 13% ($14 million) from the same weekend in 2015.
This keeps the year to date total head by around 3%, good news, given that early 2015 starting out strong. However, “Deadpool” gets most of the credit. It grossed $33 million more than last year’s “Fifty Shades of Gray,” #1 in its second weekend. Four other films grossed over $10 million last year, compared to only two in 2016. And all three of the new wide weekend releases failed to reach that mark. It does suggest more feast or famine than a high tide lifts all boats at the moment, similar to the uneven nature of overall grosses when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” thrived a few weeks ago.
2. “Deadpool” fell 58% this weekend.
But the numbers are still positive. Though other initial renditions of comic book movies that opened as well dropped less their second weekends, in this case the confluence of Valentine’s Day and a Sunday before a holiday boosted the initial numbers. The 43% second Saturday drop is a better indicator of audience response. And with inflation-adjusted numbers, this second weekend gross would have placed in the top ten ever for February openings.
As a faith-based movie that’s not exactly top end. Among the top studios, Sony has been a leader of targeted audience genre films, most recently with “The War Room.” That fall release opened slightly higher, though with fewer than half as many theaters. This one, about a Roman post-crucifixion investigation, is the first centering on Christ since “Son of God.” That film, a feature version of a cable miniseries, similarly opened in the pre-Easter weeks to over double this business. Still, with its $20 million budget, “Risen” has a chance of being the most profitable of this week’s openers. In its favor are strong international appeal, a positive Saturday increase (11%; “Son of God” was down 2% its first Friday, with many of these films getting a strong first day group-sales enhanced gross) and a chance to benefit from the Easter season.
4. A24 scores with smart-horror entry “The Witch.”
This terrifying low-budget indie premiered at Sundance 2015 and was acquired by A24 as part of its partnership with DirectTV (where usually that provider shows the films in advance of their theatrical run). In this case, standout festival reaction led the partners to jointly decide to go for a standard theatrical run. With the success of other festival smart-horror films in the last year (“It Follows,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” and “The Babadook”) and recent stronger than expected results from more creative entries like “Unfriended” and “The Boy” (boosted by social-media marketing), the recently dormant horror genre seems to be showing signs of theatrical life.
Including the last release from that group, they’ve released “Dallas Buyers Club,” “The Theory of Everything,” “The Suffragette,” “The Danish Girl,” “Race,” and just acquired the interracial period romance “Loving.” Unlike the earlier films, “Race” didn’t score a late year, awards-oriented release. The biopic recreates the life of Jesse Owens, who achieved greatness running at the Berlin 1936 Olympics. It was quite low-budget ($5 million), directed by a once-prominent director (Stephen Hopkins – “Blown Away,” “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”).
The standout holdover was “Kung Fu Panda 3,” down only 37%. It does lag behind the series’ second effort (which was boosted by a Memorial Day release), though this weekend took in $3 million more than the fourth one last time.