This weekend’s top-grossing films stacked up in strange ways. Breakout animated hit “Zootopia” (Buena Vista) doubled the gross of the best opener “10 Cloverfield Lane” (Paramount). That in turn slightly more than doubled the other three studio openers combined. The top two films combined for $75 million for this time of year, which nearly replicates last year, when “Cinderella” opened. So the Top Ten for both years came in around $116 million.
Throw in another good result for “Deadpool,” and the positive response to creative, well-reviewed yet still mainstream 2016 product continues to hold its own against the strong preceding year.
The Top Ten
1, Zootopia (Buena Vista) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$50,000,000 (-33%) in 3,827 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $13,065; Cumulative: $142,615,000
2. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: A- ; Metacritic: 76; Est. budget: $25 million
$25,200,000 in 3,391 theaters; PTA: $7,431; Cumulative: $25,200,000
3. Deadpool (20th Century Fox) Week 5; Last weekend #3
$10,800,000 (-35%) in 3,391 theaters (-293); PTA: $3,242; Cumulative: $328,077,000
4. London Has Fallen (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$10,668,000 (-51%) in 3,492 theaters (+2); PTA: $; Cumulative: $
5. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$4,600,000 (-38%) in 2,413 theaters (+39); PTA: $1,906; Cumulative: $14,572,000
6. The Perfect Match (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B ; Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $2 million
$4,150,000 in 3,391 theaters; PTA: $4,486; Cumulative: $14,150,000
7. The Young Messiah (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: A- ; Metacritic: 29; Est. budget: $18 million
$3,404,000 in 1,761 theaters; PTA: $1,933; Cumulative: $3,404,000
8. The Brothers Grimsby (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+ ; Metacritic: 45; Est. budget: $35 million
$3,150,000 in 2,235 theaters; PTA: $1,409; Cumulative: $3,150,000
9. Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate) Week; Last weekend #5
$2,500,000 (-52%) in 2,306 theaters (-811); PTA: $1,084; Cumulative: $2,500,000
10. Risen (Sony) Week; Last weekend #6
$2,250,000 (-42%) in 2,095 theaters (-412); PTA: $1,074; Cumulative: $32,396,000
More Mostly Positive Signs
2016 is now up 10% from last year at the same date. Impressive on its own, it is even more positive since that period last year included “American Sniper” and three other films that topped $100 million during the period. This year has seen five (including late year releases “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Revenant”). It’s a strong start to help keep the year close going forward to the stellar summer last year which might not be so easy to duplicate. But the successes so far are building on Christmas strength led by “Force Awakens,” and on the current recipe for audience interest.
That is balanced by resistance to familiar, routine and tired product. “10 Cloverfield Lane” not withstanding, the weakness of the three other releases (two aimed at international targets, an ongoing issue) points out that moviegoers are picky, and the gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” Repeats the Formula
A $25 million opening for a March release isn’t exceptional (in adjusted figures it doesn’t make in the top 80, and “10 Cloverfield Lane” is exceeded by earlier horror-related titles like “A Haunting in Connecticut” and “Resident Evil”). The list has been dominated though in recent years by family films tied in to spring vacations and the occasional franchise juggernaut (the first “Hunger Games” and the initial “Divergent” films).
Two factors make “10 Cloverfield Lane” stand out. Its low cost (around $25 million before marketing) means that with any sort of hold and foreign appeal (the 2008 first entry, with lower offshore returns, still outgrossed domestic) this should be a nice moneymaker for Paramount coming off disappointments “13 Hours,” “Zoolander 2” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” But more interesting is how “10 Cloverfield Lane” compares to “The Force Awakens,” “Deadpool” and “Zootopia.”
Like the first J.J. Abrams-produced “Cloverfield” in 2008 and other sci-fi franchise revivals and “Super 8,” Abrams works with an existing genre framework, then tries to shift focus and emphasis so the new films build on but don’t replicate their predecessors. He’s on to something. Audiences aren’t chasing originals (would a “Blair Witch Project” work today?), but once they become aware of something they remember well or feel they can still enjoy, they respond.
The flops of late, mostly similarly familiar and perceived as retreads (“Gods of Egypt,” “Zoolander 2,” “The 5th Wave” and “The Finest Hours,” the latter a $75 million write-off by Disney) played off the tried and true, hoping for repeat success. The conflict for studios is that they are mostly playing for a world audience, and many aren’t as receptive to idiosyncracies and tinkering with formulas.
Next week brings the third “Divergent” entry, so far a decent performer for Lionsgate if not a replacement for “Hunger Games.” Look at its domestic performance (the first two both opened a bit over $50 million, though last year’s entry fell $20 million short of the first one. “Allegiant” opened to adequate if not blockbuster initial foreign results this weekend. If it drops this time around, it would be further evidence that the quest for something fresh is a real audience trend.
“Zootopia” Is Even More Impressive This Week
With a strong second weekend, “Zootopia” is on track to be the biggest ever (even in adjusted numbers) March animated release, besting 2002’s “Ice Age.” Through two weekends it is $12 million better, $5 million ahead this weekend with a slight drop — and prime vacation weeks are staggered ahead to boost its fortunes. It’s the third best March second weekend ever, behind only “The Hunger Games” and “Alice in Wonderland,” both of which soared to over $300 domestic.
Disney holds four of the top eight totals for March releases with a combination of live action and animated films. These and other family oriented films with top initial grosses usually manage an impressive three time multiple (more impressive when starting with a huge gross). Without the help of summer or late year holiday play time this is an impressive (“Deadpool” may fall just short, needing to reach $397 million to achieve that). “Zootopia” with its elevated performance looks similar to “Ice Age,” which has a stellar four times multiple.
The studio has competition in animation, but by controlling both their own and Pixar’s product they have combined strength. Their continued placement, though often rotating, of animated and live action versions of past films (“Beauty and the Beast” is due for March next year) shows ownership and confidence that they can deliver the goods each time out.
The Rest Are Afterthoughts
Will anyone remember the other three films by the time they reach home viewing? The three other studio released films this week opened to less than any individual title from March last year. These are below lackluster numbers, although each has some mitigating factors that soften the blow.
The urban romantic comedy “The Perfect Match” scored best, and at the fewest (under 1,000 theaters). And at a reported $5 million budget pre-marketing, the film is the least expensive of the three, so no one will get hurt. Still, it’s a weak performance, in a genre that has shown past success domestically (it will play few foreign markets). Director Bille Woodruff (a major force in videos but also with past theatrical success with “Honey” and “Beauty Shop”) would have seemed to give this heft, but Lionsgate, normally as good at anyone at targeting minority audiences, given fewer dates and no-advance screenings, seemed to have smelled this one out ahead of time.
Also kept from critics was “The Young Messiah,” another FilmDistrict carryover released by Focus Features. Yet another underachiever among faith-based films, this also had a degree of director gravitas: Cyrus Nowsrashteh gained attention for his anti-fundamentalist “The Stoning of Sorayah M” in 2008. This original take on Christ as a child sounded like it might be different. But when interested audiences do take note of late, it seems to be more contemporary takes rather than histories. That will be tested this week as Sony, which has done well with the genre (including the recent “Risen”) debuts “Miracles from Heaven,” which casts a much wider net among the multiple ethnic and other groups that respond to these films.
“The Brothers Grimsby” marks a low point for Sasha Baron Cohen. The most expensive of this weekend’s three also-rans (though not a huge write off) was booked in the most theaters. But it took in the least money of the group. It has gtossed $11 million overseas with other territories to come, but at $35 million it won’t make its budget back. It will fall short in domestic film rental of what Sony paid to market it. This is Sasha Baron Cohen’s first comedy in four years, but the steep decline since “Borat” (“Bruno” opened to $30 million, “The Dictator” to $17 million) suggests he needs career rehab.
It’s all downhill after the strong 35% or less holds for “Zootopia” and “Deadpool” as audiences, though a closer look shows not all bad news. “London Has Fallen” fell 50%, but at least that’s a bit better than the original “Olympus Has Fallen” (which opened much better). “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” started much weaker, but its 38% fall and rising ahead of this week’s three laggard openers make it look better. “Gods of Egypt” at 52% down has little chance of even making the Top Ten its next (fourth) weekend and won’t reach 25% of its budget in domestic total gross. “Risen” dropped 42%, but now looks to surpass a three time multiple making it look better than some of Sony’s other recent disappointing releases.