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‘Angry Birds’ Flies Away With the Box Office, Leaving the ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Nice Guys’ Behind

'Angry Birds' Flies Away With the Box Office, Leaving the 'Neighbors' and 'Nice Guys' Behind

This was an odd weekend: Even with three studio releases opening wide, grosses against last year are down. 2016 has been a monster so far, but it’s uncertain whether the pace can be maintained.

The Top Ten

1. The Angry Birds Movie (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+;  Metacritic: 43; Est. budget: $73 million

$39,000,000 in 3,932 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9.919; Cumulative: $39,000,000

2. Captain America: Civil War (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$33,114,000 (-54%) in 4,226 theaters (no change); PTA: $7,836; Cumulative: $347,390,000

3. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B; Metacritic:58; Est. budget: $35 million

$21,790,000 in 3,384 theaters; PTA: $6,439; Cumulative: $21,790,000 

4. The Nice Guys (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire:B; Metacritic: 70; Est. budget: $50 million

$11,270,000 in 2,865 theaters; PTA: $3.934; Cumulative: $11,270,000

5. The Jungle Book (Buena Vista) Week 6; Last weekend #2

$11,017,000 (-36%) in 3,460 theaters (-510); PTA: $3,184; Cumulative: $327,498,000

6. Money Monster (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$7,080,000 (-52%) in 3,104 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,281; Cumulative: $27,104,000

7. The Darkness (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$2,363,000(-52%) in 1,769 theaters (+14); PTA: $1,336; Cumulative: $8,460,000

8. Zootopia (Buena Vista( Week 12; Last weekend #6

$1,703,000 (-40%) in 1,337 theaters (-558); PTA: $1,237; Cumulative: $334,404,000

9. The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #7

$1,190,000 (-55%) in 1,246 theaters (-1,272); PTA: $955; Cumulative: $46,669,000

10. Mother’s Day (Open Road) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$1,115,000 (-66%) in 1,719 theaters (-1,752); PTA: $649; Cumulative: $31,289,000

A Slightly Off Weekend – The Context

With the bulk of this year’s Marvel release out of the way, distributors can focus on timing new releases for maximum benefit. A successful pre-Memorial Day opening can reap benefits – not only can it create strong holiday holdovers, it also can mean not facing head-on competition against late-May openers.

That was the strategy behind “The Angry Birds Movie” (Sony) and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” (Universal), but it worked much better for Sony’s animation release than for Universal’s comedy sequel: “The Angry Birds” did as much as “Neighbors 2” (Universal) and “The Nice Guys” (Universal) combined.

“Birds” actually managed to beat out “Civil War” for top spot, despite a solid but unspectacular performance. At a little less than $21.8 million, however, “Neighbors 2,” fell far short of its anticipated total of over $30 million.

So: What happened here?

There’s a couple of disconcerting elements at play. The first is a $16 million drop (11%) from the closest calendar weekend last year (which included Memorial Day), and a  27% drop from the weekend before the 2015 holiday. Last year’s top three were “Pitch Perfect 3,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the third week of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This year, only “Birds” (barely) managed to beat last year’s #3.

Granted: It’s only one weekend, which hardly suggests an armageddon. (One of next week’s domestic openers, Bryan Singer’s “X-Men-Apocalypse,” debuted to over $100 million outside North America.)

Of note is that two of the new films – Warners’ “The Nice Guys” (from writer/director Shane Black, a 1970s LA crime caper with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe and the best-reviewed studio film of the week) and “The Angry Birds” were not financed and produced inhouse, making them less risky (but also potentially less profitable) for their distributors.

Sony Gets a Win

Sony’s studio share for 2016 stands at an anemic percentage (less than 5%) and seventh place. Its best release so far – “Miracles from Heaven” – grossed $60 million; and “Spectre,” six months ago. was the last #1. So ousting a Marvel title from top spot and decisively besting “Neighbors 2” from last year’s high-flying Universal is cause for joy in Culver City.

That said, “The Angry Birds Movie” comes in third among 2016 animation openers (“Zootopia” and “Kung Fu Panda 3”). “Birds” didn’t have the pedigree to do much better, but should have been aided of any high-end cartoon feature in over two months. It likely was hurt by particularly negative reviews and more mixed audience response (it went up 47% Saturday; “Zootopia” jumped 62% its first Saturday). So its strong performance isn’t quite as outstanding as a #1 position might suggest.

With only a couple of two-film franchises (“Hotel Transylvania” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”). Sony’s animated footprint trails most of its competitors. “Transylvania 2” is the best gross, but barely makes the top 50 all time.

Nevertheless, Sony’s release dating is clever. “Money Monster” last week beat expectations at $15 million. Warners’ similar “The Nice Guys” had a similar Cannes showcase, adult appeal, and better reviews – yet managed only a bit over $11 million. Breaking even or better is ultimately the name of the game.

Universal’s Second Comedy Sequel Disappointment

“Disappointment” might be a bit strong for a film budgeted at $35 million and saw domestic/foreign gross total over $50 million in its initial take. Still, the late-May positioning and the $49 million initial gross for “Neighbors” suggested that, even with falloff, the mid-$30 million range was doable.

“The Hangover” launched the raunchy early summer comedy tradition in 2009, with a $45 million start on the first weekend of June followed by its 2011 sequel hitting $85 million for the three days before Memorial Day. Its third outing disappointed with $41.6 million, effectively ending the series.

“Neighbors” the first time around not only opened well, but its three times multiple also was excellent for any R-rated comedy. That was the setup for a credible $30 million expected start for the sequel. (Universal smartly anticipated this with a reported $35 million budget this time, keeping costs under control).

Similarly, Universal’s “Ted 2” last June came in 38% off its initial opening take. Melissa McCarthy’s “The Boss,” though it has held well, came in below expectations at $23 million to start. But “Neighbors 2” is a stunning 56% below what its predecessor did.

Why? Reviews were mixed, but hardly devastating. Two factors may be at play here: Similar to “Ted 2” and to a lesser extent, “The Boss,” all three of this weekend’s wide openers seemed to lack the freshness and originality necessary to appeal. And, as we saw with “Ted 2,” that crucial 18-35 year old male base continues to resist films aimed primarily at their tastes. “Neighbors 2” came in at a near even male/female ratio, but that, plus adult resistance, pushed this far under what it seemed likely to do.

Holdovers

Perhaps in part due to three new wide releases, the drops this weekend were higher than normal.

“Captain America: Civil War” was off 54%. Both of last week’s openers also fell just over 50% – “Money Monster” hurt by similar adult appeal for “The Nice Guys,” with “The Darkness” actually holding well for a horror release. The disastrous “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” fell 55% and seems unlikely to hit $50 million domestic (that’s less than what the original “Snow White and the Huntsman” did in its opening weekend). “Mother’s Day” dropped the most at 66%, along with nearly half its theaters. Nonetheless, Open Road has tripled its opening weekend.

That leaves Disney, with the rich getting richer with “The Jungle Book” and “Zootopia.” Some things don’t change.

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