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Box Office Top 10 Takeaways: Tyler Perry’s ‘Madea’ Slams Down Ron Howard’s ‘Inferno’

The studios keep aiming weak sequels like Tom Hanks-starrer "Inferno" overseas instead of trying to woo customers stateside.

Inferno Tom Hanks Felicity Jones

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Ron Howard’s “Inferno.”

Columbia Pictures

This is a weekend up ups and downs. Grosses compared to last year are up, and a sleeper success repeated at #1 with Tyler Perry’s return to form, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” (Lionsgate).

Surprisingly, the week brought for the first time in a long while a limited release Indian film. Fox’s production of “Ai Dil Hai Mushkil” took in over $2.1 million in only 307 theaters. Meantime, in only 36 theaters the year’s best-reviewed movie “Moonlight” grossed $900,000. 

The next few weeks are among the most crucial of the year, with some hope that fortunes might be improving.

The Top Ten

1. Boo: A Madea Halloween (Lionsgate) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$16,675,000 (-41%) in 2,299 theaters (+39); PTA (per theater average): $7,253; Cumulative: $52,019,000
2. Inferno (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 44; est. budget: $75 million
$15,000,000 in 3,576 theaters; PTA: $4,195; Cumulative: $15,000,000
3. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$9,550,000 (-58%) in 3,780 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,526; Cumulative: $39,679,000
4. The Accountant (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$8,475,000 (-38%) in 3,402 theaters (+70); PTA: $3,402; Cumulative: $61,257,000
5. Ouija: Origin of Evil (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$7,070,000 (-50%) in 3,168 theaters (+1); PTA: $2,232; Cumulative: $24,639,000
6. The Girl on the Train (Universal) Week 4 – Last weekend #5
$4,270,000 (-40%) in 2,758 theaters (-333); PTA: $1,548; Cumulative: $65,918,000
7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #6
$3,975,000 (-33%) in 2,797 theaters (-336); PTA: $1,421; Cumulative: $79,879,000
8. Keeping Up With the Joneses (20th Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #7
$3,375,000 (-38%) in 3,022 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,117; Cumulative: $10,779,000
9. Storks (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last weekend #9
$2,785,000 (-30%) in 1,901 theaters (-244); PTA: $1,465; Cumulative: $68,245,000
10. Ai Dil Hai Mushkil (20th Century Fox) NEW
$2,135,000 in 302 theaters; PTA: $7,070; Cumulative: $2,135,000

Boo! A Madea Halloween

“Boo! A Madea Halloween”

Lionsgate

The Takeaways

The Calm Before the Hoped For Surge

For the second straight weekend, Top Ten grosses are up from the 2015 equivalent weekend. A healthy 26% up to be exact. That’s  good news: even though last November was very strong, grosses could continue to rise. “Dr. Strange,” “Moana” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” could all top $200 million, with several other titles coming in at a potential $100 million plus.

The surprisingly strong showing for Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween” continued with a smaller than expected 41% drop and landed a second weekend at #1.

But other signs are more discouraging. Yes, grosses were up, but it’s due to a calendar fluke. Last year Halloween fell on Saturday, which severely depressed the numbers. The two wide releases were expected non-starters: Bradley Cooper and Sandra Bullock’s weak vehicles “Burnt” and “Our Brand Is Crisis,” respectively, with little hope of succeeding on any date.

Here’s why things still are consistent with the overall fall malaise. In 2001, the last time Halloween fell on a Monday, the Top Ten, adjusting to current ticket prices, grossed $99 million, with two new films taking in $50 million for the weekend. This year? $73 million. That’s down 27% five years later.

The failure of “Inferno” to find domestic interest (it performed well overseas) is part of the problem, even though there was little competition, given the reluctance of distributors to risk releasing top films around Halloween. But the top film in 2011 was kids-oriented. “Puss in Boots” grossed (adjusted) $32 million. Next week sees Fox’s animated “Trolls” opposite “Doctor Strange” and “Hacksaw Ridge.” It would have been an easy #1 this weekend.

There are a couple of excuses. One is the election around the corner. Ad space on TV is at a premium in both availability and price right about now (it often declines a bit just before election day), so that is an issue. Also, going a week earlier lessens the chances of a family film turning the corner through Thanksgiving, which can boost an animated long run film.

All that said, it still does nothing to deny the obvious. The public is increasingly selective, and more than happy to shun tired films like “Inferno” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” Will they return for the promising upcoming fare? Stay tuned.

"Inferno"

“Inferno”

“Inferno” Implodes – The World Isn’t Enough for North American Theaters

Though Dan Brown’s most recent sequel to his “The Da Vinci Code” came out not that long ago (published in 2013 to reasonable best-seller status), unlike other movie adaptation series (“Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” the Tolkien movies), a seven year gap is an eternity. And along with other factors it played into the fiasco of its $15 million opening which failed to even manage an expected default #1 ranking.

“The Da Vinci Code” opened in 2006 to (adjusted) $101 million. “Angels & Demons,” similarly adjusted, had a first weekend of $53 million. Both opened in prime mid-May territory, appropriate for their importance at the time. But significant at the time was their far above reliance on international grosses to elevate both.

At a time when the international market was only starting its dominance for studios, they both grossed around 75 per cent of the take outside of North America. And both had weaker performances after their strong openings, a multiple of under 2.5 times, more unusual because of the adult appeal for the films.

Still, even with expectations of a big drop-off this time around, the $15 million total is surprisingly weak. Sure, bad reviews hurt, but they actually are only a little below the weak response to the earlier films. It’s another sign of increased selectivity among audiences. Another is that as much of a draw as Tom Hanks was for “Sully” (still the sole $100 million + fall release), a second starring vehicle this quickly, and for a role he’s reprising, has little new to offer. (This is different from most of the world, where “Sully” is opening over the next couple months in most countries, after “Inferno.”) A third, and perhaps most critical in concern for domestic exhibition, is that any pretense of shaping this toward American audiences beyond Hanks disappeared.

The novels and adaptations have always been Eurocentric, even with director Ron Howard as American as apple pie. This time, other than Hanks, the cast was full of capable but at best vaguely familiar international actors: Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irffan Khan, and Ben Foster add little to domestic appeal. This is hardly different than the earlier films. But in the normal course of production evolution, previously studios would have found some way to get an additional domestic appeal star, even if it meant changing nationalities of some characters. These days? Not important enough to bother.

Sony seems to have realized the risk in going back to the franchise. The reported $75 million budget is far below the earlier films. That gives it a chance to end up in the black. Foreign gross so far is $134 million. It should get to over $200 million plus its eventual domestic take. But that might be as low as $35 million — a woeful 17-18 per cent of the total take.

And that might be the worst possible domestic result. If it can make money despite American disinterest, studios will be continue to be encouraged to put concerns about how it plays in North America further down the list of priorities. And that could perpetuate a decline in overall box office totals as the focus increasingly is on satisfying foreign audiences.

Tyler Perry Says “Boo!”

“Boo: A Madea Halloween” isn’t the first of the lengthy series to have a second weekend at #1 (“Madea Goes to Jail,” the best opener at $41 million, managed that). But unlike most of them, it fell far less than the typical 60% for its second stanza.

The #1 ranking was in large part due to the “Inferno” disinterest as well as other distributors avoiding the date for other new films. But the 41% drop comes from other factors as well.

These include the smart decision to take a three-year break from what had become a tired franchise with declining appeal, but still the realization that shaped to hit a particular moment it could find new life. The moment was its Halloween tie-in.

And there’s a lesson here. Halloween used to be about monsters and scares and horror. (Tune in to Turner Classic Movies and its month-long classic horror marathon and see how for older audiences that remains.) But as it has grown as an event, it is now more about play-acting and freakishness and acting out and costumes that mainly have retired the classic monsters. It has become a nationwide Mardi Gras in October, and for many adults under 40 as important or more than when they were kids.

Last year saw two studio releases aimed at the old-school approach, and both performed weakly. This year, despite a wide array of quality horror entries, both franchise and new, the date was avoided.

So not only did “Boo!” capture the new holiday paradigm, it also stood as the only film playing to it. And it from the start got a very good audience response in terms of word of mouth.

All that, along with an opening for a slapstick comedy at the moment, add up to a surprisingly strong opening and hold. It won’t be the biggest of the Madea films, but this late in its run, and with a $20 million budget, the most gratifying for all involved.

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

Holdovers

Apart from “Boo,” a more mixed bag. Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” dropped 58 per cent. It’s another film that will need all the foreign help it can get to break even, with domestic totals likely falling under $60 million. “Ouija: Origin of Evil” held its drop to just under 50%, though that’s not any sort of a coup considering the timing. “Keeping Up With the Joneses” fell only 38 per cent, but it started from such a low point it matters little.

The rest of the Top Ten holds fell between 30-40 per cent, a normal response for later weeks of mid-level range successes when there is little new competition. Expect much greater ones next week with three big openers.

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