The first weekend of May has become the box-office Super Bowl: It’s the assured date for a major Marvel release guaranteed to capture a rabid audience. That sets some high standards for judging the “Guardians” sequel; its outcome, combined with a few other results, gives reason for some initial concerns for the summer ahead.
“Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hit its marks with a $145 million domestic opening weekend, and $428 million combined international total (many countries are already in their second week). It’s no record setter, but in context the result is strong.
Also of interest: Two strong niche audience entries — “How to Be a Latin Lover” (Lionsgate) and especially “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (Great India) — held very well. We’ll check in with them, as well as the increasingly successful “Gifted” from Fox Searchlight.
The Top Ten
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 67; Est. budget: $200 million
$145,049,000 in 4,347 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $33,368; Cumulative: $145,049,000
2. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #1
$8,529,000 (-57%) in 3,595 theaters (-482); PTA: $2,372; Cumulative: $207,136,000
3. The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox) Week 6; Last weekend #4
$6,175,000 (-34%) in 3,284 theaters (-455); PTA: $1,880; Cumulative: $156,736,000
4. How to Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$5,250,000 (-57%) in 1,203 theaters (+85); PTA: $4,364; Cumulative: $20,653,000
5. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #6
$4,943,000 (-28%) in 2,680 theaters (-475); PTA: $1,844; Cumulative: $487,595,000
6. The Circle (STX) Week 2; Last weekend #5
$4,020,000 (-55%) in 3,163 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,271; Cumulative: $15,715,000
7. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Great India) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$3,243,000 (-69%) in 400 theaters (-25); PTA: $7,757; Cumulative: $16,176,000
8. Gifted (Fox Searchlight) Week 5; Last weekend #9
$2,055,000 (-39%) in 1,874 theaters (-341); PTA: $1,097; Cumulative: $19,240,000
9. Going in Style (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #7
$1,900,000 (-47%) in 2,033 theaters (-728); PTA: $935; Cumulative: $40,601,000
10. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #8
$1,820,000 (-49%) in 1,902 theaters (-652); PTA: $957; Cumulative: $40,751,000
“Guardians” Is Very Strong, But Below Other May Marvels
The first weekend of May is a powerful one: It’s played home to each of the top eight Marvel opening weekends (in adjusted grosses); “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” places seventh. However, it’s about 40 percent ahead of the first “Guardians,” which was consigned to a riskier early-August date.
Why the lower numbers? While its characters have gained a tremendous amount of currency since the franchise’s debut, they’re still not “Avengers” level. Still, “Guardians 2” faced less competition than last April’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which had to contend with “The Jungle Book” among other holdovers.
So, this weekend’s top 10 fell 21 percent from last year, the lowest since 2014. With $191 million in 2015 for “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” it ushered in a massive summer. So while “Guardians Vol. 2” is laudable, it doesn’t necessarily augur a season of blockbuster blockbusters — especially after “The Fate of the Furious” fell far behind its predecessor.
If that pattern continues, we’ve got a problem. The wild cards remain whether original projects such as Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” make up for any lag.
We’ll get an initial indication with next week’s debuts of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (Warner Bros.) and Fox’s comedy “Snatched.” Their performances could set the tone for the summer.
Big Drops for “Latin Lover” and “Baahubali 2” Mean Different Things
The surprising second and third place showings last weekend for Pantelion Films’ “How to Be a Latin Lover” and the Indian sequel “Baalubali 2” fell considerably this weekend. But with over $20 million for “Latin” and $16 million for “Baahubali,” results are stellar for both.
With its 57 percent drop, “Latin Lover” looks to top $30 million. That would be a third lower than comic Eugenio Derbez’s earlier Pantelion/Lionsgate entry, “Instructions Not Included.” Unlike “Lover,” that film was an all-Spanish language film without U.S. locations.
Though not a sequel, “Lover” seems to have played like one. Broadening into bilingual dialogue and a domestic setting didn’t broaden the appeal, while perhaps making it lose a bit of edge.
Still, the biggest challenge was the competition. “Instructions” opened Labor Day 2013, then expanded. This time, they faced a Marvel monster. Unlike some studios, Disney doesn’t provide ethnic breakdowns of attendance; still, based on normal patterns, Latinos likely made up around $15 million of ticket sales for “Guardians,” possibly more. So figure the take this time around on “Lover” to be very acceptable, if a bit less than the potential.
By contrast, “Baalubali 2” so exceeded its potential already what remains is just a bonus. Most Indian films (which these days means more than Bollywood; this film is not, as it was made in Telugu) see up to half of their domestic business on the first weekends, as loyal Indian-American audiences across the country jump to see them at the same time they open worldwide.
So a 69 percent drop (accelerated by the loss of IMAX theaters) isn’t anything strange, and the performance remains extraordinary. There are around 3 million Indian-Americans in the U.S. alone. This will end up around $20 million, which means roughly 2 million tickets will be sold, presumably mostly to that group. Exclude infants, the infirm, and the elderly, and that means perhaps two thirds of that group will see the film in theaters.
As a point of comparison: Imagine a film that held similar appeal for the total population of North America. That would be more than 200 million tickets sold, or a domestic gross approaching or exceeding $2 billion — more than double “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“Gifted” Keeps Giving
With two decades of success and three Oscar Best Picture winners, Fox Searchlight has always had the capacity to adapt to change. They were among the first companies to go beyond the standard two-city platforms for some of their releases, and haven’t been afraid to act like a more of crossover company while largely sticking to films that qualify as specialized in the broadest definition.
“Gifted” is their biggest success since their awards-enhanced run with “Brooklyn” over a year ago, and second biggest over the past two years. It may be the biggest specialized film of the year — if indeed, it can be called specialized. (Otherwise, the title goes to “The Zookeeper’s Wife” from Focus, which also went wider but was in the multi-hundred theater range from the start.)
What “Gifted” has accomplished is a result of smart decisions that show the value of key strategic moves.
Unlike most Searchlight releases, “Gifted” had no festival play. With mildly favorable reviews at best, it would have been vulnerable to an average upscale New York/Los Angeles platform opening.
Instead, its initial week had 56 theaters across multiple metropolitan areas, with an emphasis on suburbs and broader audiences. That made it sort of a preview week to boost word of mouth. The result showed interest in these wider-audience theaters as well as the usual Searchlight suspects.
Then they rapidly expanded to 1,146 screens the second week. That was the second smart choice. This placed it against the opening of “The Fate of the Furious” as well as Easter weekend. The counterprogramming worked, and the film placed at #6 position — high for its $3.1 million gross.
That sparked word of mouth, which now sustained a fifth week in the Top 10 (it actually went up a slot this week, though the gross fell). At over $19 million, it has a serious shot at $30 million, a decent figure for a film without high-end marketing costs and a likely healthy afterlife in other venues.
Is it a specialized film? Perhaps not. But it needed special handling and it got it.
The two family-oriented films (“The Boss Baby” and “Beauty and the Beast”) fared best against the Marvel onslaught, dropping 34 and 28 percent respectively. The second weekend of “The Circle” (STX) at 55 percent confirmed its DOA status.
“Going in Style” (Warner Bros.) saw its biggest tumble, down 47 percent. With 12 percent of the “Guardians” business coming from those over 50, that’s a big chunk of the potential audience that disappeared.