“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (Disney) was an easy #1 for the holiday weekend. And considering domestic franchise fatigue, and much stronger foreign results, it’s hardly a failure. (The same can’t be said for the stumbling Paramount and “Baywatch.”)
However, both fell short of even managed expectations. And with some really ugly drops among holdovers, one of the weakest holiday weekends in decades — and easily, the worst in adjusted grosses for the century.
One reason is Memorial Day is no longer the must-have date for theaters, but that’s been the case for years. So it’s no excuse for the overall weakness, which suggests some deep-rooted issues that continue to plague the industry.
The Top 10
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 39; Est. budget: $230 million
$62,179,000 in 4,276 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,451,000; Cumulative: $62,179,000
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$19,890,000 (-43%) in 3,871 theaters (-476); PTA: $5,138; Cumulative: $333,206,000
3. Baywatch (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 37; Est. budget: $69
$18,100,000 in 3,647 theaters; PTA: $4,963; Cumulative: $22,706,514
4. Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$10,525,000 (-71%) in 3,772 theaters (+11); PTA: $2,790; Cumulative: $57,347,000
5. Everything, Everything (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #3
$6,185,000 (-47%) in 2,801 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,208; Cumulative: $21,541,000
6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend #6
$4,400,000 (-38%) in 3,174 theaters (+17); PTA: $1,386; Cumulative: $13,581,000
7. Snatched (20th Century Fox) Week 3; Last weekend #4
$3,905,000 (-50%) in 2,658 theaters (-853); PTA: $1,469; Cumulative: $40,185,000
8. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$3,215,000(-55%) in 2,503 theaters (-1,199); PTA: $1,284; Cumulative: $33,870,000
9. The Boss Baby (2oth Century Fox) Week 9; Last weekend #8
$1,700,000 (-40%) in 1,342 theaters (-729); PTA: $1,267; Cumulative: $168,957,000
10. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) Week 11; Last weekend #9
$1,563,000 (-39%) in 1,076 theaters (-716); PTA: $1,453; Cumulative: $500,563,000
Failure Is No Orphan
The three-day top 10 total comes to $132 million. That’s 16 percent lower than last year, when “X-Men: Apocalypse” was considered a bit soft and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” an outright dud.
Add to that some above-average drops, even with the help of a holiday-weekend Sunday, and the result is a memorably bad Memorial Day weekend.
To put this into perspective: Memorial Day weekend 2013 sold nearly twice as many tickets as 2017. “Fast and the Furious 6” led the way, with “The Hangover Part III” at $43 million considered disappointing.
Disney Should Be Pleased With “Pirates.” American Exhibitors, Not So Much.
Combined domestic and international totals came to $270.6 million. With Japan still to open, expect the domestic total to account for under 20 percent. That’s where we are for most older franchises.
In adjusted numbers, “Pirates” saw a 37 percent drop from 2011, making this the smallest opening ever for the franchise. At its height (the second one, in 2006) it opened to $183 million in 2017 numbers — three times more than the current number.
And with this film leading the Memorial Day charge, it looks to place as the weakest long-time franchise entry meant to dominate the holiday in many years.
The $230 million budget (with marketing, Disney’s total investment is between $350 million-$400 million) will likely be covered. But it is at the point of diminishing returns, particularly for American exhibitors.
Similar to “Alien,” it’s a long-time brand name that is getting a little long in the tooth. And since this is the sort of film that is meant to be an exemplar of the current studio model, that’s a worry.
The “Furious” franchise fall (very strong domestic, but a third under last time) showed that even top series are coming up short. “King Arthur” was a disaster. As good as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has been, it still fell short of several early May Marvel releases. Over the last two months, all of the most expensive films with the highest expectations have underperformed their predecessors. (“X-Men” entry “Logan” was the last to stand out, and “Guardian” deserves kudos for improvement over its August-released predecessor).
So the gripe with “Pirates” is domestic, and its failure to live up to holiday expectations. Give it credit for strength despite a six-year gap (and the worst reviews in the series). But it is the slow decline, film after film, that makes the summer worrisome. Perhaps “Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.) will change the outlook. It needs to.
“Baywatch” is Beached
Sometimes the sure thing — familiar IP, but do something different — fails. Unlike its conceptual predecessor “21 Jump Street,” “Baywatch” took a shot at high-concept. R-rated success and tried to follow the “Hangover” series in reaching male audiences looking for comedy with an adult edge.
It didn’t work, with an $18 million three-day weekend ($22.7 million if you include Thursday numbers) that was way below predictions, and another part of the weak top 10 total.
The “Jump Street” films were helped by smart casting (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) that clicked better than the omnipresent Dwayne Johnson and the ubiquitous sidekick of Zac Efron. “Jump Street” received positive reviews; “Baywatch” reviews suggested that it should be avoided at all costs.
However, this movie seems to be another example of forgetting American audiences. Stateside, the TV series was known for Pamela Anderson and watching girls on the beach with plots that didn’t get in the way. Overseas, it made David Hasselhoff one of the biggest American TV stars, particularly in Europe.
Now it’s been reimagined as a buddy film. Yes, Dwayne Johnson is the real deal, but he is much bigger overseas that here. This falls far short of his last film, “The Fate of the Furious,” but also of unmemorable titles like “Central Intelligence,” “Pain and Gain,” “Hercules,” and “The Other Guys” as well as the bigger “San Andreas” and “G.I. Joe.”
Is it his fault? No, but he seems to have added nothing. As far as Efron, this is up his recent alley, with costarring roles in the “Neighbors” films and other R-rated comedies. But this barely opened better than “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.”
“Baywatch” might have seemed too dated; adding a drug crime story amidst the babes and beaches, and whatever remains of the “Hangover” formula, didn’t gibe. It might work better worldwide (most countries open later, getting out of the way of “Pirates”). And the $69 million budget means it has a more modest hurdle.
But don’t expect a sequel, nor a rush to more late 20th-century TV series redos.
“Guardians” Helped by New Film Weakness, But “Alien: Covenant” Collapses
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” might not match “Captain America: Civil War” from a year ago, but it’s showing real strength. At almost $20 million for three days, it is $4.5 million better than “Civil War” last year this weekend. It has clearly been helped by alternatives that were weaker than expected.
Meantime, “Alien: Covenant” dropped a horrific 70 percent from its disappointing opening. If there was any doubt as to whether this franchise is done for, at least without a major reboot (Fox tried this when they mixed in the “Predator” films), this drop should make that an easy choice.
Something of a disappointment is “Everything, Everything.” Warners got better results than expected with its modestly budgeted young-adult romance last weekend, but it could have done better than a 47 percent drop.
Among the rest of the kids’ and family-oriented films (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” “The Boss Baby” and “Beauty and the Beast”), they kept to drops at or below 40 percent. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” dropped another 55 per cent, and worldwide it could struggle to gross its $175 million budget (not including marketing), so this looks like a massive loss for Warners.