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Why the Weekend Box Office Sank to Historic Lows

As the depressed box office was hit by bad weather and the Mayweather/McGregor fight, indies "Wind River" and "Logan Lucky" held strong.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

Talk about the dog days of summer. This weekend marked the worst box office in this century.

If “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (Lionsgate) holds on to the top position for a third time next week, it would mark the lowest gross in memory to repeat again. The actioner dropped a ho-hum 53 per cent, boosted by the absence of any real competition. Count stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson among rare winners at the moment.

Domestic theaters grossed around $65 million in movie ticket sales this weekend. (That doesn’t count the revenue for closed circuit live showings of the Mayweather/McGregor fight which would have placed it in the Top Ten.)

That’s about seven million tickets sold total. The number is easily a record low for this century. And you have to reach back to World War II to match the attendance numbers. More people went the movies the weekend after 9/11. Theaters were even busier the days after November 22, 1963.

This weekend moviegoers stayed home in droves. Yes, the-pay-per-view broadcast (which brought in around a half billion dollars in the U.S., as big as any movie in theaters total all year) had a big impact. Regionally Hurricane Harvey closed theaters in Gulf Coast Texas (about five per cent of the population, but weather often affects local box office weekends). And like late August weekends on other years, the start of high school football season in many communities and getting ready to go back to school also hurt.

But these factors weren’t unique this weekend. They’ve all happened before. But not with this impact. Ever.

It’s the summation of a summer that started positively with the usual Marvel success (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”) and a strong June with “Wonder Woman” leading the way. Then the market plummeted in July and collapsed in August. Partly, that was because the studios to a greater than usual extent vacated the final month (these days Disney can vacate the scene for four months between releases).

“Leap!”

Even with no particular strength from recent releases, three new openers —  Weinstein’s release of “Leap!” (a redubbed French animated film), the China-financed Bruce Lee biopic “Birth of the Dragon” (BH Tilt), and Sony’s 846-theater release of the faith-based story “All Saints” — could together only draw $9 million!

The vacuum drew in return dates for established successes. “Wonder Woman” added 1,400, “Baby Driver” added 1,000,  and even indies “Ingrid Goes West” (Neon) and “Good Time” (A24) hopefully broadened to multi-hundred numbers,  yielding muted interest at best.

jeremy renner elizabeth olsen wind river

“Wind River”

The rare positive note was struck by the rapid expansion (already over 2,000 theaters) for Weinstein’s “Wind River,” which managed $4.4 million. It’s a risky strategy. The similar “Hell or High Water” (“Wind River” is directed and written by “Hell” Oscar-nominated scenarist Taylor Sheridan) in exactly the same weekend last year grossed $3.5 million in fewer than half as many theaters. “Wind” now is way above the total that “Hell” played on any given week in its run. It remains uncertain whether the quicker release pattern here (consistent with past Weinstein successes historically) will see it match the $27 million total and not coincidental later awards traction last year’s film received.

“Leap” led the openers with $5 million, not an impressive number for a wide animated release even without a brand involved. Any new release targeting the kids’ market without a glut of competition normally does better than this.

“Birth of the Dragon”

“Birth of the Dragon” (which premiered at last year’s Toronto) did half as much in 1,618 theaters. At least it made the Top Ten. Sony, often successful in the world of faith-based Christian movies came in lower than usual with “All Saints” at $1,550,000. It played in under 1,000 theaters, but nearly all that normally support similar films at higher numbers.

Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” had a decent second weekend hold (off 42 per cent) after its disappointing start. It still will fall short of the director’s hopes in overseeing its distribution and marketing, but still with an ultimate domestic total ahead of what it appeared opening weekend.

The Top Ten

1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$10,050,000 (-53%) in 3,377 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $2,976; Cumulative: $39,614,000

2. Annabelle: Creation (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$7,350,000 (-%) in 3,565 theaters (+23); PTA: $2,062; Cumulative: $77,880,000

3. Leap! (Weinstein) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 49; Est. budget: $30 million

$5,016,000 in 2,575 theaters; PTA: $2,575; Cumulative: $5,016,000

4. Wind River (Weinstein) Week 4; Last weekend #10

$4,411,000 (+48%) in 2,905 theaters (+1,401); PTA: $2,105; Cumulative: $9,841,000

5. Logan Lucky (Bleecker Street) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$4,367,000 (-42%) in 3,031 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,441; Cumulative: $15,034,000

6. Dunkirk (Warner Bros.) Week; Last weekend #4

$3,950,000 (-40%) in 2,774 theaters (-497); PTA: $1,424; Cumulative: $172,479,000

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #7

$2,725,000 (-36%) in 2,122 theaters (-219); PTA: $1,284; Cumulative: $318,843,000

8. Birth of the Dragon (BH Tilt) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 37; Est. budget: (unknown)

$2,501,000 in 1,618 theaters; PTA: $1,546; Cumulative: $2,501,000

9. The Emoji Movie (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #6

$2,350,000 (-47%) in 2,374 theaters (-417); PTA: $990; Cumulative: $76,432,000

10. Girls Trip (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #8

$2,267,000 (-42%) in 1,777 theaters (-233); PTA: $1,276; Cumulative: $108,072,000

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