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‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Dominates Box Office as Eastwood’s ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ Skews Old

87-year-old Clint Eastwood's radical casting of real-life heroes pulled the oldest audience ever.

Fifty Shades Freed

Threequel “Fifty Shades Freed” (Universal) easily led all films, including three wide openers, as so far 2018 lags behind 2017 at the box office, going against sports competition from both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics.  Grosses are now down one per cent.

Next week’s anticipated release of Marvel’s “Black Panther” (Disney) this Friday will reverse that trend.  Early projections for this eagerly anticipatedAfrican-based superhero story directed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) are about $150 million, the total for all the films for last year’s three-day President’s Day weekend.

"Black Panther"

“Black Panther”

Marvel

The openers this weekend totaled an expected $75 million. They represent three distinctive strains of mainstream studio product these days: a franchise sequel (“Fifty Shades Freed”), a hybrid animated-live action feature (“Peter Rabbit”) and a true-life heroic action dramatic re-enactment (“The 15:17 to Paris”).

Disconcertingly, last year’s three similar titles totaled $55 million more: “The LEGO Batman Movie” at $53 million (more than double “Peter Rabbit”), the second “Fifth Shades” installment ($47 million) and the action sequel “John Wick: Chapter Two” ($30 million opening, more than double “15:17”).

Among this year’s entries, “Fifty Shades Freed” is the most understandable drop. The third time out for a more niche entry like this — even a finale — does well to only drop 17 per cent. Universal has handled this trilogy (released in just over two years) quite well in terms of economy (this one cost $50 million). Based on initial stronger foreign returns it likely will end up between $250-300 million worldwide.

“Peter Rabbit”

“Peter Rabbit” targeted a younger audience than such Sony Animation top efforts as the “Hotel Transylvania” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” series. Its opening is on par with their recent “The Emoji Movie” and “Goosebumps.” At a cost of $50 million it should total perhaps $90 million plus foreign and future home interest, an adequate return at best. Its cost was about $33 million less than “LEGO Batman” and didn’t come with the double franchise combo that gave last year’s same weekend animated release more pop. After the disappointing response to the critically acclaimed “Paddington 2,” this mediocre performance suggests that animals mixing with humans in British settings isn’t a major draw at the moment.

“The 15:17 to Paris” was burdened by a title that might have confused some, less than favorable reviews (though the New York Times was a near rave) but more than anything a lack of stars. Clint Eastwood went rogue with the radical stunt casting of the actual three military heroes who stopped a terror attack on a train. The $12.6 million opening total is only a little more than a third better than his most recent film “Sully,” which starred Tom Hanks as another real-life hero.  What would “Sully” have done had the pilot played himself and other actual participants done the same? We’ll never know, but likely less than its nearly $250 million worldwide.

The 15:17 to Paris

“The 15:17 to Paris”

Warner Bros./screencapped

The initial number seems more of an anomaly for Eastwood after “Sully” and the massive “American Sniper.” But it actually is of a piece with his previous titles (“Jersey Boys,” “Invictus,” “Hereafter,” “J. Edgar”), all made after most popular film “Gran Torino.” Nine years later at 87 Eastwood has nothing left to prove (though he still hasn’t won an acting Oscar). But “15:17” might put some pressure on him to get back to recent form.

Despite characters in their 20s, Eastwood’s “15:17” drew an audience reported by Warners as 57 per cent over 50, an almost unheard of total, and only 13 per cent under 25. This isn’t shocking for someone whose young adulthood included military service during the Korean War, early movie roles at the same year Elvis Presley broke out and directed his first film before anyone had heard of Watergate. But that kind of draw won’t sustain many further films. (Surprisingly, 51 per cent of the audience was female.)

The Top Ten

1. Fifty Shades Freed (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic:; Est. budget: $55 million

$38,806,000 in 3,768 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,299,000; Cumulative: $38,806,000

2. Peter Rabbit (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 51; Est. budget: $50 million

$25,000,000 in 3,725 theaters; PTA: $6,711; Cumulative: $25,000,000

3. The 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore; Metacritic: 45; Est. budget: $30 million

$12,600,000 in 3,042 theaters; PTA: $4,142; Cumulative: $12,600,000

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #1

$9,825,000 (-10%) in 3,126 theaters (-226); PTA: $3,133; Cumulative: $365,657,000

5. The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox) Week 8; Last weekend #4

$6,400,000 (-17%) in 2,373 theaters (-215); PTA: $2,697; Cumulative: $146,536,000

6. Maze Runner: The Death Cure (20th Century Fox) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$6,000,000 (-43%) in 2,923 theaters (-870); PTA: $2,053; Cumulative: $49,018,000

7. Winchester (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$5,050,000 (-46%) in 2,480 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,036; Cumulative: $17,177,000

8. The Post (20th Century Fox) Week 8; Last weekend #5

$3,500,000 (-33%) in 1,865 theaters (-597); PTA: $1,877; Cumulative: $72,837,000

9. The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) Week 11; Last weekend #9

$3,000,000 (-33%) in 1,780 theaters (-561); PTA: $1,685; Cumulative: $49,766,000

10. Den of Thieves (STX) Week 4; Last weekend #8

$2,870,000 (-37%) in 1,468 theaters (-644); PTA: $1,955; Cumulative: $40,951,000

Holdovers

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” dropped a measly 11 per cent and now could actually outgross “Wonder Woman” in the U.S. (it is already ahead worldwide). “The Greatest Showman” fell just 17 per cent, and could reach $175 million domestic.

The 2017 films still doing well (including Oscar contenders) will soon end their runs before long, and this don’t look like they’ll be around. That makes the success of “Black Panther” even more anxiously awaited.

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