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Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: ‘No Good Deed’ Tops Weak Field, ‘The Drop’ Scores, ‘The Giver’ Soars

Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: 'No Good Deed' Tops Weak Field, 'The Drop' Scores, 'The Giver' Soars

The Top Ten box office holds many surprises, from top-dog “No Good Deed,” starring Idris Elba and weak family sequel “Dolphin Tale 2” to festival entry “The Drop” landing at number six. And The Weinstein Co.’s dystopian YA adaptation “The Giver” has unexpectedly become its best-grosser in over a year. 

Unfortunately, the results continue to show a sizable decrease from the same weekend last year. The good news: initial strong international numbers this weekend for “The Maze” –which opens next week in the U.S.– promise a much-needed turnaround ahead.

The Top Ten

1. No Good Deed (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 27; Est. production budget: $13 million
$24,500,000 in 2,175 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,264; Cumulative: $24,500,000
2. Dolphin Tale 2 (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 59; Estimated production budget: $36 million; $16,550,000 in 3,656 theaters; PSA: $4,527; Cumulative: $16,500,000
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (Buena Vista) Week 7 – Last weekend #1
$8,041,000 (-22%) in 3,104 theaters (-117); PSA: $2,591; Cumulative: $305,926,000
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount) Week 6 – Last weekend #2
$4,800,000 (-26%) in 3,273 theaters (-270); PSA: $1,623; Cumulative: $181,041,000
5. Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox) Week 5 – Last weekend #3
$4,300,000 (-23%) in 2,755 theaters (-177); PSA: $1,561; Cumulative: $72,972,000
6. The Drop (Fox Searchlight) NEW – Cinemascore: None; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 69; Est. production budget: $13 million; $4,200,000 in 809 theaters; PSA: $5,192; Cumulative: $4,200,000
7. If I Stay (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #4; $4,050,000 (-27%) in 3,040 theaters (-117); PSA: $1,332; Cumulative: $44,937,000
8. The November Man (Relativity) Week 3 – Last weekend #5; $2,750,000 (-36%) in 2,702 theaters (-74); PSA: $1,018; Cumulative: $22,495,000
9. The Giver (Weinstein) Week 5 – Last weekend #7
$2,626,000 (-23%) in 2,253 theaters (-323); PSA: $1,166; Cumulative: $41,329,000
10. The Hundred-Foot Journey (Buena Vista) Week 6 – Last weekend #9; $2,461,000 (-22%) in 2,435 theaters (-331); PSA: $1,267; Cumulative: $49,409,000

The Takeaways

Producer of the Year: Will Packer

With “No Good Deed,” an unexpected number one film that grossed about 25% more than anticipated, producer Will Packer has his fourth film of the year to open over $24 million (previously “Ride Along,” “About Last Night,” and “Think Like a Man Too.”) With a commercial knack that mixes films that have featured African-American stories and actors but have also shown crossover appeal, he has supplanted the recently fading Tyler Perry as the leading producer of films for that audience. Only 40 and self-made, he has moved from a long-term relationship with Sony (through their Screen Gems production unit) to Universal (which started with “Ride Along”) with a prime focus on theatrical releases (unlike many producers these days diversifying into TV, cable and streaming projects). Most of his films come in at under $30 million in production expense, low-end these days, yet outgross many that cost far more (offset though by their lesser international appeal).

One of the hallmarks of his films has been superb casting of African-American talent who might not have had the level of success they deserve (much of the publicity for “No Good Deed” focused on Oscar-nominee Taraja B. Henson’s struggles since “Benjamin Button.”) It also stars rising British star Idris Elba (“Mandela,” “Thor,” “Pacific Rim”) whose fame has grown thanks to Emmy-winning BBC police drama “Luther.” (That show’s main director Sam Miller returns to feature directing here after 15 years of non-stop TV and cable work. In 1999 he directed “Among Giants,” a Fox Searchlight release in the U.S. starring Pete Postlethwaite.) Packer has been instrumental in elevating Kevin Hart into a major star. The industry has a tendency to typecast producers as much as they do directors and actors, but Packer is now free to expand to as wide a group of projects as he wants.

“The Drop” Takes Hybrid Release Model

The most curious result this weekend is the initial success of “The Drop.” This had all the hallmarks of a specialized film before going into its release pattern. Produced by distributor Fox Searchlight, the film was directed by Belgian Michael Roskam, whose recent “Bullhead” was an unexpected Oscar Foreign Language contender two years ago (though Drafthouse only managed a $151,000 domestic gross). “The Drop” premiered the opening Friday at Toronto last week. Other than Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”), the ensemble cast–late character actor James Gandolfini, Swedish star Noomi Rapace and Belgian “Bullhead” star Matthias Schoenaerts– is best-known for more specialized film work.

From the start in just 809 theaters, “The Drop” reached nearly all of the specialized and crossover markets. Sometimes when a distributor doesn’t have faith in a film’s critical appeal they will break out a pre-sold film with big name talent attached. But this movie garnered positive reviews out of TIFF.

Fox Searchlight has been involved, as a producer or in acquisitions, with a distinctly edgier group of films with some genre, youth appeal than is usually the proven path to success in specialized (which tend to be older and awards- oriented). This time they decided to take a chance with a hybrid approach with a genre film whose elements could justify an initially limited release with a fairly rapid expansion. This time around rather than risk the fate of  recent disappointments “Dom Hemingway,” “I Origins,” “Trance,” “The East,” “Stoker,” “Sound of My Voice,” “Calvary” and “Lola Versus,” none of which grossed above $3 million–some didn’t pass the $1 million mark–they spend heavily on a wider break.

“The Drop”  is based on a story by Dennis Lehane, familiar from both his novels and their adaptations like “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island.” Though this has more action as well as a more sophisticated approach and familiar names, it wasn’t an obvious candidate for wide audience appeal. But to get to the likely level of gross they need to come out ahead on a $13 million budget plus marketing, this is going to need a multiple several times its opening, which will require strong word of mouth in an increasingly competitive field for high-end films over the next few weeks. So it was a good move to get it out early right after its TIFF launch–which may not have been needed. The verdict is out on how this will work.

Family Sequels Continue to Fall Off

It was widely anticipated that “Dolphin Tale 2” would be the top gross this weekend, at around $20 million. Instead it ended up a distant second with $16.5 million. Its modest $36 million budget likely will keep this in play for a profit,  with kids’ oriented films have a long ancillary shelf life (international for “Dolphin Tale” was much smaller than its $72 million domestic take). The question is why a string of family-oriented studio sequels continue to drop dramatically from the preceding film? This trend includes sequels to “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Rio,” “Planes” and “Muppets,” which all grossed less than their most recent predecessors (with only “Rio 2” coming close, although international make up the difference despite domestic drops). “Dolphin Tale” opened to about $3.5 million more than this week’s sequel.

2013 saw “Despicable Me 2” take in 50% more than the first go round ($368 million), “Monsters University” and “Cloudy With a Chances of Meatballs 2” just under. Only “Smurfs 2” showed a steep decline (more than made up for with a foreign take of nearly four times as much). The big story of falling genres this year has come from the collapse of the horror film market, but the decrease of interest in family product (which started after the massive year-end success of “Frozen”) should be on the radar as a second sign of shifts in core audience appeal that could have long term impact.

Minor Signs of Improvement

The total gross for the Top Ten this weekend was about $74 million, down from $86 million last year (the difference almost entirely from a much bigger #1 in 2013, when “Insidious 2” opened to $40 million). It is also the lowest for a similar two-weeks after Labor Day since 2008. But the good news is that the drop is less than the comparison to 2013 for the past two weekends, and saw two openerss gross over $15 million, while a third (“The Drop”) overperformed  in fewer than 900 theaters. Still, the ongoing decline now places the year to date drop is now at 5.8%. This means that in order to surpass last year, grosses for the rest of 2014 would likely have to outpace it by over 20%! Given that last fall’s smashes included five films that ultimate grossed over $200 million, that seems very unlikely.

Ongoing Strength

Look at the drops among the seven holdovers — they averaged 26%. This September graveyard weekend normally shows good holds. Most weekends throughout the year show an average drop of over 40% for longer run films, but a look back at recent years show this particular one usually shows falls in the mid-30s. But only one of the seven Top Ten holds this year dropped even as much as 30%. Other than perhaps “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which became the first 2014 release to surpass $300 million in domestic gross) none of these films was expected to have the legs they have shown. This continues to keep the grosses less disastrous than otherwise. But it also reveals an audience which could be bigger with more new films.

In the last three weeks, only four new wide release studio films have opened, compared to six in 2013 during the same period. Next weekend has at least three, with these likely to cut into each others success and also reduce future grosses for some of this current batch. But in the meantime, after a summer where few films achieved normal long term success (tripling a first weekend’s gross), all seven of this week’s holdovers have or will reach that level, with two (“Let’s Be Cops” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey”) headed toward an incredible five times multiple. The Weinstein Company’s top-grosser so far, “The Giver,” should reach $50 million, four times over first weekend.

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