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Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: ‘Gone Girl’ Has Legs While ‘Dracula Untold’ & ‘Alexander’ Draw Younger Audiences

Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: 'Gone Girl' Has Legs While 'Dracula Untold' & 'Alexander' Draw Younger Audiences

Good news at the box office this semi-holiday weekend. The Top Ten films for three days could total about $133 million, up a big $32 million from last year. And last year was led by a huge $44 million second week take for Number One “Gravity.” One caveat: the results are close as three films vie for top spots and two are in the running for #10 –“Meet the Mormons” and “One Direction: Where We Are,” as well as the second weekend of “Left Behind.”

Multiple factors contributed to the uptick, which is always healthy.  The result is an unusually strong October weekend with three wide studio wide releases grossing $13 million-plus. Others sustained decent holds, and there’s a wild card with outside-the-box appeal to a niche audiences despite a less wide break. Despite not boasting two new films that between them grossed $75 million last weekend, the three-day total is only slightly below that figure ($136 million then, $133 now). 

Top 10 Gross Chart

1. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$26,800,000 (-29%) in 3,284 theaters (+270); PSA (per screen average): $8,161; Cumulative: $78,281,000
2. Dracula Untold (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 40; Est. budget: $70 million
$23,457,000 in 2,885 theaters; PSA: $8,131; Cumulative: $23,457,000
3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 54; Est. budget: $28 million
$19,100,000 in 3,088 theaters; PSA: $6,185; Cumulative: $19,100,000
4. Annabelle (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$16,365,000 (-56%) in 3,215 theaters (+30); PSA: $5,090; Cumulative: $62,156,000
5. The Judge (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 40; Est. budget: $50 million
$13,330,000 in 3,003 theaters; PSA: $4,439; Cumulative: $13,330,000
6. The Equalizer (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$9,725,000 (-48%) in 3,117 theaters (-119); PSA: $3,120; Cumulative: $79,885,000
7. Addicted (Lionsgate) NEW – Metacritic: 31
$7,600,000 in 846 theaters; PSA: $8,983; Cumulative: $7,600,000
8. The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #5
$7,500,000 (-36%) in 3,072 theaters (-533); PSA: $2,441; Cumulative: $83,840,000
9. The Boxtrolls (Focus) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$6,676,000 (-44%) in 3,270 theaters (-194); PSA: $2,042; Cumulative: $41,032,000
10. Left Behind (Freestyle) Week 2 – Last weekend #6
$2,909,000 (-54%) in1,887 theaters (+62)
Also possibly either “One Direction: Where We Are” (Arts Alliance) and “Meet the Mormons” (Purdie) could still end up #10 when all numbers are in, also around $2.9 million.

The Takeaways

New Openings: Performance Vs. Cost

The three new films face uncertain futures, with only one looking to benefit greatly from international grosses. Fortunately for Universal and “Dracula: Untold” production partner Legendary Studios (their second film together after the latter’s split from Warners last year), the initial overseas take of $66 million so far in 42 territories, with more to open later, means that the film’s $70 million production cost plus marketing is not too high an investment to make back, assuming that this shows legs going into Halloween ahead.

The contrast in cost with “Annabelle” which cost one tenth as much and opened bigger domestically should not be lost. Much less expensive at $28 million, but also not as likely to be a foreign success, “Alexander” came close to hitting expectations this weekend, but more importantly had a big boost from family audiences and with its A- Cinemascore (not the most reliable gauge –“Gone Girl” got a B) and the usual steadier performance from similar films, particularly when backed by Disney, could hit $60 million or more at home, and benefit from elevated ancillaries later on apart from its foreign haul.

The one film that looks like it has a struggle ahead is “The Judge.” Warners did what they could to elevate this with older audiences — opening night at Toronto, casting Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in leading roles. But two factors – less than mediocre overall reviews and competition from the adult-driven “Gone Girl” — depressed its gross. It also had an A- score, so perhaps it will have a better than average hold. But with an initial $50 million expense, and with Downey’s name not a surefire foreign draw in many territories, this could be another Warner Bros. film that fell short of hopes this year.

Holdover Report

“Gone Girl” is the standout, proving that being talked is the secret sauce. Despite widespread reports of many audiences feeling confused by the film’s tone (particularly its resolution), the 29% second weekend drop, more so for a film that opened up as it did as an R-rated drama, is impressive. “Gravity” last year had an amazing 20% drop, but that is a rarity. Fincher’s “The Social Network” also repeated as #1- – but with a 31% decrease and a $15 million gross (almost exactly the same weekend). Now already nearing $80 million, “Gone Girl” looks certain to exceed $125 million, and possibly far more. 

“Annabelle” fared less well, although horror films often suffer big drops. But it also had to face “Dracula Untold,” without which it likely would have fallen much less. Credit Warners though with getting their film out first, even if it was a week earlier in the month of Halloween. “The Boxtrolls” also suffered collateral damage, as “Alexander” clearly damaged its hold on family audiences.”Coraline,” another Laika animated production, fell 23% its third weekend, and was a good deal ahead of their current effort (internationally though “Boxtrolls” is outpacing it) even though the recent one opened better.

“The Maze Runner” continues to impress. Its fourth weekend is down 35% (despite losing 500 theaters) and should easily pass $100 million by some distance. Teens seem to be showing up again.

Where Did These Come From?

Look at some of the non-traditional specialized films among the top 30 grossing films this weekend — “Addicted,” “Left Behind,” “Meet the Mormons,” “One Direction: Where We Are,” “Bang Bang,” “Haider,” “Break Up Buddies.” (By comparison, only three mainstream specialized films rank within that group.) Except for “Left Behind” none is in more than 1,000 theaters, one with as few as 24. Only “Addicted” (released by Lionsgate as part of his joint effort with Code Black) has anything like traditional backing.

The most interesting of these might be the new One Direction concert film. Sony released their previous effort (“This Is Us”) with a standard pattern and $16 million opening weekend (and also higher marketing costs). A British company, Arts Alliance, spearheaded this film’s release, mostly at high-end Regal and Carmike theaters, with limited shows yesterday and today, then with some additional ones tomorrow. The gross hasn’t even been reported elsewhere, but sources indicate that it took in $1,645,000 yesterday, so even with lesser take today might still  be enough to approach a $2.9 million total for today.

“Addicted,” based on an erotic thriller and aimed at African-American audiences, had a targeted release that led to an almost $9,000 PSA. Again, the marketing cost was minor compared to wider releases, and the film itself also had an undisclosed but likely small budget.

“Left Behind” and “Mormons” continues the uneven performance of faith-based films. “Bang Bang,” “Haider” and “Break Up Buddies” are all Asian productions popular at home. None of this batch is Spanish-language, but from Lionsgate (Pantelion their partner) in particular this has been a growth market.

The point? Exhibition is no longer relying on the studios or the leading arthouse distributors to fill their screens. And they are lately working hard to grow these markets and make room for indies, with major chains and their in-house marketeers working closely with the filmmakers. This effort is part of theaters looking out for their own interests. If Netflix and other players are going to raise a threat, they want to make sure their screens still have product. We in some small way are going back a century, when the movie industry as we now know it was created by theater owners who needed to guarantee a steady flow of product.

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