Led by a bigger-than-expected “Dumb and Dumber To,” solid showing by last week’s two top hits and several long-term successes, the Top Ten managed a 14% jump from the same time last year ($131 million total).
Although Fall is celebrated as “adult” season, the results from awards-oriented films have been mixed so far. With “St. Vincent” and now “Birdman” reaching the Top Ten, the key to the season’s turnaround from the downbeat summer comes from less dependence on sequels, franchises and the predictability that comes from too many expensive films aimed at the whole world and piled one atop the other. They might not all be awards contenders, but one key to stabilizing attendance is offering multiple kinds of films, some of which might not be as of interest to China or elsewhere than here.
The Top 10
1. Dumb and Dumber To (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire:; Metacritic:; Est. budget: $40 million
$38,053,000 in 3,154 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $12,065; Cumulative: $38,053,000
2. Big Hero 6 (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$36,010,000 (-36%) in 3,773 theaters (+12); PSA: $9,544; Cumulative: $111,653,000
3. Interstellar (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$29,190,000 (-39%) in 3,561 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $8,197; Cumulative: $97,810,000
4. Beyond the Lights (Relativity) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire:; Metacritic:; Est. budget: $7 million
$6,500,000 in 1,789 theaters; PSA: $3,633; Cumulative: $6,500,000
5. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) Week 7; Last weekend #3
$4,625,000 (-25%) in 1,959 theaters (-265); PSA: $2,361; Cumulative: $152,699,000
6. St. Vincent (Weinstein) Week 6; Last weekend #6
$4,025,000 (-25%) in 2,332 theaters (-123); PSA: $1,726; Cumulative: $33,258,000
7. Fury (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #5
$3,810,000 (-32%) in 2,383 theaters (-452); PSA: $1,599; Cumulative: $75,941,000
8. Nightcrawler (Open Road) Week 3; Last weekend #7
$3,038,000 (-43%) in 2,103 theaters (-663); PSA: $1,445; Cumulative: $25,000,000
9. Ouija (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$3,025,000 (-49%) in 2,382 theaters (-298); PSA: $1,270; Cumulative: $48,105,000
10. Birdman (Fox Searchlight) Week 5; Last weekend #11
$2,450,000 in 857 theaters (+397); PSA: $2,859; Cumulative: $11,575,000
“Dumb and Dumber To”
“Dumb and Dumber To” outperformed pre-opening projections and speculation. Though “Big Hero 6” more than doubled its number yesterday, the Farrellys’ sequel held up well. With a star (Jim Carrey) thought to be past his expiration date (after numerous hits and several prestige entries), this is one of the surprises of the season. What made this so?
Apart from credit to Universal for marketing to its core audience (including inventive new media efforts), the biggest reason is likely the dearth of comedies this year. Why? The internationalization of film production. Most films produced by studios are greenlit with a worldwide audience in mind. Though comedies are popular worldwide, they are risky because they tend to be less likely to be one-size-fits-all, unlike action and comic-booked based films. (It works both ways — many years, the biggest hit in France or Germany is a local comedy that sees little or no exposure here.)
“Dumb and Dumber To” is actually the first wide, studio, live-action comedy since “This Is Where I Leave You” (aimed at older audiences) in September, and the first wide appeal one since “Let’s Be Cops” in August. So the first reason for its success is timing. Though this has been an upbeat fall for grosses, this has come from films that appealed to specific audiences –family (“Big Hero 6”), older males (“The Fury”), mostly adults/big city (“Gone Girl,” “St. Vincent”), horror (“Ouija”), young adult (“The Maze Runner). But a broad, general, younger, multi-ethnic audience — the core that used to be counted on a regular attendees — hasn’t been as well served. The basic unsophisticated, just-for-laughs appeal here was perhaps its biggest asset. It didn’t aim at a group: it aimed for the masses (specifically domestic). That can work.
Some milestones/comparisons: Even adjusting for inflation, this is the best opening ever for the veteran Farrelly Brothers, whose previous hits include “There’s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself and Irene” and “Shallow Hal” as well as the original “Dumb and Dumber.” Jim Carrey has had bigger openers (“Bruce Almighty” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” hardly recent, since 2000). But it has been a decade since he’s had anything as a live-action lead that was anything close to this.
About the B- Cinemascore (usually a bad sign): the gross yesterday was down 2% from Friday (actually ahead if Thursday night’s $1.2 is discounted). Friday-opening comedies often fall their second day — major hits “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbors” both dropped more, as did the flop “Sex Tape.” So this might hold on well through the upcoming weeks better than expected.
Warner Bros. (who handles this internationally) is reporting a ten-day total of $224 million, with a big boost from a huge China opening this weekend. This will continue the strong foreign trajectory that should guarantee a nice profit for Christopher Nolan’s expensive epic. And it is hardly a domestic slouch. It should hit $100 million by Tuesday, and have more than the usual third/fourth week takes with Thanksgiving ahead.
But as last weekend’s below-expectations second place showing revealed, this is not playing as well as the director’s other recent films at home. The 39% drop — certainly decent for most second weeks, particularly for a film that opened to $47 million — suggests interest remains elevated for the film.
But two comparisons find it weaker than it should be. Nolan’s recent “Inception,” which worked outside the comic-book appeal of his other smashes, opened bigger ($62 million), then dropped less than 39% for its next three weeks, two of which it repeated as #1 during prime summer time. That’s the sign of a major success.
And “Gravity” — a template for a mass-audience science-fiction hit with a director’s personal touch — also opened better ($55 million), then dropped only 23% its second week, with three weeks on top. It didn’t drop more than 36% its first seven weekends.
Foreign will make the difference, as it does for so many expensive films. And the domestic portion will end up as one of the biggest fall hits, even if below the director’s other recent films by some distance. “Inception” did 36% of its business in the U.S. plus Canada. But this year, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” took in only 23% at home. “Interstellar” remains to be determined. But it is hard to see it taking in more than $175 million domestic (about what “Gone Girl” will end up with), while international could reach $500 million. It might not be the fault of either film. It just could be another sign that the core young male fanboy-associated audience just is in serious decline here while it remains strong elsewhere.
“Beyond the Lights” Tries to Break Barriers
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has decried the term “black films” and the audience-limitations that imposes. But her current romance-centered film “Beyond the Lights,” which premiered at Toronto as a special presentation and received solid reviews is the first film released by Relativity’s new self-defined multi-cultural division, and had its marketing aimed at a female audience and particularly African-Americans, consistent with most of the lead casting for the film. (Its Metacritic score for example is better than either of apparent Oscar frontrunners “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” at the moment.)
With its prime provider Tyler Perry no longer the force he was, the African-American female niche audience has been mostly ignored this year. That group was a major part of the crossover success of “The Butler” last year, and hasn’t been widely tapped since (it will once “Selma” hits this Christmas). “Beyond the Lights” opened better than Perry’s most recent more-romance oriented effort (“Peeples,” which he didn’t direct) last year.
But romantic stories are another genre suffering from the demands of foreign. Only the sleeper hit “The Fault in Our Stars” and “If I Stay” have grossed over $50 million this year (the former clearly showing the untapped potential). “Lights” opened far lower (in part because of its smaller theater count), but it has some encouraging signs. Its “A” Cinemascore could mean that it overcomes lesser advertising and word of mouth could help it. But although its 14% jump yesterday is at the lower end among the Top Ten, “Lights” actually is quite strong for a women’s film. Both “Fault” and “Stay” fell their opening Saturdays (Friday night tends to draw women in groups without men more than the more date-heavy Saturday). Relativity did manage to draw a somewhat diverse (though 61% female and 55% over 25) – about half African-American, but also 30% white.
With its $7 million budget and low ad expense, this has a shot of minor success even if the opening doesn’t suggest anything breakout. But its relatively small number does suggest that, despite all efforts to create a color-blind world, crossover success doesn’t come easily even with a dearth of quality romantic films.
In the midrange for early November animated openers, “Big Hero 6” dropped 36% from it strong opening last week. Already at $111 million, it faces competition soon from “Penguins of Madagascar,” but with two holidays ahead for it to benefit from (it likely holds at least for matinees through Christmas) it should have little problem reaching $250 million domestic. Just another day at the office for Disney animation.
“Gone Girl” – what is there left to say? Fifth place in week seven, down only 25%, over $150 million. Weinstein also claims a 25% drop for “St. Vincent,” with Sunday’s estimate likely overoptimistic, but even if more, still doing quite well, and $50 million well in sight. “Fury” might still overtake it for sixth, but in any case, its 32% drop again shows continued strength, though it should fall a little short of $100 million. “Nightcrawler” and “Ouija” dropped much more, but like the rest of the list, under 50 per cent.