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Top Ten Takeaways: ‘Furious 7’ Breaks $1.15 Billion Worldwide; ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’ and ‘Unfriended’ Show Strength

Top Ten Takeaways: 'Furious 7' Breaks $1.15 Billion Worldwide; 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2' and 'Unfriended' Show Strength

The Top Ten combined total of $109 million is down from 2014’s $117 million, but 2015 is better, because Good Friday and Easter fell later last year. Thus both Saturday and today are ahead, with only the non-holiday Friday falling short.

Strongest new entries “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (Sony) and “Unfriended” (Universal) boasted strong enough openings to head toward ultimate success, reversing the recent trend for struggling mid-budget films. On the other hand neither film is likely to sustain a long run. So the path is clear for Disney to claim as many screens as it wants for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in two weeks. Distributors are steering clear, increasing the chances that the Marvel behemoth will open and then ultimately gross even more than the phenomenal “Furious 7,” which has passed the $1.15 billion mark worldwide, ranking seventh on the all-time blockbuster chart. 

The third wide opener, Disney’s nature documentary “Monkey Kingdom,” was more modest at under $5 million, about the same as their similar “Bears” exactly a year ago, although in about 300 more theaters. They are counting on a strong Sunday to make up for the initial shortfall Friday (where it was much below last year’s holiday), but with strong family response they could reach or exceed “Bears”‘ total $18 million. These low-budget productions carry below-normal marketing costs and long-term library value.

The same cannot be said for the more wide than limited releases of “True Story” (Fox Searchlight) and “Child 44” (Lionsgate), which scored disappointing numbers with no long term prospects. 

Read More: Specialty Box Office: ‘True Story’ and ‘Child 44’ Flop as ‘Ex Machina’ Lures Audiences

As of today, the same number of films have passed $100 million this
year (seven plus one 2014 holdover). The first third of last year was strong, and the five per cent
increase so far, ahead of an anticipated robust 2015 summer line
up, should please industryites gathering in Las Vegas this week for the
annual trade convention Cinemacon.

The Top Ten

1. Furious 7 (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$29,056,000 (-51%) in 3,964 theaters (-58); PSA (per screen average): $7,330,000; Cumulative: $294,410,000

2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: F; Metacritic: 14; est. budget $30 million
$24,000,000 in 3,633 theaters; PSA: $6,606; Cumulative: $24,000,000

3. Unfriended (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 60; est. budget < $1 million
$16,000,000 in 2,739 theaters; PSA: $5,850; Cumulative: $16,000,000

4. Home (20th Century Fox) Week 4 – Last weekend #2
$10,300,000 (-44%) in 3,488 theaters (-125); PSA: $2,953; Cumulative: $142,609,000

5. The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$6,850,000 (-47%) in 3,371 theaters (+5); PSA: $3,371; Cumulative: $23,511,000

6. Get Hard (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #4
$4,830,000 (-41%) in 2,655 theaters (-477); PSA: $1,819; Cumulative: $78,279,000

7. The Monkey Kingdom (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 70; budget unreported
$4,715,000 in 2,012 theaters; PSA: $2,343; Cumulative: $4,715,000

8. Woman in Gold (Weinstein) Week 3 – Last weekend #7
$4,587,000 (-16%) in 2,011 theaters (+507); PSA: $; Cumulative: $15,943,000

9. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #6
$4,150,000 (-38%) in 2,542 theaters (-576); PSA: $1,633; Cumulative: $120,605,000

10. Cinderella (Buena Vista) Week 6; Last weekend #5
$3,871,000 (-46%) in 2,414 theaters (-616); PSA: $1,604; Cumulative: $186,324,000

The Takeaways

Faster and Furiouser

This is already the biggest domestic grosser in the franchise (at $294 million, $55 million better than installment six), at $1.15 billion worldwide, the recent best. “The Avengers” at just over $1.5 billion is not out of reach, although the Marvel film had a 3D pricing advantage as well as a stronger foreign currency boost. “Furious 7” has shot at being the biggest ticket seller since “Avatar.” At home, it now projects to over $350 million, although likely not quite $400 million, but at any rate it does top the far less expensive “American Sniper” in domestic draw, which makes “Furious 7” the biggest hit since “Iron Man 3” ($409 million).

The 51 per cent drop this weekend is about the same a last time around, more impressive because this one faced greater competition from this weekend’s two decent openers. The figure is also $10 million or about half again bigger, about the same ratio as their openings. That’s a clear sign of continued strong word of mouth.

While Universal claims this as their biggest hit ever worldwide, they’re overlooking the critical factor of inflation. This is their first release ever to pass the $1 billion mark in current dollars. But “E.T.” and “Jaws” alone in current ticket prices did over $1 billion in the U.S., and both “Jurassic Park” and “The Sting” also easily in total far surpassed that mark. Not to minimize the excellent showing for “Furious 7,” but it hasn’t quite reached those classic levels of success in any reality-based equation.

“Paul Blart” – Sony Gets the Last Laugh

Echoing the unanimously negative critical response to the Kevin James’ sequel to his 2009 success, Justin Chang led his Variety review by saying that “nothing aired by Wikileaks could possibly be more destructive to Sony’s reputation” than this film’s release. The studio is having the last laugh this morning after the much stronger than expected $24 million estimated take, which actually makes their marketing prowess look even better because of the awful reviews.

How bad were they? Metacritic is the most precise barometer of top critics, and their score of 15 — keep in mind that on a 4 star scale, 1 star gets a film a 20 — is among the all-time worst for a wide release studio film. Only “Scary Movie 5” ranks close over the last couple years, and “Meet the Spartans” and “Date Night” in 2006 at a quick glance rank similarly. (Perhaps as a corollary to the lack of high-end respect for comedies is that nearly all of the rock-bottom reviews also come in the same genre.) Here’s a record that Sony will quietly celebrate — it seems, even adjusting grosses for higher prices, that this is the best opening figure ever for this poorly reviewed a film.

“Paul Blart” the first time around was an audience-created success (its score was a weak 39) mainly due to Kevin James’ appeal (both from TV and previous co-starring movie roles). He has topped that twice with the two “Grown Ups” but Adam Sandler and Chris Rock respectively divided the credit. This one is back on James’ shoulders, and comes an unusually long six years later (he has been in great demand). So it would have not been a surprise to many if this fell far short, even before the atrocious reviews.

The opposite happened. This is his best live-action opener other than the “Grown Ups” pair since 2006. The gross is short of the $31 million take back then (aided by a January holiday weekend). But most striking is that the take yesterday was 39 per cent better than Friday (which included some Thursday grosses) compared to  35 per cent last time — a strong sign of audience approval.

“Get Hard” is another name-brand comedy that delivers to its audience above elite expectations, and both films suggest that comedy — which is more difficult to transfer to the crucial international crowd — remains an underserved go-to genre at home. The PG rating in this case seem to have helped, with this scoring well with middle American family audiences (under 18 its Cinemascore was A-, better than its overall grade). Sony is doing better with James than fading star Adam Sandler (he produced this one).

“Unfriended” – Another Blumhouse Success

A rare overachiever among horror films of late (following the more guerrilla marketing success of “It Follows,” which this has already bested), “Unfriended” adds another feather to the cap of producer Jason Blum, who has cornered the market in the genre in recent years, especially on the microbudget side. Universal’s marketing team deserves full credit, and it makes sense for his partners to sing his praises.

But “Unfriended,” unlike most Blumhouse productions, was an acquisition, made after the film, initially entitled “Cybernatural,” showed  at a Canadian fantasy film festival last year. It comes from another horror maven, Kazakhstan-born Timur Bekmanbetov, whose Russian thriller “Night Watch” first nabbed festival notice. He went on to direct the studio-made “Wanted” and “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,” and currently is directing the big-budget “Ben-Hur” remake in Rome. He’s also dabbled in producing horror films directed by others (“The Darkest Hour,” “Apollo 18”) . This looks to be his top effort yet, with Georgian-born Russia-based upcoming director Levin Gabriadze inventively utilizing a multiple computer-screen narrative that got this better reviews (and critical attention) than average. (Trailer placement in front of “Furious 7” and “It Follows” helped as well.)

The statistics that leap off of Universal’s report today is that 60 per cent of the initial audience was female, which is likely close to a record for a young adult oriented R-rated horror film (males have been losing interest in these for some time). They also report that non-white ticket buyers made up more than two thirds of the audience, so this also scored where the interest often is biggest. It might not hold well (as usual for horror entries, Saturday dropped from Friday). And it remains to be seen if this is more than a one-time combined Blum/Bekmanbetov effort. 

Holdover Round-Up

The five other holdovers all dropped under 50 per cent, making this an average weekend for older films. The second weekend of “The Longest Ride” (20th Century Fox) held a little better (-47%) than the last two Nicholas Sparks adaptations (after opening between their levels), but it will need to stabilize if it is to become a success (with lesser international appeal).

(20th Century Fox) continues to drop a bit more than many animated hits, but at $142 million so far domestic, $270 million worldwide, it remains a positive for struggling DreamWorks Animation.

“Get Hard”
(Warner Bros.) continues to outpace expectations with a 41% drop.

“Woman in Gold” (Weinstein) shed only 16%, although it was aided by a 507 theater (a third higher) increase — the PSA was off 40 per cent. Still, at $16 million and counting it has been maximized by TWC, overcoming lackluster reviews.

(Lionsgate) hung on, only off 38%, with its domestic take looking to be down from “Divergent” but a bit ahead worldwide.

(Buena Vista) fell 48% and now looks to end up just shy of $200 million, but over $500 million total worldwide.

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