Maybe the upbeat summer starts this Friday with “Jurassic World.” Or perhaps we are doomed to a constant string of decent but never as-good-as-hoped-for openings, followed by faster-than-usual drops. Whatever the case, even with three diverse new films all with some appeal and last week’s top performer’s decent hold, box office again seems in the doldrums. It’s getting tough coming up with new excuses.
The Top Ten
1. Spy (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 75; Est. budget: $65 million
$30,000,000 in 3,711 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,084; Cumulative: $30,000,000
2. San Andreas (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #1
$26,440,000 (-52%) in 3,812 theaters (+35); PSA: $6,936; Cumulative: $92,163,000
3. Insidious: Chapter 3 (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 73; Est. budget: $10 million
$23,000,000 in 3,002 theaters; PSA: $7,662; Cumulative: $23,000,000
4. Entourage (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 38; Est. budget: $25 million
$10,420,000 in 3,108 theaters; PSA: $3,353; Cumulative: $17,805,000
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend: #4
$7,970,000 (-44%) in 2,720 theaters (-535); PSA: $2,930; Cumulative: $130,804,000
6. Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend: #2
$7,700,000 (-48%) in 3,403 theaters (-257); PSA: $2,263; Cumulative: $160,982,000
7. Tomorrowland (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last weekend: #3
$7,022,000 (-51%) in 3,012 theaters (-960); PSA: $2,331; Cumulative: $76,236,000
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Buena Vista) Week 6; Last weekend: #5
$6,201,000 (-46%) in 2,412 theaters (-757); PSA: $2,510; Cumulative: $438,015,000
9. Aloha (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend: #6
$3,300,000 (-66%) in 2,815 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,172; Cumulative: $16,342,000
10. Poltergeist (20th Century Fox) Week 3; Last weekend: #7
$2,850,000 (-65%) in 2,229 theaters (-1,013); PSA: $1,279; Cumulative: $44,452,000
No sugar coating this weekend: three openings all have potential. They all performed within the range of expectations, but compared to similar films, all seem less than sensational. And the weekend, packed with three new viable releases, showed yet again another drop from the same weekend in 2014 (over 20% — $122 million compared to $154).
Last year was led by “The Fault in Our Stars” at $48 million, a second weekend of “Maleficent” at $34 (down a bit less than “San Andreas” this weekend) and even the disappointing “Edge of Tomorrow” at almost $29. The year before, “The Purge” managed a $34 million start. It feels like the dog days of summer when we should be seeing some momentum as we get into the heart of the season.
Historically, the expectations game involves low-balling guesses, and in strong periods, regularly exceeding them. Each of the new releases looks slightly disappointing, particularly compared to similar films. Let’s look at each individually.
“Spy” — Melissa McCarthy’s First Disappointment?
Her past films reached above-average four times or better during opening weekend, and her increased international appeal (and casting here including Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Jude Law) was meant to enhance foreign appeal. At $65 million-plus marketing negative cost, “Spy” likely ends up a modest hit. But this was one of the summer films considered most likely to exceed expectations, even more so after strong critical word appeared.
The gross is in the range of her three other lead roles post-“Bridesmaids.” The best remains “The Heat” ($39 million), which had Sandra Bullock in tow. The poorly received “Tammy” opened the Wednesday prior to Independence Day and did $33 million in its first five days (including a holiday boost). And “Identity Thief” managed $34 million in February 2013. “Spy” looked primed to top them all.
Like so many recent films, it skewed to an older (65% 25 and over), female (40%) audience. The base showed up, but few others. Now it needs to reverse the trend dominant in recent weeks of weaker-than-usual holdovers to show that she remains the powerhouse vital to the ongoing growth of female star appeal.
Latest “Insidious” Lags Despite Franchise Momentum
“Insidious” had two earlier renditions released through Film District, whose principles were brought into Universal to replace the management of their own specialized arm, Focus. They’ve now unwrapped the dormant Gramercy label to to this and similar genre fare. The point is, the creative team on all levels is involved the third time around.
And this time, though again at $10 million-plus marketing, it’s a likely money maker, and compared to most recent horror films, “Insidious 3” is above average. But the figure is more than 40% below what the second one did, a $40 million-plus gross that came despite an early September weekend.
Horror has enjoyed a minor surge of late (“Poltergeist,” the micro-budget “It Follows” and “Unfriended,” “Annabelle” last fall), but still these film are neither opening nor reaching totals seen in past years. “Insidious” has been a more respectable franchise (this was actually a New York Times’ critics pick), with the somewhat wider (and more female) audience drawn by its PG-13 rating. It dropped 27% yesterday, holding better than the much better start for “Chapter 2” but below the improved Saturday of the first one.
The drop from a well-received sequel less than two years later, more so because of the much stronger release date, is disconcerting, but consistent with the general malaise in the market currently.
Entourage: The Tail Doesn’t Wag the Dog
Women vehicles at the box office got an early boost in 2008 when HBO’s “Sex and the City” became a movie and opened to $56 million and ultimately totaled $152 million. It generated a sequel, which in turn opened to $37 million and landed a $95 million total. So, particularly with actor/producing powerhouse Mark Wahlberg involved, there was a logical case for a movie version.
“Entourage” showed it had appeal as a movie by nabbing a surprising $2 million Tuesday preview gross, in turn leading to a promising A- Cinemascore (best for the weekend, but from an established fan base). Only $10 million of that came from the weekend ($17 million total otherwise), and with Friday not its opening day, the low 3% Saturday jump is more discouraging. It’s hard to imagine much life left in this.
The key differences from “Sex and the City” are not only a lower zeitgeist-level for the Hollywood-posse comedy series, despite its one-time popularity, but mainly where its appeal lies. 64% of its audience was male, and its tough to sustain a movie opening domestically when it’s skewed in one direction. (“American Sniper” had a male edge initially, but became more than that during its run.) Also, even more widely than a decade ago, cable is now seen by many as the superior creative venue that doesn’t need theatrical validation, which used to be the mark of prestige.
“San Andreas” managed to keep its drop just over 50%, not bad this season, and with its solid opening. nearly good enough to give “Spy” an unexpected run for top spot. It’s at $150 million + worldwide. Still too early, at its expense (reportedly around $110 million) to be a certified smash.
Fellow Warners release “Mad Max: Fury Road,” more expensive and thus also struggling to be profitable, helped its cause by having the best (-44%) hold of the weekend. It’s over $300 million so far, with important territories, led by China, ahead.
Falling a few points above or below 50%, “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Avengers – Age of Ultron” and a bit surprisingly “Tomorrowland” look to retain the bulk of their dates another week.
“Poltergeist” as a third-week horror film up against a similar film should drop big (it did – 65%), but “Aloha” down 66% from a poor opening is just ugly. No aloha indeed.