The hits keep on coming, with a sensational opening for Pixar’s long awaited “Inside Out” (Buena Vista), which couldn’t outpace a great second weekend for blockbuster “Jurassic World” (Universal). And holdovers also showed strength. The sole disappointment came from Open Road’s Sundance hit “Dope,” which fell short of its hoped-for wide start.
We’ll try to make sense of all this below.
The Top 10
1. Jurassic World (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$102,019,000 (-51%) in 4,291 theaters (+17); PSA (per screen average): $23,775; Cumulative: $398,230,000
2. Inside Out (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 93; est. budget: $175 million
$91,056,000 in 3,946 theaters; PSA: $23,076; Cumulative: $91,056,000
3. Spy (20th Century Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$10,500,000 (-33%) in 3,558 theaters (-157); PSA:: $2,951; Cumulative: $74,374,000
4. San Andreas (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #3
$8,240,000 (-24%) in 3,177 theaters (-358); PSA:: $2,594; Cumulative: $132,229,000
5. Dope (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 72; est. budget: $
$6,018,000 in 2,002 theaters; PSA: $3,006; Cumulative: $6,018,000
6. Insidious Chapter 3 (Focus) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$4,110,000 (-44%) in 2,553 theaters (-461); PSA:: $1,610; Cumulative: $45,370,000
7. Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) Week 6 – Last weekend #5
$3,300,000 (-48%) in 2,146 theaters (-531); PSA: $1,538; Cumulative: $177,500,000
8. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last weekend #7
$2,815,000 (-31%) in 1,424 theaters (-810); PSA:: $1,977; Cumulative: $143,602,000
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Buena Vista) Week 8 – Last weekend #8
$2,723,000 (-26%) in 1,662 theaters (-494); PSA:: $1,638; Cumulative: $451,039,000
10. Tomorrowland (Buena Vista) Week 5 – Last weekend #9
$2,009,000 (-42%) in 1,764 theaters (-776); PSA:: $1,139; Cumulative: $87,696,000
The Numbers in Context
Last week’s huge (and legitimate record) gross for “Jurassic World” single-handedly reversed a recent downward trend that looked like it was taking hold. But one weekend and one film doesn’t prove a lot. But this week “Jurassic”‘s powerful hold, “Inside Out”‘s strong opening, and unexpectedly good holdovers suggest that it wasn’t a fluke.
The top two films are both huge. Forget the silliness about placing first or second, or “Inside Out” as the first Pixar film to not open at number #1, or it being beat out by a second weekend gross. The most salient number –far more important than placement — is that “Inside” is by far the biggest #2 gross ever (beating “The Day After Tomorrow” by over $20 million; it was barely edged out by the second weekend of “Shrek 2”).
The next is that, as of now (like last week, the actual gross might shift this), “Jurassic World” is the second best second weekend ever (just behind the first “Avengers”).
The third is that it only dropped 51%, much less than most second stanzas of monster hits. And another is that “Inside Out” bested all other Pixar releases except “Toy Story 3” for its opening (that also opened Father’s Day weekend), and by almost $10 million over “Monsters University.” Add to that, “Inside” isn’t a sequel but a fresh start.
Any of those achievements alone would qualify as a headline and standalone story. “Inside Out” also opened to a solid $41 million in fewer territories, with Universal’s domestic soon to open “Minions” also in the international market. You can add the $1 billion so far for “Jurassic” worldwide; it should pass $400 million domestic by tomorrow, way ahead of the best total of any 2014 release.
The biggest takeaway is that this is all happening at the same time. That’s astounding, and close to unprecedented.
An Old Exhibition Cliche Comes True
As long as I’ve observed (and participated in) movie exhibition, one common refrain during down times is that sometimes it only takes a film or two to get the public back into the habit. That is, one hit helps pave the way for others. The main time this happens is the Christmas and after period, a time unlike most of the year when making multiple trips to theaters in a short period makes sense (more down time, multiple top releases all at the same moment). But what is happening now is a rare case when a big jump in summer attendance seems to be related to this phenomenon.
In normal times, one of the following should have happened: “Jurassic” would drop 60% because “Inside” took away its momentum, or “Inside” would open around or below expectations (closer to $70 million). Neither did, and instead the two film combined did nearly as much as “Jurassic”‘s massive opening. To do that, a lot of people who bought “Jurassic” tickets last week (and the numbers since last Sunday have been enormous as well) came back to see “Inside” this weekend, while a massive number then also came to see “Jurassic.” At this level, it’s close to unprecedented to have two massive film both in their first two weeks. Distributors usually try to avoid this congestion, more so when both films have family appeal.
So all of a sudden movies are hot again. To be clear, extenuating circumstances are helping, from the goodwill boost “Jurassic” got from its past Spielberg roots and Pixar’s huge brand loyalty to their mid-June release dates (often shunned as a release date for the very top films). But even if the results are maximized by these, the public is returning to the habit of movie going at a perfect moment early in the summer.
Although total business for the past few months has been down, individual films covering a wide range of audiences have done well but also, irrespective of mixed reviews or less than hoped for grosses, had a higher degree of satisfaction. This seems particularly true among recent releases. None started from that high a gross last weekend. “Spy” at $15 million was the best holdover, but the holds on many of the Top Ten are impressive. Despite all losing some or even many theaters, “San Andreas” (-24%), “Avengers Age of Ultron” (-26%), “Mad Max Fury Road” (-31%) and “Spy” (-33%) held extraordinarily well. People had heard good things about them, and despite having two huge hits competing, still came in impressive numbers.
Howe about this theory: the earlier satisfaction in these and other recent hits was a strong predicate to making the new films bigger than expected. Thought the specific analysis of these earlier grosses, many less than sensational, was accurate, I missed that it seemed to provide enough positive momentum to aid later releases. And both opening in the unusual mid-June slot means that however these dates were selected, the payoff across a wider range of films is enormous.
How the top two continue to perform, and how new top openers do, will validate the apparent trend or suggest that there are limits to domestic audience expansion. But something seems to be happening, and the doom and gloom that seemed credible as recently as two weeks ago might be gone for at least this season.
Second guessing “Dope” – Why Open Road’s Logic Made Sense
Why did Open Road decide to open — for the first time ever — a Sundance U.S. Narrative Competition premiere as a wide release film? “Boyz in the Hood.” That film, also set in inner city Los Angeles with young people trying cope with crime and other issues, from an unknown African-American director, backed by decent reviews, opened in 1991 in 829 theaters to what in adjusted grosses would have been over $19 million. The leap to over 2,000 is consistent with the growth of the number of runs in the past 24 years. “Boyz,” also a summer release, was distributed by Columbia (now Sony, which bought “Dope” with Open Road for a reported $7 million plus a $15 million prints & ads commitment), although management is now nearly 100% different.
Then add that exactly one year ago (also Father’s Day weekend), Sony had the #1 film with the Kevin Hart sequel “Think Like a Man Too.” It opened to $29 million in slightly more theaters, and was helped by appealing to its core audience without much other competition. Also Open Road last fall had success taking out another acclaimed festival success, “Nightcrawler,” which ended up with $10 million on Halloween weekend and ultimately $32 million, despite contrary to normal patterns for its pedigree starting off wide. So they had some logic on their side.
So why the disappointing result? For one thing, though Open Road obviously was aware of the competition, there is no way they or anyone could have guessed how massive these two films would be. Nor could they reasonably have guessed the longer-term appeal of other films still in the market. All this took business away.
The biggest differences between “Boyz” and “Dope” (and yes, it’s been a long time, but some rules still apply) is that its core audience relies heavily on stars to gain initial traction. “Boyz” had them, “Dope” doesn’t come close. And “Boyz” had a clear image: edgy, with a clear message and a sense of being in the middle of contemporary relevance. “Dope” is more of a mixed-genre story, with comedy elements (which has helped get it acclaim). But that, despite a strong and central-audience multi-media marketing effort, made it a less obvious sell. Also “Boyz” had the advantage of being the debut of a 23-year-old director john Singleton. “Dope”‘s Rick Famuyiwa has been making studio projects for nearly 20 years, mostly as a writer.
When a film is acquired for this kind of expense, going limited can be risky, particularly when it’s not part of a parallel awards campaign. Open Road, though it has gone that route (“Chef” last year very successfully) is set up to release wide. Its built in advantage is that it is co-owned by the two biggest exhibitors, Regal and AMC, and it gives them a better shot at maintaining screen presence ahead if any sort of word of mouth develops. (Less hopefullly, yesterday was down 11% from Friday, but that is a better hold than the second day of “Think” last year.)
But this muted opening at this early stage comes on top of the disappointing showing so far of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (Fox Searchlight), also a Sundance 2015 sensation and also an expensive buy. Having made the deal with their P/A commitment, Open Road likely was right to skip the tricky and expensive route of limited openings and test the wider market. The problem is the expectation seem to have been set too high when the deal was made.