Like Christmas and New Year’s, July 4th moves around every year as a stand-alone holiday that isn’t surrounded by other days off. So about every six years when it falls on a Saturday, distributors fret about its negative impact on what is usually the biggest day of the week. And the normal pattern (last seen in 2009) held, with Saturday the 4th down 33% from Friday (which many people took as a holiday, so it picked up some).
That makes predicting today’s results tougher, and indeed, while initial estimates show “Jurassic World” (Universal) scoring its fourth straight #1 over the still outstanding “Inside Out” (Buena Vista) in its third week, this is all up in the air until the actuals come in Monday.
Both of these box-office juggernauts, which came in over $30 million– a level which would normally not take top position on a prime summer weekend– bested the two new releases, “Terminator: Genisys” (Paramount) and “Magic Mike XXL” (Warner Bros.”). Their initial two-day grosses after Wednesday openings took away from their three-day totals. Still, both clearly performed under expectations, particularly the $155 million-budgeted “Terminator” reboot.
“Magic Mike XXL” had bigger Tuesday shows and looked primed to score after its first full day. But it soon became apparent, despite the favorable A- Cinemascore, that its core female audience came out early. Here’s how much it fell: “Terminator” did $16 million through Thursday, then added $28 million this weekend. As of Thursday, “Mike” was only slightly behind ($15 million), then managed to only add less than $12 million since ($26.7 million total). The first “Mike” managed $39 million in its initial three-day weekend, almost 50% better. Only the low-cost $15 million (before higher marketing costs) give this a shot at not being a disappointment in relation to cost.
The problem for “Magic Mike” is its (older female) quadrant appeal. Warners reports that initial audiences were 96% female (and 51% over 35). Older women attending in groups (as happened with “Fifty Shades of Gray”) are less likely to plan outings when they are part of broader social plans. The strength of its opening suggested the goods were there, but perhaps this might have been better scheduled as a Friday film on a non-holiday weekend (although the comparison would be to the 5, not 3-day haul.)
These limp sequels, coming after “Ted 2,” suggests that the public is willing to embrace some sequels (“Jurassic World”) more than others.
The Top Ten
1. Jurassic World (Universal) Week 4 – Last week #1
$30,900,000 (-43%) in 3,737 (- 461 theaters); PTA (per theater average): $7,240; Cumulative: $558,137,000
2. Inside Out (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last week #2
$30,105,000 (-43%) in 4,158 theaters (+26); PTA: $7,240; Cumulative: $246,160,000
3. Terminator Genisys (Paramount) NEW Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 39; Est. budget: $155 million
$28,700,000 in 3,758 theaters; PTA: $7,637; Cumulative: $44,156,000
4. Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) NEW Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 60; Est. budget: $15 milliom
$11,600,000 in 3,355 theaters; PTA: $3,458; Cumulative: $26,656,000
5. Ted 2 (Universal) Week 2 – Last week #3
$11,000,000 (-67%) in 3,448 theaters (unchanged); PTA: $3,190; Cumulative: $58,334,000
6. Max (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last week #4
$6,610,000 (-46%) in 2,882 theaters (+27); PTA: $2,303; Cumulative: $25,349,000
7. Spy (20th Century Fox) Week 5 – Last week #5
$5,500,000 (-30%) in 2,387 theaters (-807); PTA: $2,304; Cumulative: $97,896,000
8. San Andreas (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last week #6
$3,030,000 (-44%) in 1,672 theaters (-948); PTA: $1,812; Cumulative: $147,373,000
9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight) Week 4 – Last week #14
$1,320,000 (+33%) in 870 theaters (+516); PTA: $1,517; Cumulative: $4,004,000
10. Dope (Open Road) Week 3 – Last week #7
$1,098,000 (-60%) in 863 theaters (-988); PTA: $1,272; Cumulative: $14,104,000
Coping With the Holiday
For the fourth consecutive weekend, the Top Ten total (crucial because this is prime time), is up over a year ago ($129 million compared to $115 million in 2014). And that’s with a Saturday rather than a Friday Fourth, as last year had two days after the most intense holiday competition. And it’s a trend that has a good chance of continuing with a powerhouse July lineup ahead starting with “Minions” next Friday (which has already grossed $124 million in international dates)
But unlike last year, the weekend was anchored by two later week smashes accounting for nearly half the haul, and the two openers certainly had a much higher combined pedigree than last year’s three new releases (“Tammy,” “Deliver Us from Evil” and “Earth to Echo,” all also midweek openers). “Terminator” and “Magic Mike XXL” slightly outdid those lesser draws combined this weekend, but only “Tammy” last year seemed surefire. So an uptick seemed certain.
“Terminator” actually came closer to advance five-day estimates, (which hovered around $50 million; the actual is closer to $44 million), but only managed third place. But with a $155-million budget and likely quick drop leaving the movie at around $100 million domestic, the movie will need a vastly better foreign take to make the projected franchise revival viable (it has taken in $84 million with about 60% of international open).
The most worrisome stat is that compared to 2009 (same Saturday 4th), Top Ten grosses are down about $20 million before calculating high ticket prices now. So even allowing for mitigating factors, business just doesn’t seem quite what it should be.
Sequels: What’s the Formula?
Four sequels in as many weeks have resulted in one huge smash and three disappointments (in varying degrees). Two venerable franchises (“Jurassic World” and “Terminator Genisys”) and two follow-ups to recent originals (“Ted” and “Magic Mike”) had to find ways to draw both old and new audiences.
“Jurassic” delivered with multi-generational appeal, nostalgia, and an affectionate connection to Spielberg. The other three didn’t offer those elements.
“Terminator: Genisys” and Skydance’s ambitious plans to keep the best of the past (Arnold Schwarzenegger was back) in its planned three-film relaunch were clearly aimed at an international audience. Schwarzenegger’s last $100 million domestic hit was “Terminator 3” (2003, $150 million total). Since his return from politics, he has appeared in two “Expendables” ensembles (which emphasized his age), and carried three minor action films: the best of these only reached $25 million. His recent indie drama “Maggie” went VOD initially. And particularly internationally, reprising this role makes sense. But for increasingly selective domestic audiences, his presence doesn’t have the freshness factor that a less-established Chris Pratt provided for “Jurassic World.”
“Ted 2” and “Magic Mike XXL” are more problematic. Each came within two years of high-concept feel-good films (both with a high quotient of “fun” and audience satisfaction). This sort of sequel until recently, on the second time around, usually matched or bettered its predecessor’s opening. Both films conveyed a sense of trying to throw in some originality (“Mike” rejiggered the cast in order to focus on strip-club elements rather than story content). But something in both cases caused many ticket buyers to demur or defer.
Without access to VOD figures (still closely held by studios), it may be that more people are aware that these films will within three months be available for home viewing with just a click of the remote and at a lesser price than a movie ticket. An event movie like “Jurassic” will still excel. Films that are acclaimed and seem like a real film experience (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Furious 7,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” along with “Jurassic”) demand attention. But it seems clear that ordinary sequels are not close to being as sure a bet as they were for a long time.
Here’s why Disney and Pixar don’t need to claim #1. The third weekend for “Inside Out” grossed about the same as the third for “Toy Story 3” in 2010, also over the 4th of July holiday. The earlier film dropped 49%, although with stronger earlier grosses was $43 million ahead ($289 million to $246 million). This stabilization suggests that, if “Inside Out” can fend off three huge family audience films ahead (a tough task), it has a chance of getting close to the $400 million “Frozen” reached. Very impressive. (This was its last chance to make #1. In unadjusted figures it has passed “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as the best gross not to reach #1, and should easily top the $326 million 2015 ticket price record.)
If “Inside Out” does not reach #1, that will make four straight top slots for “Jurassic” (incredibly the third film after “American Sniper” and “Furious 7” to do so this year). It would be the first to do so in the more intense summer play time since “The Dark Knight” in 2008, and the only one in at least 20 years to do so in the super intensive June-July period. (Yes, it’s a bit of a fluke with low-grossing “Terminator” opening on Wednesday.) But it remains an impressive hold (also only down 43%).
“Spy” is the other big holdover win, down only 30% in week 5 despite losing almost a quarter of its theaters. This looks like a 4X multiple of its slightly off opening ($29 million) and whatever spark keeps Melissa McCarthy as one of the most reliable current draws. “Ted 2,” down 67%, is a disaster. The second weekend of the higher opening first film grossed $32 million, nearly three times as much. Grim.
The lower-budget dog hero story “Max” is getting enough interest to give it some room to continue and see if it can hold on long enough to prosper. It dropped 46%, not great, but good enough for sixth place and entree to a third week in most locations. Warners also has “San Andreas” to fight for, down slightly less (43%). The problem they face is that with “Magic Mike” also theirs and the horror film “The Gallows” on tap this week, something’s going to have to give and all of these, along with “Fury Road,” face prematurely shortened runs.