A five-week September/October box-office surge ended abruptly this weekend. Despite strong holdovers, the Top 10 managed only $106 million, down a significant 20% from 2014. “Pan” didn’t help, but Joe Wright’s 3D Peter Pan origin story would have needed nearly triple its weak gross to bring things to parity.
Other factors were the lack of new releases and the disastrous expansion of “The Walk,” which should have taken up some of the slack compared to last year. Although this is a quasi-holiday weekend, with many schools out for President’s Day, increasingly studios like to get the A films out at least a week before in order to enter the holiday with a head of steam. That strategy effectively boosted the already strong “The Martian” and “Hotel Transylvania 2.”
The Top Ten
1. The Martian (20th Century Fox) Week 2
$37,000,000 (-32%) in 3,854 theaters (+23); PTA (per theater average): $9,600; Cumulative: $108,710,000
2. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony) Week 3
$20,300,000 (-39%) in 3,768 theaters (+14); PTA: $5,387; Cumulative: $116,822,000
3. Pan (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 34; Est. budget $150 million
$15,530,000 in 3,515 theaters; PTA: $4,418; Cumulative: $15,530,000
4. The Intern (Warner Bros.) Week 3
$8,660,000 (-30%) in 3,224 theaters (-96); PTA: $2,686; Cumulative: $49,574,000
5. Sicario (Lionsgate) Week 4
$7,350,000 (-39%) in 2,620 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,805; Cumulative: $26,706,000
6. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox) Week 4
$5,250,000 (-33%) in 2,838 theaters (-481); PTA: $1,850; Cumulative: $70,643,000
7. The Walk (Sony) Week 2
$3,650,000 (+134%) in theaters (+2,061); PTA: $1,455; Cumulative: $6,361,000
8. Black Mass (Warner Bros.) Week 4
$3,130,000 (-46%) in 2,057 theaters (-771); PTA: $1,522; Cumulative: $57,569,000
9. Everest (Universal) Week 4
$3,030,000 (-46%) in 2,120 theaters (-889); PTA: $1,429; Cumulative: $38,210,000
10. The Visit (Universal) Week 5
$2,420,000 (-%) in 1,759 theaters (-537); PTA: $1,376; Cumulative: $61,055,000
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The top two grosses both bested the $150-million “Pan,” which could only muster third position. And they did so with sub-40% drops, better than average.
“The Martian” repeated at number one, with the best second weekend total since “Inside Out” in late June. It fell 32%, but after falling a bit below “Gravity” in its opening, “Martin” lagged further behind with $37 million against $43 million for “Gravity,” which had an amazing drop of only 22%. That comes in part from not getting Alfonso Cuaron’s IMAX boost.
“Hotel Transylvania 2” fell 39%, a bit more than the first edition’s 36% fall. But its 17-day total of nearly $117 million is ahead of the $102 million at the same point last time. One factor on the slightly bigger drop: it faced “Pan,” a film aimed at the same younger audience (in 2012, it had no such competition). Even with the weak “Pan” showing, enough business was taken away to account for the slightly bigger fall.
The other conventionally released studio films also kept their drops under 40%, a tribute to their ongoing diverse appeal as well as the lack of a lot of new product. Leading the way, very impressively, is Nancy Meyers’ “The Intern.” It fell only 26%, held onto the fourth spot in its third weekend, and is nearing $50 million. It doesn’t look like it will score the $100 million+ domestic haul of three of her last four films (all boosted by Christmas playtime). But it’s a success, with $85 million+ domestic, international so far about the same (women-driven comedies can be strong overseas) and a more modest $58 million pre-marketing budget. Not bad for a film that opened to an OK but not standout $17 million.
The fourth weekend of $61-million “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is running a bit ahead of its predecessor, but is only about 70% as strong in terms of the three day drop, and still lags $13 million behind the too-date total. But its $168 million international take has been strong, and could top 2014’s entry. Consider it another fall 2015 success.
“The Visit” enjoyed its fifth weekend in the Top Ten, not typical for a horror film. It has lost 40% of its theaters since it opened to $25 million, a strong hold for the genre. It won’t quite triple its start, which in any event is rare for similar releases, many of which struggle to double their first weekends. Its foreign total added in (with several top territories still to open), $22 million so far, will get this quite a bit over $100 million. Another success for Universal.
Those Special Cases
Next week and beyond will see Universal’s expansion of “Steve Jobs” added to the above average number of studio unconventional releases and/or awards-oriented fall films. This week’s Top Ten includes four of these already in play, with varying results.
Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk” was a huge disappointment last weekend in its initial IMAX runs, so the expansion to $3,650,000 in 2,509 theaters is no surprise. But it’s still a shock to see this master director, with a consistent level of box office appeal, fall so short. This is a filmmaker who hasn’t had an opening (even unadjusted) under $10 million since Reagan’s first term (the shortfall is great despite the caveat that the gross was reduced a bit by its initial limited runs).
For a more recent comparison, the $3,650,000 total is 134% (more than double) its initial take in somewhat more than five times as many theaters. “Everest,” which tried the same approach last month, did $13.2 million when it expanded (again over five times as many) with an 81% better gross. So on that level, “The Walk” can claim a somewhat better performance. That’s about it for good signs. “Everest” went up 47% on its first wide Saturday, while “The Walk” only got a 31% bump, the second worst in the Top Ten (outpacing only the sorry “Pan”). Even with reported continued good Cinemascore reaction (A-), the resistance to this is evident.
Sony triggered the IMAX initial runs in hopes of turning this into an event. It’s possible that a first week in theaters might have not fared much better. But the reality is that domestically this could easily end up with a total less than the opening weekends (again, unadjusted) of any Zemeckis film since before “Forrest Gump” over 20 years ago.
Much healthier is “Sicario,” which had a two-week advance in more limited release before going wide last week; it dropped 39%. That takes the film to just under $27 million so far. The hold is better than the second weekend of director Denis Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” (-48%), though in two weeks it had already taken in $38 million. That film dropped rapidly, so if “Sicario” can keep up its better performance it has a chance to equal that film’s $61 million. And that would be excellent, since foreign should be decent and this film cost a third less. Call Lionsgate’s gameplan a success.
The initially wide “Black Mass” post its festival play was aided by getting out wide before the tsunami of adult fall releases hit, even if the film hasn’t lived up to expectations. It dropped 46% this weekend, and is somewhat under $60 million so far. It does look to triple its opening weekend, normally a positive sign, and not at all certain three weeks ago. International is still yet to come. Warners’ strategy of getting it out early might not have helped its awards chances, but if foreign comes through that could also make this into a modest hit. Figure they handled this one right.
“Everest” has not caught hold in the U.S., with its IMAX limited run looking far better compared to “The Walk.” It has already done about three times its opening wide weekend (not exactly in this case a fair comparison, but at least it has had some legs). It did drop 46% this weekend, however, and it’s close to its termination date. But does Universal care? Likely not that much. This has already taken in $120 million additional overseas, with likely huge China and Japan dates still ahead. Credit Universal with thinking outside the box, even if the domestic rewards weren’t great.
Why “Pan” Looked Like the Wright Stuff
A $15 million opening for a $150-million multi-quadrant film on a school holiday weekend is pathetic, and the latest in a string of 2015 high-end disappointments. Warners is the leading studio in terms of volume (this marks their 18th wide release of the year, compared to 14 for B.O. leader Universal and only seven for Paramount). “Pan” likely will fall short of earlier flops “Jupiter Ascending” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, at least domestically.
Why did Warners greenlight “Pan”?
Hugh Jackman. Yes, the “X-Men” films aren’t typical and don’t guarantee other success, but he also has “Les Miserables” (costume drama), and other decent performers with his star power leading the way: “Real Steel,” “The Prestige” and “Prisoners” in his resume. And he soars internationally; stateside dud “Australia” grossed $160 million internationally.
An original take on a familiar story. “Maleficent” anyone? “Sleeping Beauty” was as familiar as Peter Pan, and in that case a new take with a big name was a smash. Why wasn’t this?
Name director. Joe Wright has been an arthouse/awards success (“Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”) who has also shown wider genre appeal (“Hanna”). Though none has been the breakout that grossed anything close to what “Pan” requires, he’s shown an ability to draw audiences worldwide, often with critical support. He was a prestige director expected to elevate the film.
Chasing “Harry Potter.” Warners knows how to package fantasy stories with precocious kids and colorful older characters. They nurtured “Harry Potter” through multiple films with burgeoning growth.
What went wrong? In part, you attach a top director to a film like this, and expectations rise (to a lesser but real extent, Jackman and the expense also make it more of a potential target). And with Australia opening a week earlier, reviews came out early and helped poison the atmosphere.
But that’s hardly the only factor. My guess is that one thing that might not matter as much to international audiences (where this is otherwise going into release more slowly) is that parents responsible for taking kids to movies recall duds “Hook,” “Treasure Island” and “Peter Pan” released in recent decades. Maybe the studios should stay away from flying pirate ships.