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Top 10 Takeaways: Why This Weekend Was a Box Office Horror Story

Top 10 Takeaways: Why This Weekend Was a Box Office Horror Story

It’s possible to make a case that several of this week’s five new wide releases would have been better off on VOD from the start. “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” had reduced exposure, for one, due to some major chains objecting to its VOD availability in three weeks; Both “Rock the Kasbah” and “Jem and the Holograms” failed to gross more than $1.5 million for the weekend, and on over 2,000 screens.

The unsettling takeaways from a disturbing weekend below.

The Top Ten (and other openers)

1. The Martian (20th Century Fox) – Week 4; Last weekend #2
$15,900,00 (-25%) in 3,504 theaters (-197); PTA (per theater average): $4,538; Cumulative: $166,355,000
2. Goosebumps (Sony)  – Week 2; Last weekend #1
$15,500,000 (-34%) in 3,501 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,427; Cumulative: $43,712,000
3. Bridge of Spies (Buena Vista) – Week 2; Last weekend #3
$11,365,000 (-26%) in 2,811 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,043; Cumulative: $32,581,000
4. The Last Witch Hunter (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 34; Est. budget: $80 million
$10,825,000 in 3,082 theaters; PTA: $3,512; Cumulative: $10,825,000
5. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony) – Week 5; Last weekend #5
$9,000,000 (-29%) in 3,154 theaters (-379); PTA: $2,854; Cumulative: $148,293,000
6. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 34; Est. budget: $10 million
$8,200,000 in 1,656 theaters; PTA: $4,952,000; Cumulative: $8,200.000
7. Steve Jobs (Universal) – Week 3; Last weekend #11
$7,270,00 (+381%) in 2,493 theaters (+2,433); PTA: $2,916; Cumulative: $9.983,000
8. Crimson Peak (Warner Bros.) – Week 2; Last weekend #4
$5,560,000 (-58%) in 2,991 theaters (+7); PTA: $1,859; Cumulative: $22,451,000
9. The Intern (Warner Bros.) – Week 5; Last weekend #7
$3,855,000 (-29%) in 2,061 theaters (-646); PTA: $1,870; Cumulative: $64,703,000
10. Sicario (Lionsgate) – Week 6; Last weekend #8
$2,950,000 (-35%) in 1,448 theaters (-682); PTA: $1,965; Cumulative: $39,386,000
Also opening wide
13. Rock the Kasbah (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 29; Est. budget: $15 million
$1,509,000 in 2,012 theaters; PTA: $750; Cumulative: $1,510,000
15. Jem and the Holograms (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $5 million
$1,320,000 in 2,413 theaters; PTA: $547; Cumulative: $1,320,000

The Takeaways

Isn’t Halloween Next Week?

One of America’s most anticipated holiday comes next weekend — with October 31, inconveniently for theaters, falling on a Saturday. But the impact seemed to be felt early as studios mainly avoided programming their A-level product. Top Ten business fell 8% from the same weekend last year, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Same time last year had two new studio wide releases, while this weekend had five (including “Steve Jobs” after a more limited start). And it gets worse — those two (“Ouija” and “John Wick”) grossed $34 million, compared to $29 million for this year’s five combined. Need more? Last year’s two cost $25 million to make while this new batch came in around $140 million (“The Last Witch Hunter” more than half that).

That allowed the two most recent #1 films to lead this weekend, with “The Martian” returning to the top after vacation per the release of “Goosebumps.” The best any new release could do was fourth place (“Witch”), and “Rock the Kasbah” and “Jem and the Holograms” didn’t even crack the top 12.

The big box office news of the week was the advance ticket sales for “Star Wars” with the film still two months away. Hard to believe that this impacted theatergoing this weekend, other than as a reminder to potential moviegoers of how lackluster the current inventory is.

Next weekend will be worse, with newbies “Burnt” and “Our Brand Is Crisis,” despite big names (Bradley Cooper and  Sandra Bullock respectively), not expected to reverse course, and with the exception of “Jobs,” the other newer titles are likely to drop steeply.

The Mighty Have Fallen (Temporarily at Least)

A few reliable sure bets took it on the chin this weekend. Case in point: Vin Diesel, sometimes described as one of the biggest draws in the world. “The Last Witch Hunter” comes as close to a star vehicle as we get these days. But despite it being his first film since the most recent (and biggest) “Fast and Furious” release, it managed only a bit over half of what “Riddick,” his other non-series live-action film in the last seven years, managed. And “Witch”‘s budget was at least double that film’s. Also what is disturbing is this is the kind of film expected from Lionsgate’s wheelhouse of high-concept action, genre- and star-driven film, i.e. “John Wick.” Keanu Reeves is not the draw Diesel is; other than the long ago “Matrix” films he rarely opens a movie. Also compare The Rock’s “Snitch,” which opened to over $13 million. “The Last Witch Hunter,” on paper, should have done much better.

And the expectations came because usually one horror-related film does at least open well around this time of year. “Witch Hunter,” with the biggest star, had the worst opening weekend of any Halloween-adjacent release in at least 15 years. With series films like “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity” leading the way, grosses of over $30 million, often much more, have been common.

The similar (pehaps too similar) “Hansen and Gretel: Witch Hunters” opened in late January 2013 to nearly $20 million.  This year’s “Paranormal Activity” (more on that in a moment) cut into its business, but even adding its figures and you’d still have a dud.

Speaking of horror, recently diversifying hitmaker Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions got involved with “Jem and the Holograms” as part of their ongoing ties with Universal. Their first step was to make it one of their low-budget films. They succeeded at that, but it appears only that, with it managing to gross even less than somewhat similar aimed “Veronica Mars” last year, which was also on VOD. And it marked a rare miss for Universal, which mostly has turned everything it touches into a bigger success than expected. They also were involved in the weekend’s other disappointment, the expansion of “Steve Jobs,” which, while not remotely a failure fell far below expectations. More on that as well ahead.

Open Road, normally with its acquisitions of wide appeal films right on the mark, had its worse wide opening ever with “Rock the Kasbah” at $1.5 million. Their next worst was almost double that. Bill Murray last year (helped by Melissa McCarthy) was riding high with “St. Vincent” on its way to  $44 million. “Kasbah” will be lucky to reach $4 million

“Paranormal” Survives Truncated Release

With Paramount trying something different by telling exhibitors in advance that they would release the sixth entry in the series to home viewing in three weeks, they can now claim to be the record holder for this sort of plan. Of course it’s also the first. That makes its $8.2 million take tougher to judge. And with no certainty that Paramount will reveal how those later sales go, the only way we might learn of whether this is a success will be to see if they and other studios try the same thing soon.

On the specific gross: three of the four biggest chains refused to play the film. The second largest, AMC has in the past made unconventional deals with similar films, and participated this time.

The dearth of top theaters otherwise had to have made a big impact on the total. The context is that the last series film opened to $18 million in 2,800 theaters (the weekend after New Years, a prime date). With horror films falling of late, and lacking so many theaters, this actually doesn’t look like a bad result.  How much would it have done in a conventional run? Likely somewhere in the $12-15 million range at most.

But again, the verdict comes later. Hopefully Paramount will share.

“Steve Jobs” Falls Way Short (Hint: The Adult Audience Isn’t Infinite)

With “The Martian” and “Goosebumps” predicted to place where they did — and close to the weekend, same was expected for “Witch Hunter” — some projected “Steve Jobs” at the top spot, with perhaps as much as $20 million. Instead, it did under $7.3 and in a weak weekend ended up seventh.

This is disappointing, but not as much as might be seen. As indicated here last week, the writing was on the wall when, after nabbing the year’s best platform opening, “Jobs”‘ 60-theater break fell short of similar “Sicario” in its second weekend.

That suggested it had a more narrow audience. And it is not unusual for a film when it shows relative signs of weakness (and emphasis on relative — last weekend was very strong) that it might indicate a trend that will increase as a film widens.

And that’s what happened. In its third weekend, “Sicario” went wide in slightly more theaters grossed $12.1 million. So plotting out results to date, even $10 million seemed closer to likely.

But “Steve Jobs” is facing different conditions than “Sicario” — multiple films, including “The Martian” and “Bridge of Spies,” as alternatives. Also, as we wrote in today’s Arthouse Audit  about how “The Suffragette” and “Truth” are both lagging, too many true stories and biopics may be flooding the market.

“Jobs” is doing well enough to maintain its status as an awards contender. But for once this year, Universal, nearly faultless in their strategy, might have gone wider more quickly than interest in this film warranted.

READ MORE: Arthouse Audit: ‘Suffragette’ Latest Oscar Hopeful to Get Smacked by Studio Behemoths


The usual correlation came true again — bad results in openers, holdovers thrived. Four actually kept their losses to under 30%, led by “The Martian” at 25% as it retook the top spot. That’s its smallest drop so far. The film still lags behind “Gravity” at the same point; after its fourth weekend, it was just short of $200 million and did $4 million more for the three days. But by next weekend it will have about equaled what “Interstellar” did during its whole run. Who would have suspected a Ridley Scott space story to outdo Christopher Nolan? It helps to have older appeal beyond just fanboys.

“Bridge of Spies” dropping just 26% did what it had to after its solid but not spectacular opening and now looks to survive through Thanksgiving at least in its top theaters, with an outside shot at $100 million.

With “Hotel Transylvania 2,” it sure is great to totally own the kids’ animated market; and the older/female appealing “The Intern” only fell 29%. “Goosebumps” had a reasonable 34% second week fall, while “Crimson Peak” shed 58% of its weak first weekend and will end up grossing somewhere in the range of fellow fall dud “Pan.”

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