Moviegoing and movie consumption is changing. While the music industry was radicalized almost overnight due to the downloading epidemic and the advent of the mp3 — which diminished the value of the album, putting the focus on just the single you wanted to buy — the movie industry is going through its own sea change, albeit at a much slower pace. And there are “the sky is falling” pundits out there who claim week to week that eventually, or soon, cinemas will be home to only spectacle-driven, big-budget blockbusters and dramas, and arthouse films will be relegated to VOD, Netflix, Amazon and other at-home streaming outlets. While these narratives always feel alarmist and too binary, this pitiful weekend at the box-office gave those skeptics plenty of ammo.
Three new titles opened at the box-office this weekend and all three tanked, though ironically, the most-spectacle-driven effort, or the one with most Halloween-y genre elements, “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” bombed the hardest. As Box Office Mojo recently noted, the final weekend in October of 2014 was the 6th worst weekend of that year. But Halloween 2015 was far worse. In fact, this weekend was the worst weekend at the box-office of 2015, at least going by the total of the top 12 films. So yes, anyone that wants to ring the death toll for movies at the box-office will want to shout loudly about this one (though note 2015 grosses are much higher than 2014 thanks to four films that cracked $1 billion), though keep in mind all three of the new films were poorly reviewed which didn’t help at all.
Out of the three releases this weekend, the Weinstein Company fared best with the cooking dramedy “Burnt” with Bradley Cooper, but on 3,003 screens and with a tally of only $5.03 million, this total is nothing to cheer about. How big of a box-office draw is Bradley Cooper? Well, that’s skewed thanks to “American Sniper” which did insane numbers in 2014 ($350 million domestic), but that’s because the movie completely galvanized Red State viewers who came out in full force. If anything, “Burnt” reconfirms the new notion: actors are rarely the draw these days, it’s either the subject, the brand, iconic character or property that gets audiences out to the cinema. Especially when they have a million movie choices at home. In contrast, even the “bomb” of Sony’s “Aloha” starring Cooper and Emma Stone grossed $9.6 million earlier this year in its debut weekend.
After coming off a boon: news of Sandra Bullock leading a new all-female “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise, the star hit a big snag with the political satire “Our Brand Is Crisis” from Warner Bros. The film was a hard sell to begin with, a dramedy about fixers trying to rig an election outcome in Bolivia — not exactly the most enticing topic for American audiences at this moment if at all ever — and audiences didn’t respond. ‘Crisis’ flopped with a dismal $3.4 million — the lowest grossing opening weekend of any Sandra Bullock film. Mixed to poor reviews didn’t help either (the film is kind of a mess, to be honest). Now it would be one thing if the movie was a huge critical hit and Bullock would have been touted as being a major Oscar contender; audiences would have perked up and attended. Not necessarily making it a huge hit obviously, but the buzz that has driven other dramas this fall could have extended there. But meh buzz these day is pretty much akin to death, so the film just flopped hard, barely grabbing the #8 slot.
Despite the ghouls and monsters, Paramount’s “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” was almost universally rejected by moviegoers and it couldn’t even crack the top 10 (it’s in the #12 position) with a dire $1.7 million opening. Another studio film release, Sony’s “Freaks Of Nature” which was intended to be a wide release originally then basically abandoned by the studio last minute on 100-something screens, didn’t even crack the top 38 movies released this weekend, it did so abysmally.
So with audiences wholeheartedly shrugging at the new releases in theaters, they instead turned to the well-received movies some of them hadn’t yet seen. This in turn meant that Fox’s “The Martian,” in its fifth week of release, was #1 yet again — that’s a bit unprecedented for a non-blockbuster to retain the number one box-office position after that many weekends in theaters (its hold is an amazing -27.5% from last weekend). But Ridley Scott’s film has proven to be one of the biggest hits of the year. The crowd-pleaser has been so universally loved, it’s gone from popcorn flick to a movie that’s probably going to factor into the Oscar race. The movie has surpassed the $400 million mark worldwide and at this pace should hit $200 million domestically in a week or two.
And so the narrative this weekend was essentially the same as last, solidly received movies — “Goosebumps,” “Bridge Of Spies,” “Hotel Transylvania 2” — with a good hold on the box office (respective stickiness of 34.2%, 29.1% and -34.4%). Elsewhere, “Steve Jobs” continued to lose its hold, dropping 63.7% in its second weekend of wide release. ‘Jobs’ is the biggest head scratcher in recent memory. The movie totally wowed critics, had huge buzz and scored the highest per screen average of 2015 in its first weekends of limited release. But perhaps Universal should have let it slowly rise in platform release as it did not connect in wide release in the same way at all. Some will probably say Michael Fassbender isn’t a big enough box-office draw yet, but neither was Jesse Eisenberg in his “The Social Network” days and that film proved to be a gigantic hit, even with an equally unlikable asshole lead character. Pundits could pour over that one for a long time and probably not find a definitive answer. Maybe audiences are just sick of seeing movies about tech giants.
You’ll remember last weekend that “The Last Witch Hunter,” “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” “Rock The Kasbah,” and “Jem And The Holograms” all largely flopped in their debut weekends. Well, week two was slightly kinder to the more genre-friendly of these four, ‘Witch Hunter’ and ‘Ghost Dimension’ both had 55%+ drops, but at least they remained in the top 10. ‘Kasbah’ plummeted by 76% which has to be one of the hardest second week drops of 2015. Oh, sorry, ‘Jem’ has that beat: a 78.9% fall off the box-office cliff. In limited release the only film worth mention was Gaspar Noe’s 3D sex/porn drama “Love” which scored $30,124 from two screens for a good $15,062 per screen average.
In box-office milestones Marvel‘s “Ant-Man” has crossed the $500 million mark ($513.7), is the ninth consecutive Marvel film to cross that threshold, and now has entered the top 10 highest grossing films of 2015 so far. Naysayers will remind those celebrating that it’s still Marvel’s fourth lowest grossing film of all time unless it can climb past $585 million which feels unlikely as of now. And even something like “Pitch Perfect 2” has a higher domestic gross than Marvel’s most diminutive character. Still with DVD/Blu-ray and VOD, it’s no wonder they green-lit a sequel already.
1.The Martian — $11,400,000 — ($182,806,753)
2. Goosebumps — $10,210,000 ($57,104,415)
3. Bridge of Spies — $8,060,000 ( $45,202,616)
4. Hotel Transylvania 2 — $5,830,000 ($156,004,480)
5. Burnt — $5,038,000
6. The Last Witch Hunter — $4,750,000 ($18,612,861)
7. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension — $3,450,000 ($13,569,623)
8. Our Brand Is Crisis — $3,430,000
9. Crimson Peak — $3,110,000 ($27,745,980)
10. Steve Jobs — $2,580,000 ($14,540,683)