Per usual, a bevy of long-playing releases are positioned in the mid-level of weekend results below the top performers.
Three new films opened to little interest, reinforcing a 2016 so far that has been mostly feast or famine among new wide releases. Through nine weekends last year, ten films had opened to over $15 million (hardly stellar, as “The Woman in Black 2” and “Jupiter Ascending” accomplished that much). Only six have achieved that so far this year. Eleven managed that level in 2014. So while “Deadpool” continues to thrive, it’s hard not to see serious defects in the market at the moment.
The Top Ten
1. Deadpool (20th Century Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$31,500,000 (-44%) in 3,856 theaters (+134); PTA (per theater average): $8,169; Cumulative: $285,639,000
2. Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 24; est. budget: $140 million
$14,000,000 in 3,117 theaters; PTA: $4,491; Cumulative: $
$9,000,000 (-28%) in 3,296 theaters (-152); PTA: $2,731; Cumulative: $128,455,000
4. Risen (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$7,000,000 (-41%) in 2,915 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,401; Cumulative: $22,704,000
5. Eddie the Eagle (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 54; est. budget: $23 million
$6,300,000 in 2,042 theaters; PTA: $3,085; Cumulative: $6,300,000
6. Triple 9 (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 52; est. budget $20 million
$6,103,000 in 2,205 theaters; PTA: $2,768; Cumulative: $6,103,000
$5,155,000 (-37%) in 3,047 theaters (-310); PTA: $1,692; Cumulative: $39,626,000
8. The Witch (A24) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$5,010,000 (-43%) in 2,046 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,273; Cumulative: $16,618,000
$4,273,000 (-42%) in 2,387 theaters (+18); PTA: $1,790; Cumulative: $13,862,000
$3,800,000 (-2%) in 1,645 theaters (-294); PTA: $2,310; Cumulative: $170,506,000
Oscar weekend long ago stopped being a reliable gauge of the state of the art, much less the state of the business (other than specialized). Most often some mainstream seasonal release dominates the box office, with a smattering of Oscar nominees present. This year is little different, and in terms of awards heft, it’s below average. Taking out “The Revenant,” whose success has aided its chances more than the awards attention has added to its haul (though clearly it has helped), the rest of the nominees in play this weekend only will gross around $4 million. Combined that would have been good enough for tenth spot, a little more than “The Revenant” grossed on its own.
Should “The Revenant” win big tonight, it will be the first Best Picture recipient to be in the Top Ten Oscar weekend since “The King’s Speech” in 2011 (also the last late year release to ride the awards wave to a first-run breakout gross). That was then, this is now. Last year’s mostly long-run contenders still in release totaled 50% more ($6 million) in the last minute push. Whatever their individual success, they are mainly a business afterthought.
Which brings us to “Deadpool.” Don’t expect it to be in the mix a year from now. It’s positive reviews and early year release would need a sea change beyond the power of the Board of Governors to find it in the mix. But without “Deadpool,” it might be an even grimmer night than the controversy-beset show is already confronting.
Grosses ticked up about $3 million (4%) over last year, continuing a mostly positive trend since Christmas. Grosses are up 3% for the first two months, and way up from previous years. But the success has mostly come from a schizophrenic slate of films, with a handful of strong ones accompanied by a mostly lackluster set of new ones. Take out the #1 film from both this year and last, and the rest of the Top Ten is less than stellar (about $60 million total). And worse, that includes three new openers that combined managed less than the third weekend of “Deadpool.”
It’s more of a domestic than international problem, and a greater one for theaters than studios, who in the case of all three films are better protected by their upfront deals and foreign potential. But it does point out Hollywood has a lot to worry about.
Though it won’t top the best ever (in recent years) first quarter release — “The Passion of the Christ” adjusted got to $518 million, or top “The Godfather” ($684 million)—the massive success of “Deadpool” continues to dominate business with a third weekend at #1. Its dominance is massive. $31 million would be a good opening weekend this time of year. Apart from outgrossing the openers, it also took in more than the next three entries.
Its success continues to be mostly a reflection of its appeal, but it clearly is also helped by the dearth of compelling competition at the moment. The zeitgeist level — poking fun at existing stereotypes (in this case the usually bit more serious comic book treatments leading the way, but also just providing comic relief when many people are glum about the state of current affairs — is an asset. And of course as has been the case from the start, discovery of yet another offbeat time of year where an appealing movie can draw remains one of its top achievements.
Disney’s animated “Zootopia” (already over $80 million overseas) likely ends its string next week. It had better. “Deadpool” with a strong hold should do $20 million, while the default level for a Disney March animated release should be higher. But Fox’ Marvel success looks headed for about $400 million domestic. Without it, 2016 would be looking much, much worse.
The Bad News About “Gods of Egypt,” “Eddie the Eagle” and “Triple 9” for Theaters
It’s hard to pretend there is much good news for anyone involved with “Gods of Egypt” with its $140 million budget (which Lionsgate has been quick to say isn’t their bottom line cost). Still, all who put in money (and its marketing costs are extra) will lose out. Lionsgate has thrived by creating and nurturing franchise films (usually with a bigger internal investment). And of course it is ironic that a film whose initial marketing with its mainly European cast got a bad initial reaction for its lack of diversity to be flopping on Oscar weekend.
But its relative failure (it still grossed more than double the other two openers) comes as part of an ongoing and increasing problem for domestic theaters. All three of these films were made with less care about U.S. and more toward worldwide appeal, with “Gods” leading the way (one reason for its lily white cast; even Asians prefer that to people of color, at least per industry stereotype). “Eddie the Eagle,” a better bargain at only $38 million, is the second real-life Olympics release in two weeks (not sure there was a big cry for this), but has a shot at better results from its native U.K. and the rest of Europe, where skiing is a big deal other than the quadrennial event.
“Triple 9,” with a well-regarded Australian director (John Hillcoat of “The Road” and “Lawless,” both also American-made).This independent crime drama had a low budget ($6 million reported, impressive for its cast that includes Kate Winslet and Chiwetel Ejiofor among other talented actors) is set in America, but its pedigree seems despite its setting to be aimed more internationally. Open Road, hoping for a company-defining Oscar night with “Spotlight” continues to struggle with their bread and butter entries (they acquired U.S. rights, with the rest of the world sold separately).
Though it is the weakest of the openers, at some level it is a better barometer of how much business has fallen for routine films however smartly marketed. The company was created to take on viable mid-level budget films to fill release schedule voids (the company is owned by the two biggest domestic exhibitors). But out of 24 initially wide releases since they started just over four years ago (with “The Grey,” still their strongest opener at just under $20 million), it is only the 14th best. And they haven’t had one open to more than$10 million since “Nightcrawler” at Halloween, 2014.
This isn’t a knock at the enterprising smart folks at Open Road. It’s just a reflection that their kind of acquisition – broadly based, backed with creative talent though independent and lower budgeted – has little remaining appeal at American theaters. Like the derided “Gods” and the conventional “Eddie” (despite Fox’ valiant efforts, including sneaks and a Sundance premiere to spread word of mouth) what used to draw much higher opening weekends no longer works.
But Fox Deserves Plaudits
It is only two months into 2016, so this is hardly the final result. But there is no precedence for what 20th Century Fox has accomplished so far this year. They have four of the Top Ten films this weekend – “Deadpool,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Eddie the Eagle” and certain to be mentioned often tonight “The Revenant.” That’s impressive. But this is bigger – they will end up the period with about 36% of the total gross despite Disney and the later weeks of “Star Wars – The Force Awakens. (Fox to date is about double Buena Vista’s share). That is hitting on all cylinders, even if “Eddie” missed its landing.
The most notable one could be “Star Wars,” which dropped to 11th place in its tenth weekend, but only fell 22%. Its staying power pales compared to “Titanic” (still in first place in its 15th weekend) or “Avatar” (still third at this point). But it can claim a stronger hold than nearly all other films that have opened since, and other recent blockbusters. The gross is more than triple where “Jurassic World” placed its tenth weekend, 50% above “Avengers” in early July similarly late in its run. For a film that had such an unprecedented early response, this adds to its impressive achievements.
One week less in its release, although initially limited, “The Revenant” placed higher, in tenth, with a drop of less than 2% — suggesting that some people are still catching up with leading Oscar contenders. Even better for Fox, with its near certain win for Leonardo DiCaprio and a real shot at Best Picture — and a theatrical window that extends several more weeks — this could be one of the biggest post-awards grossers of recent years. This should at least approach $200 million, and could blast right past that. It needs only to reach $175 million to be the highest grossing Best Picture winner since “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (with a caveat: “The Departed” grossed adjusted $175 million with little post-victory boost since it was already out for home viewing).
Fox also had a strong hold for “Kung Fu Panda 3”, down only 28% and thriving with little family competition. Last week’s three niche audience openers all dropped just over 40%, disappointing for both “Risen” and its faith-based appeal and the Jesse Owens biopic “Race,” each with strong initial Cinemascore ratings. Apparently they had too few viewers to start with to spread the word. Somewhat surprising is “The Witch” (from A24 – this has already outgrossed their Oscar contender “Room”), which had a terrible CInemascore yet dropped only 43%, low for a horror film. It will easily outpace last year’s niche festival-discovered horror sleeper “It Follows,” which topped out under $15 million.