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Box Office: How Number 1 ‘Zootopia’ Resembles a Blockbuster

Box Office: How Number 1 'Zootopia' Resembles a Blockbuster

Finally unseating ‘Deadpool’ after three weeks at number one, two new releases, animated comedy “Zootopia” (Buena Vista) and Gerard Butler sequel “London Has Fallen” (Focus Features) topped the weekend grosses. Mideast journalism comedy “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (Paramount) fell short behind the top three entries. There was a sharp falloff from the leaders, but the figures in total for the weekend soared way above last year. The feast and famine syndrome continues, as a male-audience action success showed mid-level results, a rarity of late.

READ MORE: Arthouse Audit: Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ Struggles, Doc ‘Trapped’ Surprises

The Top Ten

1. Zootopia (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 71; Est. budget: $100 million+
$73,700,000 in 3,827 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $19,258; Cumulative: $73,700,000
2. London Has Fallen (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 28; Est. budget: $60 million
$21,714,000 in 3,490 theaters; PTA: $6,222; Cumulative: $21,714,000
3. Deadpool (20th Century Fox) Week 4 ; Last weekend #1
$16,400,000 (-47%) in 3,624 (-232); PTA: $4,525; Cumulative: $311,158,000
4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $35 million
$7,600,000 in 2,374 theaters; PTA: $2,374; Cumulative: $7,600,000
5. Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate)  Week 2 ; Last weekend #2
$5,000,000 (-%) in 3,117 theaters (no change) (-65%); PTA: $1,604; Cumulative: $24,848,000
6. Risen (Sony) Week 3 ; Last weekend #4
$3,885,000 (-43%) in 2,507 theaters (-408); PTA: $1,550; Cumulative: $28,651,000
7. Kung Fu Panda 3 (20th Century Fox)  Week 6 ; Last weekend #3
$3,525,000 (-60%) in 2,700 theaters (-596); PTA: $1,306; Cumulative: $133,832,000
8. The Revenant (20th Century Fox)  Week 11 ; Last weekend #10
$3,325,000 (-16%) in 1,488 theaters (-157); PTA: $2,235; Cumulative: $175,977,000
9. Eddie the Eagle (20th Century Fox)  Week 2 ; Last weekend #6
$3,100,000 (-49%) in 2,044 theaters (+2) ; PTA: $1,517; Cumulative: $10,861,000
10. The Witch (A24)  Week 3 ; Last weekend #7
$2,509,000 (-50%) in 1,715 theaters (-489); PTA: $1,463; Cumulative: $20,920,000

The Takeaways

March Comes In Like a Lion

Weekends that double the Top 10 totals of the year before are unusual (though pre-Christmas weekend, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” almost tripled its predecessor). This weekend’s estimated $141 million compares to $72 million last year. That frame was led by the modest “Chappie” with only $13 million, which would rated fourth place this weekend. That’s great news for a business still jumping from high points (“The Force Awakens,” “Deadpool”) and low points (“Gods of Egypt” and a string of mid-level budget A pictures failing to gain traction so far).

The big jump came from Disney’s animated “Zootopia” which shares key attributes with other recent hits (more details below), as well as British action sequel “London Has Fallen” (Focus) which performed well compared to recent disappointing international action fare. But Paramount’s Tina Fey comedy “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” while doubling the opening of Sandra Bullock’s ripped-from-the-headlines vehicle “Our Brand Is Crisis,” failed to pull in a large audience. It’s tough to draw moviegoers to movies that are not pre-sold in some way, even with movie stars in the lead. 

How “Zootopia” Resembles “Deadpool” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

While technically Disney’s “Zootopia” is an original (ten Disney writers contributed to the screenplay), it does follow some commercial formulas shared by recent blockbusters “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Deadpool.” Each project hits their studios’ sweet spot —Disney high-end animation, Lucasfilm’s reboot of an iconic franchise and Fox’s Marvel comic book adaptation. And each is knowing about its territory, as smart writing parallels their visuals, FX and otherwise. All three have varying levels of tongue-in-cheek treatment (similar to “The Martian,” which though hardly a comedy also poked fun at its story at times, as compared to the often more serious-toned epics from Christopher Nolan among others). And each in some way celebrated diversity, or at least went beyond the usual male fanboy appeal in casting and elevating women and minorities.

But two most recent breakouts stand out because their early year release dates and budget/pedigrees were not anticipated to reach such elevated heights. Disney has kept the cost of “Zootopia” under wraps, but likely at the low-end for their major animated releases, while “Deadpool” at $58 million may be the bargain of the year!

The most crucial element they share: that magic alchemy of freshness combined with familiarity. Audiences aren’t searching for offbeat entertainment so much as smart, knowing and sufficiently original material within the confines of their comfort zones. And after a few years of adjusting the model (including the usual slower to conform international market), we seem to have moved past the past young male/video game/Michael Bay fan ideal of what a big movie should strive to be.

“London” Falls from “Olympus” Heights

There was a time when a sequel to an unexpected action hit was expected to open better than the original. Sleeper hit “Taken,” with a similarly iconic rescue mission in a big city setting with an internationally known star did just under $25 million on its first weekend in 2009 (with a staggering six-fold multiple); its sequel came in just under $50 million (though its total ended up below the original).

“London Has Fallen” follows the surprise sleeper “Olympus Has Fallen,” released by FilmDistrict just before their team was brought in to run Universal’s Focus division (with the team’s success a likely selling point). “Olympus” opened in March 2013 to an unexpected $30 million ($98 million total), ironically also taking second place to a big studio March animated release (“The Croods,” which opened at more than 35% less than “Zootopia.”) It stole the thunder of the more highly touted “White House Down” (Sony’s big June release that summer) and played off a hunger for a solid action film.

“London” is no “Taken.” It’s down 30% from the “Olympus” opening. But times have been changing rapidly with its core audience falling precipitously of late. Its gross is 50% better than the vastly more expensive “Gods of Egypt” last week, also starring Gerard Butler, more than double the seagoing “The Finest Hours” in late January, and tops Michael Bay’s “13 Hours” by $5 million. Though not #1, it is (here’s a scary statistic) the fifth highest initial wide release total this year so far, fourth if only counting non-platform films.

So in the rapidly evolving new paradigm/shifting sands world of what works and what doesn’t, with the decent results so far this year mainly coming from a handful of stunning breakouts, all credit to Focus and the “Olympus” team (with Film District import Peter Schlessel now gone), for defying trends and gravity to perform well. They likely were helped by the dearth of similar films of late, but whatever did the trick, they hit their marks.


Two successful debuts seem to have taken their bite of the holdovers, with only two managing to hold their drops below 45%. “Deadpool” is still great, with $311 million after 24 days in late winter stellar, but it dropped 47%. It still looks on track to pass $350 million, the level “American Sniper” (similarly R rated) reached last year in the first quarter.

Best of the holds was Oscar-winner “The Revenant,” which despite not winning Best Picture managed to drop only 16% and jump two slots to #8. A top win likely would have propelled it to $200 million domestic or close, but it still is going to end up domestically as (adjusted) Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth biggest hit, behind “Titanic,” “Inception,” “Catch Me If You Can” and ahead of “Django Unchained,” “The Departed,” “The Great Gatsby” and “The Aviator.”

Yet another case of a catastrophic opening followed by a horrible drop, “Gods of Egypt” dropped 65%. Though better overseas, this won’t be enough to keep one or more backers losing a bundle. “Triple Nine” (Open Road) couldn’t even get a second week in the Top Ten (also -65%).

Factor “Zooptopia” for the  60% fall for “Kung Fu Panda 3,” though it still feels severe. “Risen” (-43%) is doing better but somewhat less well than some faith-based wide releases. “Eddie the Eagle” did best (-49%) among last weak’s parade of flops, but that’s small solace. “The Witch” at 50% is actually ahead of many third weak horror film performances. While A24 is celebrating its Best Actress Oscar win with “Room,” they may end up with the best grosser in their four year existence with this low budget, smartly marketed horror film.

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