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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Central Intelligence’ Bring Summer Box Office Upturn

Things are looking up at the summer box office thanks to a Pixar sequel and a broad action comedy with two popular stars at the top of their game.

“Finding Dory”

Disney Pixar

The rich get richer, as Pixar and Disney’s “Finding Dory” shook the summer box office doldrums off with a stellar opening that ranks among the best ever for an animated feature. Disney alone with three films managed to provide 60% of the Top Ten, continuing their dominant year (now close to a third of all revenues).

Sequel “Finding Dory” performed better than expected, while “Central Intelligence” (Warner Bros.) came in a tad below its top potential.

The holdovers showed little strength with several recent hopefuls dropping significantly and others looking to end weak runs much as they started.

Central Intelligence movie

“Central Intelligence”

The Top Ten

1. Finding Dory (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 78; Est. budget: $200 million

$136,183,000 in 4,305 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $31,634; Cumulative: $136,183,000

2. Central Intelligence (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: 51; Metacritic: A-; Est. budget: $50 million

$34,500,000 in 3,508 theaters; PTA: $9,835; Cumulative: $34,500,000

3. The Conjuring 2 (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$15,555,000 (-61%) in 3,356 theaters (+13); PTA: $4,635; Cumulative: $

4. Now You See Me 2 (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$9,650,000 (-57%) in 3,232 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,986; Cumulative: $41,363,000

5. Warcraft (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$6,520,000 (-73%) in 3,406 theaters (+6); PTA: $1,914; Cumulative: $37,712,000

6. X-Men: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$5,210,000 (-47%) in 2,632 theaters (-953); PTA: $1,979; Cumulative: $146,058,000

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$5,200,000 (-64%) in 3,086 theaters (-63); PTA: $1,685; Cumulative: $71,930,000

8. Me Before You (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$4,155,000 (-54%) in 2,645 theaters (-117); PTA: $1,571; Cumulative: $46,356,000

9. Alice Through the Looking Glass (Buena Vista) Week 4; Last weekend #8

$3,615,000 (-36%) in 1,880 theaters (-1,018); PTA: $1,923; Cumulative: $69,318,000

10. Captain America: Civil War (Buena Vista) Week 7; Last weekend #9

$ 2,296,000 (-47%) in 1,434 theaters (-667); PTA: $1,601; Cumulative: $401,277,000

The Takeaways

Why a 7% Down Weekend Is a Minor Triumph

The first month and a half of the summer season has been a disappointment despite some great performers, with the year to date totals increasingly heading toward down territory. The drop this weekend doesn’t help that trend. The $222 million total comes in $15 million below the same one in 2015.

Still, considering the challenge to beat last year, this weekend comes as a relief. Last year boasted the second best result of the summer, with “Inside Out” opening and “Jurassic World” actually still at #1 in its second weekend. Those two films combined grossed over $200 million alone.

What saved this year was “Finding Dory,” which with far less competition opened to over 50% more than “Inside Out” last year. That’s a huge uptick, and at a time when sequels are mostly falling short of their most recent predecessors, gives Disney another breakout hit.

“Central Intelligence” added to the total and opened ahead of many other more conventional openers this season. Still, it didn’t soar. And the steep holdover drops also contributed to a weekend that actually had the potential to equal last year.

FINDING DORY – Lighting Exploration Concept Art by Visual Consultant Sharon Calahan. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

FINDING DORY – Lighting Exploration Concept Art by Visual Consultant Sharon Calahan. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“Finding Dory” in Context

Based on unadjusted figures, which ignore that ticket prices are higher than earlier years, “Finding Dory” claims the best animated feature opening ever and the second best in June (which traditionally has trailed May and July among all-time biggest).

The June number even adjusted remains second only to “Jurassic World” at $208 million last year. Among animated releases, the second and third “Shrek” entries both adjusted totaled around $150 million initial weekends in 2004 and 2007 respectively, putting “Dory” more accurately in third place.

By any gauge, record or not, it is a stellar number. What makes it look even better are more recent comparisons. It is only the second animated feature in the last six year to open to over $100 million (“Minions” last summer took in $115 million initially). That’s better than “Inside Out” and “Frozen” (which had its first wide weekend around Thanksgiving).

So similar to what Disney accomplished with recent entries “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Jungle Book,” it flat out beat its predecessors. “Finding Nemo” opened in 2003 to $70 million ($100 million adjusted).

Since 2003, the animated feature genre has become much more competitive, with then-top rival DreamWorks now joined by strong units from 20th Century Fox, Universal and Sony and other entries from other studios.

“Dory” was boosted by fond memories of “Nemo” which adjusted follows only “The Lion King” and “Shrek 2” among contemporary animated hits. The lack of any new Pixar entry since “Inside Out” – a very popular film – and the lack of any breakout family film since “Jungle Book” more than two months ago, along with “Dory”‘s prime positioning just as school vacation time becomes universal, also added to its appeal. That pent-up demand showed in the first-day gross. Saturday dropped about 17%, about double the “Inside Out” fall its second day.

Once again, the formula for recent success – build on the well-thought-of familiar, add fresh elements – set “Dory” apart from other more marginal sequels of late. And with Pixar combined with Disney about the most reliable brand of moviemaking out there, the question was never whether this would be big, but how big. It turns out so far to be very big.

Why “Central Intelligence” Fell Short of Its Potential

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are two proven stars (the latter especially in global action films). $35 million places “Central Intelligence” above all summer 2015 live action comedies, a healthy zone.

Summer often isn’t the friendliest time for new comedies. Fast-paced action, family films and franchises re easier to market during a season when a premium is placed on releases boasting universal appeal, which U.S. comedies often don’t in foreign territories. And those with strong minority appeal in the U.S. become riskier bets with smaller foreign interest.

So “Central Intelligence” stands in the middle among new wide releases since the start of summer. With a $50 million production budget, it has a smaller hill to climb to get to profit. It stands within range of Kevin Hart’s many recent openers (his third in a row in the mid 30s, though below career-best “Ride Along” and its $41 million).

But this effort co-starred Dwayne Johnson. He isn’t an automatic guarantee of success, and his biggest efforts have been the ensemble “Fast and Furious” films. But this is his first new film in over a year, and others starring him – “The Other Guys,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “San Andreas” – have opened stronger. And “Central Intelligence,” though formulaic in concept (it’s a fish out of water/buddy comedy) has a lead pairing that would seem to be fresh and appealing.

Again, $34 million is a decent number. But with the actors combined having strong appeal to both the African-American and Latino communities (which can propel a movie to strong results) and even more importantly coming at a time with little competition beyond mass appeal “Finding Dory,” “Central Intelligence”  appeared to have a greater potential. Throw in its A Cinemascore – very high for any comedy – and it looked like it might thrive higher. It fell 4% Saturday, not unusual for summer films, but the two “Ride Along” entries improved 16 and 13% their second days. “San Andreas” jumped 13% last year. So the shortfall seems, though relative, to have brought the film in short of where in earlier years, when men responded better to this kind of film, it might have fallen. Early surveys showed the audiences divided close to 50/50 between men and women, showing some weakness among its target gender.

On Sunday, while Father’s Day might help a bit, the NBA Finals Game 7 tonight should suppress any hopes for a rebound.

The key now is legs – both “Ride Along” films had decent multiples, and if the Cinemascore is an accurate gauge (it has been increasingly unreliable of late), this still could be more than a modest success. Production partner Universal is handling this overseas, where Johnson’s name should push it to more than the nominal foreign returns Hart’s other films have had.

The Holdovers

Last week’s three openers all disappointed this weekend. Though horror films often drop sharply, and sequels also are front-loaded, “The Conjuring 2” with its 61% fall was substantially more than the 47% for its predecessor. Still, any horror film having a shot at $90 million is a rarity. “Now You See Me 2” is not anything like its original, which dropped only 35% in its second stanza, compared to 57% this time out. It stands to top out around $60 million, far short of hopes.

About “Warcraft,” the bad news only gets worse – off 73% and now with a domestic total of $50 million about as good as it will get. “Warcraft” is one of three weak titles in the Top Ten that with combined costs over $450 million in pre-marketing costs, together will gross around $220 million in North America. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” fell victim to “Finding Dory” (it fell 64% its third weekend), while “Alice Through the Looking Glass” somehow managed to lose only 36% from its previous weak showing despite losing close to half of its theaters. At some level it seems to have found fans, but the wider disinterest marks a minor victory at this point.

“Captain America: Civil War” is still hanging around and passed $400 million, with its status as the top film of the year now under challenge by “Dory.” The latest Marvel entry won’t quite catch “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (which reached $459 million as summer 2015’s biggest hit), but like its fellow members in the 2016 $300 million-plus club – two others from Disney, with “Dory” certain to be the fourth – it has performed way above expectations.


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