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Top Ten Box Office Takeaways: Why ‘Suicide Squad’ Stumbled, ‘Sausage Party’ Soared

Word of mouth dive-bombed "Suicide Squad" just like "Batman v. Superman"; Seth Rogen's raunchy animated comedy worked; and Paramount's marketing didn't sell Meryl Streep as "Florence Foster Jenkins."

Sausage Party Prank

Seth Rogen promotes ‘Sausage Party’


On its second weekend, “Suicide Squad” was set to repeat at number one. The question was how far Warner Bros.’ latest D.C. franchise bid would drop. The weekend surprise was Sony’s raunchy “Sausage Party” beating out Disney family remake “Pete’s Dragon” among new films.

Overall business is up with a healthy field of offerings in this jammed-up summer. That’s impressive considering competition from the Olympics. Business is surviving this year against them.

The Top Ten

1. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #1

$43,770,000 (67-%) in 4,255 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $10,287; Cumulative: $222,875,000

2. Sausage Party (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 67; Est. budget: $19 million

$33,600,000 in 3,103 theaters; PTA: $10,828; Cumulative: $33,600,000

3. Pete’s Dragon (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 72; Est. budget: $65 million

$21,501,000 in 3,702 theaters; PTA: $5,808; Cumulative: $21,501,000

4. Jason Bourne (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #2

$13,620,000 (-39%) in 3,528 theaters (-511); PTA: $3,861; Cumulative: $126,782,000

5. Bad Moms (STX) Week 3 – Last weekend #3

$11,450,000 (-18%) in 3,188 theaters (-27); PTA: $3,592; Cumulative: $71,461,000

6. The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) Week 6 – Last weekend #4

$8,840,000 (-23%) in 2,958 theaters (-459); PTA: $2,639; Cumulative: $335,942,000

7. Star Trek Beyond (Paramount) Week 4 – Last weekend #5

$6,800,000 (-32%) in 2,577 theaters (-686); PTA: $2,639; Cumulative: $139,680,000

8. Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 71; Est. budget: $25 million

$6,580,000 in 1,528 theaters; PTA: $4,306; Cumulative: $6,580,000

9. Nine Lives (Europa) Week 2 – Last weekend #6

$3,500,000 (-44%) in 2,264 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,546; Cumulative: $13,551,000

10. Lights Out (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #7

$3,220,000 (-46%) in 1,652 theaters (-929); PTA: $1,949; Cumulative: $61,135,000

"Suicide Squad"

“Suicide Squad”

Warner Bros.

The Takeaways

History Repeats With “Suicide”

At least the latest D.C. Comics/Warner Bros. entry didn’t fall quite as much (67 as opposed to 69%) as their earlier high-end collapsing “Batman v Superman.” While the weekday numbers showed better response, the air went out of that balloon over the weekend. “Sausage” did some damage, but there’s always competition.

The “Suicide Squad” worldwide total is now $465 million. With three major territories still to come (Japan, Germany and Italy) and China not showing the movie, a $700-million total theatrical haul is about the best it will do. With combined production and marketing costs on the far side of $300 million and  other revenue sources ahead, this will be somewhat profitable. But not at a level to make anyone involved secure of what they need to succeed going forward.

So this can hardly be called a failure, and Warners, having released some lower-budget smashes (“The Conjuring 2,” “Central Intelligence,” “Me Before You,” “Lights Out”), has no reason to panic. But the D.C. brand is getting tarnished. It’s still viable – “Suicide” with all its bad press confirms a deep pool of interest in D.C. characters. But with a multi-hundred million dollar commitment with each effort, this drop and its disappointing worldwide total suggests that the next time out the series could face bigger problems.

Sausage Party

“Sausage Party”

Columbia Pictures

“Sausage” Parties Hard

The summer has been waiting for a dumb male comedy breakout. The two best-performing comedies this summer were both aimed at women – “Ghostbusters” (which should total $130 million domestic, a disappointment in relation to cost but still high-end among recent summer comedies) and the much less expensive “Bad Moms,” which will easily blow past $100 million.

That has left younger, male and minority audiences hungry. “Sausage Party” filled that void. It’s R-rated, raunchy and original, featuring animated grocery store food package characters. Male buddy comedies have gotten stale of late, especially the “The Hangover” genre and its copycats (two Zac Efron efforts this year actually fared better than most male comedies not starring Kevin Hart or Ice Cube).

So enter “Sausage Party.” It’s an Annapurna Production, and like other Megan Ellison films, it’s loaded with smarts and strong marketing elements. Her films tend to track more for year-end awards slotting (her two biggest hits are Sony’s “American Hustle” and “Zero Dark 30”), so this marks a course shift.

Like Seth Rogen comedy “This Is the End,” “Sausage Party” stars an edgy ensemble (voice stars “The End” stars Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Michael Cera and Danny McBride) who are social-media friendly. Marketed straight at its core audience, the movie opened $13 million better than “The End” did in 2013. That film went on to an incredible 5X multiple.

Unlike similar “South Park – Bigger, Longer and Uncut” and “Team America – World Police,” its prime antecedents, this didn’t come with an existing animated pedigree. So nearly doubling the opening for both even in adjusted numbers shows the benefit of original concept combined with known creative forces even if they come from outside the world of animation. And in a summer with huge animated results from more conventional (and anything but R-rated) sources, going raunchy likely added to its appeal.

"Pete's Dragon"

“Pete’s Dragon”

“Pete’s Dragon” – Too Early to Call It a Flop

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is the sole blot on an otherwise terrific 2016 for Disney and Buena Vista. Their studio share, after a huge 30% or more for most of the year, has dropped to a still massive 27% through the weekend (almost double second-best Warner Bros.).

To its credit, Disney took some creative risks with “Pete’s Dragon.” A remake of a 1977 live action film (a musical in the mode of “Mary Poppins,” and not a big success), it was overseen by a budding talent, indie director David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Body Saints”). With a production budget of $65 million before marketing, it is hardly the same level of risk at “Alice” and its $170 million initial cost, but it also comes without much built-in interest.

Its opening was only $6 million less than “Alice,” so even if it fails to do much better internationally (best guess is it ultimately isn’t a powerhouse overseas – opening in about 30% of territories it managed $5 million to start, so slightly below domestic returns) and then manages a 4X domestic multiple it actually could manage with post-theatrical revenues to creep toward the breakeven mark.

But that’s disappointing considering the appeal of the Disney brand combined with its strong reviews. The movie could build on good reaction and playing time ahead with less competition—although Focus Features’ already well-received animated film “Kubo and Two Strings” opens next weekend.

"Florence Foster Jenkins"

“Florence Foster Jenkins”

Paramount Pictures

The Box Office Appeal of Meryl Streep

“Florence Foster Jenkins” took in about $6.5 million this weekend in a little over 1,500 theaters. It’s a modest result, not quite as strong as “Ricki and the Flash” exactly a year ago. With Meryl Streep also in the lead as a singer, it had a 4X multiple.

But $26 million for “Florence” with its wide release and its acquisition expense (Paramount acquired the domestic rights for the $19-million UK production, then spent more marketing a wide release) is at the low end of expectations.

Meryl Streep’s storied career is going strong into her 60s. But like Weinstein Co.’s Oscar-timed “The Iron Lady” and “August Osage County,” Florence Foster Jenkins” falls more into specialty than mainstream territory, where there’s a ceiling for films in which Streep is the raison d’etre. Her recent lead films no longer guarantee grosses above $40 million.

Backed by strong reviews and directed by respected Stephen Frears, the prospects for “Florence”  seem disappointing. At a gross in the mid-$20s, it will far short (even with the advantage of a wider initial break and the larger marketing budget involved) of a Weinstein film like “The Woman in Gold.” That Helen Mirren-starrer managed to amass $33 million despite mediocre reviews. And Mirren managed to open “The Hundred Foot Journey” exactly two years ago in 2,000 theaters to over $10 million and then a huge 5X multiple.

Are audiences experiencing Streep fatigue? There may be a sense that as impressive as the actress is, her films no longer surprise or guarantee much else than her show-stopping performance. “Florence” likely had to overcome these preconceptions. More likely, Paramount’s marketing made “Florence” look like just another middlebrow period movie for old people.

The movie did climb 27% on its second day, not unusual for a film aimed at adults—but it’s double what “Ricki” did,  and also better than “Journey.” Streep clearly has a loyal audience, but she needs a strong vehicle if she wants to reach beyond it.

The Late Summer Surge Continues as Expected

“Suicide Squad” started from such a high level that even a severe drop still meant a big number. That plus three new wide openings easily surpassed last year’s Top Ten total of $130 million, by nearly 18%, at $153 million – even though the three openers combined only grossed $1 million more than “Straight Outta Compton” did last year (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” added another $14 million).

“Suicide” came out best at about $44 million despite its expected drop. The anticipated close battle between “Sausage Party” and “Pete’s Dragon” turned out with Seth Rogen’s R-rated animated film doing 50% better initially. Lagging far behind was “Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount),” the latest Meryl Streep vehicle in fewer theaters and a so-so response.

The last two August weekends in 2015 saw no film open to more than $11 million. That should be beaten easily by one or more releases still to come, and holdover numbers for top films already in play likely bolster the total numbers.

This weekend’s take brings year to date up 5%. Even though that result has come from a combined great first third and a down summer overall, to be at that level or higher (likely the result by Labor Day) is a major achievement for theaters and studios alike.

Bad Moms

“Bad Moms”

STX Entertainment


“Florence” may have been damaged by the amazing performance of “Bad Moms” (STX), which dropped only 11% its third weekend. This is becoming the sleeper hit of the summer. And what looked like a possible $100 million domestic take now looks to push some degree past that. Sequel anyone?

“The Secret Life of Pets” at 23% down its sixth weekend is going to top $360 million easily and reach the upper strata for an animated original (“Frozen” got to $400 million).

Two recent initially big falloff franchise films – “Jason Bourne” (-39%) and “Star Trek Beyond” (-32%) —showed better holds, suggesting they were hurt by early heavy competition more than negative reaction. No film actually fell more than 50% – the second weekend of “Nine Lives” (-44%) won’t redeem this flop, and $5-million “Lights Out” (-46%) is going to end up at over $65 million.

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