The grosses from two new $20-million-plus openers – “The Magnificent Seven” (Sony) and “Storks” (Warner Bros.) – delivering $35 million and just under $22 million respectively, might appear to be strong numbers. It’s the first time we’ve seen this level of gross since the second August weekend. And if the movies hold well and get strong international results, both could nudge into positive territory.
But a closer look is less upbeat, due to the total gross count as well as the disappointing showing of “Storks.” While remake “The Magnificent Seven” hit its marks, they are also less impressive on close examination.
The Top Ten
1. The Magnificent Seven (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $90 million
$35,000,000 in 3,674 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,526; Cumulative: $35,000,000
2. Storks (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 54 ; Est. budget: $70 million
$21,805,000 in 3,922 theaters; PTA: $5,560; Cumulative: $21,805,000
3. Sully (Warner Bros.) Week 3- Last weekend #1
$13,830,000 (-36%) in 3,955 theaters (+430); PTA: $3,497; Cumulative: $92,393,000
4. Bridget Jones’s Baby (Universal) Week 2- Last weekend #3
$4,520,000 (-47%) in 2,930 theaters (+3); PTA: $1,543; Cumulative: $16,458,000
5. Snowden (Open Road) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$4,145,000 (-48%) in 2,443 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,697; Cumulative: $15,139,000
6. Blair Witch (Lionsgate) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$3,950,000 (-59%) in 3,121 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,266; Cumulative: $16,129,000
7. Don’t Breathe (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #5
$3,800,000 (-33%) in 2,438 theaters (-770); PTA: $1,559; Cumulative: $81,111,000
8. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) Week 8 – Last weekend #7
$3,110,000 (-34%) in 2,172 theaters (-568); PTA: $1,432; Cumulative: $318,133,000
9. When the Bough Breaks (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend #6
$2,500,000 (-54%) in 1,444 theaters (-802); PTA: $1,731; Cumulative: $26,613,000
10. (tie) Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) Week 6 – Last weekend #9
$1,103,000 (-57%) in 1,209 theaters (-548); PTA: $912; Cumulative: $45,955,000
10. (tie) Hell or High Water (Lionsgate) Week 7; Last weekend #11
$1,100,000 (-47%) in 1,128 theaters (-377); PTA: $975; Cumulative: $24,840,000
“The Magnificent Seven” Does Well, But Not Close to Any Bests
After the repeated disappointments of the summer and early fall by sequels and remakes, the idea of even a high-end starry vehicle with a familiar title like this Western remake (Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt leading the way) being a sure thing was questionable. But much of the initial response—from Sony’s positioning attempts to unadjusted gross comparisons— seem to overstate its relative success.
Clearly, coming in at $35 million— tied with “Sully” as the best fall opener so far – is a decent initial result. The 8% second day jump over the combined Thursday and Friday number is positive (though below the similarly adult appeal “Sully,” which jumped 21% its first Saturday). And international results, late arriving today, could elevate its initial reaction.
But this is no record for September, even if one removes animated or horror titles to elevate it. It’s a strong gross for the month – the comparison to “Sully” bears that out. But in adjusted numbers it comes in #16. That’s behind other live action releases “Rush Hour” (still the best by far) “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Double Jeopardy” and even the earlier Denzel Washington/Antoine Fuqua “The Equalizer” (which adjusted two years ago came in at $36.8 million).
And nearly all of these were, even in 2016 budget terms, less expensive. “The Equalizer” at $55 million cost $35 million less than “The Magnificent Seven.” It did almost as well overseas as domestic (just under $200 million), so it was a success.
But the stakes are higher with the greater budget. Other comparisons also aren’t quite as great as reported. “Magnificent Seven” if adjusted is the fourth, not second best live action Western debut (it trails “Maverick,” “The Wild, Wild West” and “Cowboys and Aliens”). And those Westerns that went on to great success – including “Dances With Wolves,” “Unforgiven,”“True Grit,” “The Revenant” (which after several limited weekends opened to nearly $40 million wide), – all ended up adjusted at $185 million or more. And they had multiples far beyond the hoped for decent 3X Sony and its partners (including MGM) count on.
It was summertime, a key film in Disney’s lineup and had Johnny Depp, but “The Lone Ranger” did $32 million in its first weekend (again, adjusted) and with its expectations and expense was called a dud from the start.
Among Washington’s films, adjusted this comes in sixth, not third best. Curiously he is almost never a high season (summer or Christmas) player for his wide-release films; he usually plays best in the January-February and September-November corridors. And again, $35 million is good for this month, and good for a Western.
It’s just not a sign of box office revival or by itself a turnaround for the season. Future weeks and foreign will determine if this is more than a modest earner for its producers. Its foreign take ultimately take worldwide totals up or about the level “Sully” will reach – it’s too early to project either, with both having some foreign appeal.
These “Storks” Don’t Deliver
“Storks” is the second release from Warner Bros. animation unit. They are the last of the top studios to jump in with either a home-grown unit or at least a major tie-in with an outside producer. Their initial effort, “The LEGO Movie,” was a smash (opening to $69 million). “Storks” also brought in directorial talent that had already established themselves in live-action comedy (in the current case, “Neighbors” and other hits).
It’s not a bad way to go as animation films can draw in a lot more than just youngsters with their parents (or even without kids, as “Sausage Party” showed).
Several studios, given the heightened competition, have disappointed with their animated entries year. “Collision Course,” the fifth audience endurance test for the “Ice Age” franchise, opened to $21 million and went on to $63 million, but it is now measuring over $400 million worldwide, so only domestic exhibitors have any complaints.
So the $22 million “Storks” gross, with a possible animation norm of more than a 3X multiple and then usual more bigger foreign numbers, could mean that Warners’ second-time-out budget of $70 million won’t keep them from profit.
Oddly, one comparison might be last weekend’s “Blair Witch” disappointment. “Storks” comes after a string of summer and earlier animated smashes, unprecedented in their frequency and most gaining from major word of mouth boosts. And most involved talking animal characters.
“Blair Witch” likewise had what seemed to be a sellable project in a recently hot genre (horror). But it is possible that “Storks,” like “Blair,” got caught in elevated expectations and increased awareness of early reviews (mixed though hardly devastating) in both cases. And this muted interest.
A title like “Storks” also is going to decrease standalone young adult and older interest. Throw in the extent that the brand (such as Pixar, Disney and other establish studio) interest in Warners is not yet set and this disappointing – between $5 and $10 million below hopes – result is less of a surprise.
Fall Falls Further Behind
The Top Ten came to about $94 million. That’s a whopping 25% drop from last year, also with two wide openers (“Hotel Transylvania 2” and “The Intern.”)
Those two films did $66 million. Combined they cost $115 million. “The Magnificent Seven” and “Storks” together took in $57 million with added budgets together $160 million.
That means through three weeks of wide releases, nine in total, including multiple films directed by makers of previous $100 million-plus hits, only Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” is a clear success. Most of the rest will be lucky to break even, if that, and then only because of better foreign results, and some of these are clear domestic disappointments.
It is happening too often to pretend that we are not seeing a downward trend. The year to date boost of 5% is only falling a bit overall, but it masks ongoing disturbing patterns.
“The Magnificent Seven” deserves credit for a decent gross and avoiding the fate of other recent remakes and reboots (“Ghostbusters,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Blair Witch,” “Ben-Hur”) which disappointed, at least compared to expenses. Still, it actually opened to less than the first two, both of which cost more.
Next weekend sees three more openers with varying degrees of appeal and/or major importance to their companies – Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (20th Century Fox), Peter Berg’s Mark Wahlberg-starrer “Deepwater Horizon” (Lionsgate) and Relativity’s “Masterminds,” a comedy with strong elements and critical importance for that struggling company’s future.
But the same early October weekend last year saw “The Martian” open to $54 million and the second weekend of “Hotel Transylvania 2” fall to only $33 million. So even if those three perform well, the drop-off could continue.
Part of the weekend 25% drop can be blamed on last weekend’s weak openers. They took 4th to 6th place this week, but fell from weak starts. So it’s a below-average holdover weekend. “Bridget Jones’s Baby” and “Snowden” kept their falls under 50% (just) but neither showed any heft to keep them around much longer. “Blair Witch” was closer to 60%, normal for a horror film but it started badly. It was the top opener in last week’s motley crew, but was weakest among them this weekend.
“Sully” continues to thrive with only a 36% drop. A 4X multiple (getting it to $140 million) is unlikely but not impossible— $125-130 million is in range.