The 2016 box office continues unpredictable.
“Doctor Strange” lead the recent but short-lived box office revival, along with some hits that surpassed expectations (“Boo! A Madea Halloween” and “Trolls”). But the pre-Thanksgiving weekend came in below predicted numbers. After several years with strong franchise entries opening to over $100 million, the costly J.K. Rowling Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.), a potential major blockbuster, ended up with an acceptable but unexceptional $75 million total. The well-reviewed VFX extravaganza could build word of mouth as it goes along.
The Top Ten
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 65; Est. budget: $180 million
$75,000,000 in 4,144 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $18,098; Cumulative: $75,000,000
2. Doctor Strange (Disney) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$17,676,000 (-59%) in 3,694 theaters (-188); PTA: $4,785; Cumulative: $181,543,000
3. Trolls (20th Century Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$17,500,000 (-50%) in 3,945 theaters (-121); PTA: $3,945; Cumulative: $116,215,000
4. Arrival (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$11,800,000 (-51%) in 2,335 theaters (+18); PTA: $5,054; Cumulative: $43,371,000
5. Almost Christmas (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$7,040,000 (-53%) in 2,379 theaters (+3); PTA: $2,959; Cumulative: $25,421,000
6. Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate) Week 3 – Last weekend #5
$6,750,000 (-36%) in 2,883 theaters (-88); PTA: $2,341; Cumulative: $42,854,000
7. The Edge of Seventeen (STX) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 77; Est. budget: $9 million
$4,825,000 in 1,945 theaters; PTA: $2,481; Cumulative: $4,825,000
8. Bleed for This (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 62; Est. budget: $4 million (acquisition cost)
$2,358,000 in 1,549 theaters; PTA: $1,522; Cumulative: $2,358,000
9. The Accountant (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last weekend #6
$2,115,000 (-52%) in 1,423 theaters (-919); PTA: $1,486; Cumulative: $81,252,000
10. Shut In (EuropaCorp) Week 2 – Last weekend #7
$1,600,000 (-%) in 2,006 theaters (-52); PTA: $798; Cumulative: $6,037,000
The Box Office Uptick Slows
After a month or so, the box-office rebound came to halt this weekend. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.) followed “The Jungle Book” as the second-best 2016 opening of any film not animated or part of the Marvel or D.C. Comics universe. That’s hardly a disgrace.
But overall, the Top Ten dropped ten per cent from last year’s pre-Thanksgiving weekend. 2015, like every year since 2010, saw a juggernaut franchise entry from Lionsgate (either “Twilight” or “Hunger Games”) own the date, frequently with $100 million-plus openings (“Mockingjay, Part 2” wrapped up Katniss Everdeen & company at $102 million).
The drop extended to all three openers. Last year two other minor releases (“The Night Before” and “The Secret in Their Eyes”) added another $16 million as counter-programming. This year, both “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Bleed for This” came with more advance interest and potential. Yet combined they barely totaled $7 million.
The drop wasn’t more severe thanks to several strong holdovers. While many took steep drops, they were still stronger than 2015’s earlier releases. But going into a crucial holiday, this could prove a bad omen. Still, Disney’s animated “Moana” should lead a stronger five-day holiday starting Wednesday than last year.
“Fantastic Beasts” Hits Target But Doesn’t Soar
Warner Bros., faced with no more Harry Potter novels, figured it would gamble $180 million on a related prequel plot from Rowling. They brought back David Yates, who directed the later Potter efforts (as well as “The Legend of Tarzan” earlier this year) and Eddie Redmayne to star with an adult cast. They ended up with a well-received movie, outstanding date placement, and Rowling’s accumulated good will.
So the $75 million total is good, but hardly great. For starters, compare the domestic to the international openings. That’s $143 million in 63 territories (expected major numbers in China and Japan come up next week), in many places at Potter level, and for the U.K. it’s the best opening number of the year. So domestic comes up far short by comparison.
But more problematic might be the film’s second-day drop. It was down 11 per cent from the combined Thursday preview and Friday total, hardly unusual for a blockbuster. The last Potter to play on this date (“Deathly Hallows, Part 1”) took a 38 per second day drop. But it opened to $61 million its first day. This started from a more modest place, then didn’t find a windfall from Saturday matinees. That suggests more adult than family interest.
For Warners the biggest issue, apart from the cost (over $300 million with marketing), is that this 1920s New York story is supposed to launch a franchise with four more films planned. Figure this can reach $200 million domestic and at least triple that the rest of the world. So Warners will make money. But does it justify that major investment ahead? Consider that at best an open question.
“Edge of Seventeen” and “Bleed for This” Fall Short
STX and Open Road are both crucially filling up the domestic release schedule with alternative independent productions, either commercially vital (“Bad Moms” for STX) or significant beyond their audience appeal (Oscar-winner “Spotlight” for Open Road). On paper both of these new lower-budget films looked promising. But Open Road harbored Oscar hopes for both Oliver Stone’s box-office dud “Snowden” and now DOA boxing picture “Bleed for This.”
Both films premiered at top early September festivals after much anticipation. Both got more careful marketing attention than they might have received from a mainline studio. Neither pushed their breaks beyond what seemed appropriate (they ended up between 1,500 and 2000 theaters each). And both flopped.
“Bleed” at $2.4 million (below even the most conservative estimates) was the more predictable. With mixed reviews and a fighter biopic with questionable appeal (“Creed” and “Southpaw” last year seemed to satisfy recent interest; “Hands of Stone” died earlier this year) and a star in waiting, Miles Teller, it just had no audience.
On the other hand “The Edge of Seventeen” boasted better reviews and female appeal with a promising plot hook (Hailee Steinfeld’s teen girl finds her best friend dating her brother). But it failed to connect from its initial number. Its nine per cent jump Saturday (the only one of three openers to improve the second day) suggests it is getting a positive response. But even if it gets a stronger than usual four times multiple (it will be helped by the holiday, hurt by the bad playtime right after), $20 million for the full run is still weak.
While it’s playing like earlier successes “Election” and “Mean Girls,” the movie sounds more like an indie coming of age film rather than a smart general audience comedy. It was a risk, even at $9 million before marketing. Failures like this are costly to the business more than the dollars and cents involved.
Only “Hacksaw Ridge” (Lionsgate), consistent with past Mel Gibson-directed efforts, managed to fall less than 50 per cent this weekend. Its 36 per cent drop is outstanding, with the World War II story likely to top $60 million, four times better than it opened.
Last weekend’s top two openers, “Arrival” and “Almost Christmas,” dropped 51 and 53 per cent respectively, disappointing for each after adequate openings. “Arrival” is not going to get anywhere close to the $100-million totals for other sophisticated, top-name director science fiction films such as “Gravity.” But it could also get a boost during awards season.
Not making the Top Ten at all is Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” See analysis of its disastrous box office in Arthouse Audit.