The year closed with a very uneven holiday period.”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Sing” were the standouts, contributing most of the $160 million that comprises the Top 10 total. (“Sing” is a particular surprise, coming within $9 million of “Rogue One.”) Wider, more-expensive holiday studio releases were mixed at best, with only “Passengers” showing above-average life. However, awards contenders “Fences,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “La La Land” are thriving.
(Note: the estimates below are for the Friday-Sunday numbers, including projections for Sunday. Disney and Sony failed to provide their numbers at deadline, so the estimates come from other sources.)
The Top 10
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Disney) Week 3 – Last weekend: #1
$49.8 million (-22%) in 4,157 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $11,978; Cumulative: $425.179 million
2. Sing (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend: #2
$41.45 million (+18%) in 4,029 theaters (+7); PTA: $10,288; Cumulative: $165.05 million
3. Passengers (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend: #3
$15.5 million (+1%) in 3,478 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,457; Cumulative: $60.8 million
4. Moana (Disney) Week 6 – Last weekend: #6
$10.1 million (+31%) in 2,775 theaters (+88); PTA: $3,640; Cumulative: $209.159 million
5. Fences (Paramount) Week 3 – Last weekend: #7
$10.2 million(+52%) in 2,301 theaters (+68); PTA: $4,433; Cumulative: $29.902 million
6. Why Him? (20th CenturyFox) Week 2 – Last weekend: #4
$10 million (-20%) in 3,008 theaters (+91); PTA: $3,324; Cumulative: $37.559 million
7. La La Land (Lionsgate) Week 4 – Last weekend: #8
$9.5 million (+63%) in 750 theaters (+16); PTA: $12,667; Cumulative: $34.2 million
8. Assassin’s Creed (20th Century Fox) Week 2- Last weekend: #5
$8 million (-21%) in 2,996 theaters (+26); PTA: $2,670; Cumulative: $39.044 million
9. Manchester By the Sea (Roadside Attractions) Week 7 – Last weekend: #13
$4.495 million (+51%) in 1,206 theaters (-7); PTA: $3,727; Cumulative: $28.719 million
10. Collateral Beauty (Warner Bros). Week 3 – Last weekend: #10
$4.05 million (-5%) in 2,745 theaters (-283); PTA:$1,475; Cumulative: $25.692 million
Down But Hardly Out
The three-day holiday weekend saw about a 20 percent drop from last year, but it had a different configuration (Friday then was New Years Day) as well as the bigger showing for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($90 million). This year has an extra Monday holiday, which will equalize totals a bit.
The year ended with a domestic total just under $11.4 billion. In unadjusted numbers, that’s a record. More significantly, it’s ahead of 2015 (see our analysis here). The new year brings many potential blockbusters, but don’t expect it the first quarter to be as strong as last year.
The downer note from Christmas was for studios with expensive movies, led by 20th Century Fox with “Assassin’s Creed” (which could struggle to even hit $50 million domestic) and Sony with “Passengers” (doing better and with more life in it, but not the breakout smash the Jennifer Lawrence-Chris Pratt pairing promised).
On any other year, “Sing” would be the headline. As the surest bet in cartoon features, Universal’s animation unit continues to lag only slightly behind Disney’s homegrown entries and their Pixar releases. TV ads for the film now highlight it as “the #1 comedy in the country” to get a wider audience. And something is clearly clicking: It grossed more $6 million this weekend than last.
It should come out of the holiday closing in on $200 million, with a likely ultimate domestic take significantly above $300 million. It would the fourth animated feature to reach that level, joining “Finding Dory,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Zootopia.”
However, “Rogue One” is still on top. It’s just $60 million short of besting “Finding Dory” as the number-0ne domestic release from 2016; that will happen within the next two weeks, confirming “Star Wars” as the most valuable domestic film franchise. (“Furious 7” actually did a bit better than “The Force Awakens” in overseas take, and “Rogue One” might fall a bit short of “Captain America: Civil War,” reinforcing that the Star Wars empire has its biggest appeal in North America).
Last year, “The Force Awakens”reached $742 million through the Sunday of New Years weekend. That’s $320 million or so better than “Rogue” thus far, but hardly a knock on this new effort.
The Uneven Christmas Week Openers
“Passengers” is the standout among the wide releases, although with its $110 million production budget and possibly close to that amount in marketing expenses, its profits remain questionable. Foreign dates are either not yet reported or still to open, and at $60 million so far, it’s unlikely to get much above $100 million domestic.
Still, it has a pulse and managed to find interest from both female and broader science-fiction genre fans. The even more-expensive “Assassin’s Creed” will gross only about half as much, with the rest of the world unlikely to make up the difference.
Both films, along with “Rogue One,” took chances with younger, international directors who first made their marks with more independent productions (Gareth Edwards for “Rogue,” Morten Tyldum “Passengers,” Justin Kurzel “Assassin”), each of whom took a huge budget leap upward. And “Sing” director Garth Jennings has roots in specialized releases (“Son of Rambow”), as does “Hidden Figures” director Theodore Melfi (“Saint Vincent”). “Hidden Figures” is very strong in its limited initial openings and will compete with “Rogue” and “Sing” with its wider release this Friday.
Whatever their grosses, it’s hard to relate the directors’ past work to these efforts and their reviews. It’s an interesting contrast to Damien Chazelle, who followed “Whiplash” with another personal project in “La La Land.” That film will end up with a domestic take above $100 million, surpassing all of his colleagues.
“Why Him?” cost $38 million, which is about what it’s grossed so far. This R-rated, male-oriented holiday comedy is falling short of what the female-oriented “Sisters” did last year. The James Franco-Bryan Cranston pairing though might linger around for a few more weeks.
“Collateral Beauty” eked out a 10th-place position for the three-day numbers, though it could fall out when Monday is added. It should end up around $30 million in its domestic take; even with its lower-than-usual budget, this Will Smith film is a failure.
Three Strong Awards Contenders
“La La Land” now is ahead of “Hell or High Water” among independent releases (or at least high-end platform debuts), and “Manchester” also will soon pass it. Both stand high among Oscar contenders. “La La” is strongly outpacing “Silver Linings Playbook,” which had a very similar release trajectory four years ago. (We cover both “La La Land” and “Manchester By the Sea” in depth.)
Paramount’s “Fences” is the most mainstream of the group and is more than holding its own so far. For a serious drama with African-American actors to earn $30 million in only eight days of wide release is very impressive. By comparison, “August: Osage County” three years ago, despite the presence of Meryl Streep and its strong Broadway pedigree, only grossed $37 million for its entire run.
Expect all three of these films to join “Moonlight” and perhaps “Hidden Figures” as Oscar contenders when nominations are announced in three weeks. And their strong box-office performances all will boost them further.
Two Impressive Holdovers
The two films that led Thanksgiving — “Moana” (Disney) and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.) — are still performing well. “Moana” has passed $200 million, and it’s more impressive for achieving this in the face of “Sing.” The discordant note is it lags behind “Frozen,” particularly overseas where it looks like it will have difficulty approaching half of the $1.28 billion “Frozen” grossed. It’s still a hit, but it appears the more serious tone is a drawback in a time when animated features score with funny animals.
With its extra week of playing time, “Beasts” is actually ahead of “Moana” in domestic totals (around $10 million), and far ahead worldwide. That, along with its likely $600-700 million foreign take, is great news for Warner Bros. as they’ve commited to multiple future films in the rebooted series.