Although the Super Bowl directly affects only part of one day of the weekend, that’s enough to create an overall lousy box office. The problem isn’t the sportsball competition itself, but that event always serves as a signifier to distributors: This isn’t the time to release the good stuff.
At an estimated $76 million, this year’s Super Bowl weekend was about the same as last year, and worse than almost every 2016 weekend (exceptions: pre-Halloween and early December). Expectations weren’t high for “Rings” (Paramount) and “The Space Between Us” (STX), but they fell short of even that. The saving graces came from recent hits “Split” (Universal) and three Oscar Best Picture nominees “Hidden Figures”(20th Century Fox), “La La Land” (Lionsgate) and “Lion” (Weinstein).
Three sequels debut next weekend, with varying shots at much higher numbers — “The LEGO Batman Movie” (Warner Bros., already receiving positive reviews), “Fifty Shades Darker” (Universal) and “John Wick: Chapter 2” (Lionsgate). They’ll have to seriously excel to match the $164 million of last year (also three debuts, led by “Deadpool”). Yes, that’s a tough comparison, but they aren’t going to get any easier.
“The Space Between Us” had a measure of originality (human raised on Mars returns to Earth for his first visit, finds love) but as the second space romance in under two months (the reasonably popular “Passengers” never found its level, despite the typically inventive marketing from STX. It lacked star power and, to the extent they count, suffered from weak reviews. However, younger, female-oriented films have a history of working on this weekend. They’re also known as a more-reliable audience than their male counterparts, so the possibility that something’s changing in that regard (which would be bad news for the industry) should be considered.
The Top 10
1. Split (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$14,584,000 (-43%) in 3,373 theaters (+174); PTA (per theater average): $4,323; Cumulative: $98,701,000
2. Rings (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C- ; Metacritic: 24; Est. budget: $25 million
$13,000,000 in 2,931 theaters; PTA: $4,435; Cumulative: $13,000,000
3. A Dog’s Purpose (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$10,825,000 (-41%) in 3,178 theaters (+120); PTA: $3,406; Cumulative: $32,926,000
4. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) Week 7 – Last weekend #3
$10,100,000 (-28%) in 3,401 theaters (+50); PTA: $2,970; Cumulative: $119,402,000
5. La La Land (Lionsgate) Week 9 – Last weekend #5
$7,450,000 (-39%) in 3,236 theaters (+100); PTA: $2,302; Cumulative: $118,307,000
6. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$4,500,000 (-67%) in 3,104 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $21,852,000
7. Sing (Universal) Week 7 – Last weekend #6
$4,081,000 (-36%) in 2,293 theaters (-409); PTA: $1,780; Cumulative: $262,907,000
8. Lion (Weinstein) Week 11 – Last weekend #14
$4,006,000 (+71%) in 1,405 theaters (+830); PTA: $2,851; Cumulative: $24,712,000
9. The Space Between Us (STX) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 33; Est. budget: $30 million
$3,820,000 in 2,812 theaters; PTA: $1,358; Cumulative: $3,820,000
10. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Paramount) Week 3 – Last weekend #6
$3,700,000 (-57%) in 2,478 theaters (-1,178); PTA: $1,493; Cumulative: $40,025,000
Although this weekend brings year-to-date 2017 a bit under 3 percent under last year, it’s too early to make judgments beyond a thumbs up for creativity and originality (“Split” and some Oscar holdovers); retread sequels and derivative horror entries aren’t popular. With so many franchise titles ahead, they’d better succeed with fresh marketing or it could be a grim year.
Next weekend will tell a lot more. In 2016, “Deadpool” stunned with its original take on comic-book entries and began a series of surprise hits. This year will need a dose of that, or the totals will continue to lag.
Of note among the holdovers is the second weekend of “A Dog’s Purpose,” now ASPCA-verified as not guilty of abuse charges. It dropped 41 percent from its lukewarm start, far more than most animal-related efforts. The damage was done, though given its relatively low budget and likely long shelf life it will likely survive as more than a flop.
Bored of the “Rings”
This is weekend five of 2017, and it brought the fifth horror entry. As “Split” shows, the genre (particularly when crossed with thriller elements) is alive and well. But between the other four movies this year — “Underworld: Blood Wars” (Sony), ” “Bye Bye Man” (STX), “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” (Sony), and now “Rings” — the market is saturated. In a weird coincidence (with “Rings” to be determined tomorrow), all four opened to $13 million or just over. That number varies in significance, depending on their budgets and international appeal. But they all are minor for the domestic market and their dominance on the release schedule helps explain why grosses have been tepid so far this year.
“Rings” revived a decade-old franchise, but tweaking the concept fell far short of the two earlier efforts and then some. “Ring 2” in 2005 opened to an adjusted total of $47 million, more than 3.5 times bigger than this entry.
Why so awful? Genre fatigue, Super Bowl weekend, unfamiliarity with the series. It shows there is a default minimum for a new horror film — maybe 1.5 million tickets for an opening weekend — and a ceiling of about $30 million-$35 million for the whole run. On the domestic end, that’s not good enough for a wide studio release to justify production.
And Then There’s “Split”
“Split” is now the first horror genre film to rank #1 for three weeks in a role in nearly a decade (the last one was “Disturbing Behavior” in April 2007). It’s about to hit $100 million, with a final domestic gross of $130 million or more likely. That’s on a $9 million budget, with at least that level likely overseas.
That’s double what the M. Night Shyamalan/Jason Blum combo “The Visit” did, and that was considered a solid hit. It will be the most-respected success from Blumhouse, whose low-budget films have been a reliable source for profit.
Blumhouse box office doesn’t come close to Marvel, DC Comics, Star Wars, and the multiple animation franchises, but their profit margins do. What will be interesting is whether this model of career revival (likely involving low-end salaries in exchange for high-end profit participation) might work for others. A factoid of note: Blum was a producer on (and received an Oscar nomination for) Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” He clearly knows talent.
“Hidden Figures” Tops “La La Land”
The late-charging “Hidden Figures,” fresh off its SAG Ensemble win, now has a cumulative total above “La La Land” for the first time in their respective runs.”Hidden” has risen to its $119 million in less time (aided by a wider release at every stage, though both now are in over 3,000 theaters). That said, “La La Land” at $118 million is no less impressive.
“Hidden Figures” dropped 28 percent this weekend (a terrific hold) while “La La Land” fell 39 percent. What that means is, between now and the Oscars, expect “Hidden” to increase its lead as both titles head to over $150 million or more. As the likely Best Picture (and more) Oscar winner, “La La” could surge at the end and after.