This weekend was the nadir of what has become a bipolar year at the box office, but it comes with an extraordinary, if unsettling sidelight: Mass audience fare is no longer guaranteed, even with top stars and well-known IP.
“How to Be a Latin Lover” (Lionsgate) and “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (from previously unheralded Great India) ranked second and third, both over $10 million. Those are grosses better than not only STX’s “The Circle” (which had the benefit of Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, and is based on Dave Eggers’ novel), but are also better than any new release on the same weekend last year. Studios concede the weekend before the new Marvel release in early April, but that’s also an opportunity that two smart distributors recognized.
That left “The Fate of the Furious” (Universal) as the default #1 again. $19 million for a third weekend, and $192 million total, is strong for any film — except in comparison to its performance in the rest of the world.
One other title of note: High-flying Blumhouse Prods.’ “Sleight,” acquired out of Sundance 2016, grossed only $1.7 million in 565 theaters via BH Tilt. It actually had the best reviews of any new studio or studio-adjacent film this week, but for once the Blumhouse magic didn’t transpire.
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The Top Ten
1. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1
$19,340,000 (-49%) in 4,077 theaters (-252); PTA (per theater average): $4,756; Cumulative: $293,721,000
2. How to Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore:; Metacritic: 53; Est. budget: $
$12,019,000 in 1,118 theaters; PTA: $10,750; Cumulative: $12,019,000
3. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Great India 2) NEW – Est. budger: $39 million
$10,138,000 in 405 theaters; PTA: $23,855; Cumulative: $10,138,000
4. The Circle (STX) NEW – Cinemascore:; Metacritic: 43; Est. budget: $18 million
$9,320,000 in 3,163 theaters; PTA: $2,947; Cumulative: $9,320,000
5. The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox) Week 5; Last weekend #2
$9,050,000 (-29%) in 3,792 theaters (+42); PTA: $2,420 Cumulative: $148,500,000
6. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #3
$9,050,000 (-34%) in 3,155 theaters (-160); PTA: $; Cumulative: $480,100,000
7. Going in Style (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$6,400,000 (-27%) in 2,761 theaters (-277); PTA: $2,029; Cumulative: $37,320,000
8. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$3,315,000 (-32%) in 2,554 theaters (-183); PTA: $1,298; Cumulative: $37,735,000
9. Gifted (Fox Searchlight) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$3,300,000 (-28%) in 2,215 theaters (+229); PTA: $1,490; Cumulative: $15,830,000
10. Unforgettable (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #7
$2,345,000 (-51%) in 2,417 theaters (no change); PTA: $970; Cumulative: $8,840,000
Many Theaters Reaching Limbo Levels
Next weekend with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (Disney), the earth should tilt back to its normal axis with an expected $150 million or better opening next weekend. The latest Marvel entry has bee released in about 60 percent of the world (though not yet China or Japan), with a strong initial haul of around $100 million.
That might undo some of the carnage of this weekend, but the weakness of “The Circle” as the sole wide opener can’t be overlooked. It failed to outgross two very niche audience films, despite access to twice as many theaters.
Two sleepers targeted for ethnic audiences couldn’t keep the Top Ten from coming in as the worst of this year so far. At $79 million, it was 20 percent worse than last year. But without “Latin Lover” and “Baahulabi 2,” it would have been barely more than $60 million. That would have been close to panic time for theaters. As it is, the riches from the Latino and Indian audiences were unevenly spread so many theaters had bottom-level results.
The Stellar Achievements of “How to Be a Latin Lover” and “Baahulabi 2”
A rare growth market in American theaters in recent years has been for Spanish-language and Indian films. Usually shown in multi-hundred rather than wider releases, grossing sometimes in their first weekend enough to reach the top 10 or come close, they increasingly demand attention from discerning movie chains. This weekend shows not only can they hold their own, but they can thrive.
In retrospect, the $12 million victory of “Latin Lover in its 1,118 theaters was predictable. Star Eugenio Derbez, well known in Mexico, already had a breakout success with “Instructions Not Included” in 2013. That opened in 348 theaters to $7.8 million, then expanded to twice as many and ultimately $44 million. That made it among the best-grossing Mexican (and Spanish-language) domestic releases ever.
This Pantelion production opened in triple the theaters, and had a bigger budget (though not officially revealed) and a more American slant (it’s set in California, and bilingual) to widen its appeal.
Still, the core audience was Latino. This group is far more loyal to movies in theaters than most, and critical mass has now reached the point that it could open better than many studio releases.
Top Indian films have international releases not only because of its wide diaspora, but also fears that delays will bring on rampant piracy. Still, the $10 million realized by “Baahubali 2” in one weekend is the best opening of any Indian studio release ever.
This nearly $40 million production (sky high for India) is a sequel, which gave this heft. It’s an epic, and the smartly chosen date gave it access to IMAX theaters. That accounted for $1.8 million of the gross in only 66 locations.
This is exciting for theaters finding supplemental and needed revenue. But it also reinforces the increasingly international nature of the business, and the decline of more conventional, non-event releases like “The Circle.”
“The Circle” Is Broken
“The Circle” also had foreign roots (it comes from French-based EuropaCorp, now releasing through STX), with financing from the United Arab Emirates. But it is otherwise mainstream America: Dave Eggers is a strong fiction brand, and its dystopian tale is set in California. And Tom Hanks (in a rare bad-guy role) is the prototypical domestic draw.
But the main attraction here was supposed to be Emma Watson, coming off “Beauty and the Beast.” It may be that no one could have carried this, much less an actress with more period than contemporary appeal. With its D+ Cinemascore, audiences hated it. It also was the worst reviewed of the week’s releases.
Still, the bottom is falling out. With little competition at many theaters, the results were a worst-case scenario. A long production delay and an already dated storyline about internet privacy might have hurt, but it shows the risk inherent in a standalone project with less-than-guaranteed international appeal. It will count as a strike against similar films.
Fifth to ninth places were taken by five holdovers that fell 34 percent or less, all solid performances. As usual, they were helped by less than normal competition. “Going in Style” continues to defy its initial impression, with the best hold (down only 27 percent) with an unexpected $50 million now likely. “The Boss Baby” continues to thrive, down 29 percent. “Gifted” was helped by additional theaters, with Fox Searchlight’s heart-tugger at $16 million and headed for more. Kids and families kept “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and “Beauty and the Beast” to modest drops.
Not the fate for “Unforgettable,” which saw a second weekend drop of 51 percent, sealing the fate of the Katherine Heigl-Rosario Dawson thriller. The biggest disappointment, though, is “Born in China” (Disney) which dropped out of the top 10. Similar nature docs have usually sustained a much higher interest.