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With ‘Miss Bala’ Bombing, This Weekend Will Be Remembered as a Super Blow

With a lack of franchise titles, early box-office results suggest that audience levels haven't been this low since 1994.

Miss Bala

Columbia Pictures

We need the weekend actuals — not just the Sunday estimates — to confirm this, but it appears that fewer movie tickets were sold this weekend since 1994. And since then, the North American population increased by 25 percent.

You can’t blame the Super Bowl alone for a plunge like that. Other reasons include the lackluster performance by too many movies, and studios are bringing fewer films to market. (The major studios have released six films so far this year; last year, we’d seen eight.)

Miss Bala,” with its Latino niche-market focus, was never likely to open to $20 million. But a $6.7 million opening is a real disappointment; Lionsgate partner Pantelion has done better with its limited-audience comedies, in hundreds fewer theaters.

Grosses through the first five weekends (about 10 percent of the year) are down, about 16 percent from the same period last year. It’s down over 20 percent from 2015 and 2016.

Something that might raise the weekend above record-worst is Universal’s preview of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” with Fandango-marketed shows on Saturday. These rang up about $2.5 million in gross, which per industry (and perhaps dubious) practice will be added to opening weekend results. (The film has already amassed $84 million overseas). On this weak weekend, the single-afternoon showing in around 1,000 theaters would have placed it at #10.

Gina Rodriguez, "Miss Bala"

“Miss Bala”

Columbia Pictures

Of course, studios and theaters thrive on franchises as well as the occasional breakout stand-alone like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” (the former overtook the latter this weekend, riding a pre-Oscar surge). But the margin between a good year and one that’s not so good can come from would-be bread-and-butter releases like “Miss Bala.” Films like this (made for a reported $15 million) need to find audiences that elevate them to $30 million-$50 million on a regular basis.

Sony is one of the best at making these films, but this lack of interest could discourage it from making even these less-risky decisions. The Latino audience targeted here is not an ethnic monolith, of course, but the Mexican-American portion is the largest and in recent years saw its total audience share increase.

“Miss Bala” is a remake of an acclaimed 2011 Mexican film (barely released by Fox in the U.S. after moderate business in its home country). Its elements include Catherine Hardwicke as director; she made the first “Twilight,” still one of the biggest female-directed films ever, but has struggled since to get the sorts of projects that go to male directors with similar successes. It stars Gina Rodriguez, one of the most successful Latina actresses. Its action genre story, combined with female empowerment (a woman takes on a drug cartel after they kidnap a friend), would seem to be exploitable for more than just a limited audience.

And, it opened in a nearly complete vacuum of new or recent competition. Nothing else opened wide this weekend. Last week saw only the family-oriented flop “The Kid Who Would Be King” and the dud “Serenity.” By default, a new film with plausible appeal should have been open to $10 million or more.

Franchise titles are coming among the eight wide releases over the next three weekends, and they need to make this weekend prove that “Miss Bala” is an anomaly rather than a canary in the coal mine.

Glass

Default is not an unfair description for “Glass” taking first place for the third straight weekend. M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller entry is the lowest #1 Super Bowl weekend film in memory (either holdover or new release), as well as the first #1 to gross under $10 million (even without adjusting) in at least five years. The film is a success for its studio — it is likely to top $250 million worldwide from a $20 million production cost.

Close on its heels at #2 is the sleeper hit “The Upside,” which fell only 26 percent (compared to a 49 percent drop for “Glass”). This American remake of the massive worldwide hit “Intouchables” has passed $75 million, and should sustain a few more weeks’ success to approach $100 million (its worldwide chances might be muted a bit by the original’s previous exposure).

Familiarity along with decent holds covers #4-6. “Aquaman” stands at $323 million so far domestic and over $1.1 billion worldwide. The lack of competition clearly helps its cause (it’s now in its seventh week, and still placed fourth). “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” dropped 28 percent (compared to 34 percent for “Aquaman”) to place fifth. It could, particularly with a likely Oscar Animated Feature win in a few weeks, hit an unexpected $200 million.

Green Book,” down 21 percent, had the best hold of all, remained at #6.

“The Kid Who Would Be King” verified its soon-to-be-gone status by dropping 41 percent; with just over $4 million in its second weekend, it won’t be in theaters much longer as Fox eyes a possible $50 million loss. It faired better than “Serenity,” which fell out of the Top Ten and $1.7 million.

Both “A Dog’s Way Home” and “Escape Room” — with drops of 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively — also lingered in the Top Ten. A lack of new films is helping these, and their low budgets — $18 million and $9 million — combined with foreign and other future revenues will make them successes for their studios. But $40 million-$60 million ultimate domestic grosses aren’t good enough when there are fewer than usual and they don’t come among a slew of bigger hits.

The Top Ten

1. Glass (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$9,535,000 (-49%) in 3,665 theaters (-179; PTA (per theater average): $2,602; Cumulative: $88,655,000

2. The Upside (STX) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$8,850,000 (-26%) in 3,568 theaters (+191); PTA: $2,480; Cumulative: $75,590,000

3. Miss Bala (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: (none provided); Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $15 million

$6,700,000 in 2,203 theaters; PTA: $3,041; Cumulative: $6,700,000

4. Aquaman (Warner Bros.) Week 7; Last weekend #3

$4,785,000 (-34%) in 2,926 theaters (-208); PTA: $1,635; Cumulative: $323,572,000

5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #5

$4,410,000 (-28%) in 2,234 theaters (-149); PTA: $1,974; Cumulative: $175,286,000

6. The Green Book (Universal) Week 12; Last weekend #6

$4,317,000 (-21%) in 2,648 theaters (+218); PTA: $1,630; Cumulative: $55,821,000

7. The Kid Who Would Be King (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$4,200,000 (-41%) in 3,528 theaters (+7); PTA: $1,190; Cumulative: $13,174,000

8. A Dog’s Way Home (Sony) Week; Last weekend #7

$3,510,000 (-31%) in 2,962 theaters (-219); PTA: $1,185; Cumulative: $13,174,000

9. Escape Room (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #9

$2,900,000 (-30%) in 1,942 theaters (-250); PTA: $1,493; Cumulative: $52,089,000

10. They Shall Not Grow Old (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend did not play

$2,405,000 in 735 theaters (+735); PTA: $3,272; Cumulative: $10,745,000

 

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