“Aladdin,” the latest Disney retread of a key title, took in an estimated $86 million for the three-day weekend, with $105 million projected for four days. This is a surprisingly strong result; after “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” it suggests the summer will follow the optimists’ path.
Memorial Day weekend, once the official start of summer movie play, has become secondary to the weeks-earlier debuts of Marvel titles. Though still a prime date, recent years have seen several films fall short; last year’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story” didn’t gross $100 million.
Still, even with “Aladdin” outpacing “Solo,” the three-day totals are about 5% down from last year and May will end with revenues off about 10% off from 2018. But the results this weekend actually give hope that this summer will further trim that shortfall.
Upcoming are franchise titles like “Godzilla,” “Men in Black,” “Shaft,” “Child’s Play,” “Toy Story,” “Annabelle,” and “Spider-Man,” all before July 4th. They gamble that retreads of past hits will pave the way to a big summer, and “Aladdin” could be Exhibit A for success.
The early expectation was the film might face resistance after the disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Dumbo,” with grosses predicted below “Solo.” Happily, that’s not the case; the worldwide initial take is over $200 million (Japan the major territory to yet open). However, with a $183 million production cost before significant marketing expense, this isn’t home free. Titles like this can thrive over longer runs, and the A Cinemascore suggesting a good initial response.
Older, particularly female, audiences sometimes respond to original films like “Booksmart” more slowly. But Olivia Wilde’s acclaimed directorial debut looks initially like a disappointment, and one that stings. With only a bit over $5.6 million taken in over the weekend (it grossed an additional $875,000 in previews a week ago), the very well-reviewed comedy about two academic standout girls trying to cram four years’ worth of high school fun into a weekend was not impressive for a run in 2,505 theaters.
In the past, this film would have rolled out wide following a platform release. Younger characters might have caused more resistance in the older-skewing specialized audience, while its broader appeal and opportunity for counterprogramming looked appealing. It still came up soft, despite careful handling by United Artists.
It might be that we are in an era where nothing can make a title like this break through. The B+ Cinemascore suggests a struggle with word of mouth; that’s a mildly favorable response. Better news is that with the previews removed from the Friday grosses, Saturday went up a healthy 30%. But this will need a quick turnaround to justify sticking around in theaters.
“Brightburn,” a coproduction with the H Collective, did better. This horror riff on the Superman myth (an alien boy comes to earth, raised as a typical human, but grows up on a different path) is another low-budget Screen Gems presentation (around $6 million). It managed $7.5 million for the weekend without significant star power (Elizabeth Banks the best-known name), bad reviews, and not a lot of attention in a weekend where “Aladdin” and “Booksmart” grabbed most of the air.
Its Cinemascore is still embargoed, suggesting mediocre or lower. Saturday dropped 19%, not unheard of for the second day of a horror-related title. But the story here is that if studios are going to back theatrical standalone titles and their attendant marketing expense, it makes more sense to go with a film like “Brightburn” than “Booksmart.” It’s disheartening, but it reflects the realities of today’s market.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” will reach $100 million this weekend, with another $75 million so far foreign. That makes it a success by all standards, but it still dropped 57% this weekend. As “Endgame” showed, the business is more frontloaded than ever. To that point, “Endgame” will gross less this weekend (its fifth) than “Infinity War” did in its Memorial Day week five last year — and that’s for a film that started off $100 million better in its first weekend.
The best summers have come when films had not only great openings, but held better. This summer hasn’t seen much serious head-to-head competition, but that changes in the weeks ahead. If this trend continues, we might not be able to rely on opening numbers to determine films’ ultimate fates.
“Endgame” fell 44%; “Infinity” last year fell 41%. “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” dropped a bit more at 47%, with a passable (for its cost) $150 million domestic total ahead.
The wide second weekend films showed little sign of sticking around. “A Dog’s Journey” was off 49%. That’s great compared to the ill-fated “The Sun Is Also a Star,” which managed only $775,000 its second weekend, down 69% and out of the Top Ten. That’s about as bad as it gets.
The Top Ten
1. Aladdin (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 54; Est. budget: $183 million
$86,100,000 in 4,476 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $; Cumulative: $86,100,000
2. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$24,350,000 (-57%) in 3,850 theaters (no change); PTA: $6,325 Cumulative: $100,989,000
3. Avengers: Endgame (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #2
$16,841,000 (-%) in 3,810 theaters (-410); PTA: $3,478; Cumulative: $798.173,000
4. Pokemon Detective Pichaku (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$13,300,000 (-%) in 3,824 theaters (-424); PTA: $3,478; Cumulative: $116,123,000
5. Brightburn (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: (not revealed); Metacritic: 45; Est. budget: $6 million
$7,535,000 in 2,607 theaters; PTA: $2,890; Cumulative: $7,535,000
6. Booksmart (United Artists) NEW – Cinemascore: 85; Metacritic: B+; Est. budget: $(not reported)
$5,637,000 in 2,505 theaters; PTA: $2,250; Cumulative: $6,512,154
8. The Hustle (United Artists) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$3,813,000 (-38%) in 2,377 theaters (-700); PTA: $1,604; Cumulative: $29,838,000
7. A Dog’s Journey (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$4,090,000 (-49%) in 3,279 theaters (+12); PTA: $1,247; Cumulative: $14,921,000
9. The Intruder (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$2,265,000 (-44%) in 1,612 theaters (-1,219); PTA: $1,405; Cumulative: $31,931,000
10. Long Shot (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #7
$1,565,000 (-53%) in 1,358 theaters (-752); PTA: $1,156; Cumulative: $28,693,000