Even though Super Bowl weekend is always a must-to-avoid for distributors–due to social activities in the days ahead of Sunday’s big game– this year fewer people went out to movies than just once before in box office history.
That said, this weekend marked a 10% weekend uptick against last year’s rock bottom. Next weekend, things will look up with Warner Bros.’ DC sequel “Birds of Prey,” starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. But among troubling box-office signs were weak starts for two new genre titles, “Gretel and Hansel” (United Artists) and “The Rhythm Section” (Paramount).
These movies did poorly even by the minimum standards set for second-tier entries. Their competition? The global Netflix debut of Sundance pop star documentary “Taylor Swift: Miss Americana.” Interestingly, the record for an opening against the Super Bowl came from “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” which grossed over $30 million.
One film often makes all the difference: “Bad Boys for Life” (Sony) has already notched $148 million, far more than most new January releases. Its unexpected success marks an upbeat start for a year with uneven box-office prospects. This weekend’s high 48% drop still suggests strength, because on any other third weekend the action sequel would have dropped under 40%. “Bad Boys” could still end up as the biggest first-month release since “MASH” in 1970 (adjusted). And that was a different era, with nearly all its gross accruing later over a several-month period. “Bad Boys” projects now to possibly $210-220 million domestic with about the same or better overseas.
BAFTA-winner “1917” held well again in its fourth wide weekend, down 39% and reaching $119 million. That’s the same total as “The Revenant,” which was also a leading Oscar contender at this time in 2016. That film won top awards but fell short of Best Picture, and ended close to $190 million. It still had a longer time to play until the Oscar show, which falls three weeks earlier than usual this year. Even if “1917” falls short of Best Picture, it should pass “The Revenant.” And if it wins it will soar to $200 million domestic.
Among Best Picture contenders, “Little Women” (Sony) held even better, off 34%, nearing $99 million. Overseas continues to show strength, with an additional $65 million. That’s with three powerhouse Asian openings to come, with Japan, South Korea, and hopefully China in coming weeks. That will make the $40- million film among the most profitable of all the 2020 Oscar fray.
Also in the top 15 are the long-running “Parasite” (Neon) and “Jojo Rabbit” (Searchlight), also sharing big time in the awards bounty. More on these and other specialized titles here.
And then there are the new titles. At least Orion, which releases through distribution combine United Artists, had a lower investment in the reworking of the classic children’s horror tale “Gretel and Hansel.” At $10 million before marketing, the cost was under control.
That said, a $6 million opening gross with a likely quick fade out is another sign of resistance to original horror. It’s the fourth such flop in a row in the last two months after “Black Christmas,” “The Grudge,” “The Turning.” It could prove a temporary slump, or herald a trend. We’ll see, as four more horror entries are coming this month alone, let by Universal’s “Invisible Man.”
The attempt by the James Bond producers to launch a female-character action film with “The Rhythm Section” starring Blake Lively is a complete disaster. The $50 million-cost film grossed $2.8 million (estimated) and might not even reach the Top 10. It has a $50,000 lead over “Knives Off” (Lionsgate), which fell 22% and may overtake it.
These figures are awful. The movie, which was not widely screened by Paramount, was in 3,049 theaters, which makes the average per $918. That means based on average ticket price fewer than 100 customers bought tickets over more than three days, in most theaters, over 15 showings. That’s the performance of a film in the last stage of its run. The extent of the loss will be determined by the rest of the world, most of which is still to open. The misleading title, which suggests a music theme rather than a woman avenging her family’s plane crash death, is part of the problem.
Led by “Bad Boys For Life,” the top three titles have remained the same for three weeks. Universal was right to bank on an audience for a reboot of the Dr. Dolittle concept. A 37% drop in its third weekend puts it at $55 million, with $80 million or more domestic likely. It still has at least six major territories to open, so this might reach the $250-300 million range worldwide. That plus subsequent revenues at least will lessen the losses for this $175-million production.
“The Gentleman” (STX) in its second weekend added another $6 million, down 43%. For this weekend, not bad, and suggesting a possible $35-40 domestic haul on a $7 million acquisition (plus marketing costs) from STX.
“Jumanji: The Next Level” (Sony) joined “Knives Out” with an only 22% drop, and when the final numbers come out might rank as high as #4. Like the initial reboot, this continues as a strong franchise, though a $325-million domestic total will fall short of the last one.
Note: Beyond the top three, the rest of the rankings could change on Monday. #4-6 and then #7-11 are virtual ties for now.
The Top Ten
1. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #1
$17,675,000 (-48%) in 3,705 theaters (-70); PTA (per theater average): $4,771; Cumulative: $148,052,000
2. 1917 (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #2
$9,600,000 (-39%) in 3,987 theaters (+50); PTA: $2,423; Cumulative: $119,246,000
3. Dolittle (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$7,700,000 (-37%) in 3,750 theaters (-33); PTA: $2,053; Cumulative: $55,219,000
4. Gretel & Hansel (United Artists) NEW – Cinemascore: C-; Metacritic: 64; Est. budget: $10 million
$6,051,000 in 3,007 theaters; PTA: $2,247; Cumulative: $20,441,000
5. The Gentlemen (STX) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$6,010,000 (-44%) in 2,675 theaters (+510); PTA: $2,247; Cumulative: $20,441,000
6. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #5
$6,000,000 (-22%) in 2,945 theaters (-176); PTA: $2,037; Cumulative: $291,217,000
7. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #7
$3,193,000 (-43%) in 2,202 theaters (-598); PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $507,056,000
8. The Turning (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #6
$3,050,000 (-56%) in 2,571 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,186; Cumulative: $11,705,00
9. Little Women (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend #8
$3,015,000 (-35%) in 2,301 theaters (-227); PTA: $1,310; Cumulative: $98,771,000
10. Rhythm Section (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; $; Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $50 million
$2,800,000 in 3,049 theaters; PTA: $918; Cumulative: $2,800,000