It’s beginning to look like anything but Christmas at movie theaters. On a weekend where normally multiple films would open, including some of the biggest hits ever (“Titanic,” “Avatar,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” among them), the total for all titles looks to fall short of $9 million.
The top film this weekend has, at times, taken more than $100 million, and usually at least $50 million. That’s despite the usual competition of pre-holiday events vying for attention.
Normalcy would also include the release of major films, more than 4,000 theaters playing the biggest hits, and not to mention the absence of a pandemic killing more than 3,000 people a day. Things are different this year: Fewer than 40 percent of theaters are open, with 150 less than even last weekend.
That allowed “Monster Hunter” (Sony) to claim the top spot this year with $2.2 million in 1,736 theaters. From veteran genre maven Paul W.S. Anderson, starring his “Resident Evil” lead (and wife) Milla Jovovich, this is a film that normally might take advantage of an off-week midwinter, or around Labor Day, to bring in action fans and maximize interest with less competition.
This year, they got the less-attention part down pat. But unlike the titles in his successful “Resident” franchise, which always have opened to over $10 million, and sometimes double that or more, and then reaped substantial foreign bounties, that won’t repeat here. The video-game based film cost around $60 million, making the shortfall more acute. Early foreign returns (including a disastrous, pulled Chinese run over perceived racism) are little more than $10 million so far.
Could this have scored better as a Premium Video on Demand or streaming release? Impossible to say, and of course, based on current window acceptance by theaters, perhaps it will show up soon. But this is a horrible result. Predicting grosses is unscientific these days, but $4 million seemed to be a reasonable guess for a weak but understandable outcome. The result is barely half of that.
“Monster Hunter” did eclipse the other film taking advantage of the opportunity — a generous description for the current situation. That was “Fatale” (Lionsgate), a variation on “Fatal Attraction” with Hilary Swank. Opening in 1,107 locations, it grossed $925,000. Again, this made more sense than going straight for home attention? That will be better seen when those results can be analyzed down the road.
Premium VOD access for “The Croods: A New Age” (Universal) likely cost the DreamWorks Animation release the top spot. Its 35-percent drop was modest, but a slew of family-oriented library titles had small drops, if any, this weekend. That suggests it might have held better without the competition; the film also lost 209 theaters, some because of reluctance to assent to home availability dates one week earlier than originally planned. Universal moved it up, presumably related to both “Soul” (Disney) and “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros.) soon available free to subscribers on their studios’ streaming sites. (“Croods” costs $19.99 for a two-day rental).
That was the same drop seen by “The War With Grandpa” (101), the longer running comedy that has clicked ahead of most recent releases. That also popped up on VOD this week (at $14.99).
Only three of this week’s top 10 are unavailable for home viewing (among VOD and streaming options), with one of them (“Half Brothers”/Focus) added to that option this week. Next Friday does bring three wide theater-only releases. “News of the World” (Universal), “Promising Young Woman” (Focus), and “Pinocchio” (Roadside Attractions) open along with the day-and-date release of “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters and on HBO Max. That result is among the year’s most anticipated.
Patty Jenkins’ film opened initially in 32 territories to under $40 million, about half in China. This comes in about half of the original film. How much of that is COVID related? With its female lead, it was actually not as big a hit overseas in 2017 as domestic (the shares ended up equal), and as a sequel around a holiday date without much competition (other than China, where it came in second), that doesn’t sound great. But as more locations open and the actual holiday sets in, this is just an initial take.
The Top 10
1. Monster Hunter (Sony) NEW – Metacritic: 42; Est. budget: $60 million
$2,200,000 in 1,736 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,267; Cumulative: $2,200,000
2. The Croods: A New Age (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #1; also available on Premium VOD
$2,000,000 (-35%) in 1,906 theaters (-209); PTA: $1,049; Cumulative: $27,030,000
3. Fatale (Lionsgate) NEW – Metacritic: 43
$925,000 in 1,107 theaters; PTA: $836; Cumulative: $925,000
4. Elf (Warner Bros.) REISSUE – Last weekend #3; also available on VOD
$(est.) 400,000 (no change) in 555 theaters (-82); PTA: $1,045; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 267,300,000
5. Half Brothers (Focus) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$260,000 (-47%) in 846 theaters (-540); PTA: $307; Cumulative: $1,797,000
6. The Polar Express (Disney) REISSUE – Last weekend #7; also available on VOD
$(est.) 225,000 (-8%) in 440 theaters (-51); PTA: $511; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 285,700,000
7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Warner Bros.) REISSUE – Last weekend #6; also available on VOD
$(est.) 220,000 (-8%) in 487 theaters (-47); PTA: $452; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 168,600,000
8. The War With Grandpa (101) Week 10; Last weekend #6; also available on Premium VOD
$170,000 (-34%) in 803 theaters (-277); PTA: $212; Cumulative: $18,187,000
9. Freaky (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #4; also available on Premium VOD
$165,000 (-48%) in 561 theaters (-674); PTA: $294; Cumulative: $8,500,000
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal) REISSUE – Last weekend #16; also available on Netflix
$(est.) 120,000 (-8%) in 217 theaters (-57); PTA: $553; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 451,300,000