‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is a Failure, and Summer Box Office Could Follow

Women flocked to Amy Schumer comedy "Snatched" and stayed away from tentpole "King Arthur" as the summer box office loses potency.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"
Warner Bros.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” surpassed Warner Bros.’ modest expectations by revealing itself as a full-on belly flop, grossing $14.7 million. While nothing else approaches its level of disaster, it’s a beacon for the weaknesses that have begun to plague summer 2017.

Next week, expect Fox’s “Alien: Covenant” to lead three new summer entries. Ridley Scott’s return to his 1979 classic opened to $42 million in a majority of the world (but not China, among other territories); it will need to soar next weekend at home in order to restore some confidence to the industry.

Kurt Russell Guardians of the Galaxy
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

The Top Ten

1. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (Disney) Week 2- Last weekend #1

$63,007,000 (-57%) in 4,347 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $14,494; Cumulative: $246,164,000

2. Snatched (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 46; $; est. budget: $42 million

$17,500,000 in 3,501 theaters; PTA: $4,999; Cumulative: $17,500,000

3. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 41; $; est. budget: $175 million

$14,700,000 in 3,702 theaters; PTA: $3,971; Cumulative: $14,700,000

4. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) Week 5 – Last weekend #2

$5,301,000 (-38%) in 3,067 theaters (-528); PTA: $1,728; Cumulative: $215,035,000

5. The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox) Week 7 – Last weekend #3

$4,600,000 (-23%) in 2,911 theaters (-373); PTA: $1,580; Cumulative: $162,379,000

6. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) Week 9 – Last weekend #5

$3,860,000 (-24%) in 2,172 theaters (-508); PTA: $1,777; Cumulative: $493,191,000

7. How to Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate) Week 3 – Last weekend #4

$3,750,000 (-27%) in 1,123 theaters (-80); PTA: $3,339; Cumulative: $26,143,000

8. Lowriders (BH Tilt) NEW – Cinemascore:  XXX; Metacritic: 58; Est. budget: $XXX

$2,413,000  in 295 theaters; PTA: $8,180; Cumulative: $2,413,000

9. The Circle (STX)  Week 3 – Last weekend #6

$1,740,000 (-56%) in 2,132 theaters (-1,081); PTA: $816; Cumulative: $18,903,000

10. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Great India) Week 3 – Last weekend #7

$1,550,000 (-54%) in 359 theaters (-60); PTA: $4,133; Cumulative: $18,934,000

The Bad News

While we’re only in week two of the summer season, this weekend’s numbers hold more negative signs than positive. Theaters might still benefit from high product volume, but the studios have spent a record-setting amount for their releases at a time when domestic grosses are at best steady and worldwide growth has stalled. (Of note: While Warners places its budget for “King Arthur” at $175 million, others have estimated its production and marketing costs at $300 million worldwide.)

Mother’s Day Weekend Fell Below Last Year

This weekend’s estimates come in at $119 million for the top 10, down from $123 million a year ago. However, last year saw two modest releases, with a combined cost of $30 million (“Money Monster”  and “The Darkness”), gross just under $20 million. “Snatched” and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” cost far above $200 million and they grossed $32 million.

At worst, “Snatched,” will be a modest money loser and a soon-forgotten footnote in Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn’s careers. But the death of “King Arthur” is historic.

Beyond the red ink, both represent what passes as original product from studios. This summer is top heavy with the tried and true (sequels, remakes, and a handful of hoped-for franchise starters). But a balanced industry needs a mixture, and studios are already wary of taking risks on the unproven. This weekend proves their point.

The Death of “King Arthur” 

Grossing less than 10 percent of its reported $175 million budget is bottom of the barrel. For a new release, its four percent Saturday uptick is discouraging, especially for the would-be elevated pre-Mother’s Day. (Even the already-forgotten “Unforgettable” went up 16 percent its second day; similar to “The Circle,” “Snatched” jumped 29 percent). It’s possible the total domestic haul may not hit $40 million.

The studio wildly miscalculated that it could overcome a hoary story by pouring on the action and fantasy. By contrast, last summer’s “The Legend of Tarzan” might have fallen short of profit, but still managed to attract much more interest.

READ MORE: ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ Is Part ‘Game of Thrones,’ Part ‘Snatch,’ and All Bad — Review

“Tarzan” was a more familiar story that included some romance and and female appeal (with the promise of a sexy leading man in a loincloth). It also had a director (David Yates, with four “Harry Potter” films under his belt) who likely was trusted more to provide a vision than the uneven Guy Ritchie, who came into this project well into its development and following the failure of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (also Warner Bros.)

“King Arthur” managed $29 million in 29 territories and was #1 only in Russia, where “Alien: Covenant” hasn’t opened yet. China only managed $5 million. The U.K., France, and Japan are among those to come,  but it’s tough to project a worldwide total reaching even $200 million.


“Snatched” and Its Mixed Result

By the standards of Mother’s Day female-oriented releases, “Snatched” fared above average. It certainly gets credit for topping the far more expensive “King Arthur.” However, by at least two barometers — the success of Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” as well as its production costs — it fell short.

“Trainwreck,” a July 2015 release with Judd Apatow directing and a script by Schumer, opened to $30 million. It rode word of mouth to $110 million domestic and cost a thrifty $35 million. The results made the slightly higher $42 million budget a reasonable risk.

READ MORE: ‘Snatched’ Review: Goldie Hawn’s Big Screen Return Deserves Better Than Amy Schumer’s Criminally Unfunny Movie

However, “Trainwreck” had the benefit of decent reviews (a 75 Metacritic score, the same as “Bridesmaids”). Here, “Snatched” saw the return of Goldie Hawn in this tale of a mother/daughter exotic vacation gone bad, which should have enhanced interest from older audiences.

“Lowriders” Keeps the Blumhouse Momentum Going

Jason Blum’s operation increasingly is acquiring independent films, and not just in the horror genre. “Lowriders,” which was filmed two years ago and premiered at last June’s Los Angeles Film Festival, is the latest example of their niche BH Tilt distribution arm teaming with up and coming filmmakers and adding some bonus revenue to select theaters.

“Lowriders” is set in the East L.A. Latino car culture, and its release came after it benefitted from trailer exposure via”The Fate of the Furious,” released by Blumhouse partner Universal. It also comes two weeks after the latest Lionsgate/Pantelion Spanish-language market release, “How To Be a Latin Lover.”

READ MORE: This Was the Worst Box Office of 2017 — But ‘How to Be a Latin Lover’ and ‘Baahubali 2’ Were Amazing

The results — $2.4 million in 295 theaters, where it was often the top grosser among new releases — is the latest in the recent trend of films aimed at a specific ethnic subset making the top 10 in targeted theaters.

It did fall 13 percent day two and looks to top out at not much more than $5 million — though without high-end marketing costs. It’s more significant as an example of how niche films outside the normal specialized arena are filling the gaps from more mainstream films.

Statham The Rock Fate of the Furious
“The Fate of the Furious”

Holdovers Thrive, But “Furious” and “Guardians” Are Part of the Problem

Three of the seven holdovers in the top 10 fell less than 30 percent (“The Boss Baby,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “How to Be a Latin Lover”). But the key question is how the two recent worldwide smashes (and strong domestic performers) “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “The Fate of the Furious” are doing compared to similar seasonal entries.

“Guardians” dropped 58 percent, a strong hold for a film that opened at its level, and it’s within range of early May Marvel openers. It is the seventh consecutive Disney first week of May Marvel release to repeat as #1 its second week. And it tripled the grosses of the two leading openers.

READ MORE: ‘The Fate of the Furious’: F. Gary Gray is the First African American To Direct a Billion-Dollar Movie

However, after 10 days it is $50 million short of “Captain America: Civil War” at the same point a year ago. It does stand at 70 percent ahead of the first “Guardians,” an August release that startled the world by increasing eight percent its second weekend.

“Fate” fell only 38 percent, to reach $215 million. While its worldwide run is extraordinary, its domestic take pales beside “Furious 7.” After five weekends, that smash was at $331 million. By comparison, “Fate” will fall short by some $120 million — a worrisome result with so many sequels ahead.

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