Between ‘Marry Me,’ Agatha Christie, and Super Bowl Weekend, Box Office Is Death on the Aisle

"Death on the Nile" and Jennifer Lopez brought wide releases into theaters for Valentine’s Day weekend, but that wasn't enough of a draw.
Death on the Nile
"Death on the Nile"
20th Century Studios

Every year, Super Bowl weekend vies with post-Labor Day and early December for theaters’ rock bottom. This weekend was unusual with three wide releases, at least two aimed at Valentine’s Day-adjacent viewership. That took the box office to $52 million; between 2016-2020, this weekend ranged between $73 million-$100 million.

Death on the Nile” (Disney), Kenneth Branagh’s second Agatha Christie adaptation, took #1 with $12.8 million. “Marry Me” (Universal), also streaming on Peacock, managed only $8 million for third despite proven rom-com draw Jennifer Lopez in the lead.

The biggest villain is how recent releases lack any accumulative impact. This weekend, they accounted for $28 million; in 2020, against the Super Bowl and two weekends before Valentines Day, they managed $70 million. Valentines Day weekend that year brought in $156 million.

Things will get better with “Uncharted” (Sony) next weekend, followed by “The Batman” (Warner Bros.) March 4. The latest D.C. Comics entry will likely cross $100 million on opening weekend. It can’t come too soon.

This calendar weekend versus 2020 represents a 33 percent share — the lowest same week-to-week result in eight months. The rolling four-week comparison for the period is 44 percent, the lowest since August, and a reflection of how we lack any breakout titles since Paramount’s “Scream.”

“Death on the Nile” reflects that shortfall in potential. In 2017, “Murder on the Orient Express” opened to just under $29 million, with Branagh as Inspector Poirot, and Penelope Cruz leading the ensemble cast. For “Nile,” Gal Gadot certainly is as strong a draw. Both films received a B Cinemascore and “Nile” reviews were slightly better.

“Nile” beat “Express” on another front as well: It cost $90 million, more than $35 million more than “Express,” but opened to less than half as much. That almost certainly kills the franchise, at least for theatrical purposes.

Figure Peacock cut into “Marry Me” in theaters. Still: Even if it did 50 percent better with $12 million, that would fall short of a  negligible Lopez effort like the $15 million opening for Universal’s critically reviled romantic thriller “The Boy Next Door” in January 2015. (Reviews for “Marry Me” were considerably better.)

The “Marry Me” performance, combined with the surprise 51 percent male share of the “Nile” audience, reinforces evidence that women still lag far behind men in returning to theaters. How long before this becomes a new normal?

“Blacklight” (Briarcliff), the latest Liam Neeson action film, managed only $3.6 million but that’s good enough this week for #5. Two years ago, that gross wouldn’t make the top 10.

This is also the first post-Oscar nominations weekend. In 2020, when the nominations were announced January 13, the following weekend saw Best Picture nominees gross $33 million. This year, they were barely over $2 million. Seven of the 10 this year also have home access, but it does speak to the overall lower draw.

Despite its disappointing result, “Nile” grossed about $5 million more this weekend than Branagh’s Oscar frontrunner “Belfast” (Focus) has in its entire run. In fact, “Nile” outstripped six of the contenders. Of the four it trails, two grossed only $2 million higher.

LICORICE PIZZA, Bradley Cooper, 2021. © MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Licorice Pizza”©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Licorice Pizza” (United Artists), expanding to over 2,000 theaters, reached $14 million. (“Dune” is the best at $107 million, “West Side Story” is $37 million, and “King Richard” is just under $15 million). Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is the sole Oscar entry in the top 10.

Among holdovers, the two second-week titles collapsed. “Jackass Forever” (Paramount) fell 65 percent; “Moonfall” (Lionsgate) dropped 71 percent.

On February 15, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony) should overtake “Avatar” on the “let’s-pretend-ticket-prices-always-cost-the-same” list of top-grossing films. It held very well, off 25 percent. “Sing 2,” which has had PVOD play since its third weekend, dropped 30 percent and now stands at $143 million.

Among specialized titles, all the standouts are subtitled. “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon), an Oscar nominee for Best International film and Original Screenplay, expanded to 50 theaters in its second weekend with $255,000. That’s a strong result. “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics), with Cruz up for Best Actress, added $163,000 in 221 theaters to pass $1.5 million. “Drive My Car” (Janus) expanded to 127 theaters for $193,000. It will expands further, with a likely total of more than $2 million. That’s staggering for a three-hour Japanese drama. (Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi also wrote and directed  another 2021 film that’s receiving critical acclaim, “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy;” it’s available on VOD.)

MARRY ME, Jennifer Lopez, 2022. ph: Barry Wetcher /© Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Marry Me”Barry Wetcher /© Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The Top 10

1. Death on the Nile (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 53; Est. budget: $90 million

$12,800,000 in 3,280 theaters; PTA: $3,902; Cumulative: $12,800,000

2. Jackass Forever (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$8,050,000 (-65%) in 3,653 (+8) theaters; PTA: $2,204; Cumulative: $37,420,000

3. Marry Me (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $23 million; also streaming on Peacock

$8,000,000 in 3,642 theaters; PTA: $2,167; Cumulative: $8,000,000

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony) Week 9; Last weekend #2

$7,150,000 (-25%) in 3,300 (-300) theaters; PTA: $2,167; Cumulative: $759,001,000

5. Blacklight (Briarcliffe) NEW – Cinemascore:; Metacritic: 32; Est. budget: $43 million

$3,600,000 in 2,772 theaters; PTA: $1,299; Cumulative: $3,600,000

6. Sing 2 (Universal) Week 8; Last weekend #5; also on Premium VOD

$2,950,000 (-30%) in 2,831 (-435) theaters; PTA: $1,042; Cumulative: $143,389,000

7. Moonfall (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$2,850,000 (-71%) in 3,446 (no change) theaters; PTA: $827; Cumulative: $15,153,000

8. Scream (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #4

$2,835,000 (-40%) in 2,619 (-651) theaters; PTA: $1,083; Cumulative: $73,177,000

9. Licorice Pizza (United Artists) Week 12; Last weekend #10

$922,501 (+43%) in 1,977 (+1,191) theaters; PTA: $467; Cumulative: $13,991,000

10. The King’s Man (Disney) Week 8

$433,000 (-65%) in 900 (-1,010) theaters; PTA: $481; Cumulative: $36,748,000


Additional specialized/limited/independent releases 

The Worst Person in the World (Neon) – Week 2

$255,395 in 50 (+46) theaters; PTA: $5,212; Cumulative: $451,768

The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert (Disney) Week 3

$400,000 (%) in 181 (+181) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $900,000

Compartment Number 6 (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$10,433 in 6 (+2) theaters;  Cumulative: $49,903

Who We Are (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$15,182 in 255 (-102) theaters;  Cumulative: $145,746

Jockey (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$15,117 in 78 (+58) theaters; Cumulative: $68,903

Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$163,346 in 221 (-227) theaters; Cumulative: $1,565,000

Nightmare Alley (Searchlight) Week 9; also on PVOD

$85,000 in 405 (-300) theaters; Cumulative: $11,011,000

Drive My Car (Janus) Week 10

$192,949 in 127 (+12) theaters; Cumulative: $1,226,000

Belfast (Focus) Week 14; also on PVOD

$285,000 in 928 (+528) theaters; Cumulative: $7,900.000


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