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  1. 'It' Could Scare Up $50 Million on Opening Weekend

    Hollywood's prospects at the box office this summer have been downright scary, with the industry seeing a more than 4 percent slump in receipts compared to 2016. But studio Warner Bros. is hoping to scare up some big numbers when Stephen King adaptation "It" hits theaters next month, and is already predicting a huge opening weekend for the horror flick.

    Variety reports that early tracking for the feature is currently sitting around $50 million, and that has a lot to do with its pedigree. "It" is one of King's most famous and most beloved novels, and the buzz around the flick has been deafening, with the trailer snagging almost 200 million views in its first 24 hours of release.

    While the adaptation was initially beset by production woes (original director Cary Fukunaga abruptly departed the project due to creative differences, and the flick was briefly put on hold before a replacement was found), it quickly got back on track with director Andres Muschietti. Filmmakers have been teasing out some truly terrifying details about the flick, and fans seem eager to finally see Pennywise on the big screen (especially after the cheesy "It" TV miniseries, starring Tim Curry as the evil clown, failed to truly please King devotees).

    Some insiders tell Variety that $50 million may be a bit of a high estimate for "It," with a haul in the $40 million range more likely. But the trade reports that "all signs are that 'It/ will be a major hit ... and should kick off the fall moviegoing season on a high note." King fans can raise a red balloon to that.

    "It" hits theaters on September 8.

    [via: Variety]

  2. Here's Why 'Annabelle: Creation' Is the Summer's Last Box Office Hit

    Hollywood got two truly terrifying frights this weekend. One came from horror spinoff "Annabelle: Creation," which scared up an estimated $35.0 million in ticket sales to top the box office chart. The other fright was from the chart as a whole, which marked this as the lowest-grossing weekend of an already dismal summer.

    "Annabelle," the fourth movie in the successful "Conjuring" franchise, performed as well as pundits had predicted. But its chief rival, cartoon sequel "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," opened in third place with only an estimated $8.9 million, underperforming even the most pessimistic predictions. This despite the fact that there hasn't been an animated hit in months, that kids are still out of school, and that "Nut Job 2" opened on 4,003 screens to become one of the widest independent releases of all time.

    And then there's wannabe awards hopeful "The Glass Castle," which opened way down in ninth place with an estimated $4.9 million. That's just a tad below predictions, and since it only opened on 1,461 screens, that makes for an okay $3,337 per theater. ("Nut Job 2" earned just $2,232 per screen.) Still, it's pretty weak for a drama that hopes to last long enough to ride into the fall season as an Oscar banner-waver.

    How did "Annabelle" manage to pull fans into theaters during a dog-days summer season? Here are some of the factors behind this weekend's good-news-bad-news box office.

    Hollywood tends to ignore women audience members at the box office, but at least half of this weekend's top 10 movies feature female stars -- or predominantly female casts -- and cater to majority-female audiences. These include "Annabelle" (horror movies tend to draw more women than men), comedy "Girls Trip," Halle Berry thriller "Kidnap," "Glass Castle" (an adaptation of Jeannette Walls' best-selling memoir of her Dickensian childhood), and Charlize Theron spy thriller "Atomic Blonde." There's also "Nut Job 2," whose audience turned out to be 57 percent female.

    Since "Annabelle" was always going to be the strongest draw of these films, it may have drawn much of the female audience that might otherwise have made hits out of the other new releases -- and already has, to varying degrees, for holdovers "Girls Trip," "Kidnap," and "Atomic Blonde."
    "Glass Castle" was always going to skew older; it's a period piece for a literary audience, one that probably read Walls' book back in 2005 when she published it. Surprisingly, "Annabelle" skewed older as well, drawing 54 percent of its viewers from the 25-and-over crowd. Even more surprising was that half of the "Nut Job 2" viewers were over 18, which suggests that the audience contained as many parents as kids.

    Reviews, once again, continue to dictate in part box office spending. Critics were unusually kind to "Annabelle," giving it a 69 percent "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. Then again, distributor New Line went out of its way to cultivate their good will. Most horror distributors ignore critics, figuring that they can either avoid screening the film for reviewers or just pay no mind to the reviews because horror fans usually don't care what the critics think.
    New Line, however, actually booked "Annabelle" in film festivals to get positive early buzz among a handful of critics, which then spread among their colleagues. That, in turn, could explain why older moviegoers came out for this one, since they actually do still read reviews.

    The paradox is that the critics actually liked "Annabelle" better than paying customers, who gave the horror prequel a meh B grade at CinemaScore once they saw it, after being lured to the theater by strong buzz. "Nut Job 2" actually got a better CinemaScore grade (B+), and that's still pretty bad for an animated movie. (Critics gave "Nut Job 2" just a "Rotten" 12 percent at Rotten Tomatoes.)

    "Glass Castle" may have been trolling for awards, with its prestige source material and prestige cast, led by recent Oscar-winner Brie Larson. But its reviews have been middling, just 49 percent fresh at RT. After a summer of Hollywood complaints about how low RT scores are driving customers away, here at last is some proof. An awards-hopeful drama seeking an audience of older viewers really does depend on critics' good will in order to succeed at the box office, and "Glass Castle" didn't have it.

    Just as it's hard to be a female-targeted movie at a time when there's a glut, it's also good to be the first acclaimed horror movie in a summer that's barely seen any horror releases at all. And it's not good to be a poorly-reviewed cartoon two weeks after another disappointing cartoon ("The Emoji Movie") left audiences feeling burned.
    It's also hard to be an Oscar-seeking movie in August. Sure, "Glass Castle" pretty much has the field to itself right now; distributor Lionsgate may not have wanted it to compete against easier-sell prestige movies that tend to proliferate in the fall months. But it didn't get the reviews it needed to succeed now, and it may peak too early in the awards conversation, to be superseded by newer, stronger films as the end of the year approaches. ("Dunkirk" took the same risk with its July release, but at least it's cleaned up at the box office, with $153.7 million earned so far, which will help voters remember it later.)

    No one really expects much from the multiplex in mid-August. The hyped, would-be blockbusters have usually all come out by this time, and there's not much to look forward to until after Labor Day. That's why it was such a surprise this time last year when "Sausage Party" became a hit (it opened with $34.2 million, nearly as much as "Annabelle: Creation" this weekend).

    This weekend last year also saw the releases of "Pete's Dragon" (a kid movie reboot that disappointed at the box office), "Florence Foster Jenkins" (a period biopic whose critical and commercial response were analogous to "Glass Castle," though Meryl Streep's performance was still memorable enough to earn her an Oscar nomination), and "Hell or High Water" (another indie Oscar-hopeful that rode its strong reviews to a Best Picture nomination.) Still, despite the similarities, last August also had two big late-season hits: comic book film "Suicide Squad" and horror smash "Don't Breathe."

    Nothing like those films has opened (or is likely to open) this August. No wonder this weekend's box office total of about $118.2 million is the lowest of the summer, and that the summer as a whole has come in about 10 percent below last summer's take up to this point.

    Along with Rotten Tomatoes, that's been Hollywood's other scapegoat for poor summer sales. It certainly explains the lack of enthusiasm for "Nut Job 2," whose 2014 predecessor wasn't that beloved to begin with. Then again, new franchises ("The Dark Tower"), original-screenplay comedies and horror movies ("The House," "Wish Upon"), and non-franchise prestige dramas ("Detroit") haven't done that well either. About the only movies that have done well this summer are superhero franchise movies.

    At least "Annabelle" proves that you don't have to wear spandex to have a successful franchise. Sure, "Creation" has the lowest opening of the four, but they've all been in the same ballpark. (The highest was the original 2013 "Conjuring," with $41.9 million, just $6.9 million more than "Creation.")

    Worldwide, the franchise has earned a shocking $967 million after just four movies, making it the fourth biggest horror franchise of all time (after "Alien," "The Mummy," and "Resident Evil"). With more sequels and spinoffs on the way "Conjuring" will continue to be one of the few non-superhero franchises that doesn't give studio executives nightmares.

  3. Box Office: 'Annabelle: Creation' Conjuring $36 Million Domestic Debut

    LOS ANGELES ( - "Annabelle: Creation" isn't just fleshing out New Line Cinema's self-proclaimed "Conjuring Universe," it's also helping to save the back half of the summer box office. The prequel to 2014's "Annabelle" is conjuring up a $36 million domestic debut.

    According to estimates, Warner Bros.' supernatural horror will easily win its opening weekend after taking in $15 million from 3,502 locations on Friday, including Thursday night previews. Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, and Anthony LaPaglia star in the origin story behind the killer, antique doll from director David F. Sandberg.

    Also in the double digits for WB, "Dunkirk" continues to steamroll its blockbuster competition in second place. Despite being in its fourth frame, Christopher Nolan's World War II drama is expected to add just under $11 million to its total after making just over $3 million from 3,762 screens on Friday. That number is also expected to officially put "Dunkirk" over the $150 million marker domestically with $153 million.

    New entry "Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" also managed to snag a spot in the top 3, despite only pulling off an $8 million heist. The sequel to 2014's "The Nut Job" scored just shy of $3 million from 4,003 screens on Friday. Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Brendan Frasier, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, and Jackie Chan lend their voices for the Open Road animation.

    Elsewhere, last week's winner "The Dark Tower" falls from No. 1 to No. 4. It seems the negative word of mouth/press has halted Sony's Stephen King adaptation in its second frame. After making just over $2 million from 3,451 locales on Friday, "The Dark Tower" is only expected to make $7.5 million this time around.

    Last but certainly not least, "Girls Trip" is still going strong. Universal's Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish R-rated comedy took in another $2 million from just 2,303 venues on Friday. That number will translate to a solid $6 million fourth frame, bringing "Girls Trip" to a near-milestone -- $96 million domestic.

    "The Emoji Movie," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Kidnap," new entry "The Glass Castle," and "Atomic Blonde" round out the rest of the top 10.

  4. 'Wonder Woman' Soars to $400 Million Domestic Haul

    "Wonder Woman" is continuing its super run at the box office, officially crossing the $400 million threshold at domestic theaters and marking several more impressive milestones along the way.

    The flick, starring Gal Gadot as the titular DC Comics heroine, hit $400 million on Tuesday, adding to a haul that has already edged out "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" to become the most successful domestic property among Warner Bros.'s recent DC Extended Universe releases. And it shows no signs of slowing down: "Wonder Woman" is now the studio's third-highest grossing flick domestically overall, beating "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" ($381 million) to stand behind only Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" ($534.9 million) and "The Dark Knight Rises" ($448.1 million).

    Earlier this summer, the Patty Jenkins flick soared past "Mamma Mia!" to become the highest-grossing live-action film ever directed by a woman, and now has a whopping $795 million in global ticket sales. Domestically, it's the highest-grossing movie of the summer, and the second-highest grossing female-fronted domestic flick of the entire year so far, behind only "Beauty and the Beast" ($504 million).

    "'Wonder Woman' has become a phenomenon, the must-see movie of the summer," said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Warner Bros., in a statement. "Audiences have embraced this character and her story in such a spectacular fashion, and we couldn't be happier for everyone involved in bringing this incredible property to life and to cinemas across the country."

    After so much success, it's no surprise that "Wonder Woman 2" is already a go, slated for release on December 13, 2019. By then, the first flick will likely have made even more history.

    [via: The Hollywood Reporter]

  5. 'Despicable Me' Is Now the Highest-Grossing Animated Film Franchise Ever

    Move over, Shrek, there's a new king of the animation box office: The "Despicable Me" franchise -- which also includes the "Minions" movie -- has officially dethroned the green ogre to become the highest-grossing series of animated films of all time.

    "Despicable" claimed its crown thanks to the impressive recent haul of the threequel "Despicable Me 3," which bowed back in June and has so far raked in a whopping $880 million worldwide. Adding that impressive number to the series's total earnings so far leaves the franchise's four flicks -- 2010's "Despicable Me," 2013's "Despicable Me 2," 2015 spinoff "Minions," and "Despicable Me 3" -- with a jaw-dropping cumulative sum of $3.528 billion in ticket sales, just edging out the "Shrek" series's total of $3.51 billion.

    That success is thanks largely in part to the insane popularity of the Minions, both the movie and the characters themselves. The ubiquitous little yellow guys, who first popped up as the sidekicks to Steve Carell's Gru in "Despicable Me," spawned their own spinoff series ("Minions 2" is due out in 2020), and can be found plastered on pretty much every consumer product you can think of (clothes, toys, videos, school supplies, even Nutella). Deadline reports that "Minions" is now "the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time and the most profitable movie in Universal's history."

    "Despicable Me 3" is still earning solid numbers at the worldwide box office, and this total will likely rise. While a fourth "DM" flick doesn't have an official green light just yet, it seems like a safe bet that the series will go on, especially if Universal can keep converting cute yellow creatures into box office gold.

    [via: Deadline]

  6. Here's How You Killed 'The Dark Tower' Franchise at the Box Office

    Is "The Dark Tower" a hit or a flop? Well, no one waited ten years to adapt it just to take home less than $20 million opening weekend, so it's definitely a disappointment.

    The Stephen King adaptation debuted at No. 1 this weekend, ending "Dunkirk's" two-week reign. And it earned about as much as pundits predicted it would. On the other hand, that figure was just an estimated $19.5 million, not a promising number for a franchise launcher.

    Results for this weekend's two other new wide releases were just as ambivalent. Halle Berry's "Kidnap" debuted in fifth place with a slightly better-than-expected $10.2 million. Kathryn Bigelow's historical drama "Detroit" expanded wide from 30 theaters to 3,007 and earned an estimated $7.3 million, good for eighth place. That sounds strong for a period piece with no big-name stars, until you realize that it amounts to just $2,411 per screen. (And hopes were originally forecasted in the $13 million range.)

    How, then, to interpret this weekend's box office results? Maybe with these five lessons in mind.

    1. Stop Blaming Rotten Tomatoes
    Hollywood's spent all summer complaining that the review-aggregator site is hurting the box office because potential customers are paying attention to low review scores, especially when those scores are posted at advance-sale site Fandango. The industry's solution, however, has not been to resolve to make better movies, but to try to game the system. That's not hard to do; just withhold screenings from critics or embargo their reviews until right before the film opens.

    That's what happened this weekend with "Dark Tower" and "Kidnap." Both scored poorly at RT (18 and 40 percent, respectively), but viewers may not have been aware of the dismal reviews until they'd already bought tickets. So those films' distributors can pat themselves on the back for releasing movies that opened in line with expectations despite grim RT scores.

    Still, word-of-mouth is weak for "Dark Tower" (audiences gave it just a B grade at CinemaScore), which suggests that the movie will see a steep drop next weekend. Meanwhile, "Detroit" had excellent word-of-mouth and reviews (88 percent "Fresh"), and it still struggled to find an audience. At best, then, the jury remains out on the influence of Rotten Tomatoes.

    2. Hollywood's Diversity Issues Are More Complex Than They Seem
    Walter (Matthew McConaughey) and Roland (Idris Elba) in Columbia Pictures THE DARK TOWER.Do black stars sell tickets? Do female stars? What about female directors? This weekend's box office posed all those questions, and the answers are not entirely clear.

    It's remarkable that all three of this weekend's new wide releases star black actors. When's the last time that happened? (And how long before it happens again?) And for what its worth, African-American viewers came out in large numbers for all three movies. According to PostTrak, they made up 40 percent of "Detroit's" audience, 25 percent of "Kidnap" viewers, and 23 percent of "Dark Tower" ticket buyers. Given the so-so returns of all three movies, the question is, will those stars get any credit for whatever success these films may claim, or will they be blamed for the movies' not doing any better?

    And how does gender fit in? Consider Idris Elba, age 44. Critics like him, and the Internet swoons for him, but despite some high profile roles in ensemble casts of hit movies, he's never opened a picture by himself. Even for the semi-success of "Dark Tower," he has to share credit with the more established Matthew McConaughey.

    Now, look at Halle Berry, age 50. She's been a star for 25 years, she won a historic Oscar, and she had a lead role in a successful superhero franchise. Yet, despite audience fascination with her personal life, she also doesn't sell many tickets. Her last minor hit was "The Call" four years ago; her current movie, which has a similar premise, has been on the shelf for three years. Its modest success, however, can be credited entirely to her.

    Then there's Kathryn Bigelow, an Oscar-winning director who routinely creates exciting, action-packed, visually appealing, substantive movies, and does so on a budget. How many doors will open for her after "Detroit"?

    According to PostTrak, women over 25 made up the largest fraction (more than 40 percent) of both "Kidnap" and "Detroit" viewers. That's a feat worth noting; indeed, maybe the real lesson here is not to release two movies going after the same demographic group on the same weekend.

    3. Keep the Budgets Low
    If there's any reason at all for Sony not to be disappointed by a potential franchise launcher's failure to crack $20 million, it's that "Dark Tower" cost just $60 million to make. (What's more, Sony's on the hook for only half of that; the rest came from another company, MRC.) That's an absurdly low figure for an effects-heavy fantasy film with two reasonably big stars, and a decade's worth of development costs.

    So far, the movie's made only about $28 million worldwide, which means a long climb toward the $120 million (at least) it would need to become profitable. Still, the movie is cheap enough that Sony's losses, if any, won't be much, and the studio could eventually profit from the "Dark Tower" TV series that may follow, which would make the movie essentially just an expensive trailer.

    "Detroit" cost a reported $34 million, so its $7.8 million take so far means it also has a long way to go before profitability. Still, $34 million is chump change to Hollywood. If the "Detroit" can remain solid in theaters for the next month -- pretty likely, since it has strong word-of-mouth (an A- at CinemaScore) and since its only competition in the thoughtful, awards-worthy historical action/drama space is "Dunkirk" -- it could still break even.

    It's not clear how much "Kidnap" cost to make, but Berry is a producer of the film, which means she probably took just a modest salary up front in return for a percentage of the profits. And new distributor Aviron picked up the film from Relativity's bankruptcy sale for a song -- just $3 million. So Aviron has to be ecstatic over the film's $10.2 million weekend, and Berry will likely pocket some change, too.

    4. Fan Service Is Important
    The reason it took a decade to make "Dark Tower" is that there was no way to condense Stephen King's multiple volumes into a single film. Back in 2011, producer Ron Howard had floated the idea of making a combination of several movies and a TV series, but even with a "Dark Tower" show in the works, it's clear from the current 95-minute film that Howard's had to scale down his ambitions. If anything, rather than tackle the totality of KIng's complex mythology, the new movie punts it down the road for the series to address. So it's no wonder fans were disappointed by what they saw as a thumbnail sketch of what they loved from the books.

    Give "Kidnap" credit, at least, for delivering what Berry fans have come to expect from her recent films: action sequences and Berry unleashing righteous-mom fury on bad guys. "Kidnap" was never going to earn Berry another Oscar, but it did earn her a B+ from audiences at CinemaScore.

    5. Leave August for Comic Book Movies
    This was the lowest-grossing weekend so far of an already lackluster summer. Not only are sales about 10 percent behind what they were by this time last summer, but this weekend's total ticket take was just an estimated $111.5 million. A year ago this weekend, "Suicide Squad" opened and earned $22.2 million more by itself than all of this weekend's movies combined.

    There's been a lot of grumbling about franchise fatigue this summer, but this weekend saw the debut of a new franchise and two original screenplays, and the novelty didn't really help. Meanwhile, superhero movies seem to be immune to franchise fatigue, judging by the successes so far of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "Wonder Woman" (which this weekend came within $500,000 of crossing the $400 million mark in domestic sales).

    Elba's Gunslinger may be the closest thing to a superhero in all of King's writings, but unless he's rubbing spandex-clad shoulders with Batman or Iron Man, he might as well be just another cowboy.

  7. Box Office: 'Dark Tower' Leads Slow Weekend, 'Detroit' Stumbles

    Box Office: Idris Elba in THE DARK TOWERBy Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, Aug 6 ( - As the dog days of summer drag on, a trio of wide releases are kicking off the August box office with a whimper.

    The weekend's leader is "The Dark Tower." Sony and MRC's long-time-coming Stephen King adaptation starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey is landing on a modest $19.5 million from 3,451 locations. Made for about $66 million counting reshoots, the story centers on a boy (played by Tom Taylor) who discovers another dimension where he aligns himself with a Gunslinger (Elba) on a mission to save the world from various enemies, including the Man in Black (McConaughey). Critics mostly panned the movie, leading to its current 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

    Meanwhile, Annapurna's "Detroit" is not faring as well as expected. Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's latest collaboration should end up with $7.3 million from 3,007 locations this weekend. Combined with a week of limited release grosses, its total should stand at $7.8 million. An awards-season push could end up helping its bottom line. So far, critics are on board, earning the tale of the Motor City's 1967 riots a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is toplined by "Star Wars" breakout John Boyega, as well as Will Poulter, and Algee Smith.

    That leaves "Kidnap" -- from David Dinerstein's recently-launched Aviron, and Lotus -- which is racing to $10.2 million from 2,378 locations. The movie stars Halle Berry as a mother attempting to rescue her son after he is taken. Aviron acquired the film from a bankrupt Relativity, but the distributor declined to release the thriller's acquisition cost, making it difficult to judge its performance.

    "Dunkirk," the box office winner the past two weekends, is sliding comfortably into second with $17.6 million from 4,014 locations. Christopher Nolan's World War II movie crossed the $300 million mark on Saturday, and by the end of the weekend should tally a $133.6 million domestic total. This weekend it looks to make about $4 million from Imax screens alone, which will count for $29.8 million of the movie's domestic grosses. Warner Bros. also continues to see profits from "Wonder Woman," which will land right up against the $400 million domestic milestone by the end of this weekend.

    In limited release, TWC's "Wind River" should make $164,167 from four locations. The film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and marks Taylor Sheridan's directorial debut. Sheridan conceived the movie as part of a loose trilogy that also includes two recent releases that he wrote, but did not direct, "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water."

    All this on the calendar spot that last year's "Suicide Squad" bucked conventional release date wisdom with a record-breaking $133.7 million domestic opening. This summer has lagged overall due to a number of big-budget movies flopping or underperforming, and this latest showing will only put the business farther behind.

  8. Here's How 'Dunkirk' Crushed 'Emoji Movie' at the Box Office

    On paper -- or maybe on a smart phone screen -- "The Emoji Movie" may have looked like a sure thing. It's a family-friendly cartoon based on the emoticons that every texting kid with opposable thumbs knows and loves. To attract parents, it has a voice cast of popular stars. And it's from the studio that turned a phone game into a cartoon smash ("The Angry Birds Movie") last summer.

    In fact, "Emoji" did surpass the modest expectations held by both its studio (Sony) and box office experts. Most predicted a debut of around $20 million for the cartoon, yet it premiered with an estimated $2.7 million. Among new wide releases, "Emoji" beat Charlize Theron's spy thriller "Atomic Blonde," which underperformed slightly with an estimated $18.6 million and debuted in fourth place.

    Even so, "Emoji" wasn't strong enough to overcome "Dunkirk," a week-old movie aimed at much older audiences, with no box office stars. The World War II drama finished first again with an estimated $28.1 million. Bad reviews and less-than-okay audience ratings lead to "Emoji" striking out. Here are a few more reasons:

    1. Buzz
    Families can smell a bad movie, even a kid-oriented one, and stay away/not give it their box office. And the Friday to Saturday decline for "Emoji" looks like that's exactly what happened.

    "Dunkirk" has some of the year's best reviews (with a 93 percent fresh score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes) and audience word-of-mouth (an A- at CinemaScore). Critics also liked "Atomic Blonde" (75 percent at RT), but audiences were less thrilled (a B at CinemaScore).

    Viewers gave "Emoji" a B, which is a very weak grade for a cartoon. And critics absolutely hated it (8 percent "Rotten"). A kid-appeal movie like "Emoji" ought to be critic-proof, but the CinemaScore grade indicates that paying customers were as disappointed as reviewers were. And Sony must have known critics wouldn't like it, since it withheld the film from them until the last minute. Hollywood has been complaining all summer that low scores on Rotten Tomatoes are hurting sales, but having no score at all doesn't necessarily help.

    2. Audience
    Kids' movies are not the automatic gold mine they once were. Look at this summer's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," which topped out at $20.7 million, or Sony's own recent "Smurfs: The Lost Village," whose $45.0 million domestic take is by far the lowest for the three "Smurfs" movies. The reason? Kids don't always make the ticket-buying decisions. Often, their parents do, and there was little about the film that appealed to grown-ups.

    3. Female Appeal
    Still, to the extent that it's moms choosing which movie for the family to see, "Emoji" had a slight edge, drawing an audience that was 52 percent women and girls. Indeed female appeal has been the story of the summer, from "Wonder Woman" (at $395.4 million, it's the summer's biggest hit and the third biggest domestic hit of all time for Warner Bros., behind only Christopher Nolan's last two Batman movies) to "Girls Trip" (this weekend's third place finisher, with a strong $20.1 million in its second weekend).

    4. Timing
    "Atomic Blonde" took some advantage of the girl-power trend, though it had to settle for sharing the female audience with "Girls Trip" and the action audience with "Dunkirk" and several other holdover hits. It might have done better had it opened a week or two later, or it might have struggled against Stephen King fantasy epic "The Dark Tower" and Halle Berry's "Kidnap."

    "Emoji," however, benefited from being released a full month after the last major kids' cartoon, "Despicable Me 3," so it pretty much had the marketplace to itself.

    5. Star Power Is a Big Deal
    For the second straight week, the biggest name at the box office wasn't anyone in front of the camera; rather, it was "Dunkirk" director Nolan. Theron does well at the box office among ensemble casts -- like this spring's "Fate of the Furious," or recent hits "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Prometheus." She's much less a draw on her own or as the biggest name in a cast ("The Huntsman: Winter's War").

    As for "Emoji," many of the comedy-credentialed names in the voice cast (T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph) don't matter to kids and won't necessarily impress adults. Casting a beloved Shakespearean thespian (Patrick Stewart) as the poop emoji isn't going to fool grown-ups into thinking "Emoji" is a prestige picture.

    6. Social Media
    Of course, "Emoji" was made to be marketed on your kids' phones. Sony partnered with numerous apps to release "Emoji"-branded content. And "Emoji" stars like Christina Aguilera and Sofia Vergara were able to leverage their large social media followings into interest in the movie.

    7. IMAX and Cool Fight Scenes > Emojis
    Style was part of the selling point for "Atomic Blonde," thanks to both its period setting and director David Leitch's ("John Wick") ability to stage inventive action scenes on a small budget ($30 million). "Emoji" was also low-budget ($50 million, a pittance by animation standards), but its cheapness shows. "Dunkirk," however, remains the current visual champ, with its wide-screen battle scenes. It's currently hoarding the nation's IMAX and large-format venues, resulting in a full $22 million of its $102.8 million earned to date coming from the giant screens and their ticket surcharges.

    To the extent that it takes eye-grabbing, immersive spectacle to draw moviegoers out of their living rooms and into the theaters, "Dunkirk" has a clear advantage.

    Adults may not be as fluent as kids are in the language of emojis, but a blank space at RT the day before a movie opens is a sign that smart, ticket-buying moms know how to read.

  9. Box Office: 'Dunkirk' Destroys 'The Emoji Movie' and 'Atomic Blonde'

    By Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, June 25 ( -- An unlikely battle emerged at the box office this weekend between "The Emoji Movie" and "Dunkirk." As of Saturday morning the animated feature and war epic seemed to be in a dead heat. But by Sunday morning, most of the dust had settled, and it appears "Dunkirk" will once again be the weekend's first place film.

    Christopher Nolan's latest from Warner Bros. over-performed last weekend when it opened to over $50 million, showing that the director, combined with positive critical reception, still has a strong draw — even for a movie lacking movie star power, and at risk of being written off as yet another World War II movie. This time around it looks to take in $28.1 million from 3,748 locations, for a strong hold.

    It's the first time that a movie has been first place two weekends in a row since the same studio's "Wonder Woman" in early June. Patty Jenkins' movie has had a phenomenal run since, and is currently closing in on $400 million domestic (right now it's at $395.4 million).

    That means Sony's "Emoji Movie" is in second for the weekend with $25.7 million from 4,075 locations. The animated adventure took a lot of heat from critics — reaction ranged from meh to horrible, earning its current Rotten Tomatoes score of 8%. Its B CinemaScore is also quite low for an animated movie, meaning audiences aren't particularly enjoying the movie either.

    T.J. Miller plays the central character, a "Meh" emoji who has "no filter," meaning his expression can change. The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast, which includes James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Christina Aguilera, and Sofia Vergara. Oh yeah, and Sir Patrick Stewart plays "Poop."

    "We're thrilled," said Sony's marketing chief Josh Greenstein. "The audience has spoken and made the 'Emoji Movie' a family event."

    That leaves this week's other major release, "Atomic Blonde" somewhat straggling. Focus Features and Sierra/Affinity is looking at a decent, but slightly below expectations launch for the Charlize Theron-starrer with $18.5 million from 3,304 locations. Earlier in the week "Blonde" was pegged at $20 million, but the opening weekend result is still solid considering its $30 million budget. It's also one of the largest launches for Focus, behind only "Insidious Chapter 3" ($22.7 million); "London Has Fallen" ($21.6 million); and "Burn After Reading" ($19.1 million).

    The R-rated spy thriller has been compared to a female "Bond" or "John Wick." After all, it shares DNA with the latter in stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, who will next helm the "Deadpool" sequel. "Blonde's" launch is bigger than the first "Wick," which opened in Fall 2014 to $14.4 million, but less than its sequel ($30.4 million).

    In "Blonde," Theron plays a hardcore action star — the type of character that knocked out audiences in "Mad Max: Fury Road" — named Lorraine Broughton. The rest of the cast includes James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Sofia Boutella.

    "We're very happy with the opening. I feel this movie is going to have legs to it," said Lisa Bunnell, distribution chief at Focus Features.

    Bunnell also pointed to Focus' commitment to putting women in and front and behind the camera with recent releases including "The Beguiled" and "The Zookeeper's Wife." "There's always a thought process behind 'Let's see some diversity,'" she said. "This is definitely a movie where Charlize takes center stage ... she can fight men, and she can beat men, so it's a really empowering movie to go see."

    "Blonde" will land just below the summer comedy event that "Girls Trip" has become. Universal's release is posting $20.1 million during its second weekend from 2,648 theaters, for only a 36% drop from last weekend. Conversely, EuropaCorp and STX's "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" flopped last weekend, and is falling off fast. This weekend, Luc Besson's epic domestic dud should make $6.8 million from 3,553 locations.

    Annapurna showed Kathryn Bigelow's "Detroit" at 20 locations before its wide rollout next weekend. From those theaters, the critically approved crime drama took in $365,455 for a per screen average of $18,273.

    "We're seeing that first and foremost, people are really into the movie," said Annapurna's distribution head Erik Lomis, who pointed to strong exit information, including 71% of the audience marked "definite recommend." "It's a Kathryn Bigelow film, so it's for everybody," he added.

    To treat the bigger picture, this weekend is not good news for the summer box office overall, which is now 8.1% behind last year.

    "We have been in a major struggle to compare favorably with last year's summer season week after week and with yet another 'down' weekend on the books, the summer deficit just added another percentage point in the wrong direction," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore, who pointed out that this weekend's crop could not compete with 2016's "Jason Bourne" and "Bad Moms." Looking ahead, the first weekend in August seems to signal even more gloom and doom, as several films will be measured up against "Suicide Squad's" record breaking August 2016 tally.

  10. 'Girls Trip' Has Best R-Rated Comedy Opening in 2 Years

    Moviegoers wanted to get rowdy this weekend -- just look the success of "Girls Trip."

    The funny flick exceeded box office expectations this weekend and ultimately had the best opening for an R-rated comedy since 2015. With Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish as stars, "Girls Trip" bowed to more than $30.4 million, according to THR. It topped Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck ($30.1 million) and came close to Mark Wahlberg's "Ted 2" ($33.5 million), both of which opened in 2015.

    Notably, "Girls Trip" is another example for studios that yes, people will go see female-driven films as well as movies with diverse casts, especially if they are done well. The movie, which centers on long-time friends who head to New Orleans for a crazy weekend, has been getting solid reviews from critics and audiences alike. "Girls Trip" currently has an 88 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes' "Tomatometer" and a 90 percent audience score.

    We'll see what kind of momentum the film has, but for now, the movie's opening has already made a strong showing, surpassing its production budget of $19 million. Universal Pictures certainly can't complain about that.

    If you're ready for raunchy, R-rated fun, "Girls Trip" is in theaters now.

    [via: THR]

  11. Here's How 'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' Crushed Expectations at the Box Office

    The way industry insiders were talking about "Dunkirk" before it opened well this weekend, you'd have thought it was a little independent art film, not a major studio's $150 million action epic with decent Oscar prospects.

    Predictions for the combat tale's premiere were all over the map, from as low as $24 to as high as $38 to $40 million, though most guesses were in the 40s. After all, "Dunkirk" belongs to a genre that doesn't do well among young audiences (World War II films), addresses an event few Americans know about (since it took place before we entered the war), and features a cast of British actors known more for their prestige than their ability to sell tickets. So Warner Bros. deserves to boast that "Dunkirk"'s estimated opening weekend of $50.5 million came in above expectations.

    That's an especially good number considering that "Dunkirk" faced competition for the male audience from sci-fi spectacle "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," which debuted on a similar number of screens, as well as an unexpectedly strong turnout for ensemble comedy "Girls Trip," which opened with an estimated $30.4 million, about $10 million above expectations.

    How did "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip" succeed, while "Valerian" pretty much bombed with an estimated $17 million? The reasons why reinforce some lessons the box office has been teaching us all summer.

    1. Brand Value
    More than any of the stars of "Dunkirk," the biggest box office draw attached to the film was surely director Christopher Nolan.

    After the massively successful and acclaimed "Dark Knight" trilogy and "Inception," he's one of the few directors who's a household name, one whose distinctive style promises strong visuals, epic scope, and brainy storytelling -- but with mass appeal. Even his mind bending sci-fi saga "Interstellar," which many viewers found disappointing, still made a profit while offering substantial food for thought. So Nolan's name alone may have been enough to overcome the movie's arcane topic and modest star power.

    Will Packer isn't as familiar a name, but the "Girls Trip" producer also has a signature style, one that has resulted in a long string of successful, modestly-budgeted comedies with predominantly black casts. After the "Think Like a Man" and "Ride Along" movies, Packer has a loyal core audience but also attracts crossover viewers as well. Add on director Malcolm D. Lee, known for the "Best Man" movies, and African-American viewers had a solid idea of what to expect from "Girls Trip."

    French director Luc Besson may be an even less familiar name here, despite such stateside hits over the past quarter-century as "The Professional," "The Fifth Element," and "Lucy." Besson fans know his reputation for butt-kicking heroines, fanciful plotting, and sensory-overload visuals. That's what he delivers in "Valerian," but Besson and the movie may have been simply too exotic to have had much impact on domestic viewers.

    2. Originality
    There's been a lot of talk about viewers' franchise fatigue this summer, though much of that can be chalked up to just bad movie fatigue. This week's new wide releases, however, weren't typical franchise fare. Well, "Valerian" is based on a French comic book series, but it's one that almost no one in America has heard of. The other two movies are original stories, one drawn from history but still unfamiliar to Americans. So "Valerian" can't blame sequelitis. What mattered more was...

    3. Execution
    Critics loved "Dunkirk," giving it some of the year's best reviews to date and a high 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, with the film earning an A- CinemaScore.

    But ticket buyers liked "Girls Trip" even better, giving it a rare A+. (Critics liked the comedy nearly as much, giving it an RT score of 89 percent.) "Valerian," however, scored a weak 54 percent among RT reviewers and a similarly meh B- at CinemaScore. So it seems fair to say that "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip" did what they set out to do. "Valerian," maybe not so much.

    4. Genre Is a Major Draw
    "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip" were both surprisingly successful for their genre. World War II movies haven't done well as historical memory of the conflict recedes; the biggest recent hit in the genre is Marvel's "Captain America: The First Avenger." Similarly, R-rated comedies have done poorly all summer. So execution and brand value were especially important for these two hits.

    Sci-fi, however, is often a crap shoot. Besson minimized the risk by spreading out the film's reported $180 million cost among multiple financiers in several countries. Still, when creating massive futuristic fantasy universes, the line between the next "Avatar" and the next "Jupiter Ascending" can be awfully thin.

    5. Social Media
    For a teen icon, Harry Styles is surprisingly inactive on social media. Not like, say, "Girls Trip" star Queen Latifah, who can claim tens of millions of online followers. To the extent that movies are depending on stars' social media presence to drive interest, especially among younger viewers, that made a difference.

    6. Visuals
    The one element of "Valerian" that critics raved about was the way it looked. But as they say about Broadway musicals, no one ever goes home humming the scenery. Then again, "Dunkirk" may have stolen its visual thunder.

    Nolan got a lot of attention for his panoramic cinematography, much of it shot in IMAX and other wide-screen stock. The director also strived to create massive battle scenes the old-fashioned way, without CGI and with a literal cast of thousands. As a result, "Dunkirk" earned an impressive $11.7 million, or about 22 percent of its premiere gross, from IMAX venues.

    7. Timing Is Key for Nolan's Summer Movies
    Besson staked out "Valerian's" release date two years ago, perhaps unaware that he'd be up against Nolan. By the way, you'd think Warner Bros. would wait for a fall date for an Oscar-hopeful movie, but he likes July, since his Batman movies did well during the summer month. (In fact, the filmmaker insisted on the July slot, opening in a corridor similar to the one "Saving Private Ryan" used in July 1998.) Since no other Oscar-chasing movies are out now, Nolan had the field to himself.

    "Girls Trip" also had no real marketplace rivals, though its makers couldn't have guessed it would benefit from being the one well-liked R-rated comedy after a string of disappointments in the genre.

    8. Domestic Audiences Have Weight
    "Valerian," like most of this summer's mega-budgeted movies, was not really made with domestic viewers in mind. Like those films, from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" to "Transformers: The Last Knight," "Valerian" should make the bulk of its money overseas -- though don't count on it. It could ultimately earn a profit and justify its international financing despite proving a dud here.

    "Girls Trip" may not do as well abroad, since comedies tend to translate poorly. But like Packer's other comedies, as well as such recent films as "Get Out" and "All Eyez on Me," it should prove that there's profit to be made from movies that smartly target African-American viewers, and that such films can become crossover hits as well.

    As for "Dunkirk," there may not have been much in the subject matter or the casting to interest American audiences. Still, the film's opening weekend shows that we'll go see a movie about an obscure (to us) wartime event as long as it's well-made, shot by a director we like, in a manner that justifies seeing it on a (very) big screen.

  12. Box Office: 'Dunkirk' Crushes Expectations, 'Valerian' Flops

    By Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, July 23 ( -- "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip" are opening above expectations at the domestic box office, while "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" looks like a huge flop.

    But let's start with the good. Christopher Nolan's World War II film from Warner Bros. is flying past earlier projections to a $50.5 million opening weekend from 3,720 locations. $11.7 million of that total came from Imax screens alone — that's 23% of the total market share from 402 locations. That $50.5 million number is a good one considering it is expected to have a large multiple, and continue to play well through August. The movie's production budget was reportedly just under $100 million, although earlier reports speculated that it was much higher.

    Critics have fallen in love with Nolan's depiction of the real-life Battle of Dunkirk. Their reviews have earned the movie a 92%, and chatter has already started about its award season potential. But audiences have responded as well, perhaps surprisingly, to what many have described as an atypical war movie. It holds an impressive A- CinemaScore.

    "We looked at this as a big summer event film. We wanted to give it the patina of a tentpole release," said Warner Bros. distribution chief Jeff Goldstein of the studio's decision to date the film for the end of July. "We know from past history when you open up at this point in the summertime, you can run for weeks and weeks," he added, referencing last year's "Suicide Squad."
    Nolan ruffled some feathers for his bullish comments about the vitality of the theatrical experience. But, perhaps, his prizing of that is part of what ended up encouraging audiences to buy tickets as opposed to waiting for the movie to hit a streaming service. The movie is getting the widest 70MM release in more than two decades, and much of it was shot with Imax's extremely high-resolution 2D film cameras.

    "We're thrilled with the numbers, and we're thrilled with the partnership," said Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster. "The one-two punch of Chris' vision and the Imax experience has once again proven to be irresistible to moviegoers in theaters."

    Even during a crowded weekend, Universal's "Girls Trip" is breaking the curse of underperforming R-rated comedies this summer as it looks to post $30.4 million from 2,591 locations. That's the largest opening of any live-action comedy so far this year.
    "Girls Trip" follows a foursome -- Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith -- who go out for a long overdue women's weekend to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. Director Malcolm D. Lee is also known for his first feature, "The Best Man," and its follow-up, "The Best Man Holiday."

    Meanwhile "Valerian," Luc Besson's big-budget adaptation of the French comic series from his own EuropaCorp, and distributed in the U.S. by STX Films, looks like a real clunker. The sci-fi epic should land in fifth this weekend with about $17 million from 3,553 locations.

    There is some risk mitigation at play here for what is believed to be the most expensive independent movie of all time -- the bulk of the production budget was covered with foreign pre-sales, equity financing, and tax subsidies. STX took on marketing and distribution for the film after EuropaCorp's partner, Relativity, went under. Europa financed the P&A. But, regardless, someone will pay for the movie's poor returns so far, and sights are set overseas to see if the international box office has a more positive response.
    It's a tough break for Besson, who has treated the movie like a passion project. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne form the central pairing in the sci-fi epic about a team of space-and-time-traveling agents. Clive Owen, Rihanna, and Ethan Hawke round out the cast.

    In its second week, "War for the Planet of the Apes" should earn $20.4 million this weekend, landing it in third after a 64% drop. "Spider-Man: Homecoming" looks to land in fourth with $22 million domestically, a 50% decline from its second to third weekends in theaters.

    To end on a positive note, "Wonder Woman" is officially the highest-grossed movie of the summer, as of this weekend, with over $389 million. That puts Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot's acclaimed film ahead of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." The stat is exciting news for those who have hope for more female-led projects in the future.

    "Dunkirk" and "Wonder Woman" this week pushed Warner Bros. past the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for 2017 — the seventeenth consecutive year that the studio has done so.

  13. 'Wonder Woman' Has More Box Office Magic Than Harry Potter in North America

    In a battle between "Wonder Woman" and Harry Potter at the domestic box office, the superhero has the wizard stupefied.

    As of Sunday, the Gal Gadot-starring film had earned more than $380.60 million in North America since its June 2 opening, according to Box Office Mojo data. With that being the case, the film was poised to overtake the final Harry Potter film, which is the top-grossing installment in the film series based on J.K. Rowling's beloved books. Released in 2011, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" brought in more than $381.01 million at the domestic box office.

    It is worth noting that the first Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," is actually the best-performing of the series when ticket sales are adjusted for inflation; the film's approximately $317.58 million in 2001 becomes more than $494.27 million, per Box Office Mojo. Still, "Wonder Woman" hasn't left theaters yet, and Forbes projections in late June indicated the movie could crack $400 million.

    Interestingly, in spite of the fact that the superhero flick has also knocked the likes of "Deadpool" and "Furious 7," among other hits, down the domestic charts, its international box office performance hasn't been quite as dominant. The film's $765.90 million worldwide is far from shabby, but "Wonder Woman" has a ways to go if it is going to top the whopping $1.34 billion total of "Deathly Hallows - Part 2." Whether or not that happens, this latest accomplishment is another big one.

    [h/t: THR]

  14. Six Reasons Why 'Planet of the Apes' Suffered Franchise Fatigue at the Box Office

    You'd think the folks at Fox would be going bananas over the box office victory this weekend for "War for the Planet of the Apes."

    After all, this was supposed to be the first truly close competition of the summer, with "War" battling the still-strong second weekend of "Spider-Man: Homecoming." In the end, however, "War" was far and away the winner, earning an estimated $56.5 million -- slightly-less than what was projected -- while Spidey also fell behind expectations with an estimated $45.2 million

    And yet, by the franchise's own standards, it's hard not to see "War" as a disappointment. It opened in more theaters than the first two films in the prequel trilogy, 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and 2014's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." Still, it opened well below "Dawn" (which debuted with $72.6 million) and barely a hair above "Rise" (which premiered with $54.8 million). It was also riding good reviews (95 percent at Rotten Tomatoes) and excellent word-of-mouth (it earned an A- at CinemaScore, just like the two previous "Apes" films).

    Domestically, "War" could well end up the lowest grossing of the current "Apes" trilogy," failing to beat the $208.5 million "Dawn" earned in North America or even the $176.8 million that "Rise" earned here. Plus, the movie cost $150 million to make. For Fox to earn a profit, after production costs, marketing costs, and the theater owners' share of ticket sales, "War" will have to earn about $600 million worldwide, so its global gross of $102.5 million so far suggests that breaking even will be a long shot. How did this happen? Here are a few reasons to factor in:

    1. Superheroes > Apes
    Even with the disappointments this summer of such sequels as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Transformers: The Last Knight," and "Despicable Me 3," Hollywood's shrugging assessment that moviegoers were suffering from franchise fatigue rang hollow. After all, these films earned terrible reviews and weak word-of-mouth. Some franchise movies with good reviews and positive word-of-mouth were succeeding, like "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Wonder Woman," and "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

    But what if it was just that these movies all featured DC and Marvel comic book heroes? Individual moviegoers may claim to be getting tired of superheroes, but as a group, we still flock to see them, even when the movies earn terrible buzz, like "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad." Maybe what "War" needed was an ape with a cape.

    2. Rotten Tomatoes Scores Matter to a Point
    The studios have been complaining all summer that poor scores at RT have been discouraging customers, especially since those scores appear right in front of the virtual box office window at Fandango. As this column noted last week, there is some research that suggests that weak RT scores do affect online buzz. However, that research also showed that high RT scores do little to improve buzz. Which means, as good as the reviews were for "War," they didn't really help sell tickets.

    3. "War" Looked Too Much Like "Dawn"
    Conventional Hollywood wisdom has it that mass audiences want to see something familiar and comforting. That's the logic behind having so many reboots, remakes, sequels, and universe-building films, and it's the reason why so many sequels seem to deliver the same experience as previous installments. If there really is franchise fatigue, this is what causes it, and it's one reason why audiences responded so well to "Wonder Woman" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming": even though they told familiar stories, they felt fresh and different in their approaches.

    Looking at the trailers for "War," however, its scenes of gorilla guerrilla warfare looked a lot like those of "Dawn." Also, if you think about it, "War" is not just the third movie in a trilogy that started six years ago; it's the ninth movie in a franchise that's been around for 49 years and which also included multiple spinoffs in other media.

    Ticket buyers who saw "War" seem to have enjoyed it as much as they did the last two movies, but to get them into the theater, the film's marketing needed to do a better job of convincing those moviegoers that "War" was not something they'd seen before.

    4. Star Power Still Means Something
    Used to be that Hollywood valued movie stars for their ability to sell tickets. Now, however, what matters is their ability to get likes on Instagram and Facebook.

    Social media buzz is increasingly crucial to a film's success, and that means casting stars with big online followings. Woody Harrelson, "War"'s most recognizable face, may have been a familiar face to moviegoers and TV viewers for more than 30 years, and he may have boosted his profile recently by co-starring in the huge "Hunger Games" franchise, but he doesn't have much of a social media game. Neither does Steve Zahn, who plays a prominent new ape character. Andy Serkis, who has played the lead role of chimpanzee Caesar in all three of the recent "Apes" films, does have a solid Twitter following, but it seems not to have been enough.

    5. Timing Is a Big Deal
    "Homecoming" may have settled for second place this weekend, and it may have taken a bigger second-week hit than expected, tumbling 61 percent from last weekend's premiere. Still, Spidey proved a formidable adversary to Caesar.

    Pre-sales for the two movies on Fandango were neck-and-neck, with "Homecoming" just a nose ahead of "War." Indeed, "War" had to fight off a lot of still-strong movies that targeted similar viewers. Action fans also had "Homecoming," "Baby Driver," and "Wonder Woman" as options. Older viewers who might have appreciated "War"'s philosophizing and nostalgia value, may have been drawn to critical darlings "Baby Driver" and "The Big Sick." And women may have turned toward the romantic comedy of "The Big Sick" or the horror of new release "Wish Upon."

    By contrast, "Dawn" had little serious competition when it opened on this same weekend three years ago -- just the third week of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and the second week of "Tammy." Neither film earned more than $17 million that weekend, giving "Dawn" an easy ride to its $72.6 million premiere.

    But it's not just movies that have already opened that are rivals to "War." After all, next weekend sees the releases of "Dunkirk," "Girls Trip," and "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." One is a Christopher Nolan action epic, the sort of movie that demands to be seen on the big screen and that attracts adults of all ages. One is a comedy that targets women and African-American viewers. And one is a sci-fi wild card from "Fifth Element" and "Lucy" director Luc Besson. As audiences flock to "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip," "War" could have a tough time staving off erosion during its second weekend.

    6. Can't Always Count on International Markets
    It's still possible that overseas moviegoers could rescue "War," the way they have so many other domestic underperformers this year, and the way they did the last two "Apes" movies, which earned between 63 and 70 percent of their total grosses abroad.

    So far, however, "War" has earned just 45 percent of its total overseas. That share may well improve over the coming weeks. Still, the film's foreign grosses will have to be about ten times what they are now in order to make a profit, and that's unlikely.

    As "Transformers: The Last Knight," "The Mummy," and "Baywatch" have all demonstrated this summer, you can make the lion's share of your money overseas and still not turn a profit. Writing off the domestic audience is leaving money on the table. As "War" has shown by premiering $17.1 million below "Dawn," every American ticket dollar is worth fighting for.

  15. Box Office: 'Apes' Tops 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' With $56.5 Million

    War for the Planet of the Apes box officeBy Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, July 16 ( - "War for the Planet of the Apes" is officially the box office champ, during a weekend that demands a close look.

    Fox and Chernin Entertainment's latest "Apes" movie is coming in on the low end of expectations with $56.5 million from 4,022 locations. It was pegged at $60 million-$65 million earlier in the week, but is ending up about the same as 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which kicked off the modern trilogy with $54.8 million during its opening weekend. 2014's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" was a bigger hit with a $72.6 million domestic opening, when it hit theaters against the third weekend of "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

    One way "War for the Planet of the Apes" stands out from other big-budget studio films is its rave reviews -- it currently has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film, which depicts the titular war between apes and humans, is directed by Matt Reeves, who joined the franchise when he stepped in on "Dawn." Much has been made of the noticeable updates in technology that have gone into bring Andy Serkis' character Caesar, the lead ape, to life. Woody Harrelson, in human form, joins the franchise as the villain, while Steve Zahn, as a chimp, offers comic relief.

    "First and foremost the movie came in right where we expected it to," said Fox's distribution chief Chris Aronson, who pointed to a potentially "soft" next few weeks that could give "Apes" a long runway. "We're going to play for quite some time," he said.

    "Spider Man: Homecoming," meanwhile, is landing in second with about $45.2 million. That's a 61% drop from last weekend's heroic opening, which is probably a steeper falloff than Sony would have liked to see. That said, the movie's total domestic gross in two weekend -- $208.3 million -- is already higher than the entire run of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." "Homecoming" is a hit with critics and audiences (93% on Rotten Tomatoes; A CinemaScore), and dominated social media chatter for weeks leading up to its release. Tom Holland is the teen in the red suit, who first joined the Marvel universe in "Captain America: Civil War."

    The weekend's other major release apart from "Apes" is the horror flick "Wish Upon" from Broad Green Pictures and Orion Pictures. The movie is entering the box office with a whisper, about $5.6 million from 2,250 locations. The fright-fest is directed by John R. Leonetti based on a script by Barbara Marshall. Its primarily young cast, led by Joey King, includes two Netflix alums in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's" Ki Hong Lee (aka Dong), and "Stranger Things'" beloved Barb, Shannon Purser. The movie was largely panned by critics, with a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it also carries a lackluster audience appeal with a C CinemaScore.

    Universal's "Despicable Me 3" is showing in third place for the weekend, expecting to earn an additional $19 million from 4,155 locations. And Sony's "Baby Driver" stays in the conversation with a strong 32% hold that should land it in fourth. Edgar Wright's latest is racing to $8.8 million from 3,043 locations. Rounding out the top five is the indie darling "The Big Sick" from comedian Kumail Nanjiani. The movie expanded to wide release (2,597 spots) during its fourth weekend in theaters, and should earn $7.6 million.

    "It's amazing that this independent film has found its footing as a family movie among all the summer blockbusters," said Amazon Studios' marketing and distribution chief Bob Berney in a statement. "The comedy and universal themes are connecting with audiences across the country."

    Finally, keep an eye on "Wonder Woman," which is finishing in sixth this weekend with $6.7 million, and closing in on several benchmarks. By Monday, it's expected to cross $381 million domestically, which would put it past "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows Part 2" to become the third highest Warner Bros. movie ever. It's also only a few million shy of passing "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," which with $386.2 million is currently the highest grossing movie of the summer so far. "Wonder Woman" has already blown past the domestic totals of fellow DC Comics movies "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad."

  16. Why 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Is the Best Spider-Man Movie Yet

    This weekend, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" made a splash, coming in with the second-greatest opening weekend for any Sony movie and successfully turning the tide on a franchise that had sputtered out of gas after two lukewarm reboots. What's more, it was a critical sensation, currently sitting with a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to other big summer sequels like "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (29%) and "Transformers: The Last Knight" (15% -- ouch), and you can see just how monumental this is. And all weekend people took to Twitter debating whether or not this was the best Spider-Man movie ever. Well, let us settle that debate for you. It is. And there are several reasons why.

    1. "Spider-Man 2" isn't as good as you remember.

    The main area of contention on Twitter seems to be whether or not "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is better than "Spider-Man 2," Sam Raimi's 2004 sequel. Well, it is, and here's why: "Spider-Man 2" isn't that great. Yes, it is beautifully put together and, at the time, it was unique to see a superhero movie as concerned with the emotional wellness of its characters as it was with action set pieces. But it's easy to forget just how much of the movie was a retread of the first film, including the central dynamic of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) coming under the thrall of a charismatic scientist (Alfred Molina) who inevitably goes bad and tries to kill him.

    And while the arc of Peter giving up his powers in an effort to live his life is compelling, it also derails the movie, as it gets bogged down in his existential crisis to the point that the movie loses much of its momentum. These problems don't affect "Spider-Man: Homecoming." One of the most miraculous things about the movie is that Parker's internal struggle is juxtaposed with the larger issues at play with neither thread losing steam or taking up too much screen time. Everything that "Spider-Man 2" does, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" does better.

    2. It's so funny.

    So many comic-book movies forget that they're based on COMIC books. "Spider-Man: Homecoming" knows what it's based on, and it is funny. It's not only the funniest Spider-Man cinematic adventure yet, it's one of the funniest Marvel movies so far. And that's saying something. There's something fearless about the comedy in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." In putting the funny first, it feels wholly different from anything on the market. It's quietly revolutionary, especially since the humor doesn't take away from the drama, emotionality, or excitement elsewhere in the film. Somehow, it makes you clutch your side laughing and gasp breathlessly at the same time. That's awesome. And it feels very much like the experience of high school, where small things can seem colossal and, from the outside, everything is like a cosmic joke.

    3. This is the first movie to really engage with the notion of Peter Parker as a high school student.

    And that brings us to one of the very best aspects of "Spider-Man: Homecoming" -- it's the first Spider-Man movie to really engage with the character as a teenage high school student. (Seriously, re-watch the first Raimi movie; he's in high school for about 15 minutes before graduating.) Here, Peter Parker is a real kid and it's so, so awesome. When the filmmakers said that they were inspired by John Hughes films, they weren't kidding; it's incredible how fleshed out this high school world is: we get Peter's friends, his crushes, his teachers, his principle. We know what he's doing at school, what activities he's dropped out of so that he can be a part of the "Stark Internship" (aka being Spider-Man) and what his commitment to heroism means for him. And we're not saddled with the prerequisite origin story (something that both sets of films have depicted), which frees up even more space. It's so refreshing to see the character as a fully fleshed out individual, and that dimensionality adds so much to the power of "Spider-Man: Homecoming."4. Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man.

    Which brings us to ... Tom Holland. Holland is a uniquely talented actor (as you've probably seen in "The Impossible" or this year's brilliant "Lost City of Z"), and we even got to see him inhabit the character for a few minutes in "Captain America: Civil War" (an electrifying debut, for sure). But nothing can prepare you for just how wonderful Holland really is. He's fidgety, unsure, and driven. He's also deeply heroic and lovable. And since Holland is the youngest actor to ever be cast in the role, he actually feels like a kid dealing with these same issues. Maguire was good, but his age gave the performance a kind of distance that didn't serve the movies well. Plus, stripped from all of those activities and embellishments around Peter Parker as a person, so much rested on his shoulders. It was an unfair burden that Holland isn't stuck with. And his version of the character soars because of it.

    5. It fits into the larger MCU so well.

    The first "Amazing Spider-Man" film (with Andrew Garfield inheriting the role) came out in 2012, four years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the vast, interconnected network of films that began with "Iron Man." Now that Sony and Disney have worked out a deal to incorporate Spider-Man into the MCU, it feels very organic and, well, great. In fact, the movie starts off immediately following the events of the first "Avengers" (a movie that came out, probably not coincidentally, in 2012) and there are so many moments and nods that make the character feel like he's always been a part of this world. It's exciting and fresh and makes you reinvested in the character in a way you probably haven't since "Spider-Man 2."6. It's about something (and so diverse!)

    The first "Spider-Man" came out a few months after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, and it felt very much like a rousing ode to the newly reignited patriotism that was coursing through the country. But there weren't any explicit references to the attack and the movie, made before the towers fell, was clearly constructed before our lives were reshaped by that tragic event. What was odd was that the movies that followed were just as apolitical. They were never about anything. But "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is.

    There's a moment when Vulture (Michael Keaton) is explaining his philosophy to Peter and he talks about how Tony Stark and the reset of the Avengers are, essentially, the 1%. They're so far removed from real life that we shouldn't expect them to understand the plight of the everyman. It's powerful as all get-out and gives the movie some real life resonance. Also adding to the feeling that "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is a movie of our time is how diverse the cast is; the kids who go to school with Peter actually feel like teenagers in Queens. It's so refreshing and amazing. This is a Spider-Man for now.

  17. How 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Helped Save the Summer Box Office

    SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeThat "whoosh" sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief in Hollywood over the record-smashing debut of "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and it's emanating not just from the suits at Sony and Marvel, but from the industry as a whole.

    Most observers expected the film to crack $100 million (Sony's own prediction was a conservative $80 million), but by the end of the weekend, Sony was estimating that the franchise reboot had premiered with $117.0 million. It's the biggest single-character series launcher ever for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (beating the $98.6 million opening of "Iron Man"), the second-biggest debut of the six Spidey movies (beaten only by the $151.1 million debut of "Spider-Man 3" a decade ago), and the third-largest premiere of any movie in 2017 (behind "Beauty and the Beast" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2").

    That's good news for a box office that, throughout the first half of the summer season, has seen one disappointment after another. After a series of high-profile sequel flops and failed franchise launchers, this summer has made 2017 fall behind 2016 in total grosses, though the success of the new "Spider-Man" has helped close the gap, to the point where domestic grosses are now only about $12 million behind where they were at this point a year ago.

    Maybe Spidey's success can help dispel some myths about what's behind the summer slump, since Hollywood has been quick to jump to the wrong conclusion about what's ailing the box office. For example:SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeIt's not franchise fatigue. That's been the industry excuse for why people didn't want to see a fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean," a fifth "Transformers," a fourth "Mummy," and a third "Despicable Me." Yet here, we have the sixth Spider-Man movie and third Spider-Man franchise launcher in just 15 years. If ever there was a case for franchise fatigue, it would be here, especially the way the two recent "Amazing Spider-Man" movies squandered the series' good will. But that ill will didn't carry over to "Homecoming," just as ill will from "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" didn't harm "Wonder Woman."

    What "Homecoming," "Wonder Woman," and "Guardians Vol. 2" have in common is strong reviews and excellent word-of-mouth. (Moviegoers gave "Homecoming" an A at CinemaScore, the best grade of any Spidey film.) These assets are also what most of this summer's flops lack. Ticket buyers aren't suffering from franchise fatigue. What they're feeling is bad-movie fatigue.SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeIt's not Rotten Tomatoes. The industry has been complaining all summer that the movie review aggregator is hurting business, especially since RT scores appear at the point-of-purchase at corporate sibling Fandango, ensuring that potential ticket buyers see the critical consensus on a film before spending their hard-earned cash on advance seats.

    This wouldn't have been a problem for "Homecoming," which scored a 93 percent fresh rating at RT. But social media research firm Fizzology claimed recently that it's found high RT scores have little impact on a film's online buzz, while low RT scores do result in a surge of discouraging social media chatter. It's not clear, though, whether that negative buzz has a measurable impact on sales.

    It's certainly true that positive RT scores may not help a film at the box office. That was the case this summer with "It Comes at Night," a horror movie that bombed last month despite strong reviews. Conversely, negative reviews didn't hurt sales of "Batman v Superman" or "Suicide Squad."

    Still, the Hollywood lament of the season has been that summer moviegoers used to spend money indiscriminately on escapist popcorn movies, but now RT is discouraging them from doing so. The argument that critics have educated the masses to the point where the studios can no longer count on their poor taste is pretty insulting. The truth is, most people don't go out to the movies that often anymore, so when they do, they don't want to waste their money on an experience they don't think they'll enjoy. Again, it's not franchise fatigue or bad-review fatigue, it's just bad-movie fatigue.SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeKid appeal still matters. You'd think this would be obvious to an industry that usually caters to youth at the expense of mature audiences. And yet this summer has seen very few family-friendly movies. There have been several R-rated comedies and several franchise films whose surprisingly bleak tone ("Wonder Woman," for instance) has appealed primarily to adults. Not much for young children and teens, save for a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" sequel and three cartoons.

    "Homecoming," however, returns Spider-Man to his teenage roots, complete with John Hughes-style storytelling. Star Tom Holland was just 20 when he made the film (Tobey Maguire was 26 the first time he suited up as Spidey; Andrew Garfield was 28). Co-star Zendaya may not be well known to people over 25, but the Disney Channel regular is huge among tweens. She has 43 million followers on Instagram (Robert Downey Jr., whose appearance as Iron Man in the movie was supposed to help bring in longtime Marvel fans, has 16 million Instagram followers), and she's certainly been leveraging that social media reach to publicize the movie. No wonder 57 percent of "Homecoming" viewers were under 25.SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeDiversity matters. Complaints about Hollywood's over-reliance on casts that are predominantly white and male are not just about being politically correct, they're about good business. The multi-ethnic casting of the "Fast & Furious" movies has long been recognized as a component of their enormous success among audiences, both domestic and across the globe. In the case of "Homecoming," audiences took notice that the cast included stars like Zendaya, Tony Revolori, and Donald Glover.

    Not only did they help make the movie's New York City look more like the real thing, but they helped draw non-white viewers. The "Homecoming" audience was 13 percent African-American (about the same as their percentage in the American populace), 24 percent Hispanic (well above their percentage among the populace) and 10 percent Asian-American (also well above their percentage of the population).SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING box officeThe domestic audience still matters. Hollywood accountants have waved away criticism of the summer's many domestic flops by noting that the films are doing much so better overseas than at home that they'll be profitable anyway. As a result, the studios seem to think that they don't have to bother making movies that appeal to domestic viewers anymore. (This makes their griping about Rotten Tomatoes all the harder to swallow.)

    Still, how long can that business model persist? The makers of "Transformers: The Last Knight" crowed about how well the film did in China, where its $120 million debut was one of the largest ever for a Hollywood import, and where its $198 million total to date represents the biggest contribution of any country's sales to the movie's $495 million global total. Even so, Chinese grosses won't be enough. With a $217 million production budget, plus marketing and distribution costs, "The Last Knight" would have to gross about $1 billion worldwide to break even, yet this looks like the first "Transformers" film since the second one that won't cross that 10-figure threshold . Besides, distributor Paramount will get to keep only about a fourth of that $198 million Chinese gross (the rest goes to theater owners), while it'll get about half of the movie's domestic gross ($119 million and counting). So domestic sales will still bring in more profit than Chinese sales, and that's for a sequel that's far and away the least popular of the five "Transformers" films among American audiences. Imagine if they'd made a movie that ticket buyers here actually liked.

    "Homecoming," at least, won't have that problem. Sure, it's also doing better overseas than here (it's made an estimated $140 million abroad so far), but the proportions aren't totally out of whack like they are for "Transformers" (which has earned 76 percent of its total overseas) and many other summer movies that underwhelmed in North America compared to foreign markets. Like "Guardians Vol. 2," "Homecoming" has earned a solid 45 percent of its total to date in North America. For "Wonder Woman," it's nearly 50-50. So it's still a good idea to make movies with some domestic appeal. After all, as "The Last Knight" proves, you can't count on the inferior taste of foreign audiences forever.

  18. Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Slings to Massive $117 Million Domestic Opening

    LOS ANGELES, July 9 ( - Spider-Man is officially a box office overachiever.

    As of Sunday morning, the latest cinematic depiction of the webbed-hero, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," is looking at a $117 million opening from 4,348 locations. $10.6 million of the domestic total came from 392 Imax screens. That's a huge win for Sony, Columbia Pictures, and Marvel Studios for the film, which cost roughly $175 million to produce. The anticipated opening weekend is higher than industry estimates, which were in the $90 million to $110 million range, while the studio cautiously pegged it at $80 million.

    "Everyone at Sony and Marvel are thrilled," said Josh Greenstein, Sony's marketing chief. "It's safe to say it's a triumphant return for Spider-Man."

    "Homecoming" banked on the idea that the summer box office was craving a family-friendly superhero movie -- Tom Holland plays a high school version of Peter Parker who, at 15 years old, has to prove that he is worthy of being called an Avenger. And it seems that bet is paying off. The $117 million figure is the second largest in Sony Pictures history, behind "Spider-Man 3."

    Much attention has been paid to the flick's successful marketing campaign, which heavily featured Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), who serves as Spider-Man's mentor in the film. Michael Keaton plays the big bad, Vulture, Jon Favreau plays Spidey's guardian, Happy Hogan, and Zendaya stars as Michelle Jones ("MJ"), Parker's brainy classmate. The movie consistently dominated social media in the weeks leading up to its release.

    Before "Homecoming," Jon Watts directed two much lower-budget feature films -- the 2014 horror movie "Clown" and 2015's "Cop Car" starring Kevin Bacon. He also has a handful of writing and producing credits, and is one of six writers credited on the "Homecoming" script. Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal share production credit. While the former has proven essentially infallible in the biz, "Homecoming" serves as a redemption narrative for the latter. After the infamous 2014 Sony hack, Pascal was ousted from her post at the top of the studio, and began to focus on producing. This is her second major release following last summer's "Ghostbusters" reboot, but she also has a hand in a long list of upcoming projects including Sony's "Barbie" movie, Steven Spielberg's A-list-studded "The Papers," and future "Spider-Man" movies.

    "We have incredible partners," said Greenstein, who said that those relationships helped the film to be "embraced in a big way. It really shows the strength for this beloved character."

    Despite the reliability of superhero movies at the box office, "Homecoming" could have been seen as a big bet for all parties involved. For one, it's the third iteration of the character in the past 15 years -- before Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire donned the Spidey suit. The makers had to trust that audiences would be ready to see the character yet again. On top of that, the summer box office has not been particularly kind to the sequels and reboots that have become the industry's summer signature. As audience fatigue has impacted previously reliable franchises like "Transformers" and even "Despicable Me," the one thing that this summer has proved is that the domestic audience is not yet burnt out on superheroes.

    This is yet another Marvel movie release that has managed to capture the approval of critics and audience members -- something the DC Extended Universe could not claim until this summer with "Wonder Woman." But Marvel's been there since the beginning. "Homecoming" currently has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore.

    "Homecoming" is the only major release this weekend, so the rest of the top five are made up to familiar faces. Starting with "Despicable Me 3," which is headed for a $34 million second frame, or a 53% drop from last weekend. "Baby Driver" should sit comfortable in third, as positive word of a mouth is steering to a $12.8 million second weekend, or a 38% drop. "Wonder Woman" continues to hold on with $10.1 million in its sixth weekend, and "Transformers: The Last Knight" should round out the top five with $6.3 million.

    Kumail Nanjiani's "The Big Sick" is entering the top ten as it expands toward wide release, starting next Friday. From 326 North American theaters this weekend the movie should make $3.7 million. Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled" should stay in the top ten as it, too, expands. This weekend it's expected to make $2.1 million from 941 locations. Meanwhile, A24's "A Ghost Story" starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck should spook $105,000 from four locations during its opening frame.

    Overall, the summer box office stands at about $2.3 billion, or 8% lower than last year. That leaves the year overall about dead even with 2016 after movies like "Beauty and the Beast," "Logan," "Get Out" and "The Fate of the Furious" laid a strong foundation for the summer during the early part of the calendar year.

    "Despite the strength of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' yet another 'down' weekend puts us dead even with last year's box office pace as we remain down 8% for the summer," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "The silver lining is the expected continued strength of Spidey, plus 'War For The Planet of The Apes,' 'Dunkirk,' and 'Atomic Blonde' all in rapid succession that could fuel a much-needed late summer renaissance at the multiplex."

  19. Are Audiences Done With the 'Despicable Me' Franchise?

    If you're like millions of other movie fans around the United States, you celebrated July 4th weekend by going to the multiplex to see a film not made with American audiences in mind.

    Probably, that movie was "Despicable Me 3," which topped the chart with an estimated $75.4 million earned from Friday to Sunday. The fourth film in the series (if you count the prequel "Minions,") "DM3" boasted the widest domestic release ever, with 4,529 screens.

    And yet, the movie's domestic take was well below what was predicted. Most pundits guessed it would open closer to $85 million, like "Despicable Me 2" did four years ago; some predictions went as high as $100 million. Instead, "DM3" saw the weakest domestic opening since the first "Despicable Me" debuted with $56.4 million in 2010.

    Sure, you could blame the calendar. After all, July 4 falls on a Tuesday this year, so holiday-weekend moviegoing will have petered out by the time Independence Day actually arrives. Four years ago, however, it fell on a Thursday, so long-weekend momentum favored "DM2." In fact, the movie opened on Wednesday the 3rd, so it earned $59.6 million before the weekend even started, then grabbed another $83.5 million from Friday to Sunday.

    Then again, "Minions" opened two years ago on July 10, a week after the holiday, and still cleared $115.7 million in its first three days. How did the franchise's premiere-weekend drawing power drop by $40 million in two years?

    It didn't help that the new movie isn't as appealing as the first three. It has the weakest reviews of the three "Despicable" titles, both at Rotten Tomatoes (just 63 percent) and at Metacritic (with a score of just 48 out of 100). Audiences liked it more than critics did, judging by its A- CinemaScore, but they still didn't like it as much as the first three films in the franchise, which all landed A grades.
    Still, Universal is probably not complaining, since "DM3" earned an estimated $116.9 million overseas. Its worldwide total of $192.3 million is more than double the film's reported $80 million production budget. And overseas revenue accounting for 61 percent of the movie's earnings is typical for this franchise; all four films have earned more money in foreign markets than they did here.

    In fact, it's typical not just for this franchise but for most of 2017's top-earning movies -- and even for several domestic flops -- that nonetheless grossed enough overseas to make up for their poor showings here. As this column has noted in previous weeks, would-be blockbusters that underperformed here -- including "Transformers: The Last Knight," "The Mummy," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" -- have seen foreign ticket sales save their bacon. And for movies that have done well stateside -- "Wonder Woman," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Fate of the Furious" -- have also made the bulk of their money abroad, with domestic earnings looking like little more than a nice bonus by comparison.

    It's the rare movie made with American viewers in mind that has stumbled at the box office. This weekend's new Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy "The House" couldn't muster better than a sixth-place debut, and it couldn't even match modest predictions that had it premiering in the low teens, opening instead with just an estimated $9.0 million. It's the worst wide-release opening since 1998's "A Night at the Roxbury," when Ferrell began his big-screen career as a leading man. Even that film, based on the "SNL" sketch, managed a $9.6 million premiere, and that was at 1998 ticket prices.

    Comedies do notoriously poorly abroad, due to language barriers and cultural differences. About the only reason Hollywood keeps making them is that they tend to be cheap enough to make back their budgets on domestic earnings alone. But this summer has seen several comedies struggle to connect with homegrown viewers, including "Snatched,""Baywatch," and "Rough Night."

    American audiences seem to be tired of raunchy, R-rated comedies. It's possible that the wave of movies about grown-ups acting like frat kids, a cycle that started with 2009's "The Hangover," is finally played out creatively and commercially. Of course, all of these recent R-rated comedy flops, including "The House," were poorly reviewed and generated lackluster word-of-mouth. If there was a good original movie aimed at American adults, they might actually pay to see it in theaters.
    Exhibit A: "Baby Driver," which debuted this weekend in second place with an estimated $21.0 million from Friday to Sunday, a promising start given some early predictions that it wouldn't crack $20 million. (Sony was smart enough to open it on Wednesday, so its domestic total is already an estimated $30.0 million.)

    That's a pretty nice sum for a movie based on an original story, from writer-director Edgar Wright, with a leading man (Ansel Elgort) who's never carried a picture at the box office on his own. It helps that the movie's been riding a wave of hype ever since 2017's SXSW festival in the spring, and that both critics and audiences have raved about it. As a result, adults flocked to the film; 54 percent of its audience is older than 25.

    Despite a British director and leading lady (Lily James), the action/crime caper seems to have been made with American audiences in mind. Indeed, it's only earned an estimated $6.8 million abroad. With any luck, it'll last long enough in theaters to make back its reported $34 million budget, plus marketing and distribution expenses. If it does, most of that return will come from American ticket sales.

    If it doesn't, $34 million isn't that big a risk for a studio used to spending nine-figure sums on would-be blockbusters. But it's pretty rare for a distributor to pay that much for a movie with primarily domestic appeal. "Cars 3" is an exception. Disney spent a reported $170 million to make it, even though the "Cars" movies do appeal more to Americans than foreign audiences. But Disney will more than make up for the movie's weak box office with billions in toy sales, for which "Cars 3" is just a glorified infomercial.

    Same goes for "The LEGO Batman Movie," an $80 million toy ad that made 57 percent of its haul in North America, though it also grossed enough at the box office both here and abroad to earn a profit from ticket sales alone.

    But big-budget or small-budget, Hollywood movies that succeed by appealing mostly to American audiences are becoming such a rarity that such recent examples as "Get Out" and "Hidden Figures" look like flukes. For the most part, Hollywood would prefer to celebrate Independence Day (and every other weekend) by releasing movies dependent on foreign audiences.

  20. Here's Why 'Transformers: The Last Knight' Is a Box Office Disappointment

    "Transformers: The Last Knight" had the box office all to itself this weekend, and yet, even without any other new wide releases, it still failed to impress.

    True, most movies would kill for an opening weekend estimated at $45.3 million, or a five-day total (the movie opened Wednesday) estimated at $69.0 million. Indeed, that's just about where pundits expected the franchise's fifth installment to debut.

    But the "Transformers" -- and director Michael "I demand things to be awesome!" Bay -- have higher standards. After all, the last installment, 2014's "Transformers: Age of Extinction," premiered with a $100.0 million first weekend. "Last Knight" marks the lowest debut in the series' ten-year history.

    This is more bad news for Paramount this year -- the studio is in a costly slump due to such expensive flops as "Monster Trucks," "Ghost in the Shell," and "Baywatch" -- as well as for the franchise and its director. Critics have never liked these movies, but now, everyone else seems to be getting tired of the giant-robot films, even Bay, who's all but insisted that "Last Knight" will be his last "Transformers" movie.

    And yet, there's reason for Paramount to celebrate (just a little) -- and reason for it to go ahead with its Bumblebee spinoff due next year: Overseas box office.
    The "Transformers" movies may have seen diminishing returns in North America, but they just keep getting bigger abroad. "Age of Extinction" was the first film in the series to earn more than a billion worldwide. But while "Extinction" saw domestic earnings plummet from "Dark of the Moon's" $352 million to $245 million, it saw foreign earnings vault from $771 million to $859 million. So the overseas take now accounts for three-quarters of the franchise's ticket sales.

    That figure has held with the release of the new movie, which has already earned an estimated $196.2 million abroad. $123.4 million of that, or 63 percent, comes from China -- which is insane. That marks the franchise's largest opening ever in the Middle Kingdom and the fourth-biggest debut in history for a Hollywood film in China. It's no wonder that China is now the linchpin to the success of virtually every Hollywood blockbuster.

    At a reported production cost of $217 million (before an aggressive and costly marketing spend), "Last Knight" was an expensive movie to make. But with $265.3 million earned in its first five days, the movie could find its way to profitability, once all revenue streams are accounted for -- even after you account for marketing and distribution costs (more than $100 million) and the theater owners' share of the grosses (about half).
    That worldwide success means a lot to Paramount, a studio that's lost money in recent years. In 2016 alone, it claimed a stunning loss of $445 million, about a fourth of which came from writing off "Monster Trucks" as a flop four months before it opened. Yikes.

    Even so, despite a slate of movies that fizzled at the domestic box office in 2017, overseas grosses are slowly helping put Paramount back into the black. "Rings," "xXx: Return of Xander Cage," and "Baywatch" all looked like flops based on their North American earnings, but they all made a ton of money elsewhere, with somewhere between 58 and 87 percent of their sales coming from abroad. "Rings" and "xXx" ultimately earned back several times their cost in worldwide grosses, while "Baywatch" has earned back twice its cost and may well be profitable by the end of the summer.

    Reviving old franchises -- and mining the vault and Viacom partners for new ones -- is a priority for Paramount, which lacks many of them. So far, their current franchises are "Transformers," "Star Trek," and "Mission: Impossible," all of which are aging fast. Until the studio comes up with some new ones -- "Baywatch" sequel, anyone? -- it's going to have to make do with these. No wonder there are three more "Transformers" movies in the works, including Bumblebee's spinoff.
    Even without Bay, they should make money -- not just from foreign sales, but from merchandising. New Paramount chief Jim Gianopulos says he wants to make more movies based on Hasbro toys; besides "Transformers," Hasbro playthings have also yielded the "G.I. Joe" films for Paramount, as well as the successful "Ouija" horror series at Universal. (Meanwhile, let's all pretend that massive duds "Battleship" and "Jem and the Holograms" never happened.)

    It's worth noting that all the other studios are using the same foreign-dependent strategy. Lots of 2017 movies that underwhelmed domestically, including Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" and Universal's "The Mummy," have raked it in abroad. (This is why Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise get to keep starring in movies, despite the meh response to their films in America.)

    Even this year's biggest domestic hits, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," and "Wonder Woman," have earned the majority of their money overseas. In fact, among the top ten domestic hits of 2017, only two, "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "Get Out," earned more here than abroad.

    Still, it's sort of funny that Paramount added Anthony Hopkins to the "Transformers" ensemble in "Last Knight," as if the venerable Oscar-winning actor's presence would bring in older or more highbrow audiences. As the scathing reviews (just 15 percent at Rotten Tomatoes), the unenthusiastic word-of-mouth (a tepid B+ from CinemaScore), and the weak domestic box office numbers suggest, "Transformers" isn't bringing in any new fans, at least not in the U.S.

    But if you're one of those core fans, congratulations: your fandom will be rewarded by at least three more installments in the "Transformers" universe. And if you're an American or Canadian who's not a fan -- well, these movies weren't made for you. Few Hollywood movies are -- or will be, going forth.

  21. Box Office: 'Transformers' Crashes With Franchise's Lowest Opening Ever

    By Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, June 25 ( -- It seems the "Transformers" franchise is rusty.

    As of Sunday morning "Transformers: The Last Knight," the fifth installment directed by Michael Bay, looks to bring in $69.1 million from 4,069 domestic locations during its five-day opening weekend. That's a franchise low for the sequel from Paramount and Hasbro, behind the first in the modern series, which earned $70.5 million in 2007. "The Last Knight" carries an estimated $217 million production budget.

    This makes "Transformers: The Last Knight" the latest summer blockbuster to bank on overseas ticket sales to have a shot at turning a profit. In China, the big-budget action sequel made $41 million in its opening day alone. The projected international cume through Sunday is $196.2 million, powered by $123.4 million in China.

    "The Last Knight" comes at a time when Paramount could have used an all-around hit, following recent misses "Baywatch" and "Ghost in the Shell." While the latest "Transformers" movie has been advertised as "the final chapter" and Bay's last go-around, the franchise will continue — Paramount has at least two more movies slated, including a spinoff that could star Hailee Steinfeld. The franchise has historically been massively profitable and seen solid multiples for the studio. Together, the first four earned over $1.3 billion domestically and well over $3.5 billion worldwide.

    The latest take on the series centers on an alliance between Bumblebee, Cade Yeager — who Mark Wahlberg also played in 2014's "Age of Extinction" — and roles played by franchise newcomers Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock. Together, the team works together to save the world. Audiences have earned the film a B+ CinemaScore, while critics have mostly dismissed it — it currently holds a 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    "The Last Knight" was uncontested at the box office this weekend, but a few indie releases showed traction. Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled" remake from Focus Features played at four theaters this weekend, and should gross $240,545 with a strong per screen average before it expands to over 500 locations next weekend.

    "We're thrilled by this opening," said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features' distribution president. "This is Focus' third collaboration with Sofia and she's created an entertaining, atmospheric thriller featuring strong female representation in front of and behind the camera."

    And Kumail Nanjiani's critically adored romantic comedy "The Big Sick" should earn $435,000 during its opening weekend in five locations — that would give the Lionsgate and Amazon Studios release the highest per screen average of any film that has opened this year so far.

    "Kumail and Emily's true story provided audiences of all ages a much-needed alternative to the summer blockbusters," said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios' distribution chief.

    Otherwise, "Wonder Woman" continues to post impressive numbers, and holds onto second place during its fourth weekend in theaters. This weekend, it should earn an additional $25.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $318.4 million. Earlier this week, the film became the highest-grossing live-action movie to be directed by a woman — a major distinction for Patty Jenkins.

    Disney and Pixar's "Cars 3" also looks to earn $25.2 million domestically during its second weekend. Some estimates have the film slightly lower, just below $25 million. The family film, which won last weekend's box office, is expected to pass the $100 million mark in North America by Monday.

    "Transformers: The Last Knight's" performance is a tough break for the summer box office's bottom line domestically. For the past two years, this weekend has seen monster grosses for "Jurassic World" and "Finding Dory." Now, attention is turned toward a trio of releases next weekend, as the box office hopes for a shot in the arm from "Despicable Me 3," "Baby Driver," and "The House."

  22. How 'Cars 3' and 'All Eyez on Me' Brought Audiences Back to the Movies

    Cars 3If you've been feeling ignored by Hollywood lately -- if you haven't found a movie at the theater that feels targeted toward you and your demographic -- then this should have been the weekend for you.

    Sure, on the surface, this looked like a typical summer weekend, with one high-profile new release from one of the season's usual heavy-hitters (in this case, Pixar, whose "Cars 3" premiered at No. 1 with an estimated $53.5 million) and a superhero holdover continuing to rake it in (that'd be "Wonder Woman," which earned a healthy estimated $40.7 million in its third weekend).

    But what you were really seeing, if you looked beyond the top two movies, was a weekend where underserved audiences finally had a reason to go to the theater. That explains the over-performances of "All Eyez on Me," the Tupac Shakur biopic that surprised in third place with an estimated $27.1 million, and "47 Meters Down," a low-budget shark-attack thriller from a newbie distributor which managed to debut in fifth place with a better-than-expected estimated of $11.5 million. It may even explain the failure of Scarlett Johansson's all-female ensemble comedy "Rough Night," which underwhelmed in its seventh-place debut with just an estimated $8.0 million opening.

    Here's who made a rare visit to the popcorn counter this weekend, and here's what they saw.

    Young Children
    You wouldn't think of them as an underserved demographic, but really, there's been nothing for them all summer; even the decidedly juvenile cartoon "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" has a PG-rated sense of humor that plays to older preteens and even adults. But "Cars 3" is G-rated, playing to an audience that was 75 percent families and 35 percent kids 12 and under.

    If anything, critics have grumbled that "Cars 3" may be too kid-oriented. The "Cars" franchise is the Pixar series that has the least to offer adults and is the most geared toward selling toys (more than $10 billion in merchandise over the past decade). As a possible sign that the "Cars" franchise is running out of gas creatively, "Cars 3" has the lowest opening among the trilogy and, adjusted for inflation, among all Pixar movies except "The Good Dinosaur."

    None of this matters to the young target audience, who gave the movie an A grade at CinemaScore. Meanwhile, Disney should consider itself fortunate that it released the movie in mid-June; a couple weeks later, and "Cars 3" would have been run over by "Despicable Me 3."

    True, it's not just girls and women who are responsible for the remarkable run so far of "Wonder Woman," but it's clear that the movie speaks to them in ways that few other recent films have. So it's no surprise that the DC heroine's saga has held up better than most superhero movies. Instead of the steep drops we usually see in comic-book films after the first weekend, "Wonder Woman" dipped just 43 percent last weekend and just 30 percent this weekend. Having lassoed nearly $275 million in 17 days, "Wonder Woman" is poised to overtake "Man of Steel" ($291 million) and possibly "Suicide Squad" ($325 million) and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($330 million) as the top domestic earner in the DC Extended Universe so far.

    Women were also the power behind the sleeper success of "47 Meters Down." No one expected much from the sisters-vs.-sharks tale, from new independent distributor Entertainment Studios. Neither critics nor customers thought much of the film. But women do make up the core of the horror audience, they did help make a hit of the similar "The Shallows" last year, and they like Mandy Moore, at least when she's starring on TV's "This Is Us." Scary trailers and posters helped overcome weak reviews and word-of-mouth, but the movie's strongest selling point may have been the months-long absence from the multiplex of other horror movies with strong appeal to genre's female fanbase.

    Indeed, for once, this weekend may have seen women over-served at the multiplex. Which could explain why "Rough Night," which had been widely expected to crack the top 5 and $20 million, did neither. The bachelorette-night-gone-horribly-wrong comedy had a lot of other problems -- neither critics nor audiences liked the premise; Johansson isn't much of a box office draw outside her Marvel movies; and raunchy R-rated comedies haven't done well lately. Still, reviews, word-of-mouth, and modest star power didn't hinder "47 Meters Down." More likely, "Rough Night"'s biggest problem was timing; as its target audience was all buying tickets for "Wonder Woman, "47 Meters Down," and even "Cars 3." Yep, the usually testosterone-heavy series has a girl-power message this time, one that may have helped drive women and girls toward making up 49 percent of the movie's audience.

    All Eyez on MeEarly tracking suggested "All Eyez on Me" would earn just $15 to $22 million. After all, the movie had a troubled production history, it had no star power, and it got slammed by both critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, who was a lifelong friend of Tupac's. Nonetheless, audiences loved the movie, judging by its A- grade at CinemaScore. It's not going to be the kind of smash that the similar "Straight Outta Compton" was two years ago, but as a smaller sleeper hit, it still seems to be surprising the experts the same way.

    But it's also notable that there hasn't been a movie this clearly targeted toward African-Americans since "Get Out" four months ago," or "Hidden Figures" a few weeks before that. And it's also notable that, like those films, "Eyez" clearly crossed over beyond that target demographic to attract general audiences, as is apparent from the movie's success in pre-opening sales at Fandango. After all, Tupac was immensely popular among listeners and movie audiences of all colors, so it shouldn't have been a shock that his biopic would be as well.

    Given what an afterthought the domestic market has seemed to be all year, with movies like "The Mummy" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" becoming blockbusters overseas while stumbling at home, it's refreshing to see a weekend of movies that, if not clearly aimed at the home crowd, at least took American viewers into account. "Cars 3" returns the franchise to an American setting. "Eyez" got made despite Hollywood conventional wisdom that African-American-cast movies don't do well abroad. Despite its metric-system title, "47 Meters Down" is still about American tourists. And even "Rough Night" is the sort of comedy that's said to translate poorly to foreign audiences.

    No wonder this weekend's total domestic box office was up 30 percent from last week, making this the sixth biggest weekend of the year to date. (Maybe the fourth-biggest, once final numbers come in on Monday; it's just a hair behind the weekends marked by the debuts of "Logan" and "The LEGO Batman Movie.") It's weird to think of Americans as a whole being an underserved demographic, but that's how it's been. As a corrective, this weekend's films may not have been your idea of cheeseburgers and apple pie, but they were to a lot of American moviegoers who might otherwise have stayed home.

  23. Box Office: 'Cars 3' Races Past 'Wonder Woman' to No. 1

    Cars 3 box officeBy Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, June 18 ( - This weekend featured a heated race between four new films that opened in wide release. As of Sunday morning, it appears some have fared better than others.

    The big winner is Disney and Pixar's "Cars 3," which is speeding to $53.5 million from 4,256 locations, putting it in first place. That's a lower opening than "Cars" ($60.1 million) and "Cars 2" ($66.1 million), but still enough to win the weekend. The first two "Cars" movies combined have made more than $435 million in the U.S. and $1 billion globally. The "Cars" films are far from Disney and Pixar's highest earners, but "Cars 3" is another example that even a decent opening for the duo is a victory in the big picture.

    The movie comes from director Brian Fee, who was a storyboard artist on the first two "Cars" films, as well as "Ratatouille" and "Wall-E." The ensemble voice cast of "Cars 3" includes Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington, and Lea DeLaria.

    "Cars 3" bumps "Wonder Woman" out of first place, but the super hero movie continues to show strong. With an estimated $40.7 million from 4,018 locations, the Warner Bros. and DC Comics film is seeing another extremely low drop of 32% from last weekend.

    Otherwise, Tupac biopic "All Eyez on Me" from Lionsgate and Summit is beating out expectations with an estimated $27.1 million from 2,471 locations. Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays the mythologized rapper. Benny Bloom -- who has two feature films and a long list of music videos on his resume -- directed the film that explores Shakur's origins, rise, and imprisonment. The release date aligns with what would have been Shakur's 46th birthday.

    "47 Meters Down" is opening to $11.5 million from 2,270 locations. It's the first major release from Entertainment Studios, which acquired the project from its original distributor, Dimension Films. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as sisters who decide to go cage diving, and end up at risk of being attacked by sharks.

    Finally, "Rough Night," a raunchy, fem-centric R-rated comedy from Sony, is on track to earn only $8.1 million from 3,162 locations. The project combines the talents of director and co-writer Lucia Aniello, co-writer and actor Paul W. Downs, and star Ilana Glazer -- the three are frequent collaborators on Comedy Central's "Broad City" and "Time Traveling Bong." Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, and Glazer make up a rowdy girl gang who reunite for a bachelorette weekend that goes horribly wrong.

    "It is genuinely a funny movie that was made at the right price, and there is a place for 'Rough Night' as summer counter-programming in the coming weeks," said Sony's distribution chief Adrian Smith.

    "Rough Night" will land in seventh for the weekend behind its fellow newcomers, "Wonder Woman," the second weekend of "The Mummy" ($13.9 million) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" ($8.5 million).

  24. Six Reasons 'Wonder Woman' Buried Tom Cruise's 'The Mummy' at the Box Office

    Maybe Tom Cruise would have had a bigger hit if he'd spent his movie shouting, "Show me the mummy!"

    As it turned out, Cruise's "The Mummy" did about as poorly as pundits had predicted, settling for second place with just an estimated $32.2 million. (Week-old "Wonder Woman" earned nearly twice as much, an estimated $57.2 million.) Cruise's "Mummy" opened lower than any of Brendan Fraser's three "Mummy" movies -- it's opening was less than even The Rock's spinoff, "The Scorpion King."

    Its debut also falls well below what a $125 million movie needs to open with in order to break even domestically over the course of its run. And it doesn't bode well for the "Dark Universe" franchise Universal is using the film to launch. Still, this result wasn't a huge surprise. Indeed, it reinforces several lessons that the box office has been teaching us all year. Let's use "The Mummy" to unwrap six of them.

    1. You Can't Force a Franchise Down Audience's Throats
    Studios want Marvel's success, they just don't want to wait for it or due the legwork audiences expect to earn it.

    After the box office successes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, every Hollywood studio wants a universe. But universes tend to evolve organically. Willing one into being is a tricky thing to pull off, even if you're working from familiar and popular characters, as Warner Bros. discovered last month with "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword."

    In the case of Universal's Dark Universe, this is the third time in the last 13 years that the studio has attempted to generate a universe of new films based on its classic monster-movie properties. Hasn't worked out well so far, unless you're one of the handful of moviegoers with fond memories of "Van Helsing" or "Dracula Untold." Yes, there is (limited) potential for the future Dark Universe installments, including an "Invisible Man" with Johnny Depp, a likely "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" starring Russell Crowe's "Mummy" character, and a "Bride of Frankenstein" from "Beauty and the Beast" director Bill Condon (whose deep understanding of Universal's old Frankenstein movies is clear from his 1998 drama "Gods and Monsters").

    But its still not clear what these monster tales have to do with one another, aside from being based on the studio's old intellectual property. That's not a good enough reason for moviegoers to appreciate the Dark Universe as a brand.

    2. Horror Isn't Always an Easy Sell
    Already this year, we've seen M. Night Shyamalan resurrect his career with "Split," and we've seen "Get Out" surprise everyone by becoming a massive hit with its unlikely blend of horror and social satire.

    At the same time, we've seen established horror and action-horror franchises ("Rings," "Underworld: Blood Wars," "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter") stall without reaching $30 million domestically. Even this weekend, we saw critics go wild for "It Comes at Night" (it scored an 86 percent "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes) only to find that audiences hated it (they gave it a D at CinemaScore), resulting in a premiere estimated at only $6.0 million, about 40 percent below what the independent horror film was expected to earn. The short version is: outside of producer Jason Blum, no one seems to know which scary movies audiences will buy and which ones they'll avoid.

    3. Timing Is Everything
    Even with a female mummy, Universal's monster movie didn't have anywhere near the girl-power quotient of "Wonder Woman." It was a given that the gauze-wrapped stiff would have stiff competition from the DC heroine, but "Wonder Woman" has proven to have stronger legs than even Warner Bros. hoped for.

    Most superhero movies drop more than 50 percent in their second weekend, but after last weekend's record-smashing $103 million debut, "Wonder Woman" fell just 45 percent this weekend -- one the best-ever drops for a comic book movie. Plus, Cruise's would-be blockbuster also had to face off against the more family-friendly "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" (the cartoon took in an estimated $12.3 million in its second week) and the still-strong "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (which grabbed another estimated $6.2 million in its sixth week). So the general PG-13 audience "The Mummy" was going for had a lot of other options, most of them better reviewed. And more worth their time and money.

    4. Stop Making Bad Movies, Hollywood
    Yeah, about those reviews: "The Mummy" has a deserved 17 percent "Rotten" at RT. The new school of thought is that, while few young moviegoers read reviews, their aggregate scores compiled by RT can still scare potential ticketbuyers, especially when those low scores are presented at online points of purchase like Fandango. Unlike "It Comes at Night," audiences tended to agree with critics about "The Mummy," judging by the meh B- grade moviegoers gave it at CinemaScore.

    5. Star Power Has Limits
    As Depp discovered with the new "Pirates," not even returning to your most celebrated role guarantees you a stellar premiere. So it is with Cruise, who's had a hard time over the past decade or so luring American audiences to any movie that doesn't have "Mission: Impossible" in the title.

    Yes, male action stars seem to enjoy longer career runs than ever now, but Cruise and co-star Russell Crowe, like Depp, are in their 50s now, and time marches on.

    6. "The Mummy" Is More for International Audiences, But That Likely Won't Save It
    The domestic flop has earned $141.8 million abroad, more than four times what it's earned in the states. (But the film still may not break even with the help of international fans.)

    Cruise, like Depp, continues to be immensely popular among foreign audiences, which is why "The Mummy," "Pirates," and many other releases this year are making some studio accountants happy despite low domestic grosses.

    If you, an American ticketbuyer, didn't think much of "The Mummy," well, you were never the target audience anyway. So don't think for a moment that the new monster movie's dollar shortage in North America is going to put the slightest dent in Cruise's career, but the jury is still out on whether or not we ever see this Dark Universe happen at the scale -- and success -- Universal wishes.

  25. Box Office: 'Wonder Woman' Repeats Box Office Victory, Tom Cruise's 'The Mummy' Misfires

    Different weekend, similar story: "Wonder Woman" is box office royalty.

    The Warner Bros. and DC Comics standalone will have earned $57.2 million from 4,165 theaters by the end of its second weekend, putting it solidly in first place. That's only a 45% drop from its opening weekend, giving the film an estimated $205 million domestically in two weekends.

    The Gal Gadot-starrer will also make more during its second frame than did both "Suicide Squad" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," despite those films having larger opening weekends than "Wonder Woman" ($133.7 million for "Suicide Squad" and $166 million for "Batman v Superman"). Unlike those two films, Patty Jenkins' has critical support -- a current 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

    Universal's "The Mummy," meanwhile is counting on a strong overseas total to make up for less impressive domestic earnings. As of Sunday morning, the film is eyeing $32.2 million from 4,035 locations. That's a slow start for the film intended to launch an extended universe of monster-related titles. Overseas it looks to fare better with $141.8 million, lifting its anticipated global take to $174 million.

    "We would love to see more gross domestically," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution, who asserted that "a lot of the attention that 'The Mummy' garnered here, aggregated to the international total." Carpou cited the 75-foot-tall sarcophagus unveiled at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, and the movie's VR experience as potential buzz generators.

    Alex Kurtzman directed "The Mummy," a revival of the franchise spawned by Universal's 1932 original and re-popularized by Stephen Sommers' 1999 fright-fest starring Brendan Fraser, and the three other Mummy films that followed. In the 2017 update, Cruise plays a freelance treasure hunter who resurrects a princess (Sofia Boutella). Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, and Russell Crowe are also in the mix.

    "The Mummy" was announced as the kick-off to a "Dark Universe" of monster movies. 2014's "Dracula Untold," it turns out, is not canon. The studio that was built on classics including "Dracula," "The Wolf Man," and "Frankenstein" has already slated a "Bride of Frankenstein" movie for 2019 with half a dozen or so others in the works.

    "Every movie is it's own DNA," Duncan Clark, Universal's president of international distribution commented about the "Dark Universe." "It's not about which one went first." Clark said "Bride of Frankenstein" is on deck, and there are "others in place."

    Cruise mostly recently opened "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" to a $22.9 million domestic opening, "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" to $55.5 million, and "Edge of Tomorrow" to $28.9 million. Cruise with reunite with "Edge" director Doug Liman for Universal's "American Made." The studio dropped the trailer for the crime-centric action biopic on Monday, presumably a strategic move to get audiences excited about its star.

    But that couldn't save "The Mummy" from having the lowest domestic opening of any in the recent iteration of the franchise -- 1999's "The Mummy," ($43.3 million); 2001's "The Mummy Returns," ($68.1 million); 2002's "The Scorpion King," ($36.1 million); 2008's "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," ($40.5 million).

    Rotten Tomatoes was blamed for "Baywatch's" Memorial Day weekend flop, but it wasn't enough to save two new wide releases this weekend in A24's "It Comes At Night" and Bleecker Street's "Megan Leavey." Both films won over the critical consensus -- "It Comes At Night" at 86% fresh, and "Megan Leavey" at 80% -- but are lacking so far in box office receipts. A24's horror release will scare up $6 million from 2,533, which is fine for the low price tag, but below expectations. "Leavey," meanwhile, is earning a mere $1.9 million from 1,956, making it a complete dud.

    In limited release, "My Cousin Rachel" is tracking to break $1 million from 523 locations. And "Beatriz at Dinner" from Roadside Attractions is gobbling up $139,000 from only five spots.

    Landing in third overall, "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" from Fox should take in an additional $12.3 million from 3,529 locations -- that's only a 48% drop from last weekend. Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" will sail to fourth with an additional $10.7 million from 3,679 theaters. The franchise's fifth starring Johnny Depp now has over $600 million worldwide. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" will round out the top five for the weekend with $6.2 million from 2,911 locations. The studio is scaling back on domestic locations for both "Pirates" and "Guardians" by about 500 apiece.

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