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  1. 5 Reasons 'Beauty and the Beast' Made All the Money This Weekend

    There was no question that "Beauty and the Beast" would top the box office chart this weekend. The only question was: How big would its opening weekend get?

    The answer was an estimated $170 million in North America, making "Beauty" the seventh biggest debut in history, the biggest March opening ever, and the biggest premiere ever for a PG-rated film. It's also the biggest opening weekend for any of Disney's recent wave of live-action remakes of its catalogue of animated classics.

    The film's opening weekend was slightly higher than most predicted, and, despite good-but-not-great reviews (71 percent "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes), high expectations from fans of the original 1991 film, a star (Emma Watson) who remained unproven outside of the "Harry Potter" franchise, "Beast" managed to net $350 million worldwide over its first weekend. Here's how the tale as old as time pulled it off:

    1. Nostalgia
    "Beauty" is the first of Disney's live-action remakes whose source is a fairly recent film, one from the studio's animation renaissance of the 1990s instead of from when Walt was alive, which was more than a half-century ago. And the 1991 "Beauty" wasn't just any Disney animated feature; it was the first ever to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. So it was beloved by critics as well as young and middle-aged adults who grew up watching it and kids who fell in love with it on home video,

    Plus, for years, Disney used the musical's "Be Our Guest" as a tourist jingle. So "Beauty" wasn't just a fondly-but-dimly-remembered film from the distant past; rather, it's been both ubiquitous and popular for more than 25 years straight.

    Talking to Moviefone, Disney's Executive Vice President for Theatrical Distribution, Dave Hollis, cited nostalgia first among "Beauty's" strengths. He said the company found the 25-year interval since the first film to be the "perfect distance" to capitalize on the affection for the film held by viewers who were kids in 1991. Now, he said, those viewers are "parents bringing their children into theaters for the same kind of experience."

    2. March Is the New Launchpad for Blockbusters
    March madness isn't just a basketball thing anymore. It also describes how crowded the late-winter month has become with summer-worthy blockbusters.

    It's a trend that started with Disney's live-action update of "Alice in Wonderland" seven years ago, a film whose $116 million opening proved once and for all that you could open a blockbuster in March as easily as in May or June. Indeed, instead of releasing "Beauty" on staggered dates throughout the world, Disney put out the film on the same day in all but three major world markets (Australia, France, and Japan), allowing the movie to take advantage of spring break in the U.S. and similar springtime holidays around the globe. As a result, "Beauty" enjoyed similar record-breaking openings in many countries and grossed an estimated $180 million overseas.

    The current March may be the most crowded one yet, with at least one new potential blockbuster every weekend, including "Kong" and "Logan." And yet, there seems to be room for everyone so far, with these hit films driving interest in theatrical moviegoing that has benefitted just about every wide release this month. "The market always expands for quality film," Hollis said. He acknowledged how thick with major releases March has become, but he said the month is "still unbelievably less crowded than the summer."

    3. Old Story, New Visuals
    Disney's cartoon-to-live-action adaptations have tried, mostly with success, to be as imaginative and stunning to look at as the original animation. "Beauty" seems to work on this level as well, particularly with all the inanimate objects in Beast's castle coming to vivid, dancing life. As a result, the movie has done especially well in enhanced formats that bring in ticket surcharges.

    Some 37 percent of sales went to premium formats, including 26 percent to 3D, eight percent to IMAX (2D and 3D), and 11 percent to other premium large format screens (2D and 3D). Those are large numbers for the high-end tickets, which usually account for 25 percent or less of a 3D movie's opening weekend. In fact, it's the biggest IMAX debut ever for a PG-rated movie, both domestically and worldwide. Hollis says the marketing played up the visuals, partly in order to broaden the film's appeal beyond families. "It's part of how we're positioning the film to general audiences," he said.

    4. Good Word-of-Mouth
    As soft as the reviews were, they didn't do much to depress turnout among older viewers who still read criticism. Maybe that's because word-of-mouth was so strong. Paying customers gave "Beauty" an A CinemaScore, suggesting that they recommended it enthusiastically to others.

    5. Families Really Wanted to See the Movie
    All the grumbling over the last few weeks about the movie's supposedly taboo-shattering depiction of LeFou (Josh Gad) as gay didn't seem to stop families from buying tickets to "Beauty."

    Director Bill Condon's remarks about giving LeFou an "exclusively gay moment" at the end of the film had some prominent Evangelical activists up in arms and threatening boycotts of "Beauty" and Disney in general, and one Alabama theater made headlines for refusing to book the film. Nonetheless, advance-sales site Fandango called "Beauty" the fastest-selling family film in its history. Disney reported that families bought 50 percent of the tickets and that 35 percent of tickets went to kids 16 and under.

    Asked whether the studio had any concerns about the possible impact of the religion-motivated backlash at the box office, Hollis declined to comment. Still, the movie's $170 million take speaks for itself.

  2. Box Office: 'Beauty and the Beast' Smashes Records With $170 Million Debut

    Beauty and the Beast Disney Box officeBy Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, March 19 (Variety.com) - This is what makes Disney such a powerhouse.

    "Beauty and the Beast," the studio's latest live action update of a cartoon classic, waltzed its way to a towering $170 million debut this weekend, setting a new record for a March opening and solidifying the Mouse House's status as the dominant player in the film business. No other company can match the streak that Disney is currently enjoying, thanks to a series of multi-billion acquisitions that put the likes of Pixar, Marvel, and LucasFilm in its Magic Kingdom.

    "Beauty and the Beast" represents another part of Disney's branded strategy. It's the latest fairy tale adaptation to hit screens. Others in the lucrative group include "Alice in Wonderland," which picked up $1 billion worldwide, "Cinderella" with its $543.5 million global haul, and last year's "The Jungle Book," which racked up a mighty $966.6 million after finishing its run. Remakes of "Dumbo" and "Mulan" are already in the works, as Disney commits to putting a live action spin on the bulk of its animated properties (Fans of "Treasure Planet" may be out of luck).

    The latest fairy tale follows Belle, a bookish girl in France played by Harry Potter film veteran Emma Watson, who helps a tortured Beast (Dan Stevens of "Downton Abbey" fame) break out of his shell. In the process she lifts a curse that's left the Beast's kingdom populated by talking household items. "Beauty and the Beast" didn't muck about with the elements that made the 1991 film so beloved. Director Bill Condon kept the basic plot intact, while fleshing out a bit more of Belle's backstory, and retaining a soundtrack that includes "Be Our Guest" and "Belle." All those elaborate musical numbers and chatty cutlery don't come cheap. "Beauty and the Beast" carries a hefty $160 million budget. It should make that money back manyfold after ticket sales are tallied and new lines of princess wear are whipped up to satisfy new generations of Belle lovers.

    Most major studios steered clear of "Beauty and the Beast." The only other new release of note, "The Belko Experiment," debuted to $4.1 million, which its backers say is success given its model. The film boasts a unique distribution strategy. "The Belko Experiment" opened in 1,341 locations, roughly a third of the theater count for a major studio offerings. The theaters are chosen because they are more popular with horror fans. Orion, an MGM label, backed the film and is distributing it with BH Tilt. That label is overseen by "The Purge" and "Insidious" producer Blumhouse. It's trying to find more cost-efficient ways to bring smaller films to the masses. "The Belko Experiment" follows a group of American corporate types, who are locked in a high-rise office in Bogota, Colombia. They are ordered by a voice on the intercom to kill one another in a gray flannel-version of Social Darwinism.

    With "Beauty and the Beast" dominating ticket sales, last weekend's champ, "Kong: Skull Island," fell 53% to $28.8 million. That pushes the monster movie's domestic haul to $110.1 million. Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment teamed up to produce the remake of King Kong.

    Fox's "Logan" took third place, pulling in $17.5 million and bringing the R-rated superhero tale's stateside total to $184 million. Universal and Blumhouse's "Get Out," a thriller about a black man whose girlfriend's white family holds a sinister secret, nabbed fourth position. It made $13.2 million, bringing its gross to $133.1 million. With a budget of $4.5 million, the film is one of the year's most profitable. Lionsgate's "The Shack" rounded out the top five generating $6.1 million and pushing the faith-based drama's earnings to over $42.6 million.

    In limited release, "T2 Trainspotting," a sequel to the 1996 cult comedy about a group of heroin addicts, opened in five locations, earning $180,000. Ewan McGregor reprises his role as a drug-addict Scot. The actor also has a supporting turn playing Lumiere, a candlestick, in "Beauty and the Beast." Sony is releasing "T2," which is heavily geared towards European audiences. The drama has already made $34 million overseas.

  3. 'Beauty and the Beast' May Break Records With $170 Million Opening

    "Beauty and the Beast" is rolling up its sleeves for fights with "Batman v Superman" and "Harry Potter."

    Disney's live-action movie is already blowing past the studio's own early opening weekend forecasts, which then called for about a $120 million domestic haul. Now, Variety reports, Disney estimates the musical to finish between $140 million to $155 million, while a rival estimate thinks it could reach $167 million-plus.

    Over at The Hollywood Reporter, they say "Beauty" is expected to make more than $60 million on Friday alone for a possible opening weekend of $165 million-$170 million.

    THR added that Friday's total will include $16.3 million from Thursday-night previews. "That's the biggest preview tally of the year so far, the biggest ever for a Disney live-action title, the second-biggest for a PG film and the third biggest ever in March."

    Deadline mentioned other records the movie could break this weekend: "Should 'Beauty and the Beast' click past $166M, then they'll steal the all-time March opening record from Warner Bros.' 'Batman v. Superman,' and the pic grosses upward of $169.19M, it will be Emma Watson's highest opening of all-time. What does that mean? It means 'Beauty and the Beast' smacked the record opening of a 'Harry Potter' film, that is his last chapter 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.'"

    Go, Belle, go! We'll have to wait for the official opening weekend reports to come in Sunday and Monday. Hopefully these prognosticators aren't counting too many chickens before they're hatched, or suddenly they'll see the opening as "disappointing" if it really does "only" make $120 million.

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  4. How Did 'Kong: Skull Island' Surprise Everyone at the Box Office This Weekend?

    It's weird to think of King Kong as an underdog, but that's what he was, going into this weekend's box office brawl.

    It was supposed to be a close fight between the mighty ape and another hairy hero, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. Given the strong word-of-mouth from last weekend's smash opening, "Logan" was expected to lose just half of last week's business and finish in the mid-$40M range, giving newcomer "Kong: Skull Island" a run for its money. It would also be competing against "Get Out," another genre movie that's shown strong staying power.

    No one expected "Kong," yet another in a long line of attempts to reboot the 1933 classic original version of "King Kong," to open much higher than that, either. (Peter Jackson's "King Kong," opened with $50.1 million back in 2005.)

    When the fog finally cleared from the mysterious isle on Sunday, "Skull Island" had grossed an estimated $61 million. It earned a clear victory over "Logan," which fell 57 percent to an estimated $37.9 million. Meanwhile, in its third weekend, "Get Out" dropped an amazing 25 percent of the previous weekend's business and came in third with an estimated $21.1 million.

    How did "Kong" beat the odds? Here are six ways.

    1. Kong Is a Box Office Draw
    "You will have the tallest leading man in Hollywood," is what "King Kong" creator Merian C. Cooper reportedly promised Fay Wray. More than eight decades later, Kong is still a towering star, one so iconic he continues to loom large in the public imagination no matter how many years pass between screen appearances. Not to slight Marvel regulars Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson, but the real star of "Kong: Skull Island," and the movie's biggest box office draw, is the simian special effect with his name in the title.

    2. March Is the New Place for Summer Blockbusters
    As this column noted last week, March is the new May, with summer-worthy blockbusters coming out all month long.

    From "Logan" to the upcoming "Beauty and the Beast," "Power Rangers," and "Ghost in the Shell," Hollywood is poised to earn nearly ten percent of its 2017 revenue during a month when cold weather is usually still discouraging people from leaving their living rooms for the multiplex. Then again, there's still spring break, which, for many students, coincided with the weekend of the new Kong movie's release.

    3. Lack of Competition
    You'd think all these March mega-movies would cannibalize each other; indeed, that was the logic behind the lowball predictions for the "Kong" premiere. But as we saw last week, the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats effect was in play, and the successful debut of "Logan" seemed to put moviegoers in the mood to hang out at the multiplex, where they also bought tickets for fellow new releases "The Shack" (above) and "Before I Fall."

    This weekend, "Kong" was fortunate not to have to compete against any other new wide releases, but genre movie fans still had a banquet of choices, thanks to holdovers "Logan" (which, despite its steep-ish slide, still made a ton of money this weekend, pushing its 10-day total to $152.7 million) and "Get Out" (whose strong third weekend came in part because it actually added another 205 screens, for a total of 3,143).

    4. Male Audiences Love Monster Movies
    Casting "Room" Oscar-winner Brie Larson as the film's heroine may have been an attempt to bring female audiences on board, but it didn't quite work. Exit polling shows the movie drew an audience that was 56 percent male. (Some pundits think women are holding out on spending their ticket money until "Beauty" opens next weekend.)

    Then again, that makes "Kong" smart counter-programming to the young-women-targeting "Before I Fall" (still No. 6 on the chart) and to "Get Out," since horror tends to draw a predominantly female audience. And it's a more even ratio than "Logan," whose ticketbuyers have been 63 percent male.

    5. Good Buzz
    "Kong" earned surprisingly strong reviews, scoring a 78 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. To the extent that reviews still matter to older moviegoers, they helped a lot.

    Indeed, even though "Kong" is rated PG-13, only 18 percent of its viewers were under the age of 18. Nearly half (48 percent) were over 35. Paying customers gave the film strong word-of-mouth, as measured by an overall B+ CinemaScore, but viewers over 25 liked it more than most, giving it an A grade.

    6. The MonsterVerse
    Maybe not everybody knew, but "Skull Island" is set in the same kaiju-infested universe as Warner Bros.' 2014 reboot of "Godzilla." The studio calls this "The MonsterVerse." It's very likely that some fans stuck around through the closing credits, knowing that there would be a teaser for upcoming installments, including new battles featuring Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, not to mention the ultimate showdown, "Godzilla vs. Kong," due in 2020.

    It's not all rosy for the big gorilla. The movie cost a reported $185 million to make and (if the recent "Godzilla" is any guide) more than $100 million to market. A $75 million opening would have been a stronger sign that "Skull Island" can earn back its costs. (The radioactive lizard enjoyed a $93.2 million debut three years ago.)

    Still, "Kong" did earn an estimated $81.6 million overseas, for a global total of $142.6 million. And it's still two weeks away from opening in China, which could make all the difference. With any luck, world domination is at hand for the massive monkey and his fellow mega-monsters.

  5. 4 Ways 'Logan' Slashed All Expectations at the Box Office

    This weekend, "Logan" proved how much the game has changed for superhero movies.

    A few years ago, no one would have made an R-rated "X-Men" movie, aged the characters well into their Social Security years, premiered it at the Berlin Film Festival, and released it in March -- under a title that does not have the words "X-Men" or "Wolverine" in it.

    And yet, here we are, with "Logan" opening the first weekend of March with an estimated $85.3 million, boasting the best debut for a "Wolverine" film and the fifth-biggest debut ever for an R-rated film.

    Here's how "Logan" defied the odds, the competition, and the old rules of superhero filmmaking.

    1. Fans Love R-rated Comic Book Movies
    Few superhero films go beyond the PG-13 rating, either because of their family-friendly comic-book origins, their fear of excluding potential young ticketbuyers, or their desire to protect a brand that depends heavily on merchandising to kids.

    But Fox's "Deadpool" proved last winter that, not only is the R rating no impediment to box office success, it also satisfies the clamor of an adult fanbase, one that's big enough to replace all those under-17 kids. According to exit polling, some 83 percent of the audience was between 18 and 44, the demographic sweet spot that most movies would kill to hit. Granted, making an R-worthy movie isn't going to be the answer for every superhero (please, Warner Bros., no one wants to see an R-rated Superman), but at least some spandex-clad stars are ready to grow up.

    2. Great Reviews
    "Get Out" proved last week that, if a genre movie is good enough, cultivating critical raves (say, through festival screenings) is a smart tactic. That's what the "Logan" team did last month at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. The result was a worldwide shower of positive buzz, leading to strong reviews -- 93 percent "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. That helped attract the older audience necessary to make "Logan" a hit. Audiences agreed, giving "Logan" an A- CinemaScore, a grade that indicates very strong word-of-mouth.

    3. You Can Open a Summer Movie in March
    In the last few years, March has seen some of the biggest hits of a given year: 2010's "Alice in Wonderland," 2012's "The Hunger Games," and 2016's "Zootopia" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

    This March, "Logan" is just the opening salvo in a month that will see "Beauty and the Beast," "Kong: Skull Island," "Power Rangers," "CHiPs," and "Ghost in the Shell." In earlier years, these would all have been summer releases, but now, they're the sort of movies that make March worth nearly 10 percent of a year's box office total.

    4. #OneLastTime for Wolverine
    No doubt many X-fans went to see "Logan" because it's been widely touted as the last film in which Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart will play Wolverine and Professor X. Of course, this is Hollywood, so never say never, but if the two stars really are hanging up their mutant superpowers after 17 years, it's no wonder viewers would want to take advantage of their last chance to see them ride off into the sunset.

    Again, not every superhero movie is poised to take advantage of such an event, but franchise finales tend to draw fans out to theaters. You don't want to miss your last chance to see Wolverine slash his enemies -- or at least, your last chance until some new star takes up the adamantium claws.

  6. Box Office: 'Logan' Shreds the Competition With $85.3 Million

    By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, March 5 (Variety.com) - "Logan" tore into the weekend box office, opening to a massive $85.3 million and proving that moviegoers will show up in force for R-rated comic book movies. The superhero spinoff marks Hugh Jackman's last turn as Wolverine after 17 years of donning the adamantium claws.

    As the movie business grows more saturated with stories about costumed vigilantes, studios are trying to find ways to differentiate their own comic book adaptations. Like "Deadpool" before it, "Logan" demonstrates that adults will turn out for tentpole fare that is bloodier and more profane than your average X-Men movie.

    "Logan" was produced by 20th Century Fox and cost $97 million to make. Set in the near future, it follows Wolverine and an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who leaving their hiding place on the Mexican border to help a young mutant (Dafne Keen). James Mangold, who previously collaborated with Jackman on 2013's "The Wolverine," directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay. Critics embraced the film, hailing it as a comic book movie with bite, with Variety's Owen Gleiberman writing that "Logan" "...brings the saga to a satisfying finish."

    Despite "Logan's" dominance, Blumhouse and Universal's "Get Out" kept going strong. The low-budget thriller racked up $26.1 million, bringing its domestic haul to $75.9 million. That's an impressive return for a film that cost less than $5 million to make.

    Lionsgate's "The Shack" took third place, earning a solid $16.1 million in its first weekend in theaters. The faith-based drama stars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and cost $26 million to produce. "The Shack" centers on a man (Sam Worthington) whose religious beliefs are tested following a family tragedy.

    Warner Bros.' "The Lego Batman Movie" and Lionsgate's "John Wick: Chapter 2" rounded out the top five, earning $11.6 million and $4.7 million, respectively. That pushes the Lego spinoff's box office total to $148.6 million and gives the John Wick followup a domestic gross of $83 million.

    Fresh off its best picture win, A24's "Moonlight" grossed over $2.5 million and crossed the $25 million mark. The indie studio expects the coming-of-age drama to be the highest-grossing film in its history. That said, "Moonlight," which focuses on a young man growing up gay in Miami, is one of the least widely seen best picture winners, trailing the likes of "Spotlight" ($45 million, domestically ) and "Birdman" ($42.3 million, domestically). It has grossed more than "The Hurt Locker," the 2009 victor that made just over $17 million stateside.

    Bleecker Street's "The Last Word" opened to $35,620 in limited release. The story of an aging businesswoman (Shirley MacLaine) who enlists a writer (Amanda Seyfried) to pen her obituary, screened in four locations last weekend.

  7. The Most Anticipated Movies of March 2017

    Welcome to "New Release Rundown," where we run down the most anticipated movies hitting theaters in March 2017. Let's get to it...

    March comes in hot with teen drama "Before I Fall," wedding comedy "Table 19," and the critically lauded "Logan," featuring Hugh Jackman's final turn as Wolverine, heading to theaters on the 3rd.

    March 10th brings us "Personal Shopper," starring Kristen Stewart; novel-turned-movie "The Sense of an Ending"; and the latest iteration of everyone's favorite rampaging ape in "Kong: Skull Island"

    The hits keep coming on March 17th, with indie horror movie "Raw" getting a wide release; the latest Terrence Malick flick, "Song to Song" coming to theaters; and the movie every Disney fan has been waiting for: the live-action "Beauty and the Beast," starring Emma Watson.

    March 24th packs a punch, too, with buddy action-comedy "CHiPs," sci-fi thriller "Life," and reboot of our '90s kid dreams, "Power Rangers," all hitting theaters at the same time.

    March ends with an eclectic mix of movies. World War II drama "The Zookeeper's Wife," animated family flick "The Boss Baby," and the live-action adaptation of anime classic "Ghost in the Shell" hit theaters on the 31st.

    Head over to Moviefone.com to watch the trailers for all the movies we mentioned, plus search showtimes and buy tickets for a theater near you!

  8. Here's Why 'Get Out' Shot Way Past Expectations at the Box Office

    On paper, "Get Out" may not have looked like much. It's another low-budget Blumhouse horror movie ($5 million), with no big-name stars, directed by a first-time filmmaker ("Key & Peele's" Jordan Peele) better known for his work in front of the camera as a comedian. Even its distributor, Universal, conservatively projected that the film would open below $20 million.

    And yet, "Get Out" scared up an estimated $30.5 million, the fourth biggest debut of the year to date, and more than enough to outpace "LEGO Batman" (which came in second with an estimated $19.0 million).

    By the way, there were two other new wide releases this weekend, action thriller "Collide" and kiddie cartoon "Rock Dog," and both bombed huge. "Get Out" managed to earn more by Friday afternoon than those two films combined earned all weekend.

    How did "Get Out" manage to shock everyone with its opening? Here are six ways.

    1. Amazing Buzz
    Since New Year's, the multiplex has been in the midst of a horror glut. That's one reason why recent horror movies like the huge bomb "A Cure for Wellness" or the recent "Rings" failed to put butts in seats. Fans of the genre, and of good movies in general, will turn out if the product warrants it. And by all accounts, "Get Out" is better than good.

    Reviews don't usually matter for horror films -- unless those reviews are positive. And they couldn't have been better for "Get Out," which scored a rare 100 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. Even the supposedly highbrow indie-film crowd at this year's Sundance Film Festival raved about "Get Out." This weekend's audiences agreed; the A- they gave it at CinemaScore indicates excellent word-of-mouth. (Most horror movies earn somewhere between a B- and a B.)

    2. Jordan Peele
    While Peele has had more success on the small screen, making people laugh, his name is still a draw for scaring folks on the big screen. The Emmy-winning comic actor is more of a "name" to attract audiences than much of his cast (unless you think such recognizable actors as Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener can sell movie tickets). And Peele fans were no doubt curious to see how his satirical sensibility would translate to the horror genre. It helps that Peele is a media-savvy interview subject, and he's been pretty much everywhere over the past few weeks talking up his movie to print and TV outlets.

    3. Blumhouse FTW
    Jason Blum's production company has all but perfected the formula for turning low-budget, star-free horror films into smash hits. It did so just a month ago with "Split." Which, in turn, helped "Get Out"; although a clever trailer for the Peele film had been showing since October, attaching the preview to the beginning of "Split" put "Get Out" in front of the eyeballs of many more horror fans.

    Getting "Get Out" screened at Sundance and cultivating the critics turned out to be smart moves, too, even though neither is part of Blumhouse's usual playbook.

    4. Very Weak Competition
    "LEGO Batman" aside, "Get Out" had little to fear from its rivals this weekend. Despite opening on more than 2,000 screens each, neither "Rock Dog" (above) nor "Collide" even cracked the Top Ten.

    "Rock Dog," a Chinese-American co-production opened in 11th place, with an estimated $3.7 million. "Collide," a European-made car chase thriller set on the Autobahn, premiered in 13th place with a dismal $1.5 million. That is one of the lowest-openings ever for a movie opening on 2,000 or more screens. Both movies earned weak reviews and even weaker word-of-mouth.

    5. The African-American Audience
    Black American viewers have long been underserved at the movies; even though they make up a high percentage of the frequent moviegoing population. "Get Out," of course, has a black hero (played by Daniel Kaluuya), and the alienation he feels at being outnumbered by white people who do not seem to have his best interests at heart is a feeling that's all too recognizable for African-American viewers.

    It's no wonder, then, that the film did so well among black moviegoers, who made up 38 percent of the audience, about three times their percentage of the U.S. population. In fact, it did well among minority viewers in general. 16 percent of the moviegoers were Hispanic, and 10 percent were Asian. No doubt the film's minority appeal has much to do with its treatment of racism, which brings us to...

    6. The Timing Couldn't Be Better
    Peele says he started working on the idea for "Get Out" back in 2008, when Barack Obama was first running for president. Yet the movie feels even timelier now given the current state of the White House, with a president whose nativist appeal and contempt for political correctness seem to have given a lot of white racists permission to come out of the shadows. The fear that Kaluuya's character feels when he meets his white girlfriend's parents -- that something sinister lies behind the off-putting way their white community treats him -- fits in all too well with current events, though it's never been too far from the surface.

    Still, even though the movie's antagonists are white, "Get Out" still sold a healthy 35 percent of its tickets to white viewers. Maybe that's because Peele smartly used horror conventions to tap into more universal fears.

    Peele has said he was inspired by the classic horror film's adapted from Ira Levin's novels "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives," both of which seamlessly wove feminist fears of patriarchy into horror narratives without seeming preachy or didactic. You didn't have to be a woman to identify with the heroines of those movies, who discovered that their paranoid conspiracy theories were entirely correct, that everyone else was in on it, and that the heroines themselves were the targets. So it is with "Get Out," which starts with a fear that anyone can relate to (meeting potential in-laws) and escalates it from there.

    Tapping into specific racial fears may have pushed the buttons of film critics and many minority moviegoers, but tapping into universal fears helped draw horror fans from across the board and make "Get Out" into a shocking smash.

  9. Weekend Box Office: 'Get Out' Scares Up Whopping $30.5M Debut
    Box Office Get OutBy Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Feb 26 (Variety.com) - "Get Out," a trenchant horror film about race relations, rode critical raves to a smashing box office debut. The low-budget film was the weekend's top-grossing domestic release, earning $30.5 million, and propelling its director and writer Jordan Peele onto the Hollywood A-list. The film, which centers on a black man who discovers that his girlfriend's liberal, lily-white hometown is guarding a sinister secret, marks a departure for Peele, who is best-known for his work on the Comedy Central series "Key & Peele." It proves he can handle scares, as well as laughs, supplying sly social commentary in both genres.

    "Get Out" also extends Blumhouse Productions' hot hand. The film company scored earlier this year with "Split," a thriller about a man with a personality disorder that racked up $130.8 million stateside on a $9 million budget. Universal distributed, marketed, and partnered on both movies.

    "Get Out" benefited from being embraced by reviewers, earning a rare 100% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the likes of the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern hailing its "explosive brilliance" and the New York Times' Manohla Dargis praising it as "exhilaratingly smart." Not the kind of notices most horror films enjoy. Its success comes as most of the movie business' gaze is affixed on the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards will unfold on Sunday, with "La La Land" expected to be the night's big winner.

    With "Get Out" galvanizing multiplexes, two other new releases, "Collide" and "Rock Dog," collapsed.

    As the newcomers stumbled, "The Lego Batman Movie" continued to show strength, racking up $19 million in its third week to push its domestic gross to $133 million.

  10. 'Beauty and the Beast' Could Rake in $120 Million on Opening Weekend

    Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon.It's a tale as old as time: When you have a huge star headlining a high-profile remake of a beloved fairy tale, big box office returns are likely. And according to early tracking, "Beauty and the Beast" is certainly well on its way to a huge opening weekend.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, early reports have indicated that "Beauty" is on pace to make about $120 million on opening weekend next month. And while studio Disney is being more conservative in its own estimates, pegging the flick for just over $100 million in its opening frame, that sum still places the movie in the upper echelon of all-time highest-grossing March releases, joining the ranks of blockbusters such as "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($166.1 million in 2016), "The Hunger Games" ($152.5 million in 2012), and "Alice in Wonderland" ($116.1 in 2010).

    That shouldn't really come as a surprise, though, considering the excitement surrounding the remake. It's already on pace to pass fellow Disney property "Finding Dory" in advance ticket sales, and its trailers and teasers have beaten out the likes of "Fifty Shades Darker" and "The Force Awakens" to capture single-day online viewing records. Plus, fans have already spotted a "Harry Potter" reference in the flick, and star Emma Watson's considerable Potterhead fan base is no doubt eager to search for more.

    Watson recently spoke out about the immense pressure she's feeling -- both from fans and from herself -- to get the part right, but it looks like she won't have any trouble convincing moviegoers to give the film a shot. Now, all that remains to be seen is just how much cash the flick can conjure on its opening weekend.

    "Beauty and the Beast" opens on March 17.

    [via: The Hollywood Reporter]

  11. 5 Reasons Why 'LEGO Batman' Can't Be Stopped at the Box Office

    So far, LEGO Batman has been no match for LEGO Chris Pratt. Still, even though "The LEGO Batman Movie" didn't open as big as it should have, and isn't raking it in like "The LEGO Movie" did, it was still far and away the box office winner for a second straight weekend.

    Like the brick-built Bruce Wayne, "The LEGO Batman Movie" has been fortunate in its choice of rivals. The three movies that opened wide this weekend didn't really stand a chance of beating "LEGO Batman," with its estimated $34.2 million. Nor were they likely to outsell "Fifty Shades Darker" (which whipped up an estimated $21.0 million), even with the sadomasochistic sequel's loss of 55 percent of the business it earned during last weekend's premiere. "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight" didn't do great, either, while "A Cure for Wellness" did a little worse.

    Why wasn't the star power of such reliable box office draws as "Great Wall's" Matt Damon enough to challenge the two star-free top box office draws? It could have to do with the audiences each movie is chasing. For instance, there's...

    1. The Discerning Audience
    Reviews may not matter much, unless they're uniformly excellent or horrible. Right now, according to Rotten Tomatoes, "LEGO Batman" has the best reviews (91 percent "Fresh") of any movie in saturation release (more than 3,000 screens). Then again, "Fifty Shades" has some of the worst reviews (9 percent "Rotten"), which may help explain its steep second-weekend drop.

    Reviews for the three new wide releases are all poor, ranging from 32 to 38 percent fresh. Word-of-mouth is no better, judging by their CinemaScore grades: lackluster B grades for "Great Wall" and "Fist Fight" and a dismal C+ for "Wellness." No wonder that horror film opened in 10th place with an estimated $4.2 million, even falling short of the low $6 million bar analysts had predicted.

    You'd have thought "Fist Fight" would have been able to muster better than a fifth-place opening, with an estimated $12.0 million. Not only has Cube been a solid draw in recent comedies like the "Ride Along" movies, but "Fist Fight" also had the comedy marketplace all to itself. So it seems clear that the weak reviews and word-of-mouth must have hurt.

    2. The Minority Audience
    There have been a lot of grumblings about whitewashing regarding "The Great Wall" -- why does a Chinese-made movie set in ancient China need a white American star? None of these complaints seem to have stopped Asian-American audiences from going to see the historical fantasy adventure, which debuted in third place with an estimated $18.1 million.

    According to exit polls, the "Great Wall" audience was 15 percent Asian, or nearly three times the percentage of Asians among the American populace.

    Interestingly, "Great Wall" also drew an audience that was 23 percent Hispanic, also a higher fraction than the Hispanic percentage among the populace (nearly 18 percent). Is Hollywood underestimating potential sales among Hispanic viewers? Almost certainly.

    After all, this weekend also saw the release of "Everybody Loves Somebody," a bilingual romantic comedy set largely in Mexico, distributed by Pantelion, the Lionsgate division that's had several hits in recent years with similar films. "Everybody" debuted at No. 14 with an estimated $1.0 million, even though it played on only 333 screens.

    3. The Young Adult Audience
    "Great Wall" did a better job than "Fist Fight" in cultivating young adult viewers. Some 50 percent of "Great Wall" viewers were under 30. Just 39 percent of "Fist Fight" viewers were under 25, in part because of the film's R rating.

    4. The Female Audience
    Neither Matt Damon's monster-slaying adventure nor Ice Cube's schoolyard brawl proved much of a draw for women, who made up just 41 percent of the "Great Wall" audience and 46 percent of the "Fist Fight" crowd. Most women at the multiplex were probably still lining up to see "Fifty Shades." That may, in turn, have kept them away from "Wellness," which, as a horror film, was the new release that should have capitalized the most on the female audience.

    Then again, there have been an awful lot of horror movies over the last two months, so even if "Wellness" had earned positive buzz, a female audience that had had its fill of horror might still have stayed away.

    5. The Foreign Audience
    Maybe the other reason few cared about the casting of "Great Wall" is that they just weren't interested in a movie that -- Damon aside -- wasn't really made with American viewers in mind. In fact, the movie has already earned a stunning $245 million abroad, including $171 million in China alone. No movie since last summer's "Warcraft" -- another effects-driven fantasy adventure that did extremely well everywhere but here -- illustrates how little consideration is given to the American audience anymore.

    The film cost a reported $150 million to make, but it's sold so many tickets overseas that its profitability is assured, no matter how little it sells here.

    "Great Wall" is one of several movies already in 2017 whose foreign earnings make their domestic earnings look like sofa-cushion change, including "Fifty Shades Darker," "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," and "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter." Even "La La Land" has made more than $200 million abroad, about 1 1/2 times what it's earned domestically.

    Maybe "Fist Fight" and "Wellness" would have done better if they'd had more Chinese appeal. Or at least no one would care about their lackluster domestic debuts.

  12. 6 Reasons Why 'LEGO Batman's' Disappointing Box Office Is a Bad Sign for the Dark Knight

    Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, so a missing $20 million here or there isn't going to put a big crimp in his Bat-budget.

    Still, box office experts must be scratching their heads wondering why "The LEGO Batman Movie" opened about $15 million below the $70 million they projected, taking the No.1 spot with $55.6 million.

    Analysts widely expected the new animated feature to top the $69 million opening that "The LEGO Movie" enjoyed three years ago, released around the same time as "LEGO Batman." The success of the first movie, the eight-decade popularity of Batman, and the 4,088-screen release (the biggest ever for a February film) all made for much loftier prediction than what the film brought it for its opening weekend.

    Fellow sequels "Fifty Shades Darker" and "John Wick: Chapter Two" both outperformed expectations. Pundits predicted "Darker" would premiere in the low $40s, but its estimated sales as of Sunday came to $46.8 million. For "Wick," predictions hovered around $20 million, but the Keanu Reeves action film over-performed with an estimated $30.0 million.

    Why did "LEGO Batman" fall short of expectations, while "Darker" and "Wick" outdid them? Here are six likely reasons why:

    1. Fanbases
    Batman's been a popular character for nearly 80 years, but last year's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" may have squandered a lot of the franchise's good will.

    Not that it's at all clear that fans of those grim, grown-up movies would have come to see the family-oriented "LEGO" film's funnier take on the Caped Crusader, unless they wanted to see a spoof of the bleak bummers the live-action "Batman" movies have become. But it's also not clear that fans of the first movie, with its universe of characters, wanted to see a "LEGO" movie confined to Gotham City.

    Meanwhile, fans of the first "Fifty Shades" were widely expected to come back for a movie that pretty much offered more of the same "Mommy Porn" elements. And "John Wick" may have had the most ardent fanbase of all, those who made the 2014 hitman movie a modest hit in theaters -- and even bigger on home video. The "John Wick" fanbase may have been cultish, but they're also vocal and enthusiastic.

    2. "LEGO Batman" < "LEGO Movie"
    It's no wonder that "LEGO Batman" can't match the startling originality of the first movie. Sure, it was a feature-length toy commercial, but it also had a message (about world-building and childlike imagination) that fit the product. It also had a bright and dazzling visual style, one that seems both familiar and slightly muted in the new movie.

    Familiarity, not novelty, is the selling point of "Darker." Indeed, the point of casting Kim Basinger in a supporting role seems to be to remind older viewers that this sort of kinky-yet-glossy romance is nothing new, since Basinger herself practically invented it 31 years ago with "9 1/2 Weeks."

    As for "John Wick," the franchise's balletic action choreography and complex backstory will be novelties to most viewers, while the "Wick" cult from the first movie should appreciate the sequel's deeper dives into both style and mythology.

    3. Reviews
    Actually, reviews for "LEGO Batman" have been very strong (91 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), as has word-of-mouth (as measured by an A- grade at CinemaScore). Not that kids read reviews, of course.

    The new "John Wick" has enjoyed nearly identical praise from both critics (90 percent on RT) and fans (A- at CinemaScore). In fact, the sequel's $30 million is more than twice the $14.4 million premiere of "John Wick" in October 2014, which shows just how strong the word-of-mouth is among "Wick" fans.

    The new "Fifty Shades," on the other hand, has earned terrible reviews (9 percent "Rotten" on RT), not that they matter so much to fans of the novel. Even they, however, seem to agree a bit with critics, having given "Darker" a good-but-not-great B+ grade at CinemaScore.

    To the extent that "Darker" viewers are older adults who still read reviews, the drubbing critics gave the movie may have kept some of them away. Indeed, that's why the sequel was expected to premiere with only about half the $85.2 million that "Fifty Shades of Grey" opened with two years ago.

    4. Star Power
    The names on the marquee don't much matter for animated movies, not that "Batman" voice star Will Arnett is a household name. (Sorry, "Arrested Development" fans, but it's true.)

    Neither are Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan; certainly, neither has proved to be any kind of box office draw outside the "Fifty Shades" franchise. Keanu Reeves doesn't have the greatest track record either, but he is a household name, and as long as he stays in his wheelhouse (brooding men of action who remain mysterious as long as they don't speak much), he's capable of delivering, as the "John Wick" movies have shown. Still, even the 52-year-old Reeves has to be pleasantly surprised by the robust premiere of "Chapter Two," which marks his best opening weekend since "The Day the Earth Stood Still" eight years ago.

    5. Not Great Timing
    February can be a good month for surprise blockbusters. This time last year, we saw "Deadpool" open with $132 million, about as much as this week's three new releases earned combined.

    Still, having three big movies open at the same time, even in February, means at least one will suffer. Yeah, you wouldn't think the audiences for the family-friendly "LEGO Batman," the female-friendly "Darker," and the testosterone-heavy "Wick" would overlap, and yet nearly $15 million of that extra $20 million projected for "LEGO Batman" seems to have gone instead to its new rivals. The rest may have gone to the other still-strong family films already established at the multiplex, including "A Dog's Purpose," "Sing," and even "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

    "Darker" may also have suffered from a quirk of timing. It opened on the same weekend as the first movie did two years ago, but in 2014, that Friday fell on February 13, so the weekend included both Valentine's Day and President's Day. That meant both a date-movie crowd and a Monday holiday helped boost sales. With Friday falling on the 10th this year, "Darker" enjoys neither of those advantages.

    6. Bad Weather on the East Coast
    The downside of a February opening? iAudiences may get snowed in, as much of the country did this weekend.

    Even so, moviegoers braved blizzard conditions to make this the biggest overall weekend at the box office since "Rogue One" opened two months ago. Plus, all of these movies have already earned sizable amounts overseas (a massive $100.1 million, in the case of "Darker"), so profitability is assured, as are the prospects of third installments for each franchise.

    Still, even though he's sitting on a $92.6 million worldwide jackpot, which will surely double by the time his movie leaves theaters, LEGO Batman's still going to brood over that $20 million left on the table.

    He's the Dark Knight, after all, and he's just built that way.

  13. Box Office: 'Fifty Shades Darker' Gets Overshadowed by 'Lego Batman Movie'

    By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Feb 12 (Variety.com) - Costumed avengers, a billionaire with a kinky side, and a brutally efficient hit man proved to be just the tonic for an ailing domestic box office.

    "The Lego Batman Movie" bested "Fifty Shades Darker" at the multiplexes over the weekend, earning a robust $55.6 million to capture first place. "Fifty Shades Darker," the sequel to 2015's "Fifty Shades of Grey," couldn't quite match its predecessor's $85.2 million launch. It had to settle for a still sizable $46.8 million debut and second place on the box office chart.

    Not to be outdone, Lionsgate's "John Wick: Chapter 2," a followup to 2015's "John Wick," picked up a smashing $30 million. That's more than double what the first film racked up during its debut. The three new releases succeeded by appealing to different demographics and age groups -- kids went to the new Lego movie, women were titilated by Christian Grey's red room, and men looked on as Keanu Reeve's assassin made quick work of his foes. Heading into the weekend, stateside ticket sales were lagging behind last year's numbers, down nearly 3% from 2016. Studio executives and exhibition industry insiders hope that this weekend will help reinvigorate interest in moviegoing, a comeback that will be aided by the upcoming release of "Logan," a new Wolverine movie, and a live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast."

    Warner Bros. backed "The Lego Batman Movie" and sees the animated films built around the line of Danish toys as being key to its corporate future. The studio is leaning heavily on a slate of animated Lego films, DC Comics adventures, and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a Harry Potter spinoff, to help it compete with Disney. That studio has popularized the concept of branded movies, with its arsenal of Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar films. "The Lego Batman Movie" cost $80 million to make, which is downright affordable at a time when many animated films carry budgets that are more than $200 million. It pits Batman against the Joker, and boasts a voice cast that includes Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Ralph Fiennes.

    "The Lego Batman Movie" now as the biggest opening of any 2017 release, but it did fall short of projections. Some analysts had predicted the family film would make more than $60 million.

    "Fifty Shades Darker" is a Universal release. The studio didn't give a budget for the film (as is its wont these days), but knowledgeable estimates put its cost in the range of $55 million. The sequel may have lost some of the audience who saw the first film to see just how much riding crop would make its way to screens, but there are other reasons it couldn't equal the reception of "Fifty Shades of Grey." That movie benefited from being released over the President's Day holiday, a period that also coincided with Valentine's Day, making it the date night movie dujour.

    Universal's "Split" surrendered the first place it had occupied for three consecutive weekends to the barrage of newcomers. The hit thriller took in $9.3 million to capture fourth place on the chart, while pushing its domestic haul to $112.3 million.

    Fox's "Hidden Figures" rounded out the top five, earning $8 million. The Oscar-nominated drama about African-American NASA employees fighting racial prejudice in the early days of the space program has made $131.4 million stateside.

    In milestone news, Universal and Illumination's "Sing" topped $500 million globally. The animated film about a talent competition has launched a new animated franchise for the studios.

  14. M. Night Shyamalan Tweets 'Split' Sequel Tease

    'Split' New York Premiere - Arrivals"Split" is destroying expectations at the box office, and M. Night Shyamalan is "humbled and grateful" about the response. The James McAvoy horror film, written and directed by Shyamalan, just topped the box office for its third weekend in a row. The idea of a "Split" follow-up film makes sense, and not just because this movie is making so much cash. So fans were happy to see these tweets from Shyamalan about his "next film":

    Thank you to everyone who has gone to see #Split in the U.S. & around the world. The response is overly generous. I am humbled & grateful.

    — M. Night Shyamalan (@MNightShyamalan) February 4, 2017

    I have an 11 page outline for my next film in my bag. I can't tell you what it is, but If you've seen #Split...

    — M. Night Shyamalan (@MNightShyamalan) February 4, 2017


    What's next? No spoilers here, but plenty of spoilers here if you want to discuss "Split" and what exactly this next film might entail.

    "Split" only cost about $9-$10 million to make, and worldwide it has earned more than $142 million so far. TheWrap reports that "Split" is Shyamalan's second film to top the box office for three consecutive weeks since 1999's "The Sixth Sense." It's never a bad thing to be compared to your first big hit, so no wonder M. Night feels "humbled and grateful." Now he just has to live up to his own potential.

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  15. Here's Why 'Split' Can't Be Stopped at the Box Office

    What year is it again? Judging by M. Night Shyamalan's three-week reign at the box office with his biggest horror/suspense hit in 13 years, it must be 2004. (Or 1999, when "The Sixth Sense" was the last time that the filmmaker had a movie threepeat at No. 1.)

    Shyamalan's "Split" proved unbeatable for the third straight weekend, earning an estimated $14.6 million from Friday to Sunday, for a 17-day total just shy of $100 million. This despite direct competition from "Rings," the third entry in the horror franchise whose first two installments earned more than $400 million worldwide.

    Even with "Split" losing 43 percent of last weekend's business, it still did better than "Rings," which debuted in second place with an estimated $13.0 million. That's about what it was expected to earn, so at least it did better than the other wide release, "The Space Between Us." No one had high expectations for that film, with predictions running around $6 million, but it didn't even clear that low bar, debuting instead with an estimated $3.8 million and settling for ninth place. That's the 11th worst opening ever for a movie released on more than 2,500 screens.

    As this column noted when "Split" opened with an astonishing $40 million two weeks ago, the thriller did a lot of things right, but it's also been lucky with its timing, in that it's competed against some especially feeble rivals. Here are seven reasons why "Rings" and "Space" fell short.
    1. The Super Bowl
    The biggest TV event of the year tends to keep people away from the multiplex. In fact, this was one of the slowest weekends in recent memory, the first in which total sales failed to crack $100 million since the doldrums of early December.

    2. Female Audiences Stayed Home
    You'd think a horror movie and a tearjerking teen romance would be smart counter-programming to the Super Bowl, as both genres target young women. But women watch football, too, so maybe not.

    3. A Glut of Horror Movies
    With several horror movies in the marketplace already, we really noticed that the market was saturated last week when "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" had to settle for a fourth-place premiere. This weekend, it's down to sixth place, with an estimated $4.5 million from Friday to Sunday and $21.9 million for its 10 days of release -- woof. That means the movie will finish with the lowest domestic total of any of the series' six installments.

    Besides, "Rings" earned a dismal C- at CinemaScore, indicating horrible word-of-mouth. ("Split" earned a B+.) Given a choice between two wide-release horror movies, the one with much better word-of-mouth had the edge.

    4. Too Long a Wait for "Rings"
    It's been 12 years since "The Ring Two," an eon in the lifespan of a horror franchise aimed at young-adult viewers. (This column noted the same problem last week for "Resident Evil," and that series went only five years between sequels.)

    The current generation of horror fans may not remember the first two "Ring" movies, and the fact that none of the principals from those films returned for "Rings" makes it hard for moviegoers to grab onto a thread of continuity.

    5. Release Date Musical Chairs
    Both "Rings" and "Space" had their initial release date changed or postponed at least three times. That doesn't bode well for a film's quality; it suggests a lack of confidence on the distributor's part. It also makes it hard to market the movie, especially if the trailers end up coming out so far in advance of the eventual release date that potential viewers forget about the film.

    6. Really Sh***y Reviews
    Critics certainly notice when a movie's release gets delayed three times, and since those delays lead critics to expect a disappointment, they may color the reviews. So does not screening a movie at all for critics and forcing them to wait until after it opens to see it and write about it.

    True, that's standard procedure for horror movies, but it still doesn't inspire confidence when a studio withholds screenings, perhaps because it knows the reviews won't help. In the case of "Rings," the result was a fresh rating of just 5 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. "Space" didn't do much better (18 percent).

    Actually, paying audiences really liked "Space," giving it a strong A- at CinemaScore. But you can generate good word-of-mouth only if you can get audiences in the door, and the delays, the reviews, and the Super Bowl all would have discouraged viewers from buying tickets in the first place.

    7. The Foreign Market
    As 2017's box office keeps reminding us, a lot of these movies simply weren't made with the American market in mind. That seems especially true of "Rings," with its Spanish director, Italian leading lady, and overseas gross of $15.2 million, about 53 percent of its earnings so far. "Rings" cost just $25 million to make (about half the cost of the original "The Ring" back in 2002), so it should make a profit whether Americans go see it or not.

    "Space" will have a much harder time abroad, as a dialogue-heavy movie without big-name stars or a title familiar from another medium. (At least its budget was also modest, just $30 million, pretty frugal for a movie involving space travel.)

    It might have done better on a weekend with fewer distractions and less competition, but that would have meant changing the release date a fourth time. Better, perhaps, to put it on the field with "Rings," "Split," and the Patriots and Falcons, and just take your lumps.

  16. Box Office: 'Split' Takes Top Spot for a Third Week, 'Rings' Takes Second

    Split is No. 1 at the box office for a third week, Rings takes second By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Feb 5 (Variety.com) - It was a squeaker, but Universal's "Split" has edged past Paramount's "Rings" to narrowly claim victory at the domestic box office. The low-budget thriller retained its first place position for the third consecutive weekend, earning $14.6 million. So far, "Split," the story of a man with multiple personalities, has made $98.7 million stateside, while costing just $9 million, making it very profitable indeed. The film stars James McAvoy, was directed by "The Sixth Sense's" M. Night Shyamalan, and produced by Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions, the maker of "Sinister" and "Paranormal Activity."

    "It's a darn good movie," said Nick Carpou, Universal's domestic distribution chief. "It's very satisfying for audiences. People seek out quality."

    It was a quiet weekend for Hollywood. After all, most of America's attention has shifted away from the multiplexes to the coming battle between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams will meet at Super Bowl LI, and the high-profile matchup should ensure that the weekend box office closes on a muted note.

    "Rings," an attempt to revive a long-dormant horror franchise, earned $13 million. The first "Ring" movie opened to $15 million in 2002 on its way to a $129.1 million domestic gross, while its followup, 2005's "The Ring Two," kicked off to $35.1 million, ending its stateside run with $76.2 million. "Rings" was delayed multiple times, and was originally intended to hit theaters in 2015. It cost $25 million to produce and, like its predecessors, focuses on a videotape that kills those who watch it. Overseas, "Rings" took in $15.2 million from 35 international markets, including Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. Paramount marketing and distribution chief Megan Colligan said she was pleased by the reception the film received here and abroad.

    "It's solid," she said. "Internationally we did incredibly well and it's nice to have over-performed in certain markets like Brazil." As for whether or not "Rings" will lead to more sequels, Colligan offered, "time will tell."

    Paramount has gone through a bruising period at the box office, enduring a stream of painful flops such as "Allied," "Ben-Hur," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows." The studio has scored with the Oscar-nominated "Fences" and "Arrival," but is trying to exhibit greater consistency on the big screen. That's seen as critical for the longterm survival of studio chief Brad Grey. He managed to make it through the ouster of Philippe Dauman, the head of Paramount's parent company Viacom and a one-time ally, but Grey must prove that he has the vision needed to restore the studio's luster.

    The weekend's other new wide-release, STX Entertainment's "The Space Between Us," bombed, eking out $3.8 million. That's far less than the $8 million to $10 million that the studio projected the film would earn in its debut. The science-fiction romance was picked up from Relativity Media after that company fell into bankruptcy. It centers on an intra-planetary relationship that forms between a young man who lives on Mars (Asa Butterfield) and a girl from Earth (Britt Robertson) who captures his heart. STX Entertainment is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, having launched in 2014 with backing from the likes of the venture capital firm TPG and the private equity player Hony Capital. The studio has struggled at times, scoring with "Bad Moms" and "The Gift," but falling flat with "Free State of Jones," "Hardcore Henry," and "The Edge of Seventeen." "The Space Between Us" cost $30 million to produce -- STX says it limited its financial exposure with foreign pre-sales, tax credits, and by taking on outside investors.

    "While we were hoping for more, we are proud of the film and the way we managed it creatively and financially," a spokesman for STX said in a statement to Variety.

    "A Dog's Purpose," a family film from Universal, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media, nabbed third place, grossing $10.8 million to push its domestic total to $32.9 million. The film was nearly derailed after video surfaced showing a skittish German Shepherd being forced by members of the crew into rushing water. Universal later claimed that the video was heavily edited. Despite the controversy, "A Dog's Purpose" has performed well at the box office.

    Fox's "Hidden Figures" took fourth place, continuing its torrid run at the box office. The drama about African-American NASA employees earned $10.1 million, bringing its domestic earnings to a sizable $119.4 million. "Hidden Figures" is also factoring into the Oscar race, having recently earned a best picture nomination.

    "La La Land," the musical expected to dominate this year's Academy Awards, rounded out the top five, adding $7.4 million to push its domestic results to more than $118 million. The film picked up another honor this weekend, as Damien Chazelle, the 32-year-old wunderkind who wrote and directed "La La Land," won the Director's Guild Award.

    In limited release, "The Comedian," a critically maligned dramedy with Robert De Niro, struggled to make much of an impression, grossing $1.1 million on 848 screens. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film.

    Magnolia's "I Am Not Your Negro" fared better, grossing $709,500 on 43 screens. The look at essayist and novelist James Baldwin is competing for an Oscar in the best documentary category.

    Overall ticket sales topped out at $100 million, a 4.7% jump from the year-ago period when "Kung Fu Panda 3" topped charts. The domestic box office is trailing 2016's results, but analysts believe that those fortunes will be reversed when "Fifty Shades Darker," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Logan" debut in the coming weeks.

    "We're not exactly off to a rousing start, but I still think this year will be a record breaker," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "It's just a late bloomer."

  17. The Most Anticipated Movies of February 2017

    Welcome to the "New Release Rundown," where we run down the most anticipated movies coming to theaters in February 2017. Let's dive right in...

    February blasts off with sci-fi heart-melter "The Space Between Us" and horror sequel "Rings" getting wide releases on the 3rd.

    February 10th premieres a trio of heavy hitters, including "The Lego Batman Movie," the sequel shoot-em-up "John Wick: Chapter 2" and the hotly anticipated "Fifty Shades Darker," all of which feature low-lighting and people getting tied up -- but for VERY different reasons.

    Another triple threat hits theaters the following weekend: horror-thriller "A Cure for Wellness," school-yard brawl comedy "Fist Fight," and the Matt Damon helmed action-fantasy "The Great Wall" square off for box office supremacy on February 17th.

    On February 24th, along with action movie "Collide" and the animated "Rock Dog," we get the Jordan Peele-helmed horror-thriller "Get Out," which is getting attention for its racially charged spookiness.

  18. Why 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' Was Such an Epic Fail at the Box Office

    Did you believe that "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" would really be the franchise's final chapter? Probably not, but after this weekend's shockingly dismal domestic debut, the lowest of all six movies in the franchise's 15-year history, it could be the last after all.

    The strongest and longest-lasting of all video game-inspired movie series, "Resident Evil" has grossed close to $1 billion worldwide. Milla Jovovich's Alice remains the rare action heroine who sells tickets to a predominantly male audience. So it's no wonder pundits expected it to challenge both last weekend's winner, "Split," and family newcomer "A Dog's Purpose," for chart supremacy, with a likely finish just under $20 million.

    Instead, "Split" easily repeated on top with an estimated $26.3 million, while "Purpose" scored an estimated $18.4 million. With six-week-old drama "Hidden Figures" coming in third with an estimated $14.0 million, "Resident Evil" had to settle for a fourth-place premiere.

    So, what went wrong? Turns out "Resident Evil" found itself up against a perfect winter storm of unfavorable conditions. Among them:

    1. Too Long of a Wait
    It's been five years since the last "Resident Evil" movie, the longest gap yet between installments. For this kind of horror-action franchise, especially one that appeals primarily to viewers under 25, that's an eternity.

    For an example, you have to look back only three weeks, to the failure of the very similar "Underworld: Blood Wars," another female-led, modestly-budgeted horror-action sequel from Sony's Screen Gems division that came five years after its predecessor and opened just under $14 million.

    2. The "Split" Audience
    "Resident Evil" had the poor timing to come along at the tail end of a wave of January horror movies, so you could argue that the market is saturated. Or you could argue that the horror crowd simply found a movie they really liked in M. Night Shyamalan's "Split."

    Usually, horror audiences tend to crowd the opening weekend of a new scary movie and then drop off quickly, which is why analysts expected "Split" to suffer a second-weekend drop of about 60 percent, to below $20 million. But "Split" added 161 screens this weekend, for a total of 3,199. As a result, it held onto all but 34 percent of last weekend's business, an unusually strong hold for both the genre and the director. "Split" doesn't have stellar word-of-mouth (just a B+ grade at CinemaScore), but its word-of-mouth is better than that of "Resident Evil" (CinemaScore audiences gave it a B).

    3. Controversy? What Controversy?
    Many thought the recent video that allegedly showed a dog being abused during the shoot of "A Dog's Purpose" would lead to a boycott that would hurt the film's sales. Actually, not so much.

    Despite all the news coverage of the video, which the filmmakers claimed did not show the dog being mistreated, the movie slightly outperformed expectations. What's more, it played well among women, who made up 56 percent of the audience. Women traditionally dominate the horror audience, but clearly, they were less interested in watching a post-apocalyptic action heroine than a heartwarming story about dogs. "Resident Evil," then, drew an audience that was 56 percent male.

    As the only new child-friendly film in multiplexes, the PG-rated "Purpose" was also a hit with families of kids under 13; such families made up 47 percent of the "Purpose" crowd. Despite weak reviews, "Purpose" earned an A at CinemaScore, indicating excellent word-of-mouth.

    4. The Oscar Bounce
    With last Tuesday's announcement of the Academy Award nominations, several nominated movies took advantage of their good fortune and added theaters this weekend.

    "La La Land," the movie with the most nominations (a record-tying 14), saw the widest expansion, adding 1,271 screens for a total of 3,136. The result was a 43 percent boost in sales over last week, for an estimated take of $12.1 million and a fifth-place finish. Several other nominated films saw modest increases, including "Lion," "Manchester by the Sea," "Moonlight," "Arrival," "Fences," "Jackie," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Toni Erdmann," and "The Red Turtle."

    Even "Hidden Fences," which lost 65 screens (down to 3,351), still did pretty well with its $14.0 million, third-place finish, enough to take the movie past the $100 million mark in its sixth week.

    In all, Oscar-nominated movies added 5,109 screens this weekend and took in an additional $45.2 million. (See? It really is an honor just to be nominated.) That's a lot of people who didn't go see "Resident Evil" -- or "Split" or "Purpose," for that matter.

    5. Overseas Is Where the Money Is
    Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems' action horror RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE.In the end, there's one more relevant comparison to make between the "Resident Evil" and "Underworld" series: both do much better overseas than they do here. In the case of "Resident Evil," it's earned 76 percent of its take from foreign ticketbuyers, though some installments have done as much as 82 percent of their business abroad. So it is with "The Final Chapter," which has already earned $64.5 million in overseas markets over the past month, about five times what it's earned here. Not bad for a special-effects action saga that cost just $40 million to make.

    As with "Underworld: Blood Wars" and last weekend's "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," the North American release is almost an afterthought, then, just gravy. As Sony worldwide marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein noted, "'Resident Evil' is built for an international audience. This is a perfect example of looking at a film as a global film and not as a U.S.-centric one."

    That doesn't mean Screen Gems didn't try hard to market "Final Chapter" here, but they didn't have to. It also means that, even with the disappointing domestic opening, there's enough of a worldwide audience for the franchise that you could imagine Sony still trying to squeeze a few more drops of T-virus-infected blood from it, final chapter or no final chapter.

  19. Ben Affleck's 'Live by Night' Reportedly Headed for $75 Million Loss

    Well, at least he's still Batman.

    "Live By Night" was often described as a passion project/labor of love for Ben Affleck -- who wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the Prohibition-era crime drama. Unfortunately, the film has not been a box office success, and Variety reports that Warner Bros. is looking at a $75 million loss. They got that number from "insiders with knowledge of its financing and rival studio executives," and any time rival executives are asked for comment you know they're not likely to be generous with their estimates, so keep that in mind.

    "Live By Night" reportedly cost about $65 million to make (plus distribution and marketing costs) and it has only made about $16.67 million at this point -- just over $10 million in domestic gross, and $6.5 million overseas. It's not expected to make much more internationally, despite Ben Affleck being a household name, because it's a "talky period picture" and it has no Oscar nomination backing.

    Warner Bros. didn't comment to Variety, but the site speculated that the studio will try to cushion any losses from the film through home entertainment sales and rentals, and TV licensing deals.

    You could argue that it's all worth it to keep Ben Affleck creatively happy. He is DC/Warner Bros.'s new Batman, and his debut in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" was praised, despite the rest of the film being heavily criticized. He'll return to the Batcave for "Justice League," and he's also working on his own Batman solo film. Considering the money the DC Comics movies make (critical acclaim or not), Warner Bros. can afford to take a loss on a passion project like "Live By Night." They probably don't want to be taking losses, but they also probably didn't expect blockbuster numbers from this movie. Then again, they did give it an initial limited release on Christmas, so they may have hoped it would at least get some awards love.

    [via: Variety, Box Office Mojo]

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  20. 5 Reasons Why 'Split' Crushed Vin Diesel's 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'

    Do today's moviegoers even remember what the movie landscape was like 15 years ago? That's how long it's been since Vin Diesel's last "xXx" movie, as well as M. Night Shyamalan's last monster hit.

    This weekend saw both Diesel and Shyamalan test moviegoers' memories, and while pundits predicted modest successes for both "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" and Shyamalan's "Split," the competition wasn't even close. "Xander Cage" opened as expected, with an estimated $20.0 million, but "Split" earned more than twice as much, topping the box office chart (and exceeding expectations) with an estimated $40.2 million. That's the fourth biggest January opening of all time.

    How did "Split," a low-budget ($5 million) horror movie with no box office stars to speak of (sorry, James McAvoy, but it's true), leave "Fast and Furious" mainstay Diesel's return to his other big action franchise in the dust? Here are some of the ways.

    1. January Is a Good Month for Scary Fare
    Or at least decent quality horror. Which is why "The Bye Bye Man" was the top new release last weekend -- and why "Underworld: Blood Wars" is unlikely to recoup its $35 million budget in North American ticket sales. In any case, with January's multiplex usually filled with prestige Oscar hopefuls and leftover holiday blockbusters, horror looks increasingly like smart counter-programming.

    2. Young Female Appeal
    One reason horror fills a niche at this time of year is that no other genre targets young women so directly. Look at "Split," with its three young heroines.

    By contrast, "Xander Cage" stars a 49-year-old man, returning to the spy-movie action fare that he sold, perhaps more convincingly, when he was 34. And unlike "Xander Cage," "Split" wasn't trying to draw viewers who were more likely to spend this weekend watching NFL playoffs.

    3. Blumhouse
    In any case, the real star of "Split" isn't "X-Men" regular McAvoy or the three little-known actresses who confront the kidnapper he plays; it's writer/director Shyamalan and low-budget hitmaker Blumhouse.

    The "Sixth Sense" creator is a brand name, albeit a tarnished one. His last huge hit, "Signs," was 15 years ago, and his creative overreach with such flops as "Lady in the Water" and "The Happening" made him appear less the master of twisty suspense than the butt of jokes. But over the past few years, he's teamed with producer Jason Blum, a godfather of low-budget horror hits who's been able to keep the once-profligate Shyamalan more disciplined. The results have been movies such as 2015's "The Visit," a horror hit that helped restore the director's reputation.

    Indeed, while it's not clear if today's young audiences remember "The Sixth Sense," "Signs," or "Unbreakable" (which gets one hell of a callback in "Split"), they do seem to have forgotten "Lady" and "Happening."
    Meanwhile, Diesel has done tremendously well with the "Fast and Furious" franchise, but he's had trouble turning his other franchises, notably the "Riddick" movies, into domestic hits. (All luring in crowds when he's not behind the wheel of his hit action franchise.)

    The "xXx" franchise doesn't have a lot of good will, even though the film that launched it earned $142 million back in 2002. That's because Diesel dropped out of the second film, the terrible "xXx: State of the Union," leaving Ice Cube to carry the movie. It flopped domestically with just $27 million, and there hasn't been another "xXx" film since 2005. The title of the new film touts the return of Diesel's character, but that wasn't enough to sell the franchise to newbies or make older viewers care. Maybe his fans are saving their money for the next "Furious" installment, due in April.

    4. Good Reviews and THAT FREAKIN' ENDING
    Not that horror or action fans really care about reviews, but "Split" did score a healthy 76 percent "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, while "Xander Cage" earned just 42 percent.

    The reviews do suggest, however, that the opinions of older moviegoers mattered more than pundits predicted. After all, they're the ones who still read what critics have to say. They're also probably the ones who helped "Split" cross over well beyond its target audience to reach $40.2 million. And they're the ones "Xander Cage" was depending on to come see a middle-aged star revive a long-dormant franchise.

    Buzz about the film's surprise ending hit fever-pitch late Thursday/early Friday, prompting several entertainment sites to post interviews and/or think-pieces about the ballsy, out-of-left-field sequence. The writer-director is known for twist endings, and the online chatter may have lead many ticketbuyers to see his latest WTF surprise.

    5. The State of the Marketplace
    The Cheeto may have stressed "America First" and "Buy American" during his inauguration speech on Friday, but as this column has noted, that's not the principle that drives big-studio franchise filmmaking anymore. For movies with lavish budgets and expensive stars, the overseas audience is now much more important than the domestic one.

    Exhibit A is the recent "Underworld" sequel, which few viewers here cared about, but which had earned more than $40 million abroad before it even opened in the U.S. and has so far earned 62 percent of its total take from foreign filmgoers.

    So it is with Diesel, whose movies tend to do much better outside America than inside. That's why Paramount, which has been on a chilly streak lately, was willing to pick up the "xXx" franchise rights from Sony and spend $85 million on "Xander Cage." And it's a gamble that's already paying off, with $50.0 million earned from 53 foreign markets, more than the double what the movie has earned here.

    Not that "Split" isn't looking for an overseas payoff as well, but Universal did make the American release a priority, generating homegrown word-of-mouth by screening it at Fantastic Fest in Austin last September and by hosting 24 sneak previews since (one for each of McAvoy's character's multiple personalities).

    As a result, "Split" has earned 87 percent of its take so far in North America. Trump may have become president because of voter concerns over outsourcing, but when it comes to low-budget thrillers, we're still number one.

  21. 5 Reasons Why 'Hidden Figures' Crushed 'Patriots Day' at the Box Office

    This was supposed to be a coronation weekend for "Patriots Day."

    The thriller about the capture of the terrorists behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing expanded wide to 3,120 screens in its fourth weekend, after an awards-season qualifying run on just seven screens. The team of star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg was expecting the kind of all-American January hit they achieved four years ago with "Lone Survivor." So was the industry, which saw the film tracking at No. 1 in online sales this weekend at Fandango. Analysts expected the drama to make around $20 million this weekend.

    Yet "Patriots Day" didn't even crack the top five, finishing instead in sixth place with an estimated $12.0 million. This suggests that the film will be lucky to recoup its reported $45 million budget plus a similar amount in marketing and distribution costs.

    In fact, of the three new wide releases and three expanding-into-wide-release movies, only one finished in the top five. That was "The Bye Bye Man," a low budget horror movie with no stars, which nonetheless debuted with nearly twice the $7 million it was projected to earn. In fact, at an estimated $13.4 million, it's within $400,000 of both "Sing" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," for a virtual three-way tie for third place. (Indeed, when final figures are released Tuesday, it could end up ahead of those holdover hits.)

    How did this underdog succeed where Wahlberg and Berg's epic stumbled? Here are five ways.

    1. Been There, Done That
    "Patriots Day" is Wahlberg and Berg's third collaboration, and their formula is apparent, with Wahlberg playing a real-life ordinary-grunt-turned-hero who shows all-American grit and determination in the face of a cataclysm or disaster. Audiences may have found the formula too familiar, since the star and director's "Deepwater Horizon" came out just four months ago.

    That drama opened moderately well, at $20.2 million, but it topped out at $61.4 million, suggesting that viewers were already starting to tire of the formula before "Patriots Day" followed fast on "Horizon"'s heels.

    2. No Awards Bump
    Despite its decent reviews and awards-season angling, "Patriots Day" has been a non-factor during the Golden Globes and Oscar races so far. Not that that should hurt it with audiences -- in fact, "Patriots" scored a rare A+ at CinemaScore from paying customers.

    Still, every little bit of positive buzz helps. Look at "La La Land," which scored a record seven Globe wins last Sunday. It jumped into second place this weekend, after six weeks of release, and earned an estimated $14.5 million, for a total of $74.1 million to date.

    3. Not Enough Appeal to Female Audiences
    Aside from "La La Land," the only movie catering to them was "Bye Bye Man." Horror movies do tend to do well in January, since they're usually the only releases targeted at young women during this season of awards hopefuls and holdover holiday blockbusters. The Friday the 13th opening date was a marketing bonus.

    4. Too Much Appeal to Older (Male) Audiences
    Some pundits suggested that "Patriots" did well on Fandango because it appeals to an older, affluent audience that is more likely to buy tickets online in advance.

    "Hidden Figures" showed its broad, cross-racial appeal last weekend when it edged out "Rogue One" for the top spot. Nonetheless, it should have been clear that young people weren't going to show up in great numbers for "Patriots Day" after the film's Thursday night preview. It's a given that older viewers aren't going to see a late-night Thursday movie but will wait for the weekend, but the Thursday take of just $560,000 indicated that young people weren't coming either.

    Especially young women. Did you happen to catch Wahlberg's visit to "Conan" this week? The star's fellow Bostonian noted that it's been a quarter-century since Wahlberg went from pop star to Calvin Klein underwear model to movie leading man. These days, the pop star-turned-Klein skivvies model is Justin Bieber.

    At 45, Wahlberg has aged well out of boy-band fan appeal, and the "Patriots" clip screened on "Conan" made him look not much younger than co-stars Kevin Bacon and John Goodman. As an aging action hero, he's not Liam Neeson yet, but he's getting there.

    5. Multiplex Pileup
    There's nothing wrong with relying on an older male demographic... except on a weekend like this one, where several other new or newly-wide releases are competing for the same audience. January is often a movie desert, but this weekend's six new wide movies made for a ticketbuyer traffic jam.

    Jamie Foxx's crime thriller, "Sleepless," and Ben Affleck's nostalgic gangster picture, "Live by Night," chased the same viewers. Berg and Wahlberg can console themselves that their movie did a lot better than those rivals; "Sleepless" finished eighth with an estimated $8.5 million, while "Live by Night" was way down at No. 11 with an estimated $5.4 million.

    Not to mention Martin Scorsese's "Silence," which has also come up empty as an awards contender despite strong reviews, and whose expansion into 747 theaters led to a take of just $1.9 million, for a sixteenth-place finish.
    The real disaster of the weekend was new kid film "Monster Trucks," even though it finished seventh with an estimated $10.5 million, about what was expected. Paramount notoriously delayed the film's release twice and then, after the movie had sat on the shelf for nearly a year, the studio took a $115 million write-off in anticipation of its box office failure. Woof. That move is unheard of in modern studio age, pointing that the studio knew they had a waste of space on their hands.

    Nonetheless, the studio went ahead with a costly 3,119-screen release, only to see the "Monster" flounder against holdover kid hits "Sing" and "Moana."

    Given the movie's reported $125 million cost, it looks like the accountants' dismal predictions were correct. Compared to that belly flop, "Patriots Day's" weekend doesn't look so bad.

  22. Box Office: 'Hidden Figures' Prevails as 'Monster Trucks,' 'Live by Night' Bomb

    Box Office: 'Hidden Figures' Prevails as 'Monster Trucks,' Ben Affleck's 'Live by Night' BombBy Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Jan 15 (Variety.com) - It's bombs away at the multiplexes.

    Family film "Monster Trucks" tanked when it debuted over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, while Ben Affleck's "Live by Night" and Martin Scorsese's "Silence" suffered moribund national expansions. Their failures will lead to tens of millions of dollars in red ink for the studios that backed them. "Sleepless," an action-thriller with Jamie Foxx, also suffered an underwhelming opening, getting lost in the onslaught of new releases.

    "There's almost an unprecedented number of films out there," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "It's got to be somewhat daunting and overwhelming for moviegoers."

    Amidst the carnage, Fox and Chernin Entertainment's"Hidden Figures" retained its box office crown in its second weekend of wide release, earning $20.5 million for the weekend and a projected $25.3 million for the long weekend. That will push its total to $59.7 million. The historical drama about African-American NASA workers during the early days of the space program has been one of the biggest breakouts of awards season.

    "Hidden Figures" faced stiff competition from Lionsgate's "La La Land," riding high after sweeping the Golden Globe Awards, and STX's "The Bye Bye Man," which earned $14.5 million and $13.4 million, respectively. "La La Land" is widely expected to dominate the Oscar nominations. The musical about lovestruck Angelenos should finish the four-day weekend with another $17.5 million in domestic receipts, which would bring its stateside total to more than $77 million.

    "The Bye Bye Man's" strong reception is welcome news for STX, which had expected the film to open to roughly $10 million. The horror movie about college students grappling with a deadly supernatural figure cost less than $8 million to produce. It should make $15 million over the four-day holiday. Studio executives said they weren't afraid of the crush of new releases heading into the weekend, because they felt they were the only film targeted to younger females. STX also wanted to release the picture on Friday the 13th, a marketing hook for scary movies.

    "We knew we were going to be able to get that core audience of females," said Kevin Grayson, STX's domestic distribution president. "Not only did they go on Friday, they continued to go all weekend."

    Heading into the weekend, most analysts expected CBS Films and Lionsgate's "Patriots Day" to put up more of a fight. The drama about the Boston Marathon Bombing earned $12 million after moving from seven theaters to 3,120 locations. It could make $14.3 million over the four-day stretch. That's below projections -- analysts expected the film to earn as much as $18 million. However, the studios believe that "Patriots Day" could benefit from enthusiastic word-of-mouth. Audiences gave the film a rare A+ CinemaScore.

    "Monster Trucks'" failure seemed preordained. Last year, Paramount took a $115 million write-down on the film. "Monster Trucks'" reception justified that fiscal white-flag waving. It opened to a pallid $10.5 million and a projected $14.1 million over the holiday, a disastrous result given its $125 million budget.

    "The movie works for the audience it's intended to work for," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's marketing and distribution head. "It did really well in the midwest and south. It was over 50 percent kids. The balance was good between boys and girls...without a whole lot of competition, it will keep plugging along."

    Paramount has hit a rough patch. The studio was embroiled in a corporate power struggle that pitted the controlling Redstone family against Philippe Dauman, the former chairman of Paramount's parent company Viacom. The Redstones ultimately prevailed, but the pressure is now on Paramount chief Brad Grey to prove he can deliver more hits. The studio scored with "Fences" and "Arrival," but lost millions on the likes of "Allied," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," and "Ben-Hur."

    "Live by Night's" troubles will hit Affleck hard. He directed, produced, and wrote the Dennis LeHane adaptation, and took a starring role as a charismatic rum runner. Warner Bros. is releasing the $65 million production. It earned a sallow $5.4 million and should end the four-day holiday with just over $6 million, which more or less leaves the gangster picture on the slab. Affleck should be on firmer commercial ground reprising his Dark Knight role in "Justice League" later this year.

    Open Road's "Sleepless" didn't fare too well either, although it cost significantly less than "Live by Night" and "Monster Trucks." The $30 million production stars Foxx as a morally compromised cop whose extracurricular activities endanger his son. It kicked off with a meager $8.5 million and should end the long weekend with $10.1 million in the till. The studio says that "Sleepless" will make its way into the black because Open Road covered its financial exposure by selling foreign distribution rights and through tax rebates.

    "Given our economics, this $10 million opening on 'Sleepless' will certainly become profitable for Open Road," said a spokeswoman.

    Then there's "Silence," a decades-in-the-making religious drama. Scorsese struggled for years to cobble together the financing for this story about Jesuit priests who risk torture and death to spread the gospel in feudal Japan, but audiences seemed to have little appetite for his rumination on faith. "Silence" expanded from 51 theaters to 747 locations, earning just over $2 million for the long weekend. The $50 million film was financed independently. Paramount is distributing the picture.

    "Marty Scorsese is one of the greatest living filmmakers," said Colligan. "He's earned the right to independently finance a movie and make the movie he wants to make. This is a complicated, beautiful film, one that movie critics have named the best of the year and one that will be taught in film schools for years. It needs to be judged on its merits."

    Holdovers "Sing" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" continued to show strength, with both films earning roughly $13.8 million. "Sing," the latest collaboration between the "Despicable Me" team of Universal and Illumination, has earned $237.2 million stateside. "Rogue One" is now the top-grossing 2016 release with more than $500 million in receipts. It will cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office this week.

  23. Here's How 'Hidden Figures' Crushed Expectations at the Box Office

    There's a fascinating series of articles in this weekend's Los Angeles Times, inspired by the media's spectacular failure to read the nation's pulse during last year's presidential campaign, that explores the question of whether Hollywood has lost touch with America.

    It's a loaded question, one that depends on your definitions of "Hollywood" and "America." And the answer requires a lot more nuance than even these 16 articles can muster, but the answer is, of course, yes.

    But there's also the box office truism, which the Times writers don't address, that Hollywood doesn't really make movies for Americans anymore because it's making them primarily for audiences overseas.

    This weekend's box office offers a good illustration. In a dead-of-winter weekend -- with just one new wide release -- pundits had predicted an easy four-peat victory for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." They also called for a second-place finish for the cartoon hit "Sing," modest success for inspirational drama and awards-hopeful "Hidden Figures" in its first weekend of wide release, and a weak opening for the lone newbie at the multiplex, "Underworld: Blood Wars."As it turned out, however, "Rogue One" fell 56 percent from last weekend, much faster than experts had predicted, and so did "Sing" (down 55 percent), while "Hidden Figures" came in nearly $2 million above expectations. The result was a photo-finish contest between "Rogue One" and "Hidden Figures," with the former claiming just a $172,000 advantage over the latter as they both approached $22 million on Sunday. (By the time final figures are released Monday, "Hidden Figures" might even end "Rogue One"'s reign after just three weeks on top of the chart.)

    Meanwhile, the fifth "Underworld" didn't even reach the low $15 million threshold it was predicted to clear, coming in fourth with an estimated $13.2 million.

    Of course, "Rogue One" is still one of the biggest hits of 2016 (it should overtake "Finding Dory" for the year's top spot by the end of this week) and will soon be one of just seven movies in history to earn more than $500 million in North American theaters. Still, its plunge this weekend took pundits by surprise. Why did "Rogue One" fall so fast? You could point to the movie's bleak and violent tone, or its tangential connection to the Skywalker family story line of the rest of the "Star Wars" movies, or the bitter winter weather in much of the country. But you could also point to "Rogue One"'s casting. As one commenter to the Times complained, there's not an American actor to be seen. (Wait, what's Forest Whitaker, chopped liver?) Indeed, it's a blockbuster action movie with a female British lead and an international cast. This sort of diversity in casting of big-budget movies has spurred some backlash in the last couple of years, most notoriously with the "Ghostbusters" remake, but the fact is, it helps sell the movie abroad to have a Diego Luna or Donnie Yen or Riz Ahmed (or all three) in the cast.

    Whatever American audiences may think a hero should look like, Hollywood is overlooking your preferences with an eye toward foreign markets. That's true whether it's an otherwise standard action franchise with a diverse cast (like the successful "Fast and Furious" movies) or a fantasy picture with a built-in overseas audience.

    This is especially clear with the new "Underworld." The past four installments of the vampire-action series have all opened above $20 million here, but the current film treated its American release like an afterthought. In fact, "Blood Wars," which sees Brit Kate Beckinsale reprise her lead role, opened in most overseas markets in November, and it's already made $42.1 million in foreign sales. It's not clear why Sony's Screen Gems dumped it into American theaters during the winter wasteland that is the January release calendar, unless it knew that the movie's profit (it cost just $35 million, about half the budget of the previous installment) was already assured. How "Blood Wars" fares in America clearly doesn't matter.Conversely, "Hidden Figures" is a movie with all-American appeal. (Exit polling shows that 43 percent of "Hidden Figures" viewers were white, 37 percent were black, and 13 percent were Hispanic.) That may sound paradoxical, since it's a movie about math whizzes, and since its stars are three black women, but the historical drama about the overlooked but crucial contributions of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) toward launching the first Americans into space during the 1960s is an only-in-America story.

    Only in America would Jim Crow and institutional sexism have been a barrier to achievement for these women, and only in America could they have overcome those barriers through pluck, hard work, and sheer merit. And only in America could mainstream audiences respond to this feel-good entertainment with the assumption that racism and sexism are problems we solved for good during the Civil Rights Era in which the movie is set, and that they're not something we need to feel bad about or work to correct today.

    Indeed, "Hidden Figures" feels like a rarity among major-studio Hollywood movies. Again, not because its stars are black women or because it's a PG-rated inspirational movie with heartland appeal, but because it's a modestly-budgeted ($25 million) drama with a lot of dialogue, whose characters are mathematicians and engineers, taking place in a distinctly American historical setting. There's none of the shut-off-your-brain, effects-heavy, action-blockbuster elements that make Hollywood movies hits overseas. It's a movie clearly made with an eye toward American audiences alone. In today's box office landscape, that looks like a real gamble.

    Given the $24.8 million that "Hidden Figures" has earned to date, the A+ rating it's earned at CinemaScore from paying customers, and the likelihood that it'll be up for major awards over the next two months, it seems that distributor Fox's gamble will pay off.

    But that jackpot will be a modest one. Meanwhile, "Rogue One" finally opened in China this week, where it sold 56 percent of all tickets purchased, for a take of $31 million. That's where the box office game is, with fantasy space heroines like Jyn Erso, not real-life American space heroines like Katherine Johnson.

  24. The 8 Biggest Box Office Winners (and Losers) of 2016

    Sure, 2016's domestic box office did hit a record $11.3 billion, up a modest 1.7 percent from 2015's record take. But that doesn't account for the inflation in the average ticket price -- $8.61 this year, up 18 cents from 2015 -- which means the number of tickets sold this year, 1.31 billion, was down a hair from a year ago, when theaters sold six million more tickets.

    In fact, the total number of tickets sold has been slipping ever since the peak year of 2002 (1.58 billion tickets).

    The current weekend is a pretty good snapshot of the year as a whole. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" topped the charts for a third straight weekend with an estimated $50 million (for a total of more than $400 million domestic to date). That made it 2016's second highest-grossing film, surpassing "Captain America: Civil War."

    Looking at these movies, as well as the rest of the year, it becomes easier to find trends amid the box office confusion of 2016 and declare some clear winners and losers.

    WINNERS:

    1. Star Wars
    Along with "Rogue One's" earnings so far, and "The Force Awakens" playing into the early months of 2016, the franchise accounts for a solid $700 million toward the year's total take in North America. We've never had a year with two "Star Wars" movies in the multiplex before, which paves the way for "Episode VIII" in December 2017.

    2. Disney
    The House That Walt Built was far and away the market leader this year, both globally and domestically. With "Star Wars," Marvel, Pixar, and live-action remakes of its animated library, the studio has hit upon several winning formulas, enough to power it past $7 billion globally this year.

    Disney scored four billion-dollar movies and six of this year's ten biggest domestic hits. Not everything worked, but the big smashes were more than big enough to make up for the extravagant flops -- sorry not sorry, "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and "The BFG."

    3. China
    Remember what a huge flop "Warcraft" seemed to be earlier this summer? It made only $47 million here, but it was a massive hit abroad, earning $386 million.

    The largest chunk of that change came from China ($221 million), a market whose taste in movies is now, arguably, more important than Americans' taste as far as determining which films Hollywood greenlights. Of course, if President-elect Trump goes all protectionist on trade with China, that country may respond by limiting Hollywood imports, which would mean fewer "Warcrafts" getting made. A win-win for everybody!

    4. Talking Animals
    "Finding Dory," "The Secret Life of Pets," "The Jungle Book," and "Zootopia" were all among the year's top 10 movies. Current hit "Sing" is in the top 20, with $177 million to date.

    5. Idris Elba
    Did any actor have a better box office year in 2016? With "Zootopia," "The Jungle Book," "Finding Dory," and "Star Trek Beyond," his movies made $1.35 billion in North America. Granted, he's seen on camera in just one of those films, but still, his name in the credits now seems to be a sign that the movie is going to be a well-crafted popcorn entertainment.

    LOSERS:

    6. Bad Sequels
    "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," "The Divergent Series: Allegiant," "Now You See Me 2," "Zoolander 2," "Bad Santa 2," and many others flopped because either you didn't like them or want them.

    Same was true for some uninspired remakes, including "Ghostbusters," "Ben-Hur," and "Pete's Dragon." None of this is going to stop the studios from betting the farm on sequels: they're still easier to market than unfamiliar original titles, and they're still likely to make money if they're done right. A big "if," to be sure.

    7. Hollywood Stars Aren't a Sure Thing to Put Butts in Seats
    More than ever, it became apparent that marquee names alone aren't enough to sell a movie, and they're certainly not enough to turn a dog of a film into a thoroughbred.

    "Passengers" is currently flailing despite the presence of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (in two weeks, it's earned back just $61 million of its $110 million budget), and James Franco couldn't sell "Why Him?" (an estimated $10 million this weekend, for a total of $37.6 million to date, though that one cost just $38 million to make).
    Throughout 2016, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Will Smith, Melissa McCarthy, and other A-listers failed to interest ticketbuyers in their latest weak offerings. Tom Hanks helped make the well-liked "Sully" a hit but couldn't interest anyone in the widely ridiculed threequel "Inferno."

    But even quality, star-driven movies can be a tough sell. Meryl Streep pulled in just $27 million for "Florence Foster Jenkins." Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal haven't been able to propel "Nocturnal Animals" past the $10 million mark. Jury's still out on Denzel Washington's "Fences," which has made just $33 million in three weeks but has yet to go into wide release. After tireless promotion by stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, three-week-old "La La Land" is the biggest limited-release hit of the year, but even that amounts to only about $37 million so far.

    8. Movies for Guys
    Yes, testosterone still rules the marketplace, which helps explain all the superhero movies. Still, it's worth noting that at least eight of the top 25 movies are driven by female protagonists, as studios start to recognize that women buy tickets too.

    Meanwhile, sausage fests like "The Nice Guys," "War Dogs," "Dirty Grandpa," and the current "Assassin's Creed" and "Why Him?" all had a hard time drawing dudes to the theater.

    Maybe guys stayed home this weekend to watch college football playoffs, or maybe there just wasn't anything on that menu as compelling as watching Felicity Jones fight the empire in "Rogue One."

  25. 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Dominates Holiday Box Office

    Rogue One holiday box officeBy Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" remains powerful at the U.S. holiday box office with a dominant $15 million on Christmas Eve and projections of a $120 million-plus haul over the six-day Dec. 21-26 period.

    Illumination-Universal's animated comedy "Sing" easily led the rest of the pack on Christmas Eve with a solid $7.9 million, followed by Sony's "Passengers" with $2.9 million, Fox's "Assassin's Creed" with $2.2 million and Fox's "Why Him?" with $1.8 million.

    Paramount launched Denzel Washington-Viola Davis's "Fences" with $750,000 at 1,547 sites in Saturday night showings and plans to expand the drama to about 2,200 locations Sunday.

    Overall moviegoing slowed on Christmas Eve, as is typical, with "Rogue One" falling about 33 percent from Friday and "Sing" declining about 40 percent. Business should rebound sharply on Christmas Day on Sunday and on Monday, an official holiday for many.

    Disney-Lucas film's "Rogue One," starring Felicity Jones, wound up business on Christmas Eve with about $260 million domestically in its first nine days and is projected to finish the holiday on Monday with about $327 million. That will be enough to pull it past "Suicide Squad" as the eighth highest domestic grosser of the year.

    "Rogue One," the eighth Star Wars movie, is running about 42 percent behind the pace "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," which opened a year ago and grossed a still-stunning $571 million in its first 11 days on its way to a record $948 million domestic total.

    "Sing" is projected to come in a second with about $71.5 million over the six days - in line with forecasts - followed by the Jennifer Lawrence-Chris Pratt sci-fier "Passengers" at about $29 million to $30 million and videogame adaptation "Assassin's Creed" at $22.6 million.

    James Franco's romantic comedy "Why Him?," which opened Friday, is forecast to finish the four-day weekend with about $14.4 million.

    Martin Scorsese's historical drama "Silence" is projected to finish the four days with $170,000 at four theaters. The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as 17th century priests who face brutal persecution in Japan.

    "Patriots Day," from CBS Films and Lionsgate, took in $34,336 on Christmas Eve from seven locations and is project to wind up the six-day holiday break with about $280,000. The Boston Marathon bombing movie is directed by Peter Berg and stars Mark Wahlberg.

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