Here's Why 'Fate of the Furious' Can Only Be Stopped by 'Guardians of the Galaxy' at the Box Office
The "Fast and Furious" franchise may be starting to run out of gas after eight installments, but it still had a few laps left in it this weekend. Even after losing 60 percent of its business from last week's debut, and even with five new wide releases opening, "Fate of the Furious" still motored to an easy victory this weekend, with an estimated $38.7 million.
If anything, "Fate" won again, not because it was so beloved, but because the battle was so bitter among the also-rans and the non-threat of new releases. Here's why none of them could pull ahead of the pack for a clear win, or even a serious challenge to "Fate."
1. The Crowded Field
Five new wide releases is really too many for the multiplex to handle, especially with three holdover blockbusters ("Fate," "The Boss Baby," and "Beauty and the Beast") already sucking up much of the oxygen. It's no wonder that these new movies all but cannibalized each other, or that none of them was able to open higher than fourth place. That was Disney's "Born in China," which sold an estimated $5.1 million in tickets and averaged $3,413 per screen.
That's a just-okay average, but it's way better than its four new rivals, none of which managed even a $2,000 per-screen average. Which means that most of the new films spent the weekend playing to largely empty theaters.
2. Wide Releases, Disappointing Movies
"Unforgettable" was widely expected to be the top new movie, since it was opening on the most screens. Even so, its theater count was just 2,417. They couldn't really have booked many more. The top three movies had more than 11,000 screens already taken. Add "Going in Style" and "Smurfs: The Lost Village," and you'll see that the top five holdovers were hogging an average of 3,423 screens each.
The five new releases were able to book only half that many, averaging 1,768 screens each. Even if "Unforgettable" had enjoyed as high a per-screen average as "Fate" ($8,936), it still couldn't have grossed more than $21.6 million.
3. Female Audiences Stayed Away From Theaters
"Unforgettable" was also supposed to serve as counter-programming to "Fate," the idea being that the female-driven thriller would attract women put off by all the testosterone of the action sequel. Unfortunately, nearly everyone else had the same idea.
Historical epic/wartime romance "The Promise" was also best suited for female viewers, and so was found-footage sci-fi/horror film "Phoenix Forgotten." Even "Free Fire," a crime caper marked by wall-to-wall macho gunplay, had as its biggest star the feisty Brie Larson. Of course, it's possible that, rather than let any of these movies compete for their ticket dollars, female viewers just went to see "Beauty and the Beast" again.
4. Rotten Tomatoes Scores
To the extent that these movies, particularly "Unforgettable" and "The Promise," were depending on older viewers, they needed to earn strong reviews. Judging by their aggregate scores on Rotten Tomatoes, they did not. But the dismal 25 percent fresh rating for "Unforgettable" and the weak 45 percent score for "Promise" don't really tell the whole story.
Remember, RT is a measure of consensus opinion, not of what critics thought of a particular movie's strengths and weaknesses. It counts all reviews as either positive or negative; it has no way of accounting for nuance or middling reviews. This polarization effect really hurt "Unforgettable" and "Promise."
For "Unforgettable," positive and negative reviews were divided largely along gender lines. Male critics dismissed it, while female critics appreciated its camp value and the willingness of its female writer and female director to explore the issue of domestic violence against women. But since male critics far outnumber female critics, the consensus score measured by RT was overwhelmingly negative.
For "The Promise," the first mainstream, big-budget Hollywood movie to address the Armenian genocide of 1915, critics were divided between those who felt its well-meaning take on history made up for its listlessness as a drama, and those who did not. The appreciation of the film as a flawed-but-noble work is the sort of half-hearted endorsement that RT scores are not built to acknowledge.
5. Audiences Didn't Want Whatever "Free Fire" Was Selling
Male critics seemed to have missed the satirical intent of "Unforgettable." Critics also seemed to miss the satire of "Free Fire," with some panning the film for its over-the-top, non-stop gun violence. Of course, that's the whole point of the movie, as it was with the similarly satirical "Shoot 'Em Up" 10 years ago. No wonder both movies were tough sells.
6. The Trolling Problem
Even 102 years after the systematic massacre of the Armenians, the Turkish government and many Turkish nationalists still won't acknowledge the genocide as a historical fact. Indeed, there's evidence that such denial was behind the apparent trolling attack on the IMDb scores for "The Promise" that began within moments of the film's premiere screening last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. The movie received tens of thousands of downvotes from people outside of Canada who clearly could not have seen the movie yet.
It's not clear to what extent such trolling -- and such artificially low scores at audience-polling sites like IMDb -- discourage opening-weekend moviegoers. (Or encourage them, as in the case of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," which received a suspiciously large number of high scores early on from apparent DC Comics partisans.) But with a number of movies having been affected over the past year or so -- most notoriously, "Ghostbusters" -- Hollywood is acknowledging that there's a problem here, one that could be having an impact at the box office.
7. Lack of Star Power
None of these movies had much. Katherine Heigl is certainly not the box office draw she was at the height of her rom-com successes of a few years ago. "Free Fire's" Larson is still unproven, even after the very modest success this spring of "Kong: Skull Island," whose true draw was the big gorilla.
As for "The Promise," Christian Bale isn't a box office draw when he's not driving the Batmobile. His co-star Oscar Isaac may be the Internet's boyfriend, but the dashing "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" flier has never opened a movie on his own. "Phoenix" had a cast of unknowns. And apparently, nobody in any of these movies had the box office appeal of the adorable pandas in "Born in China."
Was late April the right time to release any of these movies? It worked for "Born in China," in part because this weekend was Earth Day, and in part because Disney has been releasing nature documentaries on Earth Day weekend for nearly a decade, priming a ready audience to expect them at this time of year.
On the other hand, "The Promise" might have done better in the fall, when an awards-season campaign for Isaac or Bale could have boosted the film's profile. But its makers chose this weekend because it marks the anniversary of the beginning of the genocide.
9. Everyone's Saving Their Money for Baby Groot
The other reason not to release a film at the end of April is that moviegoers are holding onto their money until the summer movie season starts with the May 5th release of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." No wonder this weekend saw total box office receipts fall 36 percent from a week ago. In fact, it was the second least lucrative weekend of 2017 so far. (Look for next weekend, the last weekend in April, to be similarly bleak.)
Even with "Fate" and other hit movies still playing, even with five new wide releases, there was not a compelling draw at the multiplex this weekend. Forget fast cars, baby pandas, and Katherine Heigl finally letting her psycho flag fly; we're all holding out for the talking raccoon and the ass-kicking sapling.
'Fate of the Furious' Stays on Top; 'Unforgettable,' 'The Promise' Bomb
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "The Fate of the Furious" is racing to defend its title at the top of the box office, while a number of new releases including "The Promise" and "Unforgettable" are being left in the dust.
Universal's eighth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise proved to be a global box office titan when it opened last weekend to a record-shattering $532.5 million. This time around looks to tell mostly the same story -- while domestic grosses slipped 61% from its first to second weekend, the movie is still easily topping the box office with $38.7 million from 4,329 locations.
But slipping domestic earnings (and lower U.S. grosses than "Furious 7," which pulled over $250 million in its first two weekends versus "Fate's" current sum of $163.6 million) are majorly overshadowed by the movie's international appeal. A bankable, diverse cast including Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron is leading the film, directed by F. Gary Gray, to a two-frame global total of $744.8 million and worldwide sum of $908.4 million.
While studios wait for summer season to commence, there are no surprise hits to come of this weekend's releases. Warner Bros.' "Unforgettable" seems to have slipped audiences' minds, earning $4.8 million in its first weekend from 2,417 theaters.
"It just didn't resonate with the intended audience," said Jeff Goldstein, the president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. Goldstein stressed that the movie was made for a moderate price, and the marketing was "targeted and appropriate" for the audience.
The directorial debut of Denise Di Novi stars Katherine Heigl as a scorned ex-wife, and Rosario Dawson as a woman who is newly engaged to the same man. In his review for Variety, critic Peter Debruge lauded Heigl's "terrific" performance, and wrote that her casting "savvily exploits the actress's prickly reputation within the industry."
"Unforgettable" joins a string of so-so to disappointing releases from Warner Bros. so far this year, including "Chips" and "Fist Fight." At least the Heigl movie had a low production budget ( about $12 million) to minimize losses.
"The Promise," too, couldn't follow through, despite a social media push from stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, the Kardashian sisters and Cher. The movie, from Open Road Films on behalf of Survival Pictures, looks to round out the weekend with about $4.1 million from 2,251 locations -- barely cracking the top ten for the weekend.
While "The Promise" could be considered a massive disappointment for its $90 million price tag, the film's backers hoped it would raise awareness more than earn money. Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale make up the central love triangle in the movie directed by Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda"). The film is set during the Armenian Genocide, and bankrolled by the late businessman Kirk Kerkorian who wanted to bring visibility to the systematic extermination to 1.5 million Armenians at the order of the Ottoman empire in 1915 -- a politically fraught subject that Turkey continues to deny happened. All proceeds made from the movie will be donated to charity.
"We certainly hoped for a better box office result," said Open Road's president of marketing Jonathan Helfgot, adding that the film's mission was not purely box office-related. "It was about bring the world's attention to this issue," he said. "And looking at the amount of conversation ... it's undeniable that there's been more focus and attention in the past two weeks than the past hundred years since the atrocity took place."
Disney's latest animal documentary "Born in China," a co-production between Disneynature and Shanghai Media Group, is making $5.1 million from 1,508 theaters. Narrated by John Krasinski, the docu earned more than previous films "Monkey Kingdom" ($4.6 Million) and "Bears" ($4.8 Million), and is the highest grossing Disneynature opening since 2012's Chimpanzee ($10.7 million).
Cinelou's "Phoenix Forgotten" opened at 1,592 theaters to an estimated $2 million this weekend. A24's "Free Fire" raked in only $1 million from 1,070 spots in its first weekend.
In its fourth frame, Fox's "The Boss Baby" will bottle up $12.8 million from 3,697 locations, putting it in second place behind "Fate." Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" should hold onto third with $10 million from 3,315 theaters.
Warner Bros.' "Going in Style" should slide into fourth with $5 million from 3,038 spots. The heist comedy starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin is targeting an older demo, and saw only a 20% decline in ticket sales from its second to third weekend. "Born in China" looks to round out the top five.
Chris Pratt Surprised by 'Passengers' Criticism: 'It Was Definitely a Lesson'
Chris Pratt's new film "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is enjoying massive early acclaim, which is in stark contrast to his last film, "Passengers." The pitch of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in a romantic sci-fi action movie -- it seemed like a can't miss, and Pratt even praised "Passengers" as "maybe the best script I had ever read." So when the movie came out, and critics hated it, and fans only kinda liked it, it was a surprise for everyone.
"Passengers" currently has a 31 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an Audience Score higher at 64 percent. Many critics called out a key aspect of the plot as creepy, stalking, and even Stockholm Syndrome.
Variety asked Pratt if criticism of the film surprised him. He hesitated, then answered:
"Yeah. It did, it really did. I was really caught off guard by that. It was definitely a lesson. I personally think the movie is very good, I'm very proud of it. I'll be curious to see if it holds up — the criticism and the movie. [...] But the critical score was disproportionately negative compared to the Cinemascore. It got the same rating on Rotten Tomatoes as 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop,' maybe worse."
Yep, worse. "Mall Cop" has a 33 percent RT rating (and an Audience Score of 43 percent), vs the 31 percent for "Passengers." "Passengers" has a "B" on Cinemascore, though, which does show that fans liked it more than critics. (But "Passengers" initially looked like a potential blockbuster, so even a B is kinda disappointing.)
However, Pratt is not angling to get into a fight over this, telling Variety:
"I never want to be in a situation where I'm blaming critics for not liking a movie. So I'll just stop talking. It is what it is and I'm proud of it."
Pratt added that the movie "did just fine" to make money back for the studio. "Passengers" had a reported budget of $110 million and made $100 million in its domestic release, and just shy of $200 million overseas for a total just under $300 million.
Meanwhile, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel (out in theaters May 5) will probably break some box office records and get very high ratings from both critics and fans. But to each his own.
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5 Reasons the 'Fast and Furious' Franchise Might Be Running Out of Gas
This weekend, there was no question which movie would top the box office chart.
"The Fate of the Furious" belongs to a franchise so feared that every other potential wide release gave it a wide berth. Even counter-programming cartoon "Spark: A Space Tail," aiming for kids too young for the "F&F" demographic, scaled back its wide-release plans and opened on just 365 screens. With the biggest April release ever (in 4,310 theaters), "Fate" was poised for an easy victory this weekend and a domestic debut between $100-$110 million.
And yet, "Fate" still failed to live up to expectations. Those expectations were already scaled back from the $147 million premiere of "Furious 7" two years ago, but even so, analysts figured this installment was good for at least $110 to $120 million in its first three days.
Instead, the movie barely squeaked past $100 million -- by just $182,000, according to studio estimates. Given that the last few "Fast and Furious" movies have earned back about 2.4 times their opening-weekend grosses over the course of their domestic runs, that means we're looking at a total of about $240 million for "Fate" -- which means that the movie wouldn't even make back its reported $250 million budget in North America. (Thankfully, it's global-haul will help put it in the black.)
Why didn't the pedal hit the metal as hard this time? Here are five potential reasons.
1. Audiences Might Be Aging Out of This Franchise
It's worth remembering that "Fate" is the eighth movie in a 16-year-old franchise, with a 49-year-old leading man (Vin Diesel). At this point, declining debuts ought to be the rule, not the exception. This franchise has primed us to expect otherwise; until now, each of the last four sequels has opened bigger than the one before it.
With "Fate," the franchise is finally showing its age. Sure, a $47 million plunge from the previous premiere looks alarming, but that one-third drop, at this stage, is actually pretty normal.
2. No Paul Walker
Sad to say, but "Furious 7" owed part of its success to viewers wondering how the franchise would handle the 2013 death of mainstay Walker. Not only did he perish in a life-imitates-art car crash, but he also left only some of his scenes completed, and the film had to be delayed and reworked to accommodate his demise. That off-screen tragedy spiked interest even among non-fans, and that spike drove the franchise to its first opening above $100 million.
Now that interest in the franchise has returned to normal levels, the fact that "Fate" still managed to score what is only the franchise's second $100 million debut looks a little more impressive.
3. Easter Weekend
"Furious 7" and "Fate" both opened on Easter weekend, which has become a big moviegoing session in recent years. But Easter fell unusually late this year, two weekends later than in 2015, when "Furious 7" earned its haul, and three weeks later than last year, when "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" debuted to the tune of $166 million. So, "Fate" fell further outside peak spring break time, meaning fewer high school and college students would have a free weekend.
4. The Reviews Weren't Great
For the most part, the "F&F" franchise has been critic-proof. Even so, the reviews for the sequels have improved along with their grosses. "Fate," however, has scored the weakest reviews of the last four films, just 64 percent "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. Paying audiences disagree, giving the film a solid "A" CinemaScore.
Still, for a franchise increasingly dependent on older viewers -- 50 percent of "Fate" filmgoers were over 25 -- reviews matter at least a little. If nothing else, they suggest that the franchise is slowing down creatively, and some older potential moviegoers who still care what critics think may have heeded the warning and stayed home.
5. International Box Office Is King
The real reason distributor Universal is not disappointed with "Fate"'s $100 million domestic opening is that it has earned more than four times that much everywhere else.
In fact, the movie's estimated $432.3 million earned abroad this weekend marks the biggest overseas premiere ever, and its total $532.5 million gross marks the largest global opening of all time. Of that global opening, a full $190 million came from China, giving "Fate" the record for the top-grossing premiere in that country for a Hollywood import. This weekend's results bring the franchise's total earnings to $4.4 billion, more than any other franchise in Universal's history.
Even if "Fate" performs overseas as it's doing here and ultimately earns just two-thirds of what "Furious 7" did, it'll still make $1 billion. The fact that its domestic gross looks puny by comparison won't stop the studio from going ahead with its plans to make at least two more sequels.
And that's the real lesson here. Like so many other 2017 movies, from Diesel's own "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" to "Ghost in the Shell," "Fate of the Furious" was designed for foreign audiences, not American viewers. Any money it makes here is gravy.
Disney Thanks Fans as 'Beauty and the Beast' Passes $1 Billion at the Box Office
Congratulations to Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" for joining the billion-dollar club.
The studio proudly announced today that the Emma Watson movie has now passed $1 billion at the global box office, "making it 2017's highest-grossing film worldwide to date, the highest grossing live-action movie musical of all time and a global phenomenon."
In celebration, Disney posted this brief look at the "Beauty and the Beast" worldwide tour, writing, "To our fans around the world: Thank you for being our guest and helping Beauty and the Beast cross $1 Billion at the global box office."
Box Office Mojo hasn't quite caught up to the $1 billion toll at this point, still listing "Beauty and the Beast" at just over $986 million at the worldwide box office, from its $160 million production budget. At the moment -- and likely only for the moment -- "Beauty" is currently ranked No. 29 on the list of highest-grossing films, just ahead of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and behind "The Dark Knight." However, "The Dark Knight" made just over $1 billion, so it's possible "Beauty" has dethroned it by now.
It's hard to make direct comparisons to films from several decades ago, but -- if you're curious -- Disney's 1991 animated "Beauty and the Beast" made about $425 million around the world from its $25 million budget.
The Disney/Pixar/Lucasfilm/Marvel universe is all over that list of top-grossing films, and we have to imagine both Marvel and Lucasfilm will add more titles soon, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and continuing "Star Wars" saga and standalone films.
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Morgan Freeman Has a Theory on Why 'The Shawshank Redemption' Was a Box Office Bomb
"Shawshank" had stiff competition at the box office in 1994 -- especially from "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump" -- and ended its run as a bomb, earning about $16 million after 10 weeks in wide release, off a production budget of about $25 million. After it was nominated for seven Oscars, "Shawshank" got a rerelease and eventually made $28 million at the North American box office.
Today "Shawshank" is regularly featured on lists of the best movies of all time, which Graham Norton brought up recently when Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine were on "The Graham Norton Show" to promote their new movie "Going In Style." Norton added that, despite its critical acclaim, the movie didn't do well in theaters.
Here's Freeman's take on that:
"Tanked at the box office. And the reason for that, is of course, the only real marketing movies get, I think, is word of mouth. You can promote it all you want. But if the first few audiences come back and can't say, 'I really saw this great film,' then you're not going to go very far. So people went to see 'The Shawshank Redemption,' and they came back and said, 'Oh, man. I saw this really terrific movie. It's called, um... uh, Shank sham? Shim shock.' One lady saw me in the elevator and she went, 'Oh, I saw you in 'The Hudsucker Production.' So if you can't get word across, then it just doesn't do well, you know? If you can't say it..."
At that point, Michael Caine quipped, "That's why 'Alfie' did well."
The irony is that "The Shawshank Redemption" was a shorter version of the original title of Stephen King's novella, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." Maybe if they had included "Rita Hayworth" in the title, people would've had an easier time remembering it?
CinemaBlend recalled "Shawshank" director Frank Darabont sharing a different theory on why the movie didn't connect with audiences. To him, people just didn't want to see a slow-paced (142-minute) prison movie in 1994. And considering the high-profile competition at the time, maybe he was right.
Morgan Freeman told Graham Norton "Shawshank" is when he really became known for narration, and he put those skills to use in narrating some insults about Norton himself. Watch the interview:"Going In Style" opens April 7th.
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'Fate of the Furious' Could Be Biggest 'Fast and Furious' Movie Yet
According to Deadline, the action flick is expected to take in between $375 million and $440 million globally. That gives it a good chance of beating "Furious 7," which earned $397.7 million in 2015.
In the U.S. and Canada, the movie will be the widest pre-summer release ever at an estimated 4,304 venues. That's even bigger than "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," which opened on 4,242 screens last year. Says Deadline, it's "Universal's most ambitious worldwide distribution release in the studio's history."
This is the first film without original star Paul Walker who died in a tragic car accident in 2013. New to the franchise is Charlize Theron as villainous hacker Cipher; Helen Mirren; and Scott Eastwood as the junior agent to Kurt Russell's "Mr. Nobody." F. Gary Gray ("Staight Outta Compton") directs the movie, in which Cipher persuades Dom (Vin Diesel) to betray his close-knit group, including new bride Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).
"Fate of the Furious" opens this Friday.
Box Office: Here's Why 'Smurfs' Failed and 'Going in Style' Beat Expectations
At the multiplex this weekend, you could feel the excitement building... for next weekend.
That's when "The Fate of the Furious" hits theaters and, most likely, it will dominate the box office for the rest of April. This weekend, by comparison, not much happened, even though there were three new wide releases.
If nothing else, the meh results for this weekend's new features prove the importance of timing. With potential ticketbuyers hoarding their cash until next weekend, here's a breakdown of what happened this weekend:
Nothing Could Beat "Boss Baby"
Last week's champ is still riding the wave of strong word-of-mouth, Alec Baldwin's current omnipresence (he's been pretty much inescapable the last few weeks), and the lack of better options. Sure, with its estimated $26.3 million take this weekend, "Boss Baby" just edged out "Beauty and the Beast" (an estimated $25.0 million). Still, "Boss Baby" remains on the rise (in its second weekend, it actually added 56 screens, for a total of 3,829), while "Beauty" is finally waning after four weeks in theaters.
RIP, "Smurfs" Movie Franchise
Why did Sony put "Smurfs: The Lost Village" up against fellow family films "Boss Baby" and "Beast"? You can sort of see the reasoning: With kids out of school for spring break and Easter on the way, the timing may have seemed right for the return of the little blue guys from the '80s.
Still, putting out another animated film the weekend after "Boss Baby" seemed like a suicidal move, which is why predictions for the third "Smurfs" movie were only in the high teens. But the film didn't even do that well, winding up with an estimated $14.0 million.
One could argue that Sony didn't care that much about positioning; after all, the "Smurfs" franchise typically plays much better overseas than here (in fact, it's already made an estimated $42.0 million abroad), and the movie didn't cost that much (at a reported price of $60 million, the studio saved tens of millions by making this one strictly a cartoon, instead of a live-action/cartoon blend like the first two installments).
Yet Sony went all out on social media to promote it, and the filmmakers made a point of increasing the movie's girl appeal (there are many female Smurfs in the movie, not just one). And the families who saw "Lost Village" really liked it, judging by the strong A grade at CinemaScore. So you have to conclude that the marketing would have propelled the film to a much higher gross if it had been given a release date further away from two other family-film smashes.
"Going in Style" Did Better Than You Thought
No one expected much from the geezer-heist caper comedy remake either, with predictions running below $10 million. Yet the movie opened with an estimated $12.5 million. This despite critical scorn (44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), usually deadly for a film aimed at an older audience that still cares what critics think.
Still, that's a largely underserved audience, and the film's trio of beloved Oscar-winning stars -- Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin -- was enough of a draw to overcome bad reviews. Indeed, word-of-mouth on the film was actually pretty good, with its overall CinemaScore grade of B+ rising to an A- for most viewers over age 50.
The other plus of catering to an older audience is that the target audience doesn't all rush to the theater on opening weekend, so if the film can stay booked for a few weeks, that word-of-mouth will pay off with steady sales over time. So "Going in Style," made for an absurdly low reported budget of $25 million (then again, director Zach Braff paid for his last movie with Kickstarter donations, so $25 million is a big step up for him), stands a good chance of making a profit before it retires to cable and home video.
"The Case for Christ" Proves Faith-Based Movies Are Losing Steam
Movies aimed at churchgoing audiences are always a wild card when it comes to predicting how big they'll open. This one, from the same folks who made the two successful "God's Not Dead" movies, was expected to debut between $3 and $6 million.
It opened toward the low end of expectations, premiering in 10th place with an estimated $3.9 million. That's still not bad for a movie playing on just 1,174 screens. Like "Smurfs," "Case" was scheduled with Easter in mind, so the film may yet do more more business than its modest debut suggests.
Why Aren't More People Talking About Anne Hathaway's "Colossal"?
Maybe it's because the Internet still loves to hate her. Or maybe its because her offbeat indie opened with just under $126,000 in four theaters. Still, the movie earned an estimated $31,452 per screen (nearly five times as much per screen as "Boss Baby"), scoring far and away the highest per-screen average of the week. That bodes well for "Colossal" as it expands to more theaters in weeks to come.
Moviegoers Saved Their Money for "Fate of the Furious"
Notice how many genre movies were hanging out in the lower reaches of the Top Ten?
"Ghost in the Shell," "Power Rangers," "Kong: Skull Island," "Logan," and "Get Out" -- all of them weeks old, all of them scraping by on a $4 to $8 million take for the weekend. No one wanted to release a new movie with young-male appeal this weekend, just to see it get run over by Vin Diesel and his racing crew next week.
Overall box office was down 28 percent from last week, since potential moviegoers either found little compelling among this weekend's new wide releases, or else they're keeping their wallets shut until Dom and company pry them open next weekend.
Box Office: 'Boss Baby' Beats Up on 'Smurfs: The Lost Village'
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES, April 9 (Variety.com) - The Smurfs may be feeling kind of blue.
The cuddly creatures' once-promising film franchise is looking awfully creaky after "Smurfs: The Lost Village" stumbled at the domestic box office this weekend. The Sony release opened to a negligible $14.1 million. The film was an attempt to reinvigorate the series after 2013's "The Smurfs 2" racked up a disappointing $347.5 million on a hefty $105 million budget. It's a fall from quite a height. The first film, 2011's "The Smurfs," had showed such promise, grossing $563.7 million globally, but interest in the big screen adventures of the creatures has waned with each sequel.
With the Smurfs failing to generate much excitement, DreamWorks Animation and Fox's "The Boss Baby" captured first place at the North American box office for the second consecutive weekend, earning $26.3 million to push its domestic haul to $89.4 million. Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" came in second, pulling in $25 million to push its stateside grosses to a lordly $432.3 million.
Box office analysts blame the glut of family titles for hobbling the Smurfs. "They should have waited a few weeks to open it," said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations.
Bock was ready to write the obituary for the franchise, saying, "A major studio does not open an animated film at $14 million and expect to have a sequel."
This weekend is something of a throat clearing for the industry. "The Fate of the Furious," the latest chapter in Universal's long-running chronicle of vehicular carnage, is slated to roar into theaters next Friday. It should dominate ticket sales, racking up an $100 million debut and keeping Vin Diesel in designer tank tops for the foreseeable future.
"It's looming large on the horizon," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "It's going to be a monstrous debut."
New Line and Village Roadshow's "Going in Style" took fourth place with $12.5 million. The comedy about three retirees who rob a bank stars Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. It's a low-budget remake of a 1979 comedy of the same name and cost $24 million to produce. The film resonated with older crowds, with 72% of the audience clocking in over the age of 50.
"The chemistry of the three guys really works together," said Jeff Goldstein, domestic distribution chief at Warner Bros., New Line's studio parent company. "They have fun together and it shows. It was a core part of the film's appeal."
Paramount's "Ghost in the Shell" rounded out the top five, grossing $7.3 million to bring its domestic gross to a disastrous $31.6 million. The Japanese manga adaptation is shaping up to be one of the year's biggest bombs. Dogged by "whitewashing" controversy after Scarlett Johansson nabbed a part intended for an Asian actress, "Ghost in the Shell" won't stand a chance of recouping its $110 million production budget.
Sony isn't ready to wave the white flag on the Smurfs. The studio notes that the previous two films earned more than 70% of their gross from foreign markets. The studio is also pleased with the film's A CinemaScore, a sign that audiences are responding to the picture.
"We delivered a film that I think is the best yet," said Rory Bruer, Sony's domestic distribution chief. "Word-of-mouth should be strong."
Sony also reined in costs. "Smurfs: The Lost Village" has a $60 million production budget, a fraction of the previous two entries' price tag. However, the weak result extends a punishing period for Sony. The studio has been dogged by bombs such as "Life" and "Inferno," while highly anticipated releases such as "Passengers," a science-fiction romance with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, struggled to turn a profit.
In limited release, "Their Finest" opened on four screens in New York and Los Angeles to $77,000 for a per-screen average of $19,250. The comedy is set in World War II-era London and follows a troop of propaganda filmmakers. EuropaCorp bought the picture out of the Toronto Film Festival -- STX is distributing "Their Finest" on its behalf.
Neon, a new label from Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and indie veteran Tom Quinn, debuted "Colossal" to $125,809 from four theaters. The off-beat monster movie stars Anne Hathaway and enjoyed a solid $31,452 per-screen average.
Overall ticket sales were up more than 15% on the prior-year period. Last year at this time Melissa McCarthy's "The Boss" topped charts with a $23.6 million bow. Thanks to hits such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Logan," 2017 continues to outpace 2016, with revenues up 5%.
'Ghost in the Shell' Is Expected to Lose at Least $60 Million
Not to pile on, but this might be even sadder than Shia LaBeouf's $26 at the U.K. box office. "Ghost in the Shell" cost around $110 million to make, and it has only made about $62 million so far, worldwide. It was expected to do quite a bit better than that in its opening weekend, and Deadline quoted film finance experts who estimate it will lose at least $60 million overall.
That's based on a worldwide box office projection of around $200 million ($50M domestic and the rest international), and combined print/advertising/production costs of more than $250 million.
The loss could be a lot more if the production cost was under-reported. As Deadline put it:
"Some sources even assert that the production cost for Ghost is far north of $110M and more in the $180M range — if that's the case, Ghost is bleeding in excess of $100M."
This could be the end for any hopes from Paramount/DreamWorks to create a franchise based on the manga source material.
We've already gone through several reasons why fans just didn't turn out for Scarlett Johansson's Major, so hopefully Hollywood and the studios don't take the wrong lessons from this -- although they'll probably do whatever they can to point the blame elsewhere.
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Shia LaBeouf's 'Man Down' May End U.K. Run Making $26 From 3 Tickets Sold
Ouch. "Man Down," starring Shia LaBeouf as a U.S. Marine with PTSD returning home from Afghanistan, made headlines this week when it opened in the United Kingdom with just one ticket sold. It was only playing in one theater, though, and the manager of that theater told The Hollywood Reporter the film has now sold three tickets, but will likely end its weeklong run this Thursday without more sales.
(Unless some fans in the town of Burnley, England, rush over now to see what the lack of fuss is about.)
"Man Down" co-stars Gary Oldman, Jai Courtney, and Kate Mara, so there was certainly enough combined starpower to draw in a crowd of more than three. But THR pointed out that the movie only played in that one Reel Cinema in Burnley, and only once a day, and with no real promotion. Still, that makes it one of the lowest openings ever for a movie with such a famous cast, and the theater manager told THR she hadn't "experienced anything like it before."
If "Man Down" does end its U.K. run with three tickets sold, that's a total of £21 ($26.20). The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2015, and went on to the Toronto Film Festival the same year. It made $454,490 in its limited theatrical run this past December in the U.S.
"Man Down" was released on Digital HD on February 21, and Blu-ray/DVD/On Demand March 7, so you could argue that anyone who wanted to see the movie just watched it from the comforts of home.
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Here's Why 'Boss Baby' Crushed 'Ghost in the Shell' at the Box Office
Given all the fanboy chatter, pro and con, about "Ghost in the Shell" over the past year, one might have expected the $110 million Scarlett Johansson sci-fi/action picture to open big at the box office.
As it turned out -- nope.
Conventional wisdom had it that "Beauty and the Beast" would win its third straight weekend with upwards of $45 million, while "Ghost" and cartoon "The Boss Baby" would both open around $25 million. But while "Beauty" held up as well as expected, "Boss" surged ahead with an estimated $49.0 million No. 1 debut, while "Ghost" underperformed in third place with just an estimated $18.6 million.
Just three months in, 2017 has already been a robust year for moviegoing, with sales up 5 percent from this time last year, and with eight $100-million blockbusters released before the crocuses poked out from beneath the snow. Some have been predictable smashes like "Beauty," "Logan," or "The LEGO Batman Movie," though there have also been sleeper surprises like "Hidden Figures," "Split," and "Get Out." While these films provide escapism from daily political events, 73 percent of audiences attended "Boss Baby" because it is an animated film.
An impressive marketing campaign, especially a trailer before "Beauty and the Beast" on that Disney hit's opening weekend, boosted awareness for "Boss Baby" amongst families, giving it "must-see" status. And its presence on social media was strong, too, starting with teaser trailers last fall and continuing with viral clips so clever they may have made the movie look funnier than it really is.
Johansson, on the other hand, is notoriously anti-social media, and her relative lack of online promotion didn't do "Ghost" any favors. Years ago, the star revealed in "Interview" that she can't think of anything I'd rather do less than have to continuously share details of my everyday life. I'm always surprised that certain actors have Twitter accounts." That stance on social, coupled with the film's complicated/hard-to-understand storyline (one that was even harder to sell) didn't do the anime adaptation any favors.
The "whitewashing" controversy over Johansson's casting didn't help, either. Based on the iconic and influential anime, "Ghost" had the opportunity to honor its source by casting an Asian lead. On paper, you can see why the filmmakers went with Johansson instead; she's an international star, she's the most prominent actress in the mega-popular "Avengers" franchise, and she's proved she can open sci-fi/action thrillers on her own with 2014's "Lucy," an original story that the star powered to a $43.9 million opening and a $463.4 million worldwide gross.
And yet, Johansson's popularity and box office history weren't enough to sell domestic audiences on "Ghost," which, for all its cult fanbase, is a largely unknown property to average moviegoers. In fact, she might have been a deterrent, either because the ads made the movie look a lot like a "Lucy" retread, or because moviegoers of color, who've been very vocal on social media about their opposition to seeing Johansson in this role, stayed home.
After all, complaints of whitewashing -- the casting of white actors in roles seemingly meant for performers of color -- have been growing for years, from "21" to "The Last Airbender" to Netflix's new "Iron Fist." Meanwhile, recent hits like "Hidden Figures" and "Get Out" show that there's a large, racially mixed audience for movies where people of color heroically assert their own dignity and worth.
Bad buzz hurt "Ghost's" chances at the box office significantly -- critics gave it a "meh" 42 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And Paramount holding off all-media press screenings until the Wednesday before release is all but proof that the studio knew they had less than a hit on their hands.
With critics complaining that the movie's striking visuals overwhelmed its lackluster storytelling, audiences seemed to agree; they gave the film a weak B grade at CinemaScore. True, the reviews for "Boss Baby" weren't much better (49 percent at RT), but audiences liked it more and gave it much stronger word-of-mouth, indicated by an A- at CinemaScore.
One reason "Ghost" may have earned poor reviews and low box office numbers is its studio, Paramount. The troubled Hollywood studio seems to have marketed "Ghost" haphazardly in the United States, making it the latest big-budget flop from the studio that also had trouble selling domestic viewers on such recent films as "xXx: Return of Xander Cage," "Rings," "Monster Trucks," "Allied," and "Ben-Hur."
Then again, maybe the American release was an afterthought. Most of these films did much better overseas than they did here, and "Ghost" looks like it will follow that pattern. (It's already earned $40 million abroad.)
Indeed, Johansson went to Tokyo last November to promote the movie to a receptive audience. In Japan, they're familiar with the "Ghost" story, they like visual spectacle, they like Johansson, and they're not offended by the casting of a white American star, perhaps because Japanese moviegoers have plenty of homegrown movies that offer heroes who look like themselves. But it's not exactly a win-win for us or Hollywood when, out of two bad movies coming out, we picked the least terrible film to put at the top of the box office.
Box Office: 'Boss Baby' Fires 'Beauty and the Beast'
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Variety.com) - "Boss Baby" is enjoying the view from the top.
The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," a box office juggernaut that's dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. "Beauty and the Beast" added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend's other new release, Paramount's "Ghost in the Shell," bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.
Critics were cool toward "Boss Baby," which centers on a cuteness standoff between babies and puppies. Alec Baldwin, in vulpine "Glengarry Glen Ross" mode, voices a power suit-wearing infant, leading a vocal cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, and Lisa Kudrow. DreamWorks Animation produced the film for over $100 million, with Fox distributing the picture. Heading into the weekend, "Boss Baby" had been projected to debut to $30 million.
"The picture works because it's a great concept and having Alec Baldwin, who is such a well known voice, voicing a baby is near genius," said Chris Aronson, Fox's head of domestic distribution.
Aronson said he was surprised that the reviews for the film weren't stronger.
"I was shocked and still am," said Aronson. "It's nice when you have critics and audiences aligned, but it's painful when you don't get it. You wonder why do audiences like it so much and the reviewers don't?"
"Ghost in the Shell," an adaptation of a popular Japanese manga about a cyber-enhanced warrior (a be-spandexed Scarlett Johansson) who must take down a cabal of terrorist hackers, was produced in conjunction with DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment. If it wants to fight its way into the black, it will need to get a big lift from foreign crowds. To that end, the science-fiction story pulled in $40.1 million abroad from 50 foreign territories.
Paramount has gone through a punishing run at the box office, enduring costly flops such as "Allied" and "Ben-Hur," while going through a series of executive shakeups that resulted in the ousters of chairman Brad Grey and vice-chairman Rob Moore. It has a newly named studio chief in Jim Gianopulos, the former head of Fox's film division, whose task it will be to bring more creative stability to the company.
"Ghost in the Shell's" rollout was nearly subsumed by controversy over its casting and accusations that by tapping Johansson the film had engaged in "whitewashing." It was cited as exhibit A in a larger, industry-wide debate about studios' habits of employing white actors in Asian roles. The furor surrounding the casting found its way into many of the negative notices that the picture received, and was the subject of several critical thinkpieces.
"It was a small, but vocal group," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's marketing and distribution head. "It had some impact, but it was more of the impact overall on reviews. I think people are becoming more vocal on these types of issues. I haven't worked on many large-scale action movies that have a female lead, so I wish it had been embraced more."
Lionsgate's "Power Rangers" and Warner Bros. and Legendary's "Kong: Skull Island" rounded out the top five, earning $14.5 million and $8.8 million, respectively. The Power Rangers reboot has grossed $65.1 million in two weeks of release, while the latest King Kong remake has made $147.8 million after four weeks in theaters.
Year-to-date, the domestic box office is up more than 5% and ticket sales this weekend were up more than 30%. The weekend caps a hot run at the box office with such hits as "Logan" and "Beauty and the Beast" powering domestic revenues in March to over the $1 billion mark for the first time in history.
In limited release, Focus Features' "The Zookeeper's Wife" opened to a strong $3.3 million in 541 locations this weekend. Jessica Chastain stars in the film as a woman in World War II-era Warsaw who tries to save Jews during the Holocaust. Focus will expand the movie to between 800 to 1,000 theaters.
"It just struck a chord with audiences," said Lisa Bunnell, Focus' distribution president. "To have a female character who goes out there and puts herself on the front line just resonates. People in this country are looking for heroes."
The Most Anticipated Movies of April 2017
Welcome to "New Release Rundown," where we run down the most anticipated movies hitting theaters in April 2017. Here we go...
April's opening weekend is a hodgepodge of releases. The geriatric heist comedy "Going in Style," animated family film "Smurfs: The Lost Village," and quirky sci-fi movie "Colossal" all lead the pack on April 7th. Also, the Chris Evans-led drama "Gifted" hits theaters in limited release.
April ends with sci-fi thriller "Rupture," hard luck sci-fi drama "Sleight," sugar-momma comedy "How to Be a Latin Lover," and the Tom Hanks / Emma Watson tech thriller, "The Circle," all hitting theaters April 28th.
Head over to Moviefone.com to watch the trailers for the movies we mentioned, plus find showtimes and tickets for a theater near you!
'Power Rangers': Millennials Powered Film's Strong Box Office Opening
"Power Rangers" may be new, but many of the franchise's fans aren't.
When the reboot opened over the weekend, it wasn't Generation Z that drove tickets sales; instead, comScore data shows that millennials accounted for by far the largest percentage, THR reports.
The superhero flick might center on a group of teens, but that didn't stop the 18 to 34 crowd from turning out. It seems they were eager to see more of the warriors they grew up watching. PostTrak, comScore's polling service, found that millennials made up 73 percent of "Power Rangers" ticket buyers. Specifically, 34 percent of moviegoers were 18 to 24 years old, while 39 percent of the audience fit in the 25 to 34 crowd.
With the might of its millennial fans, "Power Rangers" easily beat box offices estimates. The reboot pulled in $40.5 million in North America compared to a projected $30 million. Not even the popularity of "Beauty and the Beast" could keep the movie down.
Nostalgia is clearly a powerful force.
Here's How 'Power Rangers' and 'Beauty and the Beast Crushed It at the Box Office
Hollywood seems to think remakes are easy ways to make money; just pick a familiar title and let nostalgia do the work for you. Actually, as remake-weary viewers know, such movies are hard to do right.
This week's box office, however, proves it can be done, given the continuing success of "Beauty and the Beast" and the estimated $40.5 million debut of "Power Rangers." Disney's live-action remake of the animated classic held on to the top spot in its second weekend, with an impressive $88.3 million. (Some pundits predict that tally could go up to $90 or $91 million by Monday, a crazy-good total for a second weekend.)
The weekend results also offer a cautionary tale of how not to do it, with "CHiPs" opening well below expectations in seventh place, with an estimated $7.6 million.
Why did digging up the past work so well for "Beauty" and "Power Rangers," and so poorly for "CHiPs"? Here are the reasons.
1. Audiences Love Some Nostalgia -- Unless You're 'CHiPs'
"Beauty" and "Power Rangers" both date back to the '90s, yet neither ever really went away.
From the 1991 animated hit's popularity on home video to its success as a touring stage musical, "Beauty" has been a bedtime story for a generation of fans. And "Power Rangers" has never really disappeared from TV; indeed, there are some 831 extant episodes of the show and about $6 billion worth of toys out there.
"CHiPs" (that's how they spelled it then) may have had a big pop culture footprint 40 years ago, but aside from whatever lingering fondness our culture still has for Erik Estrada, that footprint has all but disappeared. Older viewers may remember the NBC motorcycle cop action series, which ran from 1977 to 1983, but the show hasn't been seen much in reruns since then. So it's hard to imagine too many fans, new or old, yearning to see Ponch and Jon ride side by side down the Pacific Coast Highway once more.
2. Update What Fans Love
"Beauty" maintained fan loyalty by not changing much at all. It did add just enough novelty (It's live-action now! With IMAX-worthy spectacle! And some intriguing sorta-gay subtext!) to justify the new version's existence.
"Power Rangers" was a trickier adaptation. The original was fun and campy and colorful but also thoroughly juvenile. What could give the Lionsgate remake appeal to fans who are now grown-ups as well as teens who've never seen the old show? Make it into a young-adult sci-fi/fantasy movie (with a strong dose of Marvel). This YA-y approach worked very well for Lionsgate in the past, with the "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" franchises. The result seemed to hit the demographic sweet spot, with the movie drawing an audience that was 50 percent over age 25 and 30 percent under 18.
"CHiPs" underwent a more radical overhaul, with writer/director/star Dax Shepard playing up the comedy and giving the characters elaborate backstories. In other words, it's "CHiPs" in name and premise only; most of what original "CHiPs" fans may have loved about the old show is gone. Granted, this approach worked for the "21 Jump Street" movies, but at least those were well-written and acutely self-aware. And they also had one asset that "CHIPS" lacks --
3. Star Power
The "Jump Street" movies at least had proven box office draws in Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. "CHIPS" stars Shepard and Michael Peña are not proven ticket-sellers, and they're both lacking in the charisma department; they're not even as charming as Estrada and Larry Wilcox were on the small screen. With all this stacked against the film, on top of audiences not caring about the TV show at all anymore, it's amazing (and crazy) that Warners pulled the trigger on it at all. Let alone thought it was a good idea to begin with.
"Beauty" and "Power Rangers" both get by without star power being much of an issue. Because the titles and brand are the draw. "Power Rangers" features "Hunger Games" alumna Elizabeth Banks in a well-tailored role as its diva villain, but no one's coming to see her; it's all about the quintet of heroes in the candy-colored costumes.
4. Buzz Means Everything
"Beauty" did just okay with critics (earning a 71 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) but wowed audiences, who gave it an "A" CinemaScore. "Power Rangers" did not wow critics (46 percent on RT), but audiences ate it up anyway and gave it an A CinemaScore, too. Both benefitted from strong word-of-mouth, which was not the case for "CHIPS." Neither critics nor audiences cared much for it, judging by the movie's 20 percent RT rating and B- CinemaScore.
5. Family-Friendly Ratings
It probably didn't help that "CHiPs" was rated R, indicating a raunchiness that would both repel fans of the squeaky-clean TV show and keep out younger viewers.
"Power Rangers" may be a lot more mature than its TV source, but it's still rated PG-13, the ideal rating to draw fans who want to see a movie with some grit but without keeping young ticketbuyers away. Even "Beauty" is rated PG, which is about as far as it can go to indicate grown-up content while still being a family movie.
March has been a huge month for summer-style blockbusters, but this weekend was especially crowded, with three new wide releases competing. "Beauty" certainly benefitted from having last weekend all to itself. Still, even with the movie doing just half the business of last weekend's record-smashing debut, "Beauty" was still impossible to compete with, doing about $28 million more than the three new wide releases combined.
The week's lone new movie that wasn't a remake, sci-fi/horror thriller "Life," should have been a bigger draw for women, both because of its horror premise and the casting of both Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds. Nonetheless, the film opened in fourth place, underperforming with an estimated $12.6 million. "Life" failed to draw women (its audience was just 45 percent female), maybe because they were all still lining up for "Beauty."
You'd think "Life" would have done well, thanks to its star power and decent reviews. But audiences didn't like it (it earned a dismal C+ at CinemaScore), suggesting that the movie would have done poorly even on a less competitive weekend.
It's this kind of disappointing result, for an original screenplay filmed with a star-studded cast on a modest budget ($58 million), that leads Hollywood to believe it's safer just to keep filming remakes.
Box Office: 'Beauty and the Beast' Dazzles Again, 'Power Rangers' Off to Solid Start
By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Variety.com) - Disney's second weekend of blockbuster "Beauty and the Beast" is dominating moviegoing in North America with $88.3 million at 4,210 locations -- capping the best March ever.
Lionsgate's rebooted "Power Rangers" is launching with a solid $40.5 million this weekend while Sony's space-thriller "Life" showed only moderate traction with $12.6 million. Warner Bros.' action-comedy "Chips" opened with a disappointing $7.6 million at 2,464 sites.
The "Beauty and the Beast" weekend is one for the record books as the fourth-largest second weekend of all time, trailing only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at $149 million, "Jurassic World" at $106 million, and "Marvel's The Avengers" at $103 million.
"Beauty and the Beast," starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, declined just 49% from its opening weekend, which was the seventh-best ever. And after just 10 days in North American theaters, "Beauty and the Beast" is already 55th on the all-time domestic list at $317 million. It's the fourth-largest 10-day domestic total ever.
"Beauty and the Beast," along with Fox's "Logan," Warner's "Kong: Skull Island," and Universal's "Get Out," have led a charge over the past month that has given the domestic box office a major boost. According to comScore, March box office has already hit $1 billion for the first time -- with five days left in the month.
"March has become a rockstar of a month and in particular 2017 enjoyed a perfect storm of new hits and strong February releases that showed amazing staying power like 'Get Out' and 'The Lego Batman Movie,' " said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "The cumulative allure of an impressive slate of films conjured up a flat out great month in theaters, generating impressive momentum as the industry charges into what promises to be a furious April and a smashing summer movie season that kicks off in May with 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2.' "
Last year's March set a record with $948.8 million domestically, led by Disney's "Zootopia" ($255.9 million for the month) and Warner Bros.' "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($209.1 million).
"Power Rangers," a re-imagining of the 1990's television show about five teenage superheroes, outperformed expectations of about $30 million at 3,693 locations. The film earned an A CinemaScore from customers and A+ from the 30% of moviegoers under 18. The audience was 60% male.
The cast features Becky G as the Yellow Ranger, Ludi Lin as the Black Ranger, Naomi Scott as the Pink Ranger, Dacre Montgomery as the Red Ranger, and R.J. Cyler as the Blue Ranger. Elizabeth Banks plays the evil alien witch Rita Repulsa.
The movie centers on the origins of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a group of high schoolers given extraterrestrial powers who unite to save the world. Lionsgate and Haim Saban announced plans in 2014 for a live-action movie based on Saban's "Power Rangers" property as the first film in a franchise; Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer has asserted that it may do as many as seven films. "Power Rangers" carries a $100 million price tag.
David Spitz, Lionsgate's domestic theatrical distribution president, noted that the movie showed strong traction amid all demographics -- even with "Beauty and the Beast" remaining a potent draw. "We always thought the two films could be complementary to each other," he added.
Spitz also noted that "Power Rangers" debuted in the same late March slot as the studio's "Hunger Games" and "Divergent," enabling it to take advantage of the spring break for moviegoers. The third weekend of Warner-Legendary's "Kong: Skull Island" was headed for third place with $14.4 million at 3,666 locations, which gives the giant ape a domestic total of $133.5 million in its first 17 days.
Sony-Skydance's "Life" stars Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, and Jake Gyllenhaal as International Space Station astronauts threatened by an extraterrestrial life form. It's performing at the lower end of expectations in third place, despite generating mostly positive reviews with a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
David Ellison's Skydance financed 75% of "Life," which has a $58 million budget. Its audience was 55% male and 57% over 25.
The fourth weekend of Fox's "Logan" followed in fourth with $10.1 million at 3,687 sites. "Logan" is 2017's second highest grosser with $201.5 million in Hugh Jackman's farewell to the Wolverine character.
Universal-Blumhouse's fifth weekend of surprise hit "Get Out" finished fifth with $8.7 million at 2,474 locations. The horror-comedy, Jordan Peele's directorial debut, has become enormously profitable, given its $4.5 million budget.
Warner Bros. rolled out action-comedy "Chips," starring Dax Shepard and Michael Pena, amid muted expectations. The R-rated reboot of the TV series, which starred Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, has not gained much critical traction with a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the budget is a relatively modest $25 million.
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:
"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.
Box Office: 'Beauty and the Beast' Smashes Records With $170 Million Debut
By 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.
'Beauty and the Beast' May Break Records With $170 Million Opening
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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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.
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.
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.
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...
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 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!
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.