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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cars 3 box officeBy Seth Kelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. 6 Ways 'Wonder Woman' Shattered Box Office Records

    How many DC and Marvel superheroes can dance on the head of a pin?

    Dunno, but let's leave those arguments to the fanbases on both sides. They can crunch the numbers behind the record-breaking debut of "Wonder Woman" this weekend and decide what it means that the DC heroine's origin-story movie opened lower than the other movies in the DC Extended Universe but higher than many origin-story movies and even some sequels in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Take that, Captain America.)

    What's important is that "Wonder Woman" defied early predictions by cracking the $100 million glass ceiling in its first three days. Its estimated $103.1 million debut is the largest ever for a movie directed by a woman, for a movie about a superheroine, and for a female-protagonist comic-book adaptation. It's also the sixth largest June opening of all time and the 16th biggest superhero-movie debut ever.

    Here are the ways "Wonder Woman" defied the odds and lassoed the gold.

    1. Fans Really Wanted to See It
    If anything, the movie may have benefited from the fact that its success seemed so unlikely. Previous attempts to make a Wonder Woman movie had failed; not even Buffy creator and future "Avengers" mastermind Joss Whedon could pull it off.

    The track record of the three previous DCEU films wasn't promising; they've all earned well, but their grim, humorless tone have made them a chore to sit through. And Warners initially projected that "Wonder Woman" would open with just $65 to $75 million. Granted, studios often lowball their own predictions so that the movie will either look like a surprise hit or at least a non-disappointment. Still, it wasn't until the past few days, once glowing reviews came out, that analysts realized the movie had the potential to do much, much better.

    2. People Really Liked the Movie
    Seems obvious, but it's hard to overstate how important this is. True, fellow DCEU movies "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" opened even higher despite disappointing a lot of hardcore fans, but imagine how much better they could have done if they'd had more going for them than mere FOMO.

    Look also at last month's other potential summer blockbusters-that-weren't, including "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Baywatch," and Warners' own "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." There was a simple reason audiences didn't want to waste their hard-earned money on those films. Fortunately, "WW," with its 93 percent "Fresh" Rotten Tomatoes score among critics and its great CinemaScore A grade among regular viewers, didn't have that problem.

    3. Girl Power
    Warners took great care to make sure the movie had feminist bona fides, from the star (Israeli army veteran/beauty pageant winner/"Fast & Furious" franchise alumna Gal Gadot) to the director (Patty Jenkins, who helmed Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning performance in "Monster") to the marketing campaign. That all made sense, given the character's Amazonian roots, yet it was still rare to see a Hollywood studio this determined to take the tastes of female moviegoers into account.

    And for the most part, Warners and its promotional partners among outside retailers stayed on message, to the point where buying a ticket to the movie -- and thus supporting actress-driven films and female directors -- was supposed to feel like a feminist act. The message even resonated beyond the United States, as the movie has already earned an estimated $122.5 million overseas.

    4. Males Liked It, Too
    There was some advance grumbling that the feminist bent of the film and its publicity campaign would turn off male viewers, but that didn't happen. Women did dominate the viewership, but not by much, since 48 percent of the audience had Y chromosomes. Turns out that, if you make a good comic-book movie, even one with a female lead, the fanboys will come. Who knew?

    5. Timing and No Real Competition
    It didn't hurt that "WW" was opening in the wake of the big bellyflops that marked the debuts last weekend of "Pirates" and "Baywatch." Neither movie had an ardent enough fanbase to offer much resistance when the Amazon warrior stormed the multiplex this weekend seeking summer popcorn moviegoers.

    And of course, the only other new wide release this weekend was "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie," a superhero saga about as different from "WW" as possible. The DreamWorks cartoon, based on the popular kids' books, did very well among the under-12 crowd (which made up the majority of its audience), but while kid-ticket sales drove the superhero spoof to a $23.5 million premiere and second place, it's really not in the same league as the Justice Leaguer.

    6. Novelty
    Yes, someday, it won't be big news to see a woman hired to direct a $149 million superhero movie, or for that superhero to be a woman, or for a comic book that's been telling a woman's story for more than 75 years to finally have a stand-alone movie. But today, it's still pretty unusual. Curiosity alone over whether Warners could pull it off could have been a major draw.

  6. The Most Anticipated Movies of June 2017

    Welcome to New Release Rundown, where we run down the most anticipated movies hitting theaters in June 2017. And the winners are...

    June 2nd sees "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" and the hotly anticipated -- and well reviewed -- "Wonder Woman" flying into theaters.

    The following weekend bolsters up with Kate Mara war drama "Megan Leavey," the Sam Elliott drama "The Hero," and horror-thriller "Camera Obscura" all on limited release. And Tom Cruise Dark Universe kick-off movie "The Mummy" busts into the box office on June 9th

    June 16th is chock full of new releases, with tearjerker "The Book of Henry," shark-infested Mandy Moore thriller "47 Meters Down," Disney-Pixar's speedy sequel "Cars 3," R-rated party-comedy "Rough Night," and the Tupac Shakur biopic "All Eyez on Me" all new in theaters.

    The latest entry in the Transformers franchise, "Transformers: The Last Knight," gets a mid-week release on Wednesday, June 21st, while Sofia Coppola's period drama "The Beguiled," dystopian apocalypse flick "The Bad Batch," and romantic dramedy "The Big Sick" come to theaters June 23rd.

    Action-thriller "Baby Driver" revs its engine with a midweek debut on June 28th, while minion-heady three-quel "Despicable Me 3" and the Amy Poehler / Will Ferrell comedy "The House" both hit theaters on Friday, June 30th.

    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!

  7. Box Office: 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Drowns 'Baywatch' Over Memorial Day Weekend

    By Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, May 29 (Variety.com) - This Memorial Day weekend signals a sluggish end to a dreary summer box office start. This four-day weekend's total domestic earnings ($172.3 million) are the lowest recorded since 1999 ($142.5 million) when "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" opened in first place.

    The lone bright spot of this summer so far is Disney and Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" which is holding onto second place over the holiday weekend, earning an additional $25 million from 3,871 locations. Its total domestic cume stands at over $338 million, and worldwide it's made over $788 million, passing the original "Guardians" movie ($773 million worldwide).

    Disney also took the top slot this weekend with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," the fifth installation in the franchise starring Johnny Depp. The swashbuckling adventure picked up $77 million over the four-day weekend from 4,276 locations. However, most of the film's sales are coming from overseas markets — the title will easily pass $300 million worldwide by the weekend's end.

    Paramount's "Baywatch," however, is another story. The splashy summer comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, which carries a production budget well above $60 million, got only a sprinkling of audiences to buy tickets. By the end of the weekend it will have earned $23 million domestically from 3,647, far below earlier expectations.

    Fox's "Alien: Covenant," which opened to a disappointing $36 million last weekend, is sliding to fourth place with $13.15 million from 3,772 locations. Rounding out the top five, the YA adaptation "Everything, Everything" looks to have been a wise, albeit low budget, investment. The movie is in fifth place during its second weekend, and is adding $7.4 million to its total from 2,801 theaters.

    "It's crunch time for the industry after a lackluster May and a dismal Memorial weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at ComScore. "The good news is that June looks to deliver the goods and no movie is better suited to lead the cavalry charge than 'Wonder Woman' later this week. The pressure is certainly on for the final three quarters of the season to get us out of this downturn."

  8. 'Pirates' and 'Baywatch' Can't Save This Summer's Crappy Box Office

    Gosh, what kind of summer are we in for when a five-quel and an adaptation of a quarter-century-old TV series can't rake it in at the box office?

    Memorial Day weekend used to be the start of the summer movie season; now it's just another warm-weather weekend where would-be blockbusters just manage to skate by.

    Take Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." It won the weekend with an estimated $62.2 million debut from Friday to Sunday, and $76.6 million over the four-day holiday stretch. That is shy of the $80 to $100 million the film hit tracking with weeks ago.

    Action comedy "Baywatch" fell short of expectations as well. Despite what The Rock says on Twitter, the numbers say that clearly critics weren't the only ones not having any of this. Pundits -- and Paramount -- had originally predicted somewhere near $40 million for the three-day span, and close to $60 million for the holiday. Instead, its three-day debut was just an estimated $18.1 million, settling for third place behind "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," which managed to pull in almost $20 million even though it's been in theaters for four weeks. It's looking at a four-day holiday weekend of $22 million, which kills any plans for this would-be franchise.
    "Pirates" is another victim of franchise fatigue. The third installment, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," did more than twice the business on Memorial Day a decade ago. In fact, the $139.8 million it debuted with in 2007 remains a Memorial Day weekend record. Nearly four years later, in May 2011, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" opened to $90 million. Six years after that, the franchise seems to be suffering a serious case of diminishing returns.

    But then, that's typical for what's been a soggy summer so far at the box office. "Guardians" has been the only highlight; no other summer 2017 release has yet earned as much as the new "Pirates" did in just three days. Last May, hits like "Captain America: Civil War," "X-Men: Apocalypse," and "The Angry Birds Movie" helped kick off the summer with a $926 million month; this May is on track to trail that amount by $200 million or more.

    What lessons can we learn from this weekend's wide-release debuts? Here are four:

    1. Know Your Audience, Hollywood
    In the case of "Pirates," the audience seems to be aging along with the franchise. Some 63 percent of the new movie's audience was over 25. For a brand as tied-in with merchandising and theme-park rides as "Pirates," the films really need to attract a younger, toy-buying audience.

    For "Baywatch," the filmmakers and marketers made the curious choice of targeting women more than men, emphasizing the eye-candy provided by the male lifeguards, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. This, even though the old "Baywatch" show targeted a male audience by squeezing actresses like Pamela Anderson into those famous one-piece red swimsuits. Then again, who under 25 even remembers the show?

    The filmmakers apparently figured that, to update it for the big screen, they had to treat "Baywatch" with irreverence and turn it into a raunchy, R-rated comedy that old-school fans wouldn't recognize, a trick that worked with "21 Jump Street." But the new "Baywatch" seemed designed to the old fans without giving them, or the young males who tend to drive summer movie traffic, something to look at. So, then, who was this movie for?

    2. Few Movies Are Critic-Proof Anymore
    Over the past 15 years, the internet has so devalued movie criticism that there are hardly enough professional critics left to provide a decent sample for a Rotten Tomatoes rating. And yet, it's also the internet, through online advance ticket purchase sites like Fandango, that have made that diminished critical voice powerful again. This weekend's new movies are a case in point.

    In fact, moviegoers who saw "Pirates" and "Baywatch" liked them well enough, based on the A- grade they gave the former at CinemaScore and the B+ grade they gave the latter. But to earn those grades, the movies had to attract paying customers first. And many of those who would have bought advance tickets online were likely discouraged by the negative reviews posted at the purchase sites -- just a 32 percent Rotten Tomatoes score for "Pirates" and a dismal 19 percent "Rotten" for "Baywatch." After all, the older audiences that make up the base for both films are the viewers who still care what critics think.

    Studios would rather have no reviews than reviews like these. (Indeed, that's why they often release horror movies without screening them for critics.) But until the studios figure out how to do without the publicity value of advance reviews -- or until the last newspaper lays off the last movie critic -- they're going to have to live with reviews that influence at least some ticketbuyers at the point of purchase.

    3. Star Power Has Limits
    Stars can still sell tickets, but only in the right role. Johnny Depp has been on a cold streak for a few years now, but residual good will that fans have for Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow helps explain why the new "Pirates" did the level of business it did..

    On the other hand, not even a star as likable as Johnson was able to sell the confused new "Baywatch." He does well in straight action and action-comedy roles, but anything more complex, or more mature than PG-13, is a tough sell to his base. That's why "Baywatch" was his lowest wide-release premiere since 2013, when he released the R-rated "Pain and Gain" (to a $20.2 million debut) and the convoluted thriller "Snitch" ($13.2 million).

    4. There's Still Hope For the Summer -- But Not Much
    Some of that is riding on the bare shoulders of "Wonder Woman," who could start rescuing the summer box office next weekend. Most of it, however, comes from overseas audiences. After all, the last "Pirates" was the lowest-grossing of the four movies at home (just $241 million) but the highest grossing abroad ($805 million).

    Like that last "Pirates," the new one is also earning 77 percent of its take from foreign viewers; it's already snatched $208.4 million outside of the United States and Canada. At a reported production budget of $230 million (plus a likely similar number for marketing), it'll have to gross about $1 billion worldwide (before the theater owners take their cut) for this "Pirates" to break even, but "On Stranger Tides" managed to do so, and that was at 2011 ticket prices. (It's more likely that this installment will fall short of that goal and bank $800 to $900 million worldwide.)

    As for "Baywatch," it's earned less than $1 million overseas so far, but Paramount has to be counting on foreign viewers to rescue it, too. The show, after all, was an even bigger hit globally than in America, and Johnson's movies tend to earn at least two-thirds of their take abroad. Certainly, it won't be domestic audiences that help the movie recoup its reported $60 to $69 million budget.

    Next time, if Hollywood wants the numbers to paint a better -- and more profitable -- picture, they should try making good movies that are worth people's time and money.

  9. Here's Why 'Alien: Covenant' Is a Box Office Disappointment

    If you saw "Alien: Covenant" this weekend, you probably have a lot of questions. Some involve plot holes big enough to pilot the Covenant colony spaceship through, and some involve whether or not you'll ever be able to get the image of Michael Fassbender kissing Michael Fassbender out of your head. (Or if you even want to.)

    This column can't answer any of those -- sorry -- but it can answer those regarding the movie's razor-thin victory over "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" at the box office. The latest "Alien" prequel claimed an estimated $36.0 million debut, keeping "Guardians" from a three-peat at No. 1 by a margin of less than $1 million.

    Going into the weekend, "Alien's" projections were near $40 million, but a Friday to Saturday dip crushed those hopes. Still, what does this photo finish mean for the franchise, its director and stars, its studio, and a summer movie season that has hobbled out of the gate? Let's break it down.

    "Guardians" is holding up very well after three weeks; it just crossed the $300 million mark on its 17th day in theaters, and it'll almost certainly surpass the $333 million total earned by the first "Guardians" within the next several days. Plus, Ridley Scott's previous "Alien" prequel -- 2012's confusing "Prometheus" -- may have squandered a lot of the franchise's good will.
    Nonetheless, anticipation for "Covenant" was keen, reviews were good-ish (73 percent at Rotten Tomatoes), word-of-mouth was just okay (as measured by a B grade at CinemaScore), and the R-rated sci-fi/horror installment was able to deliver gore, thrills, and chills that franchise fans have come to expect over the last 38 years. Plus, it's competition among new wide releases skewed a lot younger, so it didn't have to worry about losing viewers to teen romance "Everything, Everything" or family comedy sequel "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul." No wonder people 25 and older made up 66 percent of the "Covenant" audience.

    Is "Covenant's" Opening Weekend a Triumph or Disappointment?
    The argument is leaning toward the latter.

    It's a lot less than the $51 million debut of "Prometheus," but no one expected it to open anywhere near that big anyway. After all, anticipation for "Prometheus" was even greater, since that marked the beginning of Scott's prequel series, as well as the celebrated director's return to the franchise he launched in 1979, after a 33-year absence.

    Some pundits predicted that "Covenant" would premiere with as little as $35 million, though others predicted it would open as much as $40 million. So $36 million is within the range of expectations, and -- assuming the weekend estimates hold up when final figures are released Monday -- "Covenant" will claim bragging rights as the movie that dethroned "Guardians."

    Is Katherine Waterston the Next Sigourney Weaver?
    It's not clear whether her role as the plucky "Covenant" heroine will make her as famous as the original "Alien" made the then-unknown Weaver. But certainly, Hollywood is trying its darnedest to make her a star, between this and her recent supporting-lead role in the Harry Potter franchise-reviving "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

    Still, in "Covenant," she has to compete for the spotlight against not just one but two Michael Fassbenders, as well as a large ensemble cast, so she's probably still a few movies away from a breakthrough role.

    Is "Covenant" Going to Make a Profit?
    That could depend on what it cost, which in turn depends on who you ask.

    Trade reports cite Fox as saying the movie cost $97 million, but the typically blunt and candid Scott has said $111 million. Both figures seem remarkably low for an effects-heavy space opera, especially since "Prometheus" cost a reported $130 million five years ago.

    Then again, Fox is reporting that "Covenant" has already earned $81.9 million overseas, so its global total of $117.9 is above even Scott's figure. Of course, once you add marketing costs and subtract the theater owners' take, "Covenant" is going to have to gross as much as $450 million just to break even.

    That's not impossible. Scott's previous "Alien" prequel grabbed $403 million from earthling ticketbuyers, and that was at 2012 prices. In any case, what will save "Covenant," like nearly every other big-budget Hollywood release this year, will be the foreign audience. The domestic release was always going to be just gravy, which is another reason why Fox shouldn't be too disappointed by $36 million North American debut.

    What Do This Weekend's Results Say About the Summer 2017 Movie Season
    Don't forget, even if domestic box office is an afterthought these days, summer sales still traditionally make up 40 percent of the year's take, or about $4.5 billion at the North American box office.
    The current summer movie season is just three weeks old, but already, it's seen "Covenant" do "meh" business, "Guardians 2" slightly underperform them, and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" bomb outright. The box office for the year to date is just slightly ahead of this time last year (by 2.4 percent, or about $102 million). That's not much of an edge; a couple more shaky debuts or massive flops and this year's box office will fall behind and struggle to catch up with previous years. There'd better be a lot of gold in Wonder Woman's lasso.

    Scott has said he has at least one and as many as four ideas for future "Alien" installments. As long as the 79-year-old's health holds out, and as long as the $1.4 billion franchise keeps delivering solid worldwide numbers like "Covenant" has, those facehuggers and chestbursters should keep coming back to terrify us for years to come.

  10. Box Office: 'Alien: Covenant' Slides Past 'Guardians 2' to Win Weekend With $36 Million

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - As this weekend approached, the question lingered if "Alien: Covenant" would be able to unseat "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" from the top spot at the domestic box office.

    Now, we have an answer. As of Sunday morning, "Covenant," from 20th Century Fox and Scott Free Productions, looks to be the winner with a three-day estimate of $36 million (27.6 million pounds) from 3,761 locations. That's just above Disney's "Guardians" sequel which is raking in an additional $35.3 million from 4,347 spots. The super sequel is seeing only a 46% drop from last weekend, and its total domestic earnings now exceed $300 million.

    While "Alien" may have won, the film's price tag in the $100 million range and marketing costs detract from the victory. The sixth installment in the Alien franchise (not counting the two Alien vs. Predator films) was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride. It holds a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is in line with 2012's "Prometheus." Although it came in already having made $42 million overseas and $36 million was enough to land in the top slot, "Alien" grossed less during its first weekend in the U.S. than "Prometheus" did in 2012 ($51 million). Its final domestic earnings also came in below earlier projections, which pegged the horror flick at least $40 million.

    Fox's president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson chalked the lower totals compared with "Prometheus" to the "normal course of business." He added that "Alien: Covenant" gives fans of the franchise since the 1979 original the chance to share with the younger generation (60% of the opening weekend audience was in the 18-34 demo). "Teenagers likely haven't seen 'Alien,'" he said, "This movie creates a generational bond."

    While the "Alien" franchise is still able to generate decent interest, the same cannot be said for Fox's other release this weekend, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul." The fourth live-action movie based on Jeff Kinney's middle school-centric book series opened to $7.2 million from 3,157 locations. David Bowers, who directed movies two and three, returned to the helm nearly five years after the last iteration, and anointed a new titular wimp in Jason Drucker.

    The only other major release of the weekend was "Everything, Everything," from Warner Bros. and MGM. The sick-lit adaptation will earn $12 million by the end of the weekend from 2,801 locations. That's enough to land in the top three. "Hunger Games" standout Amandla Stenberg stars as a girl with an autoimmune disease that keeps her locked up indoors. Nick Robinson plays her love interest named Olly. "Everything, Everything" earned the highest CinemaScore of the new released (an A- overall). 82% of its audience was female, and 74% were under 25 years old.

    "Along with our partners, MGM, we're thrilled that we hit our key demo," commented Jeff Goldstein, domestic distribution chief at Warner Bros.

    Amy Schumer's "Snatched," also from Fox, will see an additional $7.6 million in earnings from 3,511 theaters, putting it in the fourth slot, ahead of "Wimpy Kid." Also in its second weekend, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" continues to flop miserably with a weekend total of less than $7 million.

    With Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, the overall domestic summer box office is ten percentage points lower than it was at this time last year. That means all eyes are fixed on a duo of splashy summer releases -- Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" and Paramount's "Baywatch" -- to hopefully make up some ground.

    "The dominance at this point by Disney and Marvel's early summer entry "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is impressive having earned more than all the other films combined," said Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore, who noted that "Captain America: Civil War" accounted for more than half of the summer take at this point last year. "However, a slow start does not portend a slow overall summer as many have predicted," he added, "though if the ebb and flow of this season's fortunes thus far is any indication we may have to buckle up for a pretty bumpy ride."

  11. 6 Reasons Why 'King Arthur' Bombed at the Box Office

    While "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" was a lock to repeat at No. 1 on the box office chart this weekend, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" was still expected to take the second-place crown -- just barely.

    While people knew "King Arthur" wouldn't do great business, few expected it to do this bad. Warner Bros. had hoped their big-budget action epic -- plagued with four release date changes and costly reshoots -- would hit somewhere in the $20 to $25 million range. Instead, it eked out an estimated $14.7 million.

    This weekend's other wide release, raunchy mother-daughter comedy "Snatched," opened with an underwhelming (but decent) $17.5 million. For a movie that cost a reported $175 million to make -- and was supposed to launch a series of six movies about the ruler of Camelot -- it's opening is far from promising. Here are six reasons why "King Arthur" became 2017's first major flop:

    1. No One Wanted This Movie
    You'd think a familiar, public-domain property like King Arthur would be an easy sell. And yet, since 1980, there have been about half a dozen attempts to reboot Arthur's legend on the big screen, and only 1981's "Excalibur" was a sizable hit. Then again, familiarity could be the problem; besides the theatrical films, there have been many TV Arthurs, few of them memorable. Why spend money to go see yet another Arthur pull that sword out of the stone? And the marketing didn't show audiences anything they haven't seen before, or couldn't see again if they stayed home and watched "Game of Thrones" instead.

    2. Guy Ritchie = Style Over Substance
    Sure, Guy Ritchie successfully put his modern-London-street-thug spin on "Sherlock Holmes" and made a fortune with that reboot. But he also lost a fortune on his adaptation of 1960s TV spy series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." -- like "King Arthur," another big-budget reboot that no one asked for.

    Let's face it, Ritchie is an acquired taste, with a hit-and-miss résumé (maybe Warner Bros. has forgotten that he directed "Swept Away," but critics and connoisseurs of laughably awful movies haven't). Is he really the guy you want to risk a $175 million budget and a potential new franchise on? (If we were Disney, we'd be worried about our live-action remake of "Aladdin," to be directed by Ritchie.)

    3. Charlie Hunnam Is Not a Movie Star
    Hollywood has spent a decade and a half trying to make an A-list leading man out of Charlie Hunnam, with little success so far.

    Even with all the positive buzz he's received for his other current starring role, in indie adventure "The Lost City of Z," the "King Arthur" star is still probably better known among the cult fans of his TV series "Sons of Anarchy" than for his movies. He's certainly no Robert Downey Jr., who deserves much of the credit for the box office success of Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" movies.

    Maybe Amy Schumer isn't a proven box office draw either, but then, "Snatched" is only her second lead role. Still, her first, 2015's "Trainwreck," opened with $30.6 million. Her co-star, Goldie Hawn, hasn't made a movie in 15 years, but she did score several big hits in the 1980s and '90s, and she still has a lot of residual goodwill from her half-century as a comic leading woman.

    4. The Studio
    Warner Bros. desperately wants to be in the blockbuster franchise business, to the near exclusion of all other kinds of movies.

    It has the DC superhero films, the "LEGO" movies, and the recently revived Harry Potter universe movies (relaunched last fall with "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"), but not much else. That's why it gambled so much in recent years on potential franchise launchers like "Pan," "U.N.C.L.E.", "The Legend of Tarzan," and now "King Arthur."

    Unfortunately, "King Arthur" also bears the fingerprints of a lot of desperate studio tinkering. Over the past eight years, Warners had several competing Arthur projects in development until Ritchie's won out. Since then, Warners has changed the title of his film once, changed the release date four times (it was initially supposed to come out last July, when it would have been clobbered by the likes of "Star Trek Beyond" and even "Ghostbusters"), and scrapped a planned IMAX version.

    Releasing "King Arthur" in the shadow of "Guardians" may not have been the wisest move either, but at least the film will have all summer to try to recoup its budget. And at least the studio didn't further signal its ambivalence about the film by dumping it in August.

    5. Bad Reviews, Worse Buzz
    Still, critics' knowledge of the movie's troubled production history may have colored their reviews and may be part of the reason why "King Arthur" scored a dismal 27 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. Not that "Snatched" did much better (just 36 percent).

    Nonetheless, to the extent that the R-rated "Snatched" targeted an older audience that still reads criticism, the fact that it was the better reviewed of this weekend's two new wide releases gave it a slight edge over "King Arthur."

    6. The Genre
    Just as there have already been a lot of male-oriented action movies this year and only a handful of women-powered releases, there have also been very few live action comedies in wide release so far in 2017. "Snatched" is only the fifth. Multiplex audiences looking for laughs who want something more mature than "The Boss Baby" (and maybe a little less mature than "Going in Style") currently have just "Snatched" and "How to Be a Latin Lover" to choose from. "Latin Lover," however, is three weeks old and is playing in only a third as many theaters as "Snatched."

    For all its weaknesses, "Legend of the Sword" could still end up with a small victory thanks to overseas audiences. After all, comedies don't translate well (which is why "Snatched" has earned just an estimated $3.2 million abroad), but action movies do.

    Looking back on other Round Table movies, the Warners accountants must have noticed this about the most recent one, the 2004 "King Arthur" that starred Clive Owen: while it earned just $51.9 million here, it earned $151.7 million abroad.

    In fact, "Legend of the Sword" is also doing much better in foreign markets than it is in America, having earned an estimated $29.1 million overseas. Of course, there's still a long uphill climb to profitability from that $43.8 million global total so far. If foreign audiences respond to "Legend of the Sword" the way they did to the 2004 "King Arthur" -- or, for that matter, the way they did to "Legend of Tarzan," which earned $230.1 million abroad -- Hunnam's Arthur may not have bombed in vein.

  12. Box Office: 'Guardians 2' Repeats No. 1, 'King Arthur' Is Summer's First Big Flop

    box officeBy Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, May 14 (Variety.com) - "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" continued its box office reign this weekend, while "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is the summer season's first major flop.

    Disney and Marvel's super hero sequel followed up its $145 million opening weekend domestically with an additional $66 million from 4,347 locations. That's a 55% drop, which is in line with expectations. The film's domestic total is now just shy of $250 million.

    "King Arthur," meanwhile, may just want to put that sword back where he found it and pretend this never happened. The release from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow made only $14.7 million from 3,702 locations -- a paltry sum considering its $175 million production budget.

    The mythical epic starring Charlie Hunnam in the titular role was critically drubbed (it currently has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes), but has a relatively high B+ CinemaScore. Director Guy Ritchie had success with a similar re-imagining of longstanding franchise with 2009's "Sherlock Holmes" and its sequel "A Game of Shadows" which both grossed over $500 million worldwide. More recently, though, his spin on "Man From U.N.C.L.E." saw a disappointing take ($110 million globally) despite achieving a bit of a cult and critical following.

    This weekend's over major release is neither a box office heavyweight like "Guardians" nor a bust like "Arthur." Fox's "Snatched," starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn as a mother and daughter grabbed $17.5 million from 3,501 theaters, landing it in second overall. The Mother's Day release has been less than adored by critics (from whom it has collectively earned a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences have earned it a more positive B CinemaScore. The mid-budget, R-rated comedy was produced by Chernin Entertainment and Feigco Entertainment.

    Universal's "The Fate of the Furious" and Fox's "Boss Baby" round out the top five. The former tacked on an additional $5.3 million from 3,067 locations this weekend, raising its domestic total to $215 million. The latter earned $4.6 million from 2,911 locations for grand total of $162.7 million after seven frames.

    One limited release managed to break into the top ten as Blumhouse's Tilt label put out "Lowrider" in 295 locations. The film, toplined by Demian Bichir, Gabriel Chavarria, and Theo Rossi, over-performed with $2.4 million, putting it in the eighth slot overall.

  13. 'Beauty and the Beast' Dethrones 'Finding Dory' as Top-Grossing PG Movie

    "Beauty and the Beast" just keeps swimming at the box office, and it just swam past the PG-rated record set by "Finding Dory."

    So far, Emma Watson's Disney darling has made $488 million at the domestic box office, and $1.19 billion worldwide. Meanwhile, the previous U.S. record holder for a PG movie, Disney/Pixar's "Finding Dory," earned $486.3 million domestically, and $1.03 billion globally.

    However, Variety noted that "Beauty" has yet to pass "Frozen" at the worldwide box office. "Frozen" still has the international record with $1.28 billion. Then again, "Beauty" just opened in the past couple of months, and it's still making a strong showing overseas, so it has a good chance to pass "Frozen" and set the worldwide record, in addition to the domestic one.

    According to Box Office Mojo, Disney has four of the top 10 PG films at the domestic box office: "Beauty and the Beast," "Finding Dory," "Frozen" ($400.7 million), and "The Jungle Book" ($364 million).

    "Beauty and the Beast" is currently the eighth highest-grossing movie of any rating, domestically, and the 11th highest-grossing film in the world. For the record, "The Lion King" is the top grossing G-rated movie at the domestic box office. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has that honor for PG-13 movies, and "The Passion of the Christ" is No. 1 for R-rated movies. "Showgirls" has the title for NC-17 titles. Read the full lists at Box Office Mojo.

    Here's a look at more PG movies opening soon. Think any of them will top "Beauty"?

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  14. Is 'Guardians Vol. 2' a Box Office Smash or Disappointment?

    When the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" came out in 2014, it was a surprise box office hit, considering how few members of the mass audience were familiar with the space epic's characters.

    Fast forward to 2017, and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." is an even bigger smash -- but not as big as many had predicted.

    "Guardians Vol. 2" opened this weekend with an estimated $145.0 million, making it the sixth-biggest May debut ever, and yet that number almost seems like a disappointment. Yeah, it sounds petty to grumble about such a huge figure, but then, experts had been predicting an opening at $150 -- at one point, predictions were as high as $160 million or even higher.

    Should "Guardians 2" have opened bigger? It certainly did better than the debuts of such Marvel sequels as "Iron Man 2," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and "Thor: The Dark World." Its 54 percent increase over the opening weekend of the first "Guardians" is the biggest percentage jump for any second film in a Marvel Cinematic Universe series.

    Still, its failure to meet its projections may make you wonder: Are the new standards of Hollywood's all-blockbusters-all-the-time business model out of whack? Or is something else going on regarding the ticket buyers that Hollywood does -- and does not -- target?
    Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017For some perspective, it's worth looking at what "Guardians 2" had going for it, and what its weaknesses were.

    On the plus side, there's the Marvel name. Arguably, it was the brand that helped make a sleeper hit out of the first "Guardians" three summers ago. Few experts had predicted that a superhero saga featuring largely unfamiliar characters -- including an angry raccoon and a talking tree -- would have been a smash. But the goodwill that Marvel has earned over the years carried a lot weight and allowed a lot of viewers to give the film the benefit of the doubt. Not only did the movie open with an astonishing $94.3 million, but it went on to gross $333 million in North America and $773 million worldwide.

    True, the first "Guardians" wouldn't have earned those kinds of numbers if not for positive word-of-mouth once the film opened, but the Marvel name is what kicked the door open. "There's a general halo of quality with the Marvel brand," as Dave Hollis, Disney's Executive Vice President for Theatrical Distribution, put it in an interview with Moviefone.

    Now that "Guardians" is an established franchise, however, the sequel is playing a different, more traditional game. Its position as the first blockbuster of the summer follows a carefully-drawn, time-tested blueprint. After all, movies featuring Marvel characters have owned the summer-kickoff slot for the past decade; Marvel films have kicked off the first weekend in May every year since 2007. (Only 2007's "Spider-Man 3" isn't from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but obviously features a Marvel hero.)

    All five of the May movies that have opened bigger than "Guardians 2" are Marvel movies from the first weekend of the summer, and four come from the past five years. Still, why couldn't "Guardians 2" open bigger than a movie from 10 years ago, the least-loved of the three Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" films?
    "Guardians 2" opened on 4,347 screens, a number that's on a par with "The Avengers" (whose $207.4 million debut on the first weekend of May in 2012 is the best opening ever for Marvel and the third biggest opening weekend in history). That represents about 100 more screens than "Spider-Man 3" (which premiered with $151.1 million) or "Iron Man 2" (opening with $128.1 million on this weekend in 2010). It helped "Guardians" that almost all its screens were premium-format theaters that charge audiences extra. There were some 3,800 3D screens, 388 IMAX screens, 588 large-format screens, and 194 theaters with jostling D-Box seats. The IMAX screens alone yielded $13 million toward that $145 million debut.

    Still, while a lot of the film's reported $200 million budget went toward visual spectacle, the movie's key source of appeal, outside of the characters, may have been nostalgia. There's the much-anticipated soundtrack of vintage '70s pop tunes, which was playing in rotation all weekend on Sirius XM's '70s station. There's also the key roles for old-school action-movie stalwarts Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. Indeed, looking at the media coverage of "Guardians 2" over the last week, you'd have thought Russell was the star, not Chris Pratt.
    The result was an audience that was largely older. Only 28 percent of the audience consisted of families or teens, and only 40 percent of the viewers were under 25.

    There are two dangers here. One is the conventional wisdom that it's younger viewers that drive the box office, particularly for comic-book movies. The other is that the older audience still relies on reviews, which were less than enthusiastic; apparently, critics who enjoyed the novelty of the first "Guardians" felt that the sequel was just more of the same -- if not less at times.

    Hollis said that the absence of novelty was less of a liability than a creative opportunity. "When you have a sequel to a film that broke out the way the first 'Guardians' did," according to Hollis, "you no longer have the element of surprise, but what you gain is the audience's affection, which gives you the luxury to really delve into the world and the many unique and compelling things, from the colorful characters and the pitch-perfect cast to the music and visuals, that set it apart."

    Indeed, word-of-mouth among paying customers was stronger than the reviews -- the movie earned a solid A at CinemaScore, Marvel's tenth consecutive film to do so -- but Disney had to get those viewers into theaters first.

    Did Disney write off the kind of younger, mainstream viewers who usually make these films into hits? Not exactly. You don't get to $145 million without marketing aggressively to young and old alike. The challenge is to sell each of these films with what Hollis calls "event-level marketing that feels personal." For "Guardians 2," that meant making the adorable Baby Groot ubiquitous, appearing everywhere from "SportsCenter" (on Disney-owned ESPN) to Go-Gurt ads, prompting massive viral sharing of images and video of the lovable shrub.
    Still, the usual blockbuster crowd was not Disney's highest priority this time. That was the overseas audience, most of whom got to see "Guardians 2" a week before Americans did. The movie has already earned $282.6 million abroad, nearly twice what it's made here, for a worldwide total of $427.6 million. So "Guardians 2" is well on its way toward a $1 billion global gross. Forget the domestic earnings; international is the new benchmark for success. Anything less than a billion -- like the $773 million worldwide gross that the first "Guardians" earned three years ago -- could now be seen as a disappointment.

    "Guardians Vol. 2" is the latest of several big-budget Hollywood launches this year, from "Beauty and the Beast" to "The Fate of the Furious," that was made with someone other than the domestic, English-speaking audience in mind.

    It's a vast movie galaxy out there. Domestic audiences who spent $145 million to watch the multi-racial, multi-species "Guardians 2" may soon realize that they're just a small part of it.

  15. The Most Anticipated Movies of May 2017

    Welcome to the New Release Rundown! We're running down the most anticipated movies hitting theaters in May 2017. Let's get it...

    May 5th kicks off the month with the limited release of family dramedy "3 Generations" and really blasts off with highly anticipated Marvel mega-movie "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

    May 12th rides in with urban drama "Lowriders"; the reimagined medieval action of "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"; mother-daughter comedy "Snatched," starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn; and war thriller "The Wall."

    The following weekend features quite a mix, with teen drama "Everything, Everything," coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," and the latest entry in the "Alien" franchise, "Alien: Covenant," all hitting theaters on May 19th.

    This Memorial Day weekend, the big-screen adaptation of '90s TV series "Baywatch" comes to theaters, in all of its Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson glory, along with Disney blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," which features the return of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to the franchise.

  16. Box Office: 'Fate of the Furious' Tops 'Latin Lover' and 'The Circle'

    By Seth Kelley

    LOS ANGELES, April 30 (Variety.com) - It has become a familiar story -- "The Fate of the Furious" is, once again, the box office champ.

    The massively popular eighth episode in the Fast and Furious franchise earned $19.4 million this weekend from 4,077 locations, placing it securely in first place during a sputtering weekend, anticipating the summer season. After winning the domestic box office for three straight weeks, the Universal movie's U.S. total stands at $192.7 million. Not only that, "Fate's" global total officially crossed the $1 billion mark, making it the 21st highest grossing movie of all time behind 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Its total global sum stands at $1.06 billion.

    But while "Fate's" victory seemed inevitable, the rest of the weekend's top five reaped intrigue. Pantelion's "How to be a Latin Lover" slid into second over Tom Hanks and Emma Watson's not-so-distant future tech-thriller "The Circle." Led by Mexican star Eugenio Derbez, "Latin Lover" attracted $12 million from only 1,118 targeted locations. The opening weekend's audience domestically was 89% Hispanic.

    In "Latin Lover" Derbez plays a man named Maximo who made a career seducing older women. When his now 80-year-old wife kicks him out for a younger man, Maximo goes to live with his sister (Salma Hayek) and attempts to remaster his art of seduction. Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell also star in comedic actor Ken Marino's directorial debut. Derbez has won over the domestic box office in the past. In 2013 "Instructions Not Included," which he directed in addition to starring in, earned $7.8 million in its opening weekend from only 348 theaters.

    Despite screening in only 420 locations, the South Indian epic "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" landed in third for the weekend with a hefty sum of $10.5 million. The movie, from Great India Films, is the sequel to "Baahubali: The Beginning" which made $3.6 million when it opened in 236 theaters in 2015. S.S. Rajamouli returned to direct the movie starring Prabhas, Rana Daggubati and Anushka Shetty.

    "Baahubali 2" earned $1.8 million of its domestic total from 45 IMAX screens alone. Five domestic IMAX locations set new three-day weekend records, and the film also set records in India, making it the biggest domestic IMAX opening for a foreign language film.

    Not every story from the weekend box office was quite so rosy. Slapped with a rare D+ CinemaScore and a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, "The Circle" landed $9.3 million from 3,163 theaters, falling short of its double-digit projections. The $18 million movie was acquired by EuropaCorp for an estimated $8 million.

    The film hoped to draw audiences by tapping into modern-day anxieties surrounding technology and privacy. In the movie, Hanks plays the CEO of a Silicon Valley social media company. His young employee, played by Watson, finds herself wrapped up in an experiment that tests ethical limits. James Ponsoldt directed the movie and co-wrote the script with Dave Eggers, who wrote the novel on which the movie was based.

    Blumhouse's BH Tilt label released "Sleight" in 565 theaters, and saw a weekend gross of $1.7 million. The film tells the story of a young street magician in Los Angeles (Jacob Latimore) who uses magic and his mind to save his kidnapped sister. Seychelle Gabriel, Dule Hill, Storm Reid and Sasheer Zamata also star. The label's marketing and release strategy targeted a young, urban audience -- 72% of audiences fell in the 18-34 demo and 45% were African-American.

    In its fifth weekend, Fox's "Boss Baby" held onto the fifth position. The animated film earned an additional $9.1 million from 3,739 locations, raising its domestic total to just shy of $150 million.

    Next weekend marks the first summer frame, and should see "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" post huge numbers. The sequel earned over $101 million at the foreign box office in its opened weekend -- one ahead of the U.S. When the now-beloved first "Guardians" movie launched as a relatively unknown property in August of 2014, it made $94 million in its opening weekend.

  17. 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
    32321©joseharo.RAFEven 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."

    8. Timing
    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.

  18. '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.

  19. 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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  20. 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.

  21. 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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  22. Morgan Freeman Has a Theory on Why 'The Shawshank Redemption' Was a Box Office Bomb

    "The Shawshank Redemption" is probably the favorite movie of someone you know, but it was a flop at theaters, and star Morgan Freeman thinks he knows why.

    "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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  23. 'Fate of the Furious' Could Be Biggest 'Fast and Furious' Movie Yet

    The eighth "Fast and Furious" film, "Fate of the Furious," could make the monster opening of "Furious 7" look like chump change.

    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.

  24. 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.

  25. Box Office: 'Boss Baby' Beats Up on 'Smurfs: The Lost Village'

    box officeBy 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%.

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