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  1. Here's Why '12 Strong' and 'Den of Thieves' Shattered Box Office Expectations

    "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is still king of the forest, topping the box office chart for a third straight week. But while all the kids are going to see the video game-inspired adventure, their dads are dominating the rest of the multiplex.

    Testing the impressive staying power of "Jumanji" this weekend were three new wide releases, "12 Strong," "Den of Thieves," and "Forever My Girl." While "Girl" was a Nicholas Sparks-type romance that was not even predicted to crack the top 10 (it's playing on just 1,115 screens), the other two were wider releases that were both aimed at the older, male action audience that made Liam Neeson's "The Commuter" a surprise hit last week.

    With three such movies in the marketplace at once, no one expected much from any of them -- maybe a debut in the low teens for Afghan War combat tale "Strong" and the high single digits for heist film "Thieves." Neither was expected to top Steven Spielberg's prestige drama "The Post," which was supposed to hold on to second place with about $15 million.

    Nonetheless, all three new movies did much better than pundits had predicted. "Strong" took second place, with an estimated $16.5 million, with "Thieves" close behind on sales estimated at $15.3 million. ("The Post" fell to fourth with an estimated $12.2 million.) Even "Girl" outperformed expectations, premiering in tenth place with an estimated $4.7 million.

    What the heck is going on here? Well, these are the colliding trends that seem to be in play.

    1. It's January
    The whole month is widely considered a no-man's land, that uncomfortable period between the big holiday releases and the newly-evolved spring blockbuster season that begins in March. It's a time when box office rules tend to go out the window, a month when late-breaking Oscar hopefuls, horror movies, lower-profile action films, and anything else the studios don't know how to market properly all jockey for position.

    So far, however, there's only been one major horror film this month ("Insidious: The Last Key"), and aside from "The Post" and "Phantom Thread" (which expanded into hundreds of theaters this weekend), most of the awards-seeking movies have long since peaked. (They may see another peak next weekend, after the Oscar nominations are announced.) So that leaves the action thrillers and the miscellaneous movies. If you went to the multiplex this weekend seeing novelty, your choices were pretty much limited to "Forever My Girl" or dad-core action.

    2. Because Dads Love (Bad) Action Movies
    As this column noted when "Commuter" opened last weekend, Liam Neeson's core audience has been primed to expect mid-winter releases for his action movies. You'd think there wouldn't be enough audience to go around for three such films at once; indeed, "Commuter" itself slipped to seventh place this weekend, down 51 percent from its debut, to an estimated $6.7 million.

    Moreover, neither "12 Strong" star Chris Hemsworth or "Den of Thieves" star Gerard Butler are considered big box office draw outside the Marvel movies and, well, whatever Butler does when he's not in Generic Action Movie/Future Occupant of Walmart's $5 DVD Bin, respectively. Oh, and there were pro football conference championships this weekend to keep male viewers at home. And yet, these three movies combined sold an estimated $38.5 million worth of tickets this weekend.

    The success of "Thieves" is especially impressive considering that it's playing on 2,432 screens, compared to 3,002 for "Strong." "Thieves" actually has the higher per-screen average ($6,299, the highest of any wide-release movie this weekend), so if indie distributor STX Entertainment could have booked it on just 188 more screens, it could have beaten "Strong." It also helped that the racially mixed cast of "Thieves" helped STX market it successfully to black and Hispanic audiences.

    Still, it's worth noting that the older, racially diverse action audience is still mostly a guy thing, which may be why hit-woman thriller "Proud Mary" is languishing in 11th place in its second weekend, with just an estimated $3.7 million.

    3. The "American Sniper" Effect
    Films about the War on Terror have been hit or miss over the years, but the ones released in January have tended to do well, or at least okay -- from "13 Hours" and "Zero Dark Thirty," to "Lone Survivor" and especially "American Sniper."

    "12 Strong" resembles those films insofar as it's based on a true story and appeals to its viewers' patriotism. There's no reason why such films shouldn't do well year-round, but as with dad-friendly action movies in general, the audience has been primed to expect such movies at the beginning of the year.

    4. Word-of-mouth
    Audience buzz has been the surprising key ingredient for success this season. It helped both "Strong" and "Thieves" that they earned very good word-of-mouth from paying customers, as measured by their respective A and B+ grades at CinemaScore. After all, both films earned weak reviews from critics, who still have some power to sway older viewers. Word-of-mouth also explains such current hits as "Jumanji" and especially "The Greatest Showman."

    When "Jumanji" opened five weeks ago, it premiered at No. 2 with $36.2 million, and yet it's playing like a movie that debuted in first place with $100 million. It didn't top the chart until its third week of release, yet it has already earned $317.0 million. This weekend, it earned an estimated $20.0 million, down just 28 percent from a week ago. That's all down to ongoing positive recommendations from fans. Same with "Showman," which has also topped $100 million after five weeks of release -- despite a modest $14 million opening and middling reviews.

    While January is typically a time when the Oscar-seeking movies that critics have been talking about for months finally open nationwide, this year's contenders aren't -- as of now -- much of a box office draw, not even for the older audiences they usually attract.

    Such films as "The Post," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," "The Shape of Water," "Lady Bird," "I, Tonya," and "All the Money in the World" are not having great ticket sales. So far, "The Post" has been the most lucrative of the awards-hopefuls in current release, and it's earned just $45.2 million.

    Maybe all will get the box office bump needed once the Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday.

  2. 'Jumanji' Stays Strong, Topping '12 Strong,' 'Den of Thieves' With $20 Million

    LOS ANGELES, Jan 21, (Variety.com) - Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" has won its third weekend box office title with ease, topping newcomers "12 Strong" and "Den of Thieves," with $20 million at 3,704 North American locations.

    Afghan war drama "12 Strong" took second with $16.5 million at 3,002 sites for Warner Bros. and STXfilms' "Den of Thieves" followed with $15.3 million from 2,432 venues. Fox's "The Post" finished fourth with $12 million at 2,851 venues and its fifth weekend of "The Greatest Showman" remained a solid draw in fifth with $11 million at 2,823 screens.

    "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" has shown remarkable staying power, declining only 28% this weekend and lifting its 33-day North American total to $317 million -- the 61st highest of all time. It's Sony's fifth highest domestic grosser of all time, trailing only the first three Spider-Man titles and last summer's "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

    "Jumanji" is also singular in winning the box office in its third, fourth and fifth weekends after finishing second in its first two weekends to "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." "This is an unprecedented and unusual box office trajectory for a wide release blockbuster," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore.

    The action comedy, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, has also kept overall domestic business healthy with the year-to-date total at $730.1 million through Sunday, up 2.1% from a year ago. The weekend's total hit about $137 million, down 6% from the same frame in 2017 when "Split" opened with $40 million.

    "Another great performance by the seemingly unstoppable 'Jumanji' powers the pre-Oscar nominations weekend while bolstered by a pair of solid debuts from '12 Strong' and 'Den of Thieves,' but this was not enough to beat a tough weekend over weekend comparison to the year ago stellar performance of M. Night Shyamalan's 'Split,'" Dergarabedian said.

    "12 Strong," starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon, had been tracking in the $14 million to $17 million range. The movie is based Doug Stanton's 2009 bestseller "Horse Soldiers," which centers on CIA paramilitary operations officers and U.S. Special Forces sent to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Prospects for ongoing business are solid, given its A Cinemascore.

    Production companies for "12 Strong" are Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media, and Jerry Bruckheimer Films with Nicolai Fuglsig directing. Bruckheimer began developing the film in 2009 while at Disney.

    The R-rated "Den of Thieves," starring Gerard Butler, O'Shea Jackson Jr., and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, finished well above forecasts, which had been in the $9 million range. The film follows the intersecting lives of an elite unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and a successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Los Angeles.

    Christian Gudegast is directing from his original screenplay, based on a story by Gudegast and Paul Scheuring, and is produced by Tucker Tooley and Mark Canton, who spent 15 years developing the film. "Den of Thieves" carries a $30 million budget and generated a B+ Cinemascore.

    "It's incredibly satisfying to have this in theaters and performing so well after all this time," Tooley told Variety. "STXfilms has done a great job activating social media on this."

    "The Post" centers on the 1971 legal battle by the Washington Post and New York Times over the publication of the Pentagon Papers and stars Meryl Streep as WaPo publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee. It showed respectable staying power with a 37% decline from its first weekend in wide release and has totaled $45.2 million domestically.

    "The Greatest Showman," starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, remained a powerful draw with a remarkable small decline of 12% in its fifth weekend. The domestic total has hit $113.5 million while the international box office is at $118 million.

    Warner Bros.' second weekend of family comedy "Paddington 2" finished sixth with $8.2 million at 3,702 sites, followed by Lionsgate's sophomore session of Liam Neeson's "The Commuter" with $6.7 million at 2,892 venues. Both titles have reached $25 million in 10 days.

    Disney-Lucasfilm's sixth weekend of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" came in eighth with $6.6 million at 2,456 locations for a 38-day total of $604.3 million. It trails "The Avengers" by less than $20 million for the fifth spot on that list.

  3. Box Office: 'Jumanji' Dominates MLK Weekend, 'The Post' Leads Newcomers

    LOS ANGELES, Jan 14 (Variety.com) - Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is dominating the North American box office to easily win the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend with about $33.4 million at 3,849 sites, estimates showed Sunday.

    Fox's "The Post" is leading the rest of the pack handily and topped forecasts with $22.2 million at 2,819 locations for Friday-Monday after expanding from 36 sites. The opening of Lionsgate's Liam Neeson's thriller "The Commuter" also topped expectations in third place with $16 million at 2,892 venues.

    The fifth weekend of Disney-Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" with $14.7 million at 3,090 sites is fourth and Fox's fourth weekend of "The Greatest Showman" with $14.5 million at 2,938 screens takes fifth place at the holiday box office.

    Warner. Bros.' launch of family comedy "Paddington 2" was battling for sixth place with Universal's second weekend of "Insidious: The Last Chapter" with about $14.1 million each. Sony's launch of action-thriller "Proud Mary" came in eighth with $12 million at 2,125 sites followed by Universal's fourth weekend of "Pitch Perfect 3" with $6.7 million at 2,505 sites and Focus Features' eighth weekend of "Darkest Hour" with $5.7 million at 1,693 venues.

    Overall business was solid rather than spectacular with a four-day total in the $190 million range, according to comScore. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which will finish the holiday with nearly $290 million in 29 days, now ranks as the eighth highest grosser released in 2017.

    "'Jumanji' has in essence hit the reset button and is now behaving more like a film in its second weekend rather than its fourth," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "In the wake of a startling late run ascension to the number one spot, 'Jumanji' continues to energize the early 2018 box office marketplace while this weekend taking on a host of wide release newcomers."

    Disney noted Sunday that "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" had reached a worldwide total of $1.264 billion, topping Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" ($1.263 billion) and Universal's "The Fate of the Furious" ($1.236 billion) to become the top global release of 2017 and the tenth-highest global release of all time.

    "Jumanji," starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, provided the most substantive challenge to "The Last Jedi" after opening Dec. 20. It's the most successful title for Sony since "Spider-Man: Homecoming," which pulled in $337 million domestically during the summer.

    "The Post," starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a story about the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers, attracted an older audience with 66 percent over 35. It received an A Cinemascore with ComScore's PostTrak audience survey showing solid response with 63 percent rating the drama a "definite recommend" -- indicating strong playability in coming weeks, according to Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution.

    "We see a real opportunity for attracting young people who are politically aware due to the timeliness of the subject matter," he added.

    "The Post" took in $4.3 million in two weeks of limited release, so its domestic total has hit $26.7 million. The National Board of Review named "The Post" the best film of 2017 with Hanks and Streep winning the acting awards and the Producers Guild nominated it as one of its top 11 films but it was denied nominations last week from the Directors Guild and Writers Guild. "The Post" has an 88 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

    "The Commuter," starring Neeson as a businessman drawn into a criminal conspiracy on his train ride home. The film finished Friday with around $4.6 million, and has received a B CinemaScore and a 55 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. The film kicks off a long-term partnership between Lionsgate and StudioCanal that will continue with "Early Man" and "Shaun the Sheep Movie 2."

    "Paddington 2" was coming in slightly under expectations. Warner Bros. acquired the North American rights for the sequel film, starring the popular British children's literary character, from the Weinstein Company in November after the sexual harassment allegations against former head Harvey Weinstein left the production company and distributor a toxic name.

    "Paddington 2," in which Ben Whishaw voices the accident-prone bear, has already earned $125 million internationally and has garnered a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    "Proud Mary," starring Taraji P. Henson, opened at the lower end of expectations for Sony's Screen Gems. The film, which carries a modest $14 million budget, was marketed toward Henson's fan base. She portrays a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston, whose life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes bad. Critics were unimpressed and gave "Proud Mary" a 23 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

  4. 5 Reasons Why 'The Post' and 'The Commuter' Kicked Ass at the Box Office

    "The Commuter" was supposed to be on a train to nowhere this Martin Luther King Day weekend.

    Weak reviews and a pile-up of competition from two new wide releases ("Proud Mary" and "Paddington 2") and one newly-wide holdover (the now-nationwide "The Post") were supposed to derail the new Liam Neeson thriller, or at least keep it from debuting above $10 million.

    As it turned out, however, "Commuter" saw an unexpected fare bump, to about $13.5 million from Friday to Sunday, good for a third-place opening. "The Post" did even better, expanding from 36 theaters to 2,819 and coming in second with an estimated $18.6 million for the three-day weekend. Meanwhile, "Proud Mary" and "Paddington 2," both expected to premiere in the mid-teens, barely cracked $10 million apiece and debuted in a virtual tie for seventh place.

    What are the lessons of this weekend at the box office, aside from "Never count out Liam Neeson"? Here are five takeaways.

    1. It's a Good to Be an Adult Moviegoer
    The December holidays are over, kids are back in school, and awards-season movies are out in force. So this is the rare time of year that mature adults may feel welcome at the multiplex. They also make up the core of Neeson's audience, which is why he's released so many thrillers in January and February over the last decade, from "Taken" and "The Grey" through "Non-Stop" and "Taken 3."

    You can also credit the older audience for the success of "The Post." It's those viewers who are still big fans of sixtysomethings Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and who maybe even remember the 1971 Pentagon Papers battle that the movie chronicles. And "Proud Mary," whose poster made it look like an old Pam Grier movie, also seemed to target more mature ticketbuyers, though it also may have proved that even the older audience is still finite. Which reminds us...

    2. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" Is Still Unstoppable
    It's not nostalgia among older moviegoers for the 1995 Robin Williams adventure that's driving sales for the youth-oriented, video game-themed reboot. Dwayne Johnson's action comedy was the weekend's top film for the second time in a row, declining just 27 percent from last weekend for a three-day take estimated at $27.0 million.

    In its fourth week, it's already earned $283.2 million, making it Sony's sixth biggest domestic hit of all time. By next week, it will have overtaken "Skyfall" to become Sony's top-grossing movie outside of the "Spider-Man" franchise. It's not like there aren't lots of other action alternatives in theaters (including a little movie called "Star Wars: The Last Jedi, currently in sixth place with a weekend take estimated at $11.3 million). But "Jumanji" is the one the kids like.

    3. Is Taraji P. Henson a Movie Star?
    Jury's still out. Last January, she seemed to be, leading the cast of the hit "Hidden Figures." Does the estimated $10.0 million premiere of "Proud Mary" mean that "Figures" was a fluke, or that moviegoers would rather see Henson solving math problems than kicking ass as an action anti-heroine?

    Not necessarily. Sony's Screen Gems division barely marketed the movie and didn't even screen it for critics. That's never a good sign, at least not to critics, whose support is important for movies that cater to older viewers. Especially during a month when those older viewers have plenty of other options at the multiplex. Maybe "Proud Mary" would have done better had it opened at another time, or been more aggressively marketed. Or maybe Henson should just consider herself lucky that TV audiences have embraced her as Cookie on "Empire."

    4. Everyone Loves Paddington (Overseas, That Is)
    Marketing was an issue for the kid-movie sequel, too. 2015's "Paddington" did pretty well in North America, grossing $76.3 million. The lovable bear's sequel has unanimous support from critics, so why did it tank?

    The movie was hastily sold to Warner Bros. -- after original distributor, TWC, suffered their Weinstein scandal. Warners had just two months to come up with a wide-release distribution and marketing plan. Apparently, that wasn't enough time. Besides, "Paddington 2" was trying to compete in a marketplace where "Jumanji," "Star Wars," and "Coco" are still vying for kids' attention and ticket dollars. Perhaps this bear should have hibernated a few months longer.

    5. What Golden Globes Boost Did Winners Receive at the Box Office?
    Seems like the only one riding a victory at last Sunday's awards show to greater glory is Oprah.

    "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" may have been the big trophy winner, but even though it went back into wide release this weekend in its 10th week and grabbed another estimated $2.3 million, it's still way down on the box office chart at No. 16. And that's a healthy increase in business compared to fellow Globe winners "Lady Bird" and "I, Tonya," which saw more modest increases. Or "Darkest Hour," which actually slipped 25 percent from last week. Contrast that with "The Post," which raked it in despite being shut out at the Globes.

    By the way, check out "All the Money in the World," which also earned some Globe nominations but no prizes. The movie has generated a ton of buzz, first for replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey at the last minute with Christopher Plummer, then for adding $10 million to its $40 million cost for those last-minute reshoots, and finally, for the seemingly gender-based pay gap between star Michelle Williams, who did the reshoots for union scale wages, and supporting actor Mark Wahlberg, who took home $1.5 million for his overtime work.

    Both stars are represented by the same talent agency, WME, and on Saturday, Wahlberg announced he was donating his fee in Williams' name to Time's Up, the newly-created initiative to fight systemic sexism in Hollywood, while WME was donating $500,000 of its own to the activists.

    Despite all those headlines, the movie has made back just $23 million of its $50 million cost after three weeks in release. This weekend, it made just an estimated $1.2 million, down 67 percent from a week ago, for a 19th-place finish and a per-screen average of just $827, meaning just a handful of tickets sold at each screening. With a CinemaScore grade of just a B, it's clear that audiences aren't anywhere near as enthusiastic about the drama as critics, awards voters, or entertainment journalists are.

    It's a good lesson that, for all the current discourse about stopping Hollywood predators, addressing gender inequities in the entertainment industry, and how awards voters should handle the movies and performers who are suddenly problematic in the post-Weinstein moral landscape, it's not clear that rank-and-file moviegoers care about any of it.

    Sometimes they just want to enjoy the adrenaline rush of watching Liam Neeson, Dwayne Johnson, or even Meryl Streep do something heroic.

  5. 5 Reasons Why 'Insidious: The Last Key' and 'Jumanji' Crushed 'Star Wars' at the Weekend Box Office

    January is typically a dead zone at the box office, which is one reason no one expected much from "Insidious: The Last Key."

    After all, it's a poorly-reviewed fourth installment of a horror franchise that seemed to be running out of gas with the third chapter three years ago, which debuted with the franchise's weakest opening ($22.7 million) and limped out of theaters just ten weeks later, the shortest run of any movie in the series -- with the lowest total gross of any "Insidious" movie ($52.2 million). It's no wonder that almost no one thought "Last Key" would open any higher than $22 million, though some pundits predicted a premiere as low as $16 million.

    And yet, Sunday's estimates have it opening in second place, with a robust $29.3 million, averaging a strong $9,392 per screen. That's the second best opening of the series, behind only the $40.3 million debut of "Insidious Chapter 2" four years ago. It was enough to push "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" into third place, after the film spent three weeks atop the chart (it fell to an estimated $23.6 million in its fourth weekend). If not for the still strong "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which estimates placed at a remarkable $36.0 million in its third weekend, the fourth "Insidious" would have premiered in first place.

    How did "Last Key" scare up so much money and shock the experts? Here are five ways.

    1. January Is a Good Month for Horror
    Studios have known this for some time, getting horror fans to open their wallets in January for such films as "Cloverfield" (opening with $40.0 million in 2008), "The Devil Inside" ($33.7 million in 2012), and "Mama" ($28.4 million in 2013).

    Last year, Hollywood really made January a terrifying month, with "Split" (a $40.0 million debut), "The Bye Bye Man," and the underperforming horror-action thrillers "Underworld: Blood Wars" and "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter." So audiences were primed for a scary movie this month, especially since there won't be another for four more weeks, when we get "Winchester" on February 2.

    2. "The Last Jedi" Just Doesn't Have the Legs of a Typical "Star Wars" Movie
    That seems odd, given that it took just two weeks for "Last Jedi" to become the top-grossing movie of 2017 and three weeks to earn more than "Rogue One" did over its five-month run. Still, two years ago, "The Force Awakens" held on to first place for four weeks, not three.

    Last year, "Rogue One" fell from first after three weeks, but at least it spent its fourth week at No. 2. "Last Jedi" started stronger than "Rogue One," but its fall feels steeper (it's lost 89 percent of its debut business, compared to 86 percent for "Rogue One" at this point in its release). That could be because fan fondness for this chapter hasn't been as strong, with opinions much divided over the sequel's plot and character choices. But it's also because the last two movies didn't face a mainstream competitor that stole much of their thunder...

    3. Audiences Wanted Something New This Weekend
    That would be "Last Key" and "Jumanji," whose take this week is just $169,000 shy of its opening-weekend tally. Nothing else that has opened lately has captured that kind of fervor or enjoyed that kind of holding power.

    So again, escapism-seeking audiences, who had no other new options, were going to turn out in force for "Insidious," regardless of how little critics thought of it. Sure, it drew just a 25 percent Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and even a lackluster B- grade among paying customers at CinemaScore, but what else was there?

    4. There Are Few Movies Out There That Young Women Want to See
    Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY'S GAMEYeah, there's "Pitch Perfect 3," though that has failed to spark the kind of enthusiasm that the first two movies enjoyed. And there's "The Last Jedi," overflowing with role models.

    Still, nothing caters to younger female audiences like horror. Everything else out there seems aimed either at young men ("Jumanji") or at older viewers -- namely, all those Oscar-hopeful movies. With the Golden Globes kicking off the awards-show season in earnest this weekend, such films as "Molly's Game" and "Darkest Hour" expanded into more than 1,000 theaters each and saw solid box office boosts. ("Molly" earned an estimated $7.0 million this weekend, while "Hour" picked up an estimated $6.4 million.)

    Also seeing boosts were Oscar-seeking movies that are still playing in just a handful of theaters -- "I, Tonya," "The Post," "Hostiles," and "Phantom Thread." These will be movies for box office observers to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. But that also means that younger viewers will have to settle for the likes of "Insidious."

    5. Not Even Snow Storms Could Keep Audiences Away
    The winter storm that buried much of the eastern United States in snow at midweek was expected to keep theaters shuttered and discourage moviegoing. But the cinemas are back open, and cabin-feverish fans are eager to get out and see something, anything.

    If they've already seen "Star Wars" and "Jumanji," at least there's another familiar franchise film, one that offers indoor chills that are worth braving the outdoor chills for.

  6. Box Office: 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Roars Past 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi,' 'Insidious 4'

    LOS ANGELES, Jan 7 (Variety.com) - Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" handily won the first box office weekend of 2018 over the launch of "Insidious: The Last Key" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" with $36 million at 3,801 North American locations.

    The fourth installment of the "Insidious" horror franchise scared up a surprisingly strong $29.3 million at 3,116 sites for Universal. Disney-Lucasfilm's "The Last Jedi" followed in third with a 55% decline to $23.6 million at 4,232 venues for a 24-day total of $572.5 million -- the sixth-largest of all-time.

    Fox's third weekend of "The Greatest Showman" held nicely in fourth, declining only 12% to $13.6 million at 3,342 theaters for a 19-day total of about $77 million. It was followed in fifth by Universal's third session of "Pitch Perfect 3" with $10.2 million at 3,458 sites, lifting its 17-day take to a solid $86 million.

    Fox's fourth weekend of animated comedy "Ferdinand" finished sixth with $7.7 million at 3,156 venues, followed by Jessica Chastain's "Molly's Game" from STXfilms, which brought in $7 million after expanding to 1,608 sites from 271. Chastain received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a drama for her work in the film -- whether or not she wins will be determined Sunday. The film also received a Producers Guild Award nomination on Friday for best film, a day after Aaron Sorkin's script received a Writers Guild nom for adapted screenplay.

    The "Jumanji" sequel has taken in $244.4 million in its first 19 days domestically. It's the first weekend box office win for "Jumanji" -- which has gone past "Justice League" as the ninth-largest domestic grosser among 2017 titles. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is also topping the $500 million mark worldwide.

    Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan star in "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," a sequel to Robin Williams' original, which was a 1995 hit with $262 million worldwide. "Welcome to the Jungle" follows four high schoolers in detention who wind up as video game characters facing an array of challenges.

    "Insidious: The Last Key" came in far above expectations, which had been in the $16 million to $19 million range. It's the latest horror title from Blumhouse Productions, which delivered low-cost horror hits last year for Universal with "Split," "Get Out," and "Happy Death Day." The franchise dates back to 2010 with "Insidious," followed by "Insidious: Chapter 2" in 2013 and "Insidious: Chapter 3" in 2015 -- which have grossed a collective $357 million worldwide.

    Lin Shaye, who has starred in all three films, returns in "Insidious: The Last Key" as a parapsychologist whose haunted childhood comes to threaten her family and home in a follow-up to the events in "Insidious: Chapter 3." It's produced by "Insidious" regulars Jason Blum, Oren Peli, and co-creator James Wan and by Sony Pictures (through Stage 6 Films) with Blumhouse. Universal is the U.S. theatrical distributor with Sony releasing in the rest of the world.

    Overall domestic business was up 18.1% to $165 million, according to comScore -- a welcome sign after 2017 saw a 2.3% decline in total grosses.

    "2018 is off to a rollicking start with 'Jumanji's' unexpected strength boosting the overall marketplace nearly 20% ahead of the comparable weekend a year ago as the box office new year gives the industry cause to celebrate with an incredibly diverse lineup of titles driving patrons to theaters and a red hot awards season in full swing," noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "Two years ago was not even as strong with a 'Force Awakens' driven marketplace ringing up sales of $159.1 million for the same weekend in 2016."

  7. 'Beauty and the Beast' Was Top-Grossing Movie of 2017, But Attendance Hit 25-Year Low

    Beauty and The Beast Launch Event - LondonGuess that's the "Beauty" and the "Beast" of 2017 in a nutshell.

    Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" -- starring Emma Watson -- was the highest-grossing movie of 2017 worldwide, followed by "The Fate of the Furious," then "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which is still picking up major $$$ into 2018.

    But in sad news for movie theaters, domestic box office ticket totals were down again last year, hitting a 25-year low. According to Box Office Mojo's data, via Business Insider, the total number of tickets sold at the domestic box office in 2017 was 1.239 billion, a 5.8 percent drop compared to 2016, and the lowest total since 1992's 1.173 billion.

    Why are fewer people going out to the movies? Content is a big reason -- low quality in theaters and better quality options on TV/streaming.

    "Studios are lagging behind for the very simple reason that they are relying on retreads and reboots, and most of those aren't being well received," Jeff Bock, senior analyst for Exhibitor Relations, told Business Insider. "Audiences are continuing to flock to streaming in droves for challenging content and that doesn't look to change in 2018, or the near future. The studios are up against the wall, and the next few years they'll have to produce a plethora of quality films to win back favor with audiences."

    But if you look at the most popular films in the U.S. and around the world, almost all of them are sequels or reboots. Those are the films people will actually leave the house to see.

    Here's Box Office Mojo's list of the top worldwide grosses of 2017:

    1. Beauty and the Beast: $1,263.5 (worldwide): $504.0 (domestic) + $759.5 (overseas)
    2. The Fate of the Furious: $1,235.8: $225.8 + $1,010.0
    3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: $1,056.4: $533.1 + $523.3
    4. Despicable Me 3: $1,033.5: $264.6 + $768.9
    5. Spider-Man: Homecoming: $880.2: $334.2 + $546.0
    6. Wolf Warrior 2: $870.3: $2.7 + $867.6
    7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: $863.7: $389.8 + $473.9
    8. Thor: Ragnarok: $848.1: $311.4 + $536.6
    9. Wonder Woman: $821.8: $412.6 + $409.3
    10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: $794.9: $172.6 + $622.3
    11. It: $698.1: $327.5 + $370.6
    12. Justice League: $652.9: $225.9 + $427.0
    13. Logan: $616.8: $226.3 + $390.5
    14. Transformers: The Last Knight: $605.4: $130.2 + $475.3
    15. Kong: Skull Island: $566.7: $168.1 + $398.6

    (Are you thinking, What the heck is "Wolf Warrior 2"? It made $870.3 million worldwide and only $2.7 million domestically, so clearly the North American box office is not the center of the universe!)

    Will 2018 follow this same trend in slightly lowered box office receipts, or will films like "Avengers: Infinity War," "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," "Deadpool 2," the "Fantastic Beasts" sequel, and these other 2018 movies keep fans showing up at the theater?

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  8. Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Tops $1 Billion Worldwide

    LOS ANGELES, Dec 31 (Variety.com) - Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" has cleared the $1 billion milestone in worldwide grosses in less than three weeks.

    "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" pulled in $120.4 million globally on the New Year's Eve weekend with $52.4 million at 4,232 domestic venues and $68 million internationally during the Friday-Sunday period.

    "The Last Jedi" is now the eighth highest-grossing domestic movie of all time with $517.1 million -- only $15 million behind last year's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" in the seventh spot. On the worldwide chart, it's now 24th with $1.04 billion, edging Universal-Illumination's "Despicable Me 3." The tentpole's international total, currently at $523.2 million, will see a significant jolt when it opens on Jan. 5 in China, its final market.

    "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" has also topped Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which grossed $504 million in North America, for the top spot among 2017 releases domestically. It's the fourth 2017 title to go past $1 billion worldwide, along with "Beauty and the Beast" at $1.26 billion, "The Fate of the Furious" at $1.24 billion and "Despicable Me 3" at $1.03 billion.

    "The Last Jedi" is also winning the domestic weekend box office crown for the third time with $52.4 million, edging Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which took in $50.6 million at 3,765 locations for the Friday-Sunday.

    However, Sony's projection showed the "Jumanji" sequel grossing $16.5 million on New Year's Day on Monday -- well above Disney's forecast of $13.2 million for "The Last Jedi." Should those numbers hold, "Jumanji" would edge "Jedi" over the four-day period with $67 million, winning by $1.4 million.

    "Jumanji" has been "The Last Jedi's" biggest competitor by far since it opened on Dec. 20. The action-comedy should wind up with an 11-day domestic total of $186.3 million by the end of Monday. The action-comedy, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, has a $90 million budget. It's also performed impressively in international markets with $107 million through Dec. 28.

    "Jedi" and "Jumanji" helped lift the entire domestic box office for 2017 to $11.12 billion, down 2.3% from last year's $11.38 billion and off slightly from 2015's $11.14 billion, according to comScore. The gap for 2017 had been more than 6% at the end of the worst summer in a decade but performances by "It," "Thor: Ragnarok," "Justice League," "Jedi" and "Jumanji" closed most of that margin.

    "With another $11 billion plus year on the books, the industry looks ahead to awards season and a 2018 packed with blockbuster titles and a hope for a year slightly less volatile than 2017," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. Universal's "Pitch Perfect 3" led the rest of weekend's domestic pack with a projected $22.7 million at 3,468 locations for Friday-Monday, lifting its 11-day total to $69.2 million. The comedy threequel, starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, took in $13.1 million this weekend from 34 international markets for a foreign total of $28.6 million.

    Hugh Jackman's musical drama "The Greatest Showman" is finishing a close fourth with $20.3 million at 3,316 theaters forecasted for the four days. The Fox-Chernin Entertainment title showed the biggest gain in the top 10 movies from the Christmas Eve weekend with an impressive 73% surge. The domestic total should hit $53.8 million through Monday.

    Fox's second weekend of "Ferdinand" -- the only film to open on the same weekend as "The Last Jedi" -- followed in fifth with $15.1 million at 3,337 North American venues, giving the animated comedy $57.3 million in 18 days. Disney-Pixar's seventh weekend of "Coco" finished sixth with a projected $8.8 million at 2,845 sites for a domestic total of $181.1 million and $539 million worldwide.

    Sony's "All the Money in the World" and Focus Features' "Darkest Hour" were in a battle for seventh place at about $7.2 million for the four days. "All the Money" opened on Christmas Day as the final wide release of the year at 2,074 locations after director Ridley Scott excised Kevin Spacey's scenes and reshot them with Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty, following the early November sexual abuse allegations against Spacey. Its eight-day total will be around $14.4 million.

    Awards contender "Darkest Hour," starring Gary Oldman as the 1940 version of Winston Churchill, expanded to 943 venues in its sixth weekend and will have taken in $19.8 million by the end of the weekend. Focus reported strong performance in Washington, D.C./Maryland, Phoenix, Boston, Salt Lake City, and Florida markets.

    "'Darkest Hour' is taking America by storm," said distribution chief Lisa Bunnell. "We're seeing audiences coming out in big numbers. It's a movie they found inspiring over the holiday break and the word of mouth gives us a strong outlook for the upcoming weeks."

    Matt Damon's comedy-drama "Downsizing" finished ninth with a projected $6 million at 2,664 sites for the four days for Paramount. The 11-day total for "Downsizing," which carries a $65 million budget and was directed by Alexander Payne, should come in around $18.5 million.

    Warner Bros.-Alcon Entertainment's second weekend of R-rated comedy "Father Figures" rounded out the top 10 with a projected $5.5 million at 2,902 locations. The 11-day total for the Owen Wilson-Ed Helms vehicle, which has a $25 million price tag, should hit about $14 million.

  9. 'The Last Jedi' Will Hit $1 Billion by 2018 as New 'Star Wars' Films Pass $4 Billion

    'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' - PhotocallHappy new year indeed!

    As of Friday, December 29, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" has made $934,298,228 at the worldwide box office. It will pass the $1 billion milestone over New Year's weekend, ushering in 2018 in lucrative style.

    Also as of today, the modern "Star Wars" films -- "The Force Awakens," "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," and "The Last Jedi" -- have made more than $4.05 billion at the box office. That may sound like an arbitrary marker to celebrate, but Disney paid $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012; so, since Episode VII came out in 2015, the franchise has already paid for itself. (Granted, that doesn't include production and marketing costs.)

    As Entertainment Weekly reported, Episode VII, "The Force Awakens," earned $2.07 billion worldwide, and "Rogue One" made $1.06 billion, on top of Episode VIII's ongoing take. Next up is "Solo: A Star Wars Story," scheduled to open May 25th, 2018, then "Star Wars: Episode IX" (still waiting for an official title) on December 20th, 2019.

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  10. Ridley Scott: 'Blade Runner 2049' Bombed Because 'It's Slow' & 'Way Too Long'

    Ridley Scott is that guy who'll just tell you when you look fat. At least he'll wait until after you ask him how you look. And then he'll call himself "a bitch" for being so blunt.

    Ridley Scott directed the first "Blade Runner" film, which came out in 1982, loosely based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. Ridley did not direct the 2017 sequel "Blade Runner 2049," although he was heavily involved with the script. Instead, "Arrival" and "Sicario" director Denis Villeneuve took the helm. "Blade Runner 2049" got rave reviews from critics, but underperformed big time at the box office.

    Ridley is now on the promotion circuit for "All the Money in the World," and while getting candid about those reshoots, he got candid about Villeneuve's film.

    At the end of this video, Al Arabiya's William Mullally asks Ridley about "Blade Runner":

    Al Arabiya: "Blade Runner 2049 was a wonderful movie."

    Ridley Scott: "Yes."

    Al Arabiya: "But it didn't perform to expectations."

    Ridley Scott: "No."

    Al Arabiya: "What would you attribute that too, personally?"

    Ridley Scott: "Um, it's slow. It's slow. Long. Too long. I would have taken out half an hour."

    He said something similar -- but with more f-bombs -- to Vulture.

    What did you make of the way Blade Runner 2049 was received?
    [Whispers] I have to be careful what I say. I have to be careful what I say. It was f*cking way too long. F*ck me! And most of that script's mine.

    After going into detail about the script, and his ideas, Ridley eventually stopped himself, saying, "I shouldn't talk. I'm being a bitch." That whole Vulture interview is gold -- including talk about "Star Wars" and the "Bohemian Rhapsody" mess.

    But it's true that Ridley probably shouldn't talk, since there are seven different versions of his "Blade Runner" out there, including a U.S. theatrical cut, an international cut, the director's cut, and a final cut, among others. And "Blade Runner" was hardly a smash at the box office in its initial release either, with it too being called "slow" (even at 117 minutes vs. "2049" at 163 minutes.) The "misunderstood" film earned cult status, and was only accepted as a masterpiece over time.

    Denis Villeneuve talked to Yahoo Entertainment about the reviews vs. box office disparity:

    "I'm still digesting it. It had the best [reviews] of my life. I never had a movie welcomed like that. At the same time, the box office in the United States was a disappointment, that's the truth, because those movies are expensive. It will still make tons of money but not enough. The thing I think is that, it was maybe because people were not familiar enough with the universe. And the fact the movie's long. I don't know, it's still a mystery to me."

    "Blade Runner 2049" just came out on digital this week, with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD arriving on January 16. And then maybe we'll get half a dozen more versions later.

    [Via: Bleeding Cool]

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  11. Vin Diesel Was the Top-Grossing Star of 2017 (The Rock Was Second: Feud Karma?)

    FILES-ENTERTAINMENT-US-FILM-OFFBEATTake that, "candy asses"!

    "The Fate of the Furious" made headlines for the on-set feud between Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel, and they took the top two spots on Forbes' list of the top-grossing actors of 2017. Both ranked that high thanks to the Fast 7 sequel, but Diesel had the edge because "xXX: The Return of Xander Cage" did a bit better at the global box office than "Baywatch." However, The Rock's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is still in theaters and that will add to his final tally.

    This list of the highest-grossing stars at the worldwide box office includes both genders, and there are three women in the top 10. Forbes calculated its rankings by adding up "the 2017 global ticket sales of major actors' films as of December 26th, 2017, using data from Box Office Mojo." They didn't count animated movies where only actors' voices were used, and only included actors who were top-billed or had the most screen time. This list should also not be confused with the highest-paid movie actors, although there's definitely some overlap.

    Here's Forbes' top 10 of 2017:

    10. John Boyega, global box office: $815 million
    9. Chris Hemsworth, $845 million
    8. Chris Pratt, $864 million
    7. Tom Holland, $888 million
    6. Daisy Ridley, $1.08 billion
    5. Johnny Depp, $1.1 billion
    4. Emma Watson, $1.3 billion
    3. Gal Gadot, $1.4 billion
    2. Dwayne Johnson, $1.5 billion
    1. Vin Diesel, $1.6 billion

    As you might expect, the top 10 is filled with Star Wars, Disney, Marvel, Harry Potter, and DC superhero stars. Interesting, though, that the top two spots went to the "Fast" franchise.

    Last year, Scarlett Johansson dominated the list with a $1.2 billion box office take from "Captain America: Civil War" and "Hail Caesar!" If they had included voice roles, she would've been much higher, thanks to both "The Jungle Book" and "Sing." This year's tally is higher overall, with four stars' projects earning more than Johansson's films. We'll have to see how the 2018 list ends up; here's guessing Chris Pratt takes No. 1, between "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

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  12. Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' soars to $745 million worldwide

    Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is showing plenty of force at multiplexes worldwide with $745.4 million globally as of Sunday.

    The North American take has hit $365 million in its first 10 days as of Sunday with the studio projecting another $32 million on Christmas Day on Monday - making it the third highest domestic release in 2017 following "Beauty and the Beast" with $504 million and "Wonder Woman" at $412 million.

    "Stars Wars: The Last Jedi" has totaled $380.3 million in international box office. It is already the top grossing film of 2017 in both Denmark and Sweden and the fourth highest grosser in the overall European market. The U.K. is the top market with $67.4 million, followed by Germany with $40 million, France with $29.3 million and Australia with $26.9 million.

    "The Last Jedi," which picks up following the events of 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," is so far the 87th highest worldwide grosser of all time, trailing 2016's "Suicide Squad" by $1.4 million. Rian Johnson directed with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong'o and Domhnall Gleeson reprising their roles. It's the final screen role for Fisher, who died a year ago.

    Sony's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" and Universal's "Pitch Perfect 3" have also opened solidly while Fox's "The Greatest Showman" is drawing respectably at the domestic box office. But moviegoers are showing little interest in Paramount's "Downsizing" and Warner Bros.-Alcon's "Father Figures."

    "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" opened with the second-largest North American launch ever in its first weekend with $220 million. It faced competition for the first time on Dec. 20, with Sony's action comedy "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which is leading the rest of the pack with $34 million at 3,765 sites for Friday-Sunday and a six-day total of around $64 million.

    Josh Greenstein, Sony's president of worldwide marketing and distribution, pointed to the A- Cinemascore as an indication that "Jumanji" is attracting all demographics. "We have incredible momentum as we go into the biggest moviegoing week of the year," he added.

  13. 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Has Already Earned $500 Million Worldwide

    Star Wars: The Last JediRey (Daisy Ridley)Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.It's clear that the Force is strong with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which came in second only to 2015's "The Force Awakens" for the biggest opening ever this past weekend. And that popularity has already pushed the flick toward a huge box office milestone.

    After the final receipts are counted on Tuesday, "The Last Jedi" will have raked in more than $500 million worldwide, a jaw-dropping sum that most movies only dream about achieving throughout their theatrical runs. But while the majority of films take weeks, or sometimes months, to come even within spitting distance of such a haul, "Jedi" has done it in a matter of days.

    Though The Hollywood Reporter notes that the film does not currently appear to be on pace to match the total sum of "The Force Awakens" (a worldwide total of more than $2 billion), it should have some serious legs throughout the holiday season. And the film should also see a significant uptick in receipts when it bows in the huge market of China, an event slated for January 5.

    Based on all of the buzz the film has generated -- both positive and negative -- we have a feeling that it will easily continue raking in the dough for the foreseeable future.

    [via: The Hollywood Reporter]

  14. Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Disney-Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is set to take over the box office in its opening weekend, raking in around $215 million from 4,232 North American sites.

    Including $45 million from Thursday previews -- the second-largest Thursday night preview total ever, below "Star Wars: The Force Awakens'" 2015 total of $57 million -- the tentpole film brought in $104 million from Friday, and is looking to add over $100 million between Saturday and Sunday.

    The total gross will make "The Last Jedi" the fourth film in domestic box office history to make over $200 million in its first weekend, joining "The Force Awakens" with $248.8 million, "Jurassic World" with $208.8 million, and 2012's "The Avengers" with $207.4 million. "The Last Jedi" will finish significantly above Star Wars spinoff "Rogue One," which opened with $155.1 million on the same weekend a year ago.

    "The Last Jedi" has tracked consistently at $200 million for its opening weekend since first estimates in late November. "The Force Awakens" finished its domestic run with $936.7 million and $2.07 billion worldwide, while "Rogue One" took in $532.2 million domestically and $1.03 billion worldwide.

    Directed by Rian Johnson, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" picks up where "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" left off. It stars returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis. New stars include Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro. The film has an A CinemaScore and a 93% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    The only other wide release during the "Star Wars" blitz is Fox's animated family comedy "Ferdinand" -- opening at 3,621 locations in North America with an expected $12 million debut. The movie is based on the children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" and directed by Carlos Saldanha, with John Cena voicing the Spanish bull who doesn't want to fight.

    Both films open in the wake of Disney's $52.4 million acquisition of many of 21st Century Fox's major assets, including its pictures department.

    Disney-Pixar's "Coco" should top the rest of the pack this weekend with about $9 million in its fourth frame, enough to bring the animated musical to almost $150 million.

  15. 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Won the Box Office, But Who Are the Losers Here?

    You'd have to have been living on Jakku or some other remote planet not to have predicted that this week's box office winner would be the premiering "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

    The only real suspense was: How big would it open? Early tracking had it at about $200 million, though anticipation built towards predictions of $220 million. And according to Disney estimates, that's exactly where it debuted, at $220.0 million. That gives "Last Jedi" the second biggest opening weekend of all time, behind only the $248 million earned by "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" two years ago.

    Predictable as "Last Jedi"'s box office victory may have been, there was still plenty of drama and plot twists on the weekend chart. Here's who came out ahead and who was left behind in the red dust of rebel base planet Crait.

    Winner: Disney

    Duh, right? Well, there's something to be said for doing everything correctly, capping off a 2017 slate that, with the release of "Last Jedi," pushed the studio across the $2 billion mark in annual ticket sales for the third straight year. Chalk it up not just to unleashing the usual relentless and ubiquitous marketing campaign (was there a retail establishment anywhere in the galaxy that wasn't hawking "Last Jedi" merchandise?), but also to making a movie that delivered what it promised to both fans and critics.

    The key, Disney Executive Vice President for Theatrical Distribution Dave Hollis told Moviefone, is offering a sequel that's both familiar and surprising. "Last Jedi," he said, "delivered an experience that is totally 'Star Wars' and at the same time unexpected, fresh, and new." The familiarity brings in fans and general viewers, while the movie's genuinely surprising twists generate follow-up sales. Of the movie's tendency to astonish, Hollis sais, "We hope it'll turn into a ton of repeat business."

    Winner: Social media

    To that end, online chatter is more important than ever, Hollis says. When it comes to fans discussing the movie's plot twists and reveals, Hollis says, "Last Jedi" is "amplified in that [social media] space in a way we've never seen before." It's also why business actually grew from $60 million on Friday to $64 million on Saturday, a pattern that doesn't usually happen. "The weekend grew in part because of social media," Hollis said. As successful as pre-sales were, there were still plenty of last-minute sales at theater box office windows on Saturday because social media chatter from Friday viewers "drew more walk-up business" the next day, Hollis said.

    Loser: Sequel fatigue

    That's been the excuse all year for the failure of various high-profile franchise films. But audiences clearly aren't tired of "Star Wars," as is apparent from the fact that "Last Jedi" opened just 11 percent off from the record-setting debut of "Force Awakens" two Decembers ago and well ahead of the $156 million debut of spin-off "Rogue One" last December. No wonder Hollis isn't worried about the release of the second spin-off "Solo: A Star Wars Story" just five months from now. Disney's own Marvel Cinematic Universe series has proved that the market can absorb more than one installment per year of these mega-franchise movies. As he puts it, "'Star Wars' is everywhere. It's such a deep part of the culture. The appetite exists, and there's no worry about proximity."

    Winner: 20th Century Fox

    Or should we say Disney (again), which formally announced last week its intent to buy Fox? The studio that distributed all six of the pre-Disney "Star Wars" films countered "Last Jedi" this weekend with the cartoon "Ferdinand," aiming for an audience of very young children who are too young for "Star Wars." It's a strategy that's worked for Fox in the past with the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies, and it worked as expected this weekend, with "Ferdinand" debuting with a solid $13.3 million, according to estimates. Will Disney continue to program against itself and play both sides of the fence if the Fox merger goes through? "It's too soon to tell," Hollis said.

    Loser: Every other studio

    Nobody else dared debut a new film in wide release this weekend, and who could blame them? Most holdover films saw steep declines this weekend; hopes that "Last Jedi" would draw people to the multiplex who would then go see other films if they couldn't get "Star Wars" tickets proved unfounded.

    You do have to give Warner Bros. credit for nearly tying Disney in market share for the year. Between the two of them, these studios raked in 40 percent of all ticket proceeds this year, thanks both to Warners franchise hits like "Wonder Woman" and one-off successes like "Dunkirk." Even so, other Warners movies that should have fared better have not. It's got to sting that "Justice League," the studio's big tentpole movie for the year, has earned less in five weeks than "Last Jedi" has grabbed in three days.

    Winner: A few Oscar hopefuls

    "The Shape Of Water," which topped the Golden Globe nominations last week with seven mentions, enjoyed a modest expansion this weekend, from 41 theaters to 158, and was rewarded with an estimated take of $1.7 million, or $11,000 per screen. That's a hefty average, but it's on a par with the per-theater takes this weekend of "Darkest Hour" ($10,119 per screen), "Call Me By Your Name" ($16,398 average), and "I, Tonya" ($35,238 per venue). Aside from "Last Jedi" ($51,996 per screen), no movie did a better job than these of filling theaters. True, none of them, except "Shape of Water," is currently playing on more than 100 screens, but these averages bode well for when these films expand into nationwide release in the coming weeks.

    Loser: The rest of the awards-seekers

    The season's other critical favorites, including "The Disaster Artist," "Lady Bird," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," and "The Florida Project," all seem to have peaked and saw drastic declines this weekend, even before most of them had had a chance to be seen by nationwide audiences. Most saw drops of about 40 percent this weekend, but "Disaster Artist," which added 170 theaters to last week's tally of 840, dropped a heavy 59 percent. The three-week old comedy still made an estimated $2.6 million, good for eighth place and a total to date of $12.9 million. But a movie that makes fun of another movie ("The Room") for being a cult failure apparently has a natural ceiling, and "Disaster Artist" seems to have hit that ceiling.

    Winner: Premium formats

    Some 30 percent of "Last Jedi" sales came from theaters that made viewers cough up extra to rent 3D glasses. That's a fairly high number, but it reflects Disney's success in convincing viewers that "Last Jedi" was the kind of movie that needed to be seen in a theater, in the most immersive experience possible. Indeed, the movie did well from all premium formats, generating 11 percent of its sales from giant IMAX screens and another 14 percent from other premium large format screens. So, not only did a near-record number of moviegoers decide that they needed to see "Last Jedi" on a larger screen than they had in their living rooms, but one in four of those viewers decided they needed to see it on an even bigger screen than the standard wall at the multiplex.

    Loser: 2017

    For all of "Last Jedi's" success, including making this the biggest box office weekend of the year, it wasn't enough to counter the months-long slump that plagued the multiplex throughout the summer and fall. The total box office remains 3 percent behind this time last year, and it's not likely that the year's receipts will catch up to 2016's in the two weeks of 2017 that remain. Rey may be able to use the Force to lift giant boulders, but not even she has the strength to lift enough couch potatoes off their sofas to make up for all the doldrums of 2017.

  16. Until 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Opens, 'The Disaster Artist' is a Box Office Success Story

    Here's what box office experts are talking about this weekend: How big will "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" be? Will it top $200 million when it opens next weekend? How much will other movies playing next door at the multiplex benefit from Jedi'''s drawing power? Will 'Jedi' be enough to turn around a dismal 2017 and help it catch up with or surpass last year's total box office?

    Here's what they're not talking about: this weekend's new movies.

    In part, that's because there was only one new wide release, old timer action comedy "Just Getting Started." The Morgan Freeman-Tommy Lee Jones-Rene Russo movie barely got started with critics or audiences, earning an abysmal 9 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and debuting in tenth place with just $3.2 million.

    Mostly, however, it's because 'Jedi' looms so large. Since the Thanksgiving release of Pixar's "Coco" -- still topping the chart in its third weekend, with an estimated $18.3 million, and a total of $135.5 million to date -- the studios have held off on their big year-end movies, hoping to ride the Skywalker family's coattails to success. Audiences seem to be waiting as well, holding onto their most of their cash until 'Jedi' opens and spending just an estimated $81.4 million at the multiplex this weekend, marking the fourth lowest-grossing weekend of 2017 so far.

    Still, there was plenty going on at the box office among Oscar-hopeful films, taking advantage of the vacuum and drawing grown-up audiences to promising limited-release movies. Most notable was actor-director James Franco's "The Disaster Artist," which is playing on fewer than 900 screens but still cracked the top five at the box office this weekend. After debuting on 19 screens a week ago, Franco's acclaimed comedy about cult-fave filmmaker Tommy Wiseau expanded to 840 theaters on Friday and earned an estimated $6.4 million and fourth place on the chart. At $7,661 per venue, "Disaster" claimed the highest per-screen average of any movie in wide or almost-wide release this weekend.

    Also cleaning up in limited release were several other awards-seeking films. "I, Tonya," which is earning raves for Margot Robbie as disgraced Olympic skater Tonya Harding, opened on just four screens but averaged $61,401 on each of them. "Lady Bird," which has a perfect 100 percent score at Rotten Tomatoes, expanded to 1,557 screens this weekend (up from 1,194 last week) and grossed another estimated $3.5 million, good for ninth place. Frances McDormand's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" enjoyed a similar expansion, up 190 venues to 1,620, and was rewarded with an estimated $2.9 million and the No. 11 slot on the chart. Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water," which premiered on two screens last week, expanded to 41 and earned an estimated $1.1 million, for a terrific $26,829 per-screen average.

    "Darkest Hour," which is generating awards buzz for Gary Oldman's portrayal of Winston Churchill, jumped from four screens to 53 and earned an estimated $777,000, or a strong $14,660 per screen. "Call Me By Your Name," with its romance between Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, is still playing in just nine theaters, but it averaged an impressive $32,345 at each of them, according to estimates. And Woody Allen's period drama "Wonder Wheel" expanded in its second week from five screens to 47, but that move yielded only an estimated $156,000, for a paltry per-screen average of $3,315.

    All these movies are poised to expand nationwide over the next several weeks. Awards buzz, which starts with Monday's Golden Globe nominations, is likely to make most of these modestly-budgeted films profitable by the time the Oscars are handed out three months from now.

    A special shout-out should go to A24, the relatively young independent distributor behind several current awards candidates, including "Disaster Artist," "Lady Bird," and "The Florida Project" (as well as potential dark horse "The Killing of a Sacred Deer"). A24 shocked the world last year by winning a Best Picture Oscar for "Moonlight." At $27.9 million, "Moonlight" remains the biggest domestic hit in A24's five-year history, but "Disaster Artist" (at $8.0 million to date) and "Lady Bird" ($22.3 million so far) are on track to surpass it. You have to give A24 credit for clever marketing, including getting the stars of both movies ("Lady Bird"'s Saorsie Ronan and "Disaster"'s Franco) booked as "Saturday Night Live" hosts on consecutive weeks, and especially for drumming up viral interest in "Disaster," a movie about the making of a film (Wiseau's "The Room") that barely played in theaters in 2003 but whose Ed Wood-like levels of entertaining ineptitude earned Wiseau a fervent cult of puzzled-but-amazed fans.

    Of course, all these movies will get upstaged during the final weeks of 2017 once 'Jedi' opens on December 15 and likely earns more in its first three days than all the movies currently playing have earned over the past two weekends. If 'Jedi' opens anywhere near the $248 million that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" scored in its record-setting debut two years ago, then it will likely become the top-earning release of the year and go a long way toward helping a stumbling 2017 catch up with 2016's total earnings. Currently, 2017 is about 4 percent, or $420 million, behind the grosses earned at this point in 2016. "Jedi" may not be enough to close the gap (remember, at this point last year, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," which became 2016's top-grossing film, had yet to be released). Still, the annual-gross race may come down to the wire, and even if "Lady Bird" or "Disaster Artist" makes $50 million, that'll be a rounding error when it comes to calculating and comparing the total earnings of the past two years.

    Still, this weekend's results suggests that several of this year's modestly-budgeted awards contenders are likely to become profitable box office successes on their own terms. And as "Disaster Artist" proves, a movie doesn't have to be a blockbuster -- or even profitable, or competently made -- to generate lasting fame, earn fans, and be talked about for years to come.

  17. Box Office: 'Coco' Comes Out on Top for Second Weekend in a Row

    By Erin Nyren

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Disney-Pixar's "Coco" is set to win the first December weekend with an estimated $28 million in its second weekend at 3,987 domestic locations, a little under double the third frame of "Justice League's" take at $16 million.

    The third weekend of Lionsgate's "Wonder" is on track to come in third, behind Warner Bros.' latest DC installment, with $13 million. Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" is doing well in its fifth weekend, taking in $9 million to slot into fourth place, and the fourth weekend of holiday film "Daddy's Home 2" is heading towards about $7 million, making it fifth.

    The major studios are relying on holdover business this weekend and the next before the Dec. 15 launch of Disney-Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

    Three potential awards season contenders had their platform releases as Amazon opened Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" in five locations; A24's "The Disaster Artist," starring and directed by James Franco, launched in 19 sites; and Fox Searchlight's Guillermo del Toro fantasy "The Shape of Water" opened at two sites. Fox Searchlight's "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri" expanded to 1,430 venues from 614 in its fourth weekend, and rose from 10th place to seventh with $4.5 million.

    "Coco" posted the fourth-best Thanksgiving holiday opening ever, trailing three other Disney titles -- "Frozen" with $93 million in 2013, "Moana" with $82 million in 2017, and "Toy Story 3" with $80 million in 2010. The film tells the story of Miguel, a young boy who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, and sets out to find a legendary musician, who is also his great-great-grandfather. The film's concept stems from the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos. While the studio has not released a budget for the film, Pixar movies are normally budgeted between $175 to $200 million.

    "Justice League" is set to rise to about $195 million domestically after its second weekend. The movie teams up Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg in the same manner as Disney-Marvel's superheroes and is already the 11th highest-grossing title released in 2017. It's been the lowest performer among the DC Extended Universe. "Wonder Woman" grossed $233.8 million in its first two weeks in June and "Suicide Squad" took in $241.5 million in its first two weeks in August 2016.

    Lionsgate's family drama "Wonder" has continued to show impressive traction with this weekend's estimates bringing it to a cumulative $89 million. The film, which stars Jacob Tremblay as a fifth grader with a facial deformity, has a modest $20 million budget.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" will top $290 million domestically after its fifth weekend and is the sixth highest domestic grosser of 2017. The film has surpassed $800 million globally and helped push Disney past the $5 billion worldwide mark. Of the 17 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Ragnarok" is the seventh to reach this milestone and the third to do so this year.

  18. Box Office: 'Coco' Crushes 'Justice League' Over Thanksgiving Weekend

    By Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES, Nov 26 (Variety.com) - Disney-Pixar's "Coco" handily won the Thanksgiving holiday box office over the second weekend of Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment's "Justice League," with $71.2 million at 3,987 North American sites during the Wednesday-Sunday period.

    "Justice League" pulled in $60 million at 4,051 locations during the same timeframe. The superhero action-adventure, the fifth in the DC Extended Universe, has totaled $172 million in its first 10 days.

    "Coco" posted for the third-best Thanksgiving holiday opening ever, trailing three other Disney titles -- "Frozen" with $93 million in 2013, "Moana" with $82 million in 2017 and "Toy Story 3" with $80 million in 2010.

    Audiences surveyed by comScore's PostTrak gave "Coco" strong ratings with 66% calling it "excellent," and another 23% rating it "very good." Surveys also showed 77% of viewers saying they would "definitely recommend" the movie to friends and 20% saying they would watch it again in a theater.

    "Coco," directed by Lee Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina, is based on the traditions surrounding the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico and centers on a 12-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a musician and explores his family history in the Land of the Dead. The studio has not released a price for the movie. Disney-Pixar titles are usually budgeted in the $175 million to $200 million range.

    "Justice League," which teams up the DC characters in the same manner as Disney-Marvel's superheroes, is already in the top 15 of titles released in 2017 and has opened with a B+ CinemaScore. It's been the lowest performer among the DC Extended Universe. "Wonder Woman" grossed $206.3 million in its first 10 days in June and "Suicide Squad" took in $222.6 million in its first 10 days in August 2016.

    Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman along with Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg as the superheroes team up to save the world. Warner Bros. has not disclosed the production cost, which is believed to be as much as $300 million.

    Lionsgate's family drama "Wonder" continued to show impressive traction in third place with about $32 million at 3,140 locations for a 10-day total of more than $69 million. The film, which stars Jacob Tremblay as a fifth grader with a facial deformity, has a modest $20 million budget.

    Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" finished fourth with about $24 million at 3,281 sites, lifting its 24-day domestic total to $277 million. It's topped "Despicable Me 3" as the sixth-highest grosser of 2017.

    Fox's "Murder on the Orient Express" and Paramount's "Daddy's Home 2" tied for fifth over the five days, both with $18.6 million. "Orient Express" has totaled $74.2 million domestically in its first 17 days while "Daddy's Home 2" has earned $72.7 million in the same period.

    Sony Classics saw stellar returns from its platform release of coming-of-age drama "Call Me by Your Name" with $404,874 at four venues in Los Angeles and New York since its Friday launch for an impressive per-screen average of $101,219. That's the best limited opening of 2017, topping the "Lady Bird" launch with $364,437 on four screens, and the highest since "La La Land" opened with $881,104 at five venues last December.

    Focus Features' "Darkest Hour," starring Oldman as Winston Churchill, opened strongly with a $248,000 at four theaters for the five days. The well-reviewed film -- which centers on Chruchill's early days as prime minister in 1940 with a possible Nazi invasion of Britain looming -- is playing at the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles and the Union Square and Lincoln Plaza in New York City.

    The holiday weekend is one of the busiest moviegoing periods of the year. According to comScore, this year's five-day Thanksgiving weekend saw total grosses his $268 million -- $7.5 million better than last year's when "Moana" opened with $82 million, and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" taking in $65 million in its second weekend.

  19. 3 Reasons Why 'Justice League' Bombed at the Box Office

    If "Justice League" were a typical Hollywood release, Warner Bros. would be ecstatic right now. After all, the movie debuted to an estimated $94 million, easily conquering the box office chart.

    But of course, "Justice" is not a typical Warners release. It's a $300 million superhero saga that, by bringing together all the biggest heroes in the DC Expanded Universe for the first time in a live-action film, was supposed to be a cornerstone of the studio's business plan for the next several years. It was supposed to be DC's own "Avengers"; indeed, Warners even hired "Avengers" series director Joss Whedon to complete the film after director Zack Snyder had to drop out partway through due to a family tragedy.

    Back in September, after "Wonder Woman" had become the most successful domestic box office performer in the DCEU franchise so far, pundits were predicting a $150 million premiere for "Justice League." In recent weeks, they downgraded that estimate to about $110 or $120 million.

    So a $94 million debut is an embarrassment, both for being so far off and for failing to crack the $100 million mark. It's also a sign of trouble for a movie whose production and marketing costs are so high that it'll have to gross about $1 billion worldwide just to break even. And as the lowest debut among the five DCEU movies to date, it's an ominous figure for a multibillion-dollar franchise whose next several installments depended heavily on this one being a hit.

    Why were the experts so overconfident about "Justice League," and why didn't it enjoy a more superheroic opening? Here are three reasons.

    1. Competition

    If you were scheduling the release of a DCEU superhero epic, would you do it just two weeks into the run of a superhero epic from rival Marvel? Probably not, and yet "Justice League" was hobbled right out of the gate by having to contend with "Thor: Ragnarok," still going strong this weekend with an estimated $21.8 million.

    Also, for "Justice League" to succeed, it needed to draw upon a broad audience that included both men and women. Unfortunately, there were many more movies in the multiplex with appeal to both demographics this weekend. There was Julia Roberts's drama "Wonder," which opened in second place with an estimated $27.1 million. That was about $9 million above expectations, thanks perhaps to especially strong reviews (84 percent fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and audience word-of-mouth (an A+ grade at CinemaScore).

    Many families also went to see Christmas-themed family cartoon "The Star," which opened in sixth place with an estimated $10 million. Like "Wonder," "The Star" pleased both critics and audiences enough to debut well above expectations, by about $3 million. And then there were holdover hits "Daddy's Home 2," "Murder on the Orient Express," and "A Bad Moms Christmas," all films that appealed to numerous audience segments, which sold a combined $35.5 million in tickets this weekend.

    Altogether, it was a very good weekend at the multiplex, the fourth best of 2017 so far and the biggest in the more than four months since the July premiere of "Spider Man: Homecoming." The total take for all movies was just $35,000 shy of $200 million. It could have pushed past that benchmark if only "Justice League" had been a stronger choice in the face of so many worthy alternatives.

    2. Theater Count

    It's easy to forget how important this is. "Justice League" was booked onto 4,051 screens, which sounds like a lot, but the four previous DCEU movies screened in even more theaters, one or two hundred more. Of course, they also all enjoyed higher per-screen averages than "Justice League," but some of them not by much. "Justice League" claimed an average of $23,698 per screen, compared to $24,790 for "Wonder Woman" and $27,720 for "Man of Steel." Given those numbers, if "Justice League" had played on just 169 more screens, it would have cracked $100 million.

    "Suicide Squad" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" both had much higher per-screen averages, well above $30,000, but they also opened at less competitive times of the year (August and March, respectively). Taking into account the current crowded marketplace and the lower theater count, analysts should have realized how unrealistic it was to expect a "Justice League" debut of $150 or even $110 million.

    3. Bad Buzz

    There will be a lot of grumbling over how poorly the movie fared at Rotten Tomatoes, where aggregated reviews from critics averaged out to a poor 40 percent fresh score. There was some controversy over the site's refusal to divulge the score until the last minute, though that was apparently more a gimmick to get people to watch the reveal on "See It/Skip It," RT's streaming show on Facebook, than to aid Warners (a minority stakeholder in RT's parent company) by keeping the low score hidden from advance ticket buyers.

    Paying customers had a similarly middling response, judging by the B+ grade they gave it at CinemaScore. That's better than the B they gave "Batman v Superman," equal to the grade they gave "Suicide Squad," and weaker than the A- they gave "Man of Steel" or the A they gave "Wonder Woman."

    The meh response among fans and critics alike points to a larger problem for the franchise, which has been execution. DC has an ardent fan base, for whom such characters as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman have built up nearly eight decades' worth of good will. They'll come see any DCEU movie, whether out of loyalty or FOMO. But the DCEU's grim, dour treatment of their stories has alienated many viewers. (Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy offered a similarly stoic treatment of Batman, but it was also more thought-provoking and substantive than the DCEU movies have been.) A lot of critics and fans blame Snyder, who set that tone with "Man of Steel" and continued it with "Batman v Superman" and now "Justice League." Whedon came aboard after principal photography ended, writing and directing enough additional scenes to earn a co-screenwriting credit, and he may or may not be responsible for the lighter tone and more streamlined plotting of "Justice League"; nonetheless, critics and fans have found the tone and performances inconsistent.

    With "Wonder Woman," director Patty Jenkins showed that DCEU films could successfully strike a balance between levity and seriousness. Her tone and Gal Gadot's enthusiastic performance won over diehard fans and casual viewers alike. Their movie showed that there was another way forward for the DCEU, but it also may have raised expectations so high that "Justice League," with its difficult production history, simply couldn't meet them.

    It's not all bad news for "Justice League," which has already earned an estimated $185.5 million overseas. Still, even if it performs as well over the next few weeks as the most successful DCEU installments ("Batman v Superman" and "Wonder Woman"), it'll likely top out at around $800 million worldwide. After you deduct the theater owners' share of the grosses (about half), as well as production and marketing costs, that figure won't be enough to make "Justice League" profitable.

    If future DCEU movies are going to be the mass crowd pleasers they have to be in order to earn the 10-figure grosses they need to justify their cost, they'll have to find another creative approach to the characters. Whatever they're doing now, it's not working as it should.

  20. Box Office: 'Justice League' Disappoints With Worst DCEU Opening Ever

    By Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Warner Bros.-DC's costly "Justice League" has dominated the North American box office but fallen well short of expectations with a $96 million opening weekend at 4,051 locations.

    It's a decidedly gloomy result for the tentpole, which had been forecast by the studio just prior to the weekend to open in the $110 million range. Instead, "Justice League" is launching with only the eighth largest opening of 2017. It's not even in the top 50 domestic openings of all time, ranking 53rd behind "Fast and Furious 6."

    "For every macro budget superhero movie the stakes are incredibly high and with that comes an enormous pressure to exceed all expectations and for DC, this has never been more true," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "In the wake of the much-needed home run that was 'Wonder Woman,' the momentum was with the brand and great expectations placed on the very broad shoulders of 'Justice League' to keep that train moving."

    Dergarabedian noted that the movie will gross $285 million worldwide this weekend and that initial reception among audiences is positive. The overall CinemaScore was B+ with males comprising 58% of the audience while females gave the movie an A-, as did moviegoers under 25.

    "With the rightfully heightened expectations for a movie of this magnitude comes a greater scrutiny of both the quality of the movie as determined by critics and of course the profitability of the film, but the ultimate arbiter are moviegoers who seem to have found the concept and the event nature of the film enough to them out to the movie theater even if the overall North American opening weekend number may be less than many expected," Dergarabedian said.

    "Justice League" had been on track for an opening weekend of $110 million since late October. Stakes are particularly high for Warner Bros., which hasn't revealed the cost of "Justice League" -- estimated to be as much as $300 million. The movie is the fifth installment of its DC Extended Universe, aimed at duplicating the success of Disney-Marvel's interconnected franchises. And it's by far the lowest launch, trailing "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($166 million); "Suicide Squad" ($133 million); "Man of Steel" ($116 million); and "Wonder Woman" ($103 million).

    The six films that have cracked the $100 million opening mark this year are Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" at $174.8 million, Disney-Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" at $146.5 million, Warner-New Line's "It" at $123.4 million, Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" at $122.7 million, Sony-Marvel's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" at $117 million, and Warner-DC's "Wonder Woman" at $103.3 million. Universal's "Fate of the Furious" took in $98.8 million in April for the seventh-best launch of 2017.

    Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman along with Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Amy Adams, Amber Heard, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, and Willem Dafoe also appear. Zack Snyder began shooting "Justice League" in April of 2016, from a script by Chris Terrio. Joss Whedon -- director of Disney-Marvel's two "Avengers" movies -- assumed directing duties following the tragic suicide of Snyder's daughter in March.

    Reviewers have not been impressed with "Justice League," which carries a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its opening comes two weeks after Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" debuted above forecasts with a $122.7 million opening weekend in what was the fourth-biggest launch of the year.

    Liosngate's family drama "Wonder" provided positive news for the weekend, opening far above expectations with $27 million at 3,096 sites. "Wonder," starring Jacob Tremblay as a fifth grader with a facial deformity, received an A+ CinemaScore with an audience that was 68% female and 66% over 25.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" followed in third with $21.8 million at 4,080 venues for a 17-day domestic total of $247.4 million.

  21. 3 Reasons Why 'Daddy's Home 2' and 'Orient Express' Stopped the Box Office Slump

    Is the Great Box Office Slump of 2017 finally over?

    Looks like it, based on this week's fiercest competition, which was actually the race for second place. "Thor: Ragnarok" easily repeated at No. 1; even after losing 54 percent of last weekend's premiere business, it still ended up with $56.6 million.

    The surprise was that the contenders for No. 2, Will Ferrell comedy sequel "Daddy's Home 2" and Kenneth Branagh's all-star Agatha Christie remake "Murder on the Orient Express," both did much better than expected. Pundits had predicted openings in the high teens or low 20s at best, but "Daddy's Home" wound up debuting with an estimated $30.0 million, with "Orient" not far behind with $28.2 million.

    How did these two movies beat the odds? Here are some of the factors.

    1. Audiences Want Comedy
    There hasn't been much to laugh at this year, in or out of the movie theater. Viewers are starving for a good comedy, but they haven't seen much this year that made them laugh. A long string of supposedly sure-fire R-rated comedies failed this summer (notable exception: "Girls Trip"). Last week's modest numbers for the opening of "A Bad Moms Christmas" suggested that the raunchy comedy subgenre still has a little life left in it; this weekend, the movie lost just 31 percent of its debut audience and earned an estimated $11.5 million, good for fourth place. "Daddy's Home" arguably had even broader appeal, from a bigger-hit original (2015's "Daddy's Home" earned $150 million), with bigger marquee names (Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) and a PG-13 rating. It still opened about $9 million behind the original, but that film opened on Christmas Day. For a non-holiday weekend, $30 million is an opening worth celebrating.

    Of course, some might argue that the funniest movie currently playing, and the one that most primed audiences to come back to the multiplex and laugh, is "Thor Ragnarok." And that brought in all the gold.

    2. Branagh Connected
    "Orient" seemed like a hard enough sell. What could be less trendy than a period Agatha Christie mystery, set aboard a luxury locomotive ("Luxury train travel? What's that?" asked everyone under the age of 60), that was a hit movie way back in 1974?

    Paradoxically, it was the "Thor" series, Branagh's biggest competitor this weekend, that revived his directing career and made "Orient" possible. He successfully launched the Marvel mini-franchise with 2011's "Thor," which led Disney to entrust him with its live-action reboot of "Cinderella," which also became a smash. That gave him the freedom to remake "Orient" and even to cast himself and his massive shaving-brush mustache in the lead role. Outside of those two movies, "Orient" marks the biggest opening of Branagh's three-decade career. Critics may not have thought much of the film, but audiences responded to his blend of panache, class, and wit, as well as his sense of fun.

    3. Rotten Tomatoes Scores
    Speaking of the critics, they didn't rave about either of this week's new wide releases. "Orient" earned a score of just 58 percent fresh, while "Daddy's Home" got a dismal 16 percent. Nonetheless, both proved to be the kind of escapist fare audiences have been seeking, with paying customers giving "Daddy's Home" an A- and "Orient" a B at CinemaScore. Both films also helped prove, as have many movies in recent months, that Hollywood's alarm over Rotten Tomatoes' supposed power to quash sales with low scores is misplaced.

    The older audience, the group that still supposedly reads critics, wasn't deterred by the lackluster reviews this weekend. Exit polling showed that 84 percent of "Orient" viewers and 65 percent of "Daddy's Home" viewers were 25 and over -- even though the PG-13 comedy was designed to appeal to families. Maybe mature viewers have been so starved for adult-friendly movies in recent months that they were willing to overlook the flaws that irked the critics.

    Fall, after all, is supposed to be the season that lures the grown-ups off their living room sofas and into the recliner seats at the multiplex. It's supposed to be the season of Oscar hopefuls, rather than the kiddie fare that prevails during the summer.

    Indeed, Oscar-hopeful season finally seems to be kicking in with last week's release of "Lady Bird," which opened extremely well in limited release. This weekend, even though it's playing on just 37 screens, the Saoirse Ronan coming-of-age dramedy cracked the top 10, coming in tenth with an estimated $1.2 million, which averages out to a stunning $33,766 per screen. (Compare that to about $8,400 each for "Daddy's Home" and "Orient.")

    "Lady Bird" joins a slate of current grown-up offerings that includes "Blade Runner 2049" (still hanging in there on 863 screens and finishing eighth this weekend with an estimated $1.4 million), the R-rated "Bad Moms Christmas," "Orient," "Daddy's Home," and even "Ragnarok," which has drawn most of its audience front the over-25 crowd. So there are plenty of incentives to draw adults back to the theaters now, and it's the grown-ups you can thank for helping bring the long slump to end.

  22. Box Office: 'Daddy's Home 2' Derails 'Orient Express,' 'Thor: Ragnarok' Stays at No. 1

    By Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES, Nov 12 (Variety.com) - Showing plenty of staying power, Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" is dominating the North American box office with $56.6 million at 4,080 locations in its second weekend.

    The figure give the third Thor movie the 29th highest second weekend of all time and the fifth best of 2017. It also took in nearly the combined total of the two new titles -- Paramount's family comedy "Daddy's Home 2," with $30 million from 3,575 sites and Fox's mystery "Murder on the Orient Express" with $28.2 million at 3,341 venues.

    "Thor: Ragnarok," starring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Taika Waititi, declined 54% from its $122.7 million opening last weekend and is already the ninth highest domestic grosser of 2017 with $211.6 million in its first 10 days. It's also been a stellar international performer with $438 million in less than three weeks -- topping $650 million worldwide.

    On Nov. 8, "Thor: Ragnarok" became the 12th consecutive Marvel Cinematic Universe film to top $500 million worldwide.

    The movie has reversed a box office slump that persisted through October and left 2017's overall domestic moviegoing down 5% from last year at $9.14 billion as of Sunday. With Warner Bros.' "Justice League" opening next weekend, Disney-Pixar's "Coco" on Nov. 22 and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" launching on Dec. 15, the industry is now poised to end the year on an upbeat note. The overall weekend totaled about $148 million, down 6% from the same frame in 2016, according to comScore.

    "Now it will take the dream team of 'Justice League,' 'Coco' and of course 'The Last Jedi' and a host of other films big and small to rally the industry toward a year end total that could rival last year's record $11.4 billion," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "The clock is ticking and there's not a lot of time left on the calendar to make up the difference."

    "Daddy's Home 2" is performing at the high end of recent forecasts and is finishing about 23% below the original's $38.7 million opening in 2015. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell reprise their roles as fathers co-parenting the children of Wahlberg's character who struggle to cope when their fathers, played by Mel Gibson and John Lithgow, arrive during the holiday season. The film carries a $70 million budget.

    The original went on to gross $150 million domestically. Paramount's distribution president Kyle Davies pointed to an A- CinemaScore as an indication that the "Daddy's Home 2" is resonating with all demographics -- and should perform well in coming weeks. "We are well-positioned heading into the holiday season with a movie for audiences from 8 to 80," he added. "Murder on the Orient Express" has also launched above expectations. Kenneth Branagh stars as detective Hercule Poirot in the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's story of a murder mystery on a luxury train in the 1930s. The cast has plenty of star power with Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, "Hamilton's" Leslie Odom Jr., and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" actress Daisy Ridley.

    "Murder on the Orient Express," which has a $55 million budget, also pulled in $45.8 million in 25,903 international screens, lifting its overseas total to $57.2 million.

    STXfilms' "A Bad Moms Christmas" finished fourth with $11.5 million at 3,615 locations in its second weekend, showing impressive holding power with a decline of only 31%. The film has grossed nearly $40 million in its first 12 days.

    A24's expansion of Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" cracked the top 10 with $1.2 million on 37 screens for an impressive $33,776 per screen average. The comedy-drama posted the best 2017 platform opening last weekend with $364,437 at four sites.

    Fox Searchlight's platform release of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, opened with a strong $320,000 at four locations. McDormand plays a small town mother taking on the local police force after her daughter's rape and murder goes uninvestigated for several months.

  23. How 'Thor: Ragnarok' Affected the Rest of the Box Office

    Are you not entertained?

    The gladiator-themed "Thor: Ragnarok" walloped the box office this weekend, debuting way above expectations with an estimated $121.0 million. The Marvel adventure boosted the box office to its biggest weekend since "Dunkirk" opened four months ago. So why isn't the cheering from the stadium seats louder?

    Maybe because the success of "Ragnarok" doesn't mean that the long box office slump is necessarily over. It was a good weekend if you're a Marvel fan (or a Disney executive), but not so good for many others. The Thor-vs.-Hulk contest yielded a number of winners and losers beyond the arena, and together, they reveal a picture of a box office that's still going to have to struggle to catch up with last year's earnings.

    Winner: Disney. The "Ragnarok" opening means Disney owns three of the four biggest premieres of 2017 so far (along with "Beauty and the Beast" and Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"). Plus, the studio still has Pixar's "Coco" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" coming out before the end of the year. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear from other studios is drowned out at the Magic Kingdom by the sound of cash registers ka-chinging.

    Winner: Marvel Cinematic Universe. Usually, threequels show signs of diminishing returns. Not at Marvel, where every "Thor" picture has opened bigger than the last. (2011's "Thor" premiered with $65.7 million, while 2013's "Thor: The Dark World" debuted with $85.7 million.) The same holds true of other MCU mini-franchises, including "Captain America" and "Iron Man." Give credit to Marvel Studios for both quality control ("Ragnarok" earned a 93 percent fresh ratings from critics at Rotten Tomatoes and an A grade from paying customers at CinemaScore) and for keeping new installments fresh with unique approaches -- in this case, the humorous tone of New Zealand director Taika Waititi.

    Loser: Kids. Remember when comic-book movies were dismissed as kiddie fare? No more. Only 16 percent of the "Ragnarok" audience was under 17. Viewers 25 and older made up 63 percent of the viewers. And adults were also the target audience for this weekend's other new wide release, R-rated comedy sequel "A Bad Moms Christmas." In fact, there wasn't a tot-friendly movie anywhere among the top 15 releases, and nothing for the little ones to see outside the few theaters still playing "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" and "My LIttle Pony: The Movie." Yes, it's fall, and traditionally, it's the time of year for grown-up movies, but it's still rare to see a multiplex slate that so thoroughly writes off the tween-and-younger demographic.Loser: "A Bad Moms Christmas." You can sort of see the logic here: With "Ragnarok" skewing 56 percent male, there seemed to be a vacuum for a movie that appealed to women. A sequel to last summer's "Bad Moms" seemed just the ticket. But audiences and critics alike felt this installment was slapdash compared to the last one (the 2016 movie earned a 58 percent fresh rating at RT and an A at CinemaScore, while the new one earned a 32 percent RT score and a B grade at CinemaScore). Plus, the day after Halloween may be too soon to open a Christmas-themed movie.

    Even so, the sequel still managed to perform about as well as expected, debuting in second place with an estimated $17.0 million for the weekend and $21.6 million for the first five days. Still, "Christmas" cost $28 million to make, some $8 million more than the original. Subtract the theater owners' cut and the cost of advertising, and the movie will have to earn at least $60 million to break even, a benchmark it's going to have trouble reaching.

    Winner: IMAX. For "Ragnarok," Disney is claiming the widest IMAX release ever, some 1187 venues worldwide. That includes 391 of the giant screens in America, responsible for $25.4 million of "Ragnarok"'s domestic take. That's a good sign for the large-screen format, but it's also good as an indication that, when audiences recognize an event movie as a visual spectacle that deserves to be seen on a screen larger than the one in their living room, they'll happily come to the theater to see it, even if it means coughing up premium-format surcharges.

    Loser: "LBJ." The weekend's only other semi-wide release (on 659 screens), the presidential biopic had a shot at breaking into the top 10, but it premiered in 14th place with just an estimated $1.1 million, or $1,727 per screen. That's an average that indicates near-empty theaters, which was probably to be expected, since Lyndon B. Johnson remains a president less than beloved by history, and star Woody Harrelson is not a box office draw. Some pundits may have considered his "LBJ" performance a possible Oscar contender, but if the movie falls in the box office forest and doesn't make a sound, Oscar voters won't notice either.Winner: "Lady Bird." Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age dramedy, starring Saoirse Ronan, opened on just four screens, but it averaged an estimated $93,903 on each of them, the biggest per-screen average of any movie this year. (For comparison's sake, "Ragnarok" averaged $29,658 per screen.) Those numbers, along with a rare 100 percent fresh RT score from critics, bode well for "Lady Bird" once it expands into general release, as well as for the movie's Oscar chances.

    Loser: The overall box office. One big weekend may not have been enough to turn the box office around. For one thing, it's still about 8 percent behind the same weekend a year ago, which saw the premieres of Marvel's "Doctor Strange," kiddie hit "Trolls," and Oscar-friendly war drama "Hacksaw Ridge," which debuted with a combined $146.9 million. We're not seeing that sort of deep bench this year, which is why 2017 ticket sales are still down about five percent from the same time a year ago.

  24. Box Office: 'Thor: Ragnarok' Smashes Expectations With Huge Opening Weekend

    By Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES, Nov 5 (Variety.com) -- Disney-Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" is heading for a stellar opening weekend with $121 million at 4,080 North American locations -- the fourth best launch of 2017.

    The third Thor movie is also putting an emphatic end to the month-long box office slump that saw the worst October in a decade. Among 2017 titles, its debut weekend trails only "Beauty and the Beast" at $174.8 million, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" at $146.5 million and "It" at $123.4 million.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" also officially launches the holiday season with a major bang. Moviegoing has been battered this year by a subpar second half that's pulled down 2017 grosses by 5%, but it should rebound somewhat, thanks to "Thor: Ragnorak," Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment's "Justice League" (which opens Nov. 17) and Disney-Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (opening Dec. 15).

    "November has been a hotbed for blockbusters and is as important to any given year as even the hottest summer months and has been the launch pad for some of the biggest franchises in box office history including 'Harry Potter,' 'The Hunger Games' and 'Twilight,' not to mention the traditional home for James Bond," noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "Now Thor joins the rarefied air that is the $100 million November opening club, becoming only the ninth film to ever reach this threshold and the first to do it within the first part of the month."

    STXfilms' R-rated "A Bad Moms Christmas," which opened Wednesday, is heading for a respectable $21.6 million at 3,615 sites for its first five days. A24's launch of Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" posted the best platform opening of the year with $375,612 on four screens for an impressive $93,903 per-screen average.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" wound up over-performing recent estimates, which had been in the $100 million to $118 million range. The rollout includes 3,400 3D screens, 391 IMAX screens, 616 premium large format screens, and 204 D-Box locations. The IMAX total was $25.4 million.

    With Chris Hemsworth reprising the title role, "Thor: Ragnarok" will finish far above its predecessors, nearly doubling the 2011 opening of "Thor" at $65.7 million and coming in 41% above the 2013 sequel "Thor: The Dark World" at $85.7 million.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" is directed by Taika Waititi from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and the writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. It also stars Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins. The character of Thor, based on Norse mythology, was created in 1962 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics.

    "Thor: Ragnarok" has also taken in $306 million overseas, including $109 million in its international launch last week in 52% of foreign markets. It expanded to most other overseas territories this weekend.

  25. Box Office: 'Jigsaw' Dominates Pre-Halloween Weekend With $16.3 Million

    In one of the slowest weekends this year, horror titles dominated the pre-Halloween box with Lionsgate's opening of "Jigsaw" leading the way at a respectable $16.3 million at 2,941 North American locations.

    The second weekend of "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween," also from Lionsgate, turned in a solid performance with $10 million at 2,388 sites, but no other title cleared the $6 million mark. Matt Damon's "Suburbicon" struggled with about $2.8 million at 2,046 sites and Miles Teller's "Thank You For Your Service" finished with $3.7 million at 2,054 theaters; both came in below modest forecasts in their launch weekends.

    "Jigsaw" is the eighth title in the "Saw" franchise, which centers on the deranged killer played by Tobin Bell. Audiences gave the movie a B Cinemascore, and the film made about $4 million less than projected in its launch weekend. The movie, which has a budget around $10 million, is set a decade after the death of Jigsaw as police investigate a series of gruesome murders that fit the Jigsaw style.

    "Boo 2," starring Tyler Perry as Madea, declined 53% from its opening weekend and will wind up with $35.5 million in its first 10 days. Warner Bros.' second weekend of weather disaster tale "Geostorm" finished a distant third with a 59% decline to $5.6 million at 3,246 venues, followed by Universal's third weekend of "Happy Death Day" with about $4.7 million. Warner's fourth weekend of "Blade Runner 2049" snagged fifth place and "Thank You for Your Service," produced by DreamWorks Pictures and released by Universal, came in sixth in its opening weekend.

    "Thank You for Your Service" follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life. Teller stars along with Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

    "Suburbicon," which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, centers on the dark side of a prototypical suburban community in 1959. Audiences were unimpressed and gave the comedy-drama a D- Cinemascore. Paramount acquired U.S. distribution rights last year for $10 million with Black Bear Pictures financing.

    The overall domestic weekend is heading for a total of about $75 million, according to comScore.

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