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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (August 2-4, 2013)

The train of success couldn’t just keep rolling. After some tremendous, record-breaking numbers between mid-June and mid-July, the box-office has been on a downwards slope for four weekends in a row now. For the first time since the first weekend of June the Top 12 cume ended up below $150 million, namely at $123.3 million (down 22% from last weekend). In fact, it was the lowest total gross of the Top 12-films since the final weekend of April. On top of that, for the first time since that very last weekend of April the number-one film made less than $30 million over the weekend. What else do those two weekends have in common? On both the top-choice among moviegoers starred Mark Wahlberg. Nevertheless, while this weekend’s box-office wasn’t too hot, the Top 12 was still 8.3% above the same weekend last year, when The Dark Knight Rises ruled the charts in its third weekend. Thanks to that the gap between the 2013 box-office and the 2012 box-office is now down to mere 0.6%. That’s particularly impressive if you consider that we’ve had only one $400+ million grosser this year so far whereas last year had two at this point and one well on its way there (The Dark Knight Rises). All in all, there is a great chance that we’re looking at yet another record-year at the domestic box-office.


While the top-spot-debut of 2 Guns is nothing to really complain about, its $27.1 million weekend take from 3,025 venues (per-theatre-average of $8,945) is nothing to write home about either. In fact, all things considered, one could judge the opening as slightly disappointing given the names involved. Afterall it stars Denzel Washington, one of the most reliable box-office draws in Hollywood as well as Mark Wahlberg, who, prior to this year, had a great track record at the box-office as well with Ted ($218.8 million), The Fighter ($93.6 million) and 2 Guns’ director’s Contraband ($66.5 million). Denzel Washington himself had two major hits last year as well with Safe House ($126.4 million) and Flight ($93.8 million) in addition to earning another Academy Award nomination. Now 2 Guns represents the actor’s 14th opening weekend above $20 million. You can hardly get any more consistent than that. Since 2000 only two out of 16 wide openers starring Denzel Washington have opened to less than $20 million and one of those (Out of Time) actually adjusts to a $20+ million opening in 2013-dollars. In fact, 2 Guns is Washington’s 5th-biggest career opening, right ahead of Flight and behind Inside Man. So why does it seem disappointing then if it fits into his profile so well?

Mainly because it there should have been no reason for this to open much below Safe House, which bowed to a terrific $40.2 million last year. That film paired Washington with a younger co-star (Ryan Reynolds) and the pairing yielded great box-office numbers. With Wahlberg being considered a bigger box-office draw than Reynolds, 2 Guns should have been a major slam-dunk, yet it turned out to be nothing more than your average Denzel-Washington-performer. While for Washington it is just business-as-usual, this is a worrying sign for Wahlberg whose star power apparently didn’t help out at all here. After the bomb of Broken City ($19.7 million) and the disappointing performance of Pain and Gain ($49.8 million) Wahlberg is on shaky ground as far as being a major draw, which he was widely considered prior to this year. As expected 2 Guns skewed older (77% were 25 or above), but surprisingly slightly more female (51%). The film’s “B+”-CinemaScore is decent and corresponds well with the mixed-to-positive reviews for the film. In other words: there is just absolutely nothing special about the film that some, including myself, thought had a shot at becoming this late summer’s major hit and Washington’s biggest performer. On the upside, it is the 12th R-rated movie to open above $20 million this year. Last year had only 11 of those at this point. The flick will face harsh competition from the likes of Elysium, Kick Ass 2 and Paranoia over the next weeks and should wind up with $75-85 million. It’s not even guaranteed a spot among Washington’s 10 highest-grossing flicks.


Expectedly, The Wolverine suffered a harsh decline in its sophomore weekend and dropped 59.9% to $21.3 million and the second spot of the chart. The X-Men-franchise has always been known for strong frontloading, even when word-of-mouth is good. The Wolverine held much better than its immediate spin-off predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which dropped 69% in its second weekend and also better than X-Men: The Last Stand, which went down 66.9%. However, its hold was worse than that of X-Men: First Class (56.2%). All in all, the film’s decline reflects the mildly positive WoM towards the film (as opposed to the outright rejection suffered by X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as well as the lack of major PG-13-rated competition. After 10 days in theatres, The Wolverine boasts a $94.6 million total - $3.5 million less than First Class and $34.5 million less than X-Men Origins after the same period of time. Given the fact that The Wolverine has the 3D premium as well as inflation to its advantage, that’s hardly a great number, but it could have been even worse if not for First Class’ great reception two years ago. What will help The Wolverine over the upcoming weeks is the lack of PG-13 blockbuster competition. The upcoming action films (Elysium, Kick Ass 2) are rated R and thus do not present direct competition. When all is said and done, it will still be the lowest-grossing X-Men-flick domestically, but it won’t finish far off X-Men: First Class. Right now I see it getting to $135-140 million, which bodes well for the much larger-scale X-Men: Days of Future Past next year.


At #3 opened this weekend’s major disappointment The Smurfs 2. Over the regular three-day-portion the sequel brought in $17.5 million from 3,866 venues for a PTA of $4,539. Since it early opening on Wednesday, The Smurfs 2 has accumulated $27.1 million. That is $8.5 million less than its predecessor made over its three-day opening alone back in 2011. That major downfall can be attributed to two things. First of all, the sequels to adaptations of comic strips/animated TV shows of the past tend to perform significantly worse than the first films. While Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($219.6 million) is a major exception to the rule, this pattern has shown itself with Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (made only 55% of the original’s gross) and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (39% of the first film’s cume). Another example is Stuart Little 2, which made $65 million, as opposed to the original’s $140 million. The Smurfs 2 fits right in with these comparisons. The second reason for a subpar opening is the simple fact that family audiences have been served very well over the past weeks. Starting with Monsters University, this is the 4th big family-oriented release in seven weeks. While Monsters University did very well and Despicable Me 2 overperformed, Turbo has already shown signs of fatigue. There is just not enough demand for family-oriented fare anymore, especially one tat is as ghastly-reviewed as The Smurfs 2. Families still accounted for roughly 80% of the film’s attendance over the weekend, but that also shows that the movie didn’t extend past families at all. The “A-“-CinemaScore is decent, but then again, audiences are very generous towards family flicks anyway, with Epic, The Croods, Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 all scoring a straight “A” this year. With Disney’s Planes on the horizon as well as Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Smurfs 2 will continue to suffer under the onslaught of further family-oriented releases. It might not even end up with half of the original film’s domestic gross ($142.6 million) with a finish somewhere in the $65-70 million-range looking likely now.


At #4, down two spots, The Conjuring continued to prove itself to be a huge horror phenomenon. Down mere 41.3% in its third weekend (great for a horror flick!), it conjured another $13 million for a 17-day-ttoal of $108 million. It has narrowly passed the original Paranormal Activity to become the highest-grossing R-rated horror film since The Blair Witch Project ($140.5 million) 14 years ago! There is little doubt left at this point that The Conjuring will eventually outgross that film too. It won’t face any horror competition until You’re Next in three weeks and its word-of-mouth is simply terrific for a horror flick. There hasn’t been a horror sensation like this at the box-office at least since The Ring back in 2002. There is little doubt at this point that The Conjuring will exceed $140 million. In fact, it has a better chance of finishing closer to $150 million than to $140 million. That will make it the biggest R-rated horror film since The Exorcist (unless you consider Hannibal horror) and the highest-grossing horror film since What Lies Beneath. It should wind up with around $145-150 million in the bank.


Despicable Me 2 had another great weekend with $10.1 million, which sufficed for the 5th spot at the box-office. Down just 38.3%, the animated sequel pushed its total gross to $326.4 million after five weeks. It is currently the 29th-biggest domestic hit ever, Universal’s third-biggest film and the 5th-biggest animated film of all time at the North American box-office. While it might not be quite on par with it, it is fair to call Despicable Me 2’s performance a mini-Shrek 2 as it is looking at an increase of at least $100 million or 40% over its predecessor, made all the more impressive by the fact that it has a much lower 3D-share and has to fend off a lot of direct competition (such as Turbo or The Smurfs 2). Next weekend, it will take a hit from Planes, but should recover and play well through the Labor-Day-weekend. It’s still a lock to hit $350 million. At this point, I see it ending up with $360-365 million – enough for an all-time Top 25 spot!


Grown Ups 2 lost just one spot and placed 6th this weekend. Down just 31.5%, it had the best hold of all films in the Top 10, even though it also boasts by far the worst reviews. With $7.9 million over the weekend, the comedy sequel pushed its running cume to $116.2 million after four weeks on release. Overall, Adam Sandler’s comedy has performed much better than many (including myself) expected it to. The first Grown Ups was a small phenomenon back in summer 2010, when it grossed $162 million and reached an opening-to-total multiplier of 4. It didn’t seem likely for a sequel to repeat that sort of success. While Grown Ups 2 won’t exactly reach those heights it still won’t lose the majority of the first film’s audience. It is currently tracking $13 million behind the first film in the same time frame and keeps falling behind by a little. On the other hand, though, it will become one of Sandler’s ten biggest films in the USA even before the upcoming weekend. There are virtually no PG-13 comedies with wide appeal opening in all of September or October, meaning that Grown Ups 2 will play well into the fall. We’re the Millers will provide some competition this upcoming weekend, but its R-rating means that it will appeal to somewhat different demographics. It is certain at this point that Grown Ups 2 will become Sandler’s 5th-highest-grossing live-action release in North America. It should be good for a $142 million total, less than 15% off the first film.


While Despicable Me 2 faced The Smurfs 2 and held its own, same cannot be said of DreamWorks’ Turbo, which lost over 800 theatres, 54.7% from last weekend and three spots, going down to #7. With $6.2 million in its third weekend and a $69.3 million cume after 19 days, Turbo is well on its way to become one of DreamWorks’ biggest failures, even exceeding last year’s Rise of the Guardians, which at least made it past $100 million. Planes will target its audiences next weekend and it will keep losing screens and theatres to quickly to recover. In the end, I expect no more than $86 million, making this $135-million-production a big failure and DreamWorks’ second-lowest-grossing CG-animated flick ever, after Flushed Away ($64.7 million). Luckily DreamWorks had The Croods this year ($186.7 million and counting).


At the 8th slot, Red 2 lost 40.5% from its previous frame and brought in another $5.6 million in its third round. So far the action-comedy sequel has made $45.1 million, trailing the first film by almost $14 million. It is not a disaster akin to The Whole Ten Yards or Miss Congeniality 2, though. Thanks to solid WoM, its crowd-pleasing tone and its PG-13-rating, it will stick around for a while and end up with around $60 million when all is said and done. At the same time, it is looking at a significant improvement in overseas territories.


The Heat displayed its longevity again, dipping mere 33.1% to $4.6 million and bringing its running cume to $149.5 million. The Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy-vehicle is still tracking $13 million ahead of Bridesmaids, though the latter is catching up thanks to even better legs in its late run. I project that Bridesmaids will eventually overtake The Heat, which, in turn, will wind up with roughly $165 million and a multiplier above 4. After an opening weekend that, in my opinion, came in slightly below expectations, it has displayed some great legs and is looking at a terrific final gross.


Pacific Rim rounded off the Top 10 with a 41.7% decline to $4.5 million. It now stands at $92.9 million, with a $100 million mark in its reach. Right now it is tracking more than $3 million ahead of Cowboys & Aliens, which went on to finish with $100.2 million. Pacific Rim will crawl to $105 million by the end of its run.


The Way, Way Back repeated at #11, as it added 115 theatres and brought its theatre count to 1,001. In the process the indie flick decreased just 20.8% to $2.7 million and upped its cume to $13.6 million. The film should hang in there for a while and I expect it to leave the theatres with $22-25 million in its pockets.


Fruitvale Station, in contrast, has shown itself to be more frontloaded as it dipped 43.3% after a successful expansion last week. A $2.6 million weekend brought the acclaimed film’s total to $10.6 million. It’s looking at a $18 million finish when all is said and done.


One of the weekend’s biggest box-office stories, though, was its #14-film. Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s newest, expanded from 6 to 50 theatres, rose 203.7% and delivered around $1.85 million over the weekend for a $37,174 PTA. For comparison, Midnight in Paris made $1.93 million from 58 venues in its second weekend. These numbers are great and coupled with the fact that it will be a likely awards contender, Blue Jasmine should be looking at at least $30 million now, making it one of Allen’s five biggest films ever unadjusted for inflation.


Meanwhile, the acclaimed indie drama The Spectacular Now opened to a terrific $197,000 from just four theatres for a $49,354 average per theatre.

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