Box Office Report (2.4.15)

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number-1-sign-300x250The first soft spot in the American Sniper box office story showed itself this past weekend, but with literally no competition, Clint Eastwood’s Oscar contender coasted to another impressive first place finish with $30.7 million over the weekend, raising its domestic haul to $247.8 million.

Three new films opened and all combined, grossed slightly more than half of American Sniper‘s weekend haul. Thus far, in 2015, if your name is not American Sniper, moviegoers are just not all that into you. People do want to go however.

Take a peak at the numbers for the rehashed, final two-episodes arc from Season 4 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones“, which actually delivered the fourth highest per screen average for films playing at more than one location. Warner Bros. was able to deliver two episodes of a television show, with a 5 minute preview of Season 5, and still finished in 15th place with a total gross from 205 IMAX theaters of $1.5 million.

In terms of the three new wide releases, Project AlmanacBlack or White, and The Loft all were not screened for critics here in my home base of Seattle, and in select markets around the country. January films are notoriously bad, but we are in the dark days right now, as there have been some golden turkeys landing in theaters these last few weeks.

Sniper Rolls On…But For How Long?

bradleycooper_americansniperFor the second weekend in a row, American Sniper set the record for the largest screen availability for an R-rated movie. However, the first significant chink in the armor was revealed, as the film lost 53% in its continued expansion, a larger than expected drop in attendance. All is not lost however; Sniper still amassed the second largest Super Bowl weekend ever, behind (ahem…) 2008’s The Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour film.  Oh…to those simpler times.

Tracking back to 2014, American Sniper is now the fifth biggest grossing film from last year and $80-85 million away from overtaking The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I as the year’s biggest success. Can it get there? For a while, it seemed a no-brainer, but Box Office Mojo research shows that the interest in the film has cooled considerably, which the numbers seem to indicate. However, a lull right now is in effect and as we turn the corner to the final two weeks before the Oscars, where Sniper competes in six categories, including Best Picture, the ad campaign and news networks will likely find more than enough to talk about before all is said and done.

What is Sniper facing this weekend? Can it be the first film since 2012’s The Hunger Games to hold a fourth consecutive weekend at the box office? More on that in a moment.

Project Almanac Was Found…

Footage that is…

project_almanacA common theme for films this year seems to be long-delayed. This coming weekend, both Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son have been idling on dusty studio shelves waiting for their moment, and in the case of Dean Israelite’s debut film, the teenage/sci-fi film was finished and ready in the fall of 2013.

Project Almanac is the fourth (?!?) title given to the film and with a budget of $12 million, the $8.3 million start should bring in about double its production budget, in terms of domestic box office results.

Somewhat surprisingly, the found footage genre survives yet again, although Almanac was not lambasted as badly by critics as other recent films using this gimmick. Starring a cast of unknowns, Michael Bay helped get the film finished and across the finish line, landing a producer’s credit, though his name was largely left out of the marketing. If anything, this proved to be a youthful alternative to the offerings at the multiplex, and it appears it will be a modest hit for all involved.

Black Or White Or Does It Even Matter?

Critics were indifferent to Kevin Costner’s race-driven drama Black or White, about grandparent custody of a mixed-race child and audiences seemed to shrug their shoulders collectively. The $6.2 million start is on pace with his 2008 comedy Swing Vote, both films opening at about the same dollar amount, but both those films are among his softest opening weekends ever. Interest is growing in another Costner film, McFarland, USA, but with a final tally looking to land around $15-20 million for Black or White, Costner continues to struggle opening movies in these recent efforts to restart his career as a leading man.

A Vacant Loft

Did anyone actually really go and visit The Loft? I know a lot of moviegoers, casual and weekend warrior-types, and no one I know dropped in on this sexually charged murder/thriller. And yet, somehow, some way The Loft found $2.7 million in ticket receipts when the tills were counted. Erik Van Looy’s film has a curious cast – James Marsden, Karl Urban, Eric Stonestreet (?!), Wentworth Miller (!??!) and for critics who expensed their tickets with their editors on Thursday night or Friday morning, the film landed a stellar 9% TomatoMeter score. This will be on home video by April, I am sure.

And yes. More people saw The Loft then SelmaI throw up all my hands.

Beyond The Top 10

We already mentioned “Game of Thrones”, which saw strong business on IMAX screens, but J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year moved beyond its Oscar snub disappointment, expanding from 60-plus screens to more than 800 locations. The results were not great, as the film generated a meager per screen average and just $1.5 million. In five weeks, the film has banked $3.0 million.

Another significant swing and miss came with the expansion of Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea, starring Jude Law. Moving from 5 theaters to nearly 320 screens, the film saw sparse attendance. Black Sea has grossed slightly more than $508k by the end of the weekend and it will be interesting to see if Focus stops the film’s planned rollout or pushes forward for one more week.

WORLD_2015_OSCAR_SHORTS_Web_Poster_1500px_highGood fortunes found Shorts International and the annual presentation of the Oscar Nominated Short Films program. This year’s screening scored the largest opening ever ($417k on 118 screens), despite opening on the smallest number of screens since 2011. In the seven years that Shorts International has provided theatrical distribution for the series, the films have grossed more than the year before, with last year’s screenings banking an impressive $2.2 million in 4 weeks.

Let’s cue the In Memorium music for the following films: Mortdecai, Cakeand BlackhatIn the case of Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai and Jennifer Aniston’s Cake, both films shed more than 65% of its opening weekend audience in week two. In the case of Depp’s action/comedy, the film played in the same theaters as opening weekend making those results disastrous, while CineLou Films slashed Cake’s screen count from more than 500 to below 380, aiding in its drop off in business.

Universal has tried to pull out the Men In Black pen for Michael Mann’s Blackhat. Ripped like a band-aid off of a fresh wound, the film vanished from 2,670 sites to 232, losing 94% of its previous weekend audience. After 17 days, the $70 million production has grossed $7.9 million.

Next Weekend: Space, a Sponge, and a Seventh Son!

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter AscendingAfter a long and much discussed delay, brother and sister tandem, the Wachowskis are back at the multiplex with the $175 million Jupiter Ascending, with Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, and lest we forget, Eddie Redmayne, who has been curiously absent from all recent promotion of the film. Having seen it and being under embargo out here in Seattle, I cannot speak much about the film, but let me say, it is no coincidence that the Magic Mike XXL trailer dropped this week and I am fascinated to see how audiences respond to this.

Kunis plays a Chicago housekeeper who is unknowingly the Queen of the Universe, while Tatum is a dog-human hybrid who protects her from otherworldly dangers and villains. Warner Bros. pressed forward with the film despite the Wachowskis suffering embarrassing domestic grosses for the last effort, Cloud AtlasThat film, budgeted at $102 million, grossed $130 worldwide and somehow, even with 2008’s Speed Racer losing Warner Bros. more than $40 million, Jupiter Ascending is the Wachowskis most expensive production to date.

Yes. Jupiter Ascending cost more than the sequels to The Matrix. Wow.

Seventh Son

Hey look everyone! Julianne Moore is in this! Wait. What is Seventh Son again? Jeff Bridges, is that you?

After sitting in the Universal catacombs, after collecting dust at Warner Bros. for a good long while, this throwback fantasy tale of an older man training a young apprentice to fight off a vengeful witch has already played internationally and grossed $82 million thus far. The $95 million production, just needs a couple decent weeks from all of you to break even, although the cost of marketing has not been fully accounted for. The film is being screened for critics, but is hitting an Oh-fer thus far, branding the oh-so-rare 0% on the TomatoMeter.

Big, bloated, and full of production problems, the film went through three different composers for the score, Legendary Pictures hired a second visual effects team to finish effects on the film when resources ran dry, and the film was originally scheduled for release in February 2013. The film now is far different than what was originally conceived, so who knows what Sergei Bodrov’s film is going to look like this weekend!

Who knows – he may be finding out along with the rest of us!

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water

Entirely possible that American Sniper is held out of the top spot by the little cartoon hero who lives in the pineapple under the sea. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is the first mega-animated blockbuster, jumping into the successful The LEGO Movie weekend from 2014. The reach will be there, the film opening in more than 3.500 locations, but how strong is the SpongeBob brand? Obviously the shows are still on something of a perpetual loop on Nickelodeon, but this is the 16th year of the SpongeBob franchise and it has been more than a decade since SpongeBob, Patrick Star, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs last plied their trade on the big screen.

The last film grossed a slightly disappointing $85.4 million in 2004 after an opening of more than $32 million. Will a similar opening be enough to take down American Sniper?

Can SpongeBob withstand the Sniper? Can Jupiter ascend to the top spot? Does anyone go see Seventh Son this weekend?

The Top 10 Grossing Films for the Week Ending February 1, 2015

1. American Sniper (Warner Bros.)
$30.7 million, $247.8 million total, 6 weeks, -53% (3,885 screens).

2. Project Almanac (Paramount)
$8.3 million, $8.3 million total, NEW (2,893 screens).

3. Paddington (Weinstein/Dimension)
$8.3 million, $50.3 million total, -33% (3,303 screens).

4. Black Or White (Relativity)
$6.2 million, $6.2 million total, NEW (1,823 screens)

5. The Boy Next Door 
(Universal)
$6.1 million, $24.7 million total, 2 weeks, -59% (2,615 screens).

6. The Wedding Ringer (Screen Gems)
$5.7 million, $48.1 million total, 3 weeks, -50% (2,820 screens).

7.  The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company)
$5.0 million, $67.8 million total, 10 weeks, -28% (2,402 screens).

8. Taken 3 (20th Century Fox)
$3.7 million, $81.4 million total, 4 weeks, -50% (2,533 screens).

9. Strange Magic (Buena Vista)
$3.4 million, $9.8 million total, 2 weeks, -39% (3,020 screens).

10. The Loft (Open Road Films)
$2.7 million, $2.7 million total, NEW (1,841 screens).

Domestic and international figures are actualized on Monday afternoons (excluding 4-day weekends) and courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com and other news outlets.