Box Office Report (3.4.2015)

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number-1-sign-300x250After a week off, we dive back into the Awards Circuit box office report, with things considerably cooling through the end of February. Two weekends ago, McFarland, USAThe DUFF and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 failed to break through significantly, though in the case of Kevin Costner’s McFarland and teen rom-com The DUFF, the films have already turned profitable. Audiences are still largely “meh” on the newest wide releases however and that seemed to continue with this week’s ticket tallies.

While Will Smith returned to the box office, alongside rising star Margot Robbie, the per screen attendance for Glenn Ficara and John Requa’s Focus was less than stellar. And while the film easily cruised to the top spot, the opening weekend haul of $18.7 million ranks as just Smith’s fifteenth best opening of all time. [Insert shocked emoji here]

Elsewhere, poor reviews and the seen-it-all-before ad campaign brought PG-13 horror film The Lazarus Effect to a pedestrian $10.2 million. And while that more than triples the film’s production budget of just over $3 million, the overall number was something of a disappointment for Relativity.

Audiences yawned, took a bit of a break from a post-Oscar movie week and have a raunchy comedy, older and more mature-themed romantic dramedy, and a sci-fi action hybrid to ponder for this weekend.

First, however, let’s break down last weekend’s numbers.

Focus – Sharp and a Bit Blurry…But Clear Enough to be #1.

Smith and Robbie FocusWill Smith has led 14 films to a #1 debut in his career and in that respect, Focus is a return to form for him. However, this is the smallest box office opening weekend for the actor since 1998, when the then-emerging star pushed Enemy of the State to a #2 debut with $20.0 million in 1998. After the reviled After Earth and box office bomb Winter’s Tale, where the actor had a nominal supporting turn opposite Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell, Smith’s A-list status has taken a sharp downward spiral. Scientology murmurs, coupled with bizarre behavior by Jaden and Willow, the two children he shares with wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and Smith’s star looks a little tarnished.

Focus represents something of a throwback film – a slick, glossy heist film which really seems to belong to an era about a decade old or so. The twists and turns pleased some critics and turned off others, and Smith and Robbie seemed to generate enough interest to bring a decent crowd out to the movies. Robbie, back after a star-making turn in The Wolf of Wall Street opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013, has Focus kicking off what could be a big year. For her, the opening shows that she may have some status as a bankable leading actress, and will next be seen in the sci-fi/romantic drama Z For Zachariah, opposite Chris Pine and Chiwetel Ejiofor. For Smith, he will next appear in the Oscar hopeful Concussion for Columbia Pictures on Christmas Day, playing a doctor who uncovers a condition present in the brain tissue of former NFL players who each committed suicide.

Focus will likely reach it’s $50-plus million production budget with its domestic grosses and turn into a modest worldwide hit for Warner Bros. Nonetheless, you wonder if the Will Smith brand can deliver a big number anymore.

Lazarus Rises…And Likely Falls Just As Quickly

Horror film The Lazarus Effect turned its scant $3.3 million budget into a $10.2 million start which seems to ensure Relativity with a modest $25-$30 million grossing film by the time all is said and done. Critics were not kind to the film (13% on Rotten Tomatoes), which details what happens when a group of researchers successfully discover how to bring people back from the dead.  The opening looks good on a company’s bottom line, but audiences were less than enthusiastic about the film, offering a rough CinemaScore grade of “C”. Expect a healthy 50-55% drop in its second weekend.

Last Weekend’s Films Underwhelming…To Say The Least

McFarland, USA, The DUFF and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 all failed to click with audiences, lost in the sea of Oscar winners, Fifty Shades of Grey and any number of other films splitting crowds down to a smallish size.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 took the biggest punch to the gut, earning one-fifth of the first film’s total in two weeks, even adding theaters this weekend and shedding 59% of its opening week audience.

The DUFF has some support among teenagers but is shaping up to be a profitable, but forgettable film, likely finishing south of $30 million by the time it closes in theaters.

And for Kevin Costner, McFarland, USA may be a good, at times pretty great film, but he can’t seem to sustain a film on his shoulders anymore, no matter with or without critical support.

All three of these films will likely be on home video in the next three months.

That Oscar Bump Though…

birdman_screenplayWith the Oscar season concluding the moment Sean Penn eventually named Birdman 2014’s Best Picture, a little bit of life was breathed into the satirical drama, which cashed in its 4 Oscar wins into a 119% boost at the box office. Naturally, Fox Searchlight’s decision to run the film in more than 1,200 theaters (from the previous weekend’s 400+ locations) helped pad the numbers, but audiences just were not there for the film. With a per screen average of a paltry $1,586, Birdman pushed its domestic gross to over $40 million, a number that will likely not grow much more with the film now available on home video.

Of the last 35 Best Picture winners, dating back to 1980’s Ordinary People, the film is pretty much locked in as the second lowest grossing Best Picture winner over that time frame, when looking at strict dollars to dollars analysis and not adjusting numbers for inflation. For what it’s worth, it is also the third consecutive Best Picture winner to open in the month of October…

So yes,  Jem & The Holograms, you are still in this race!

Best Actress winner Julianne Moore finally got Still Alice into the Top 10 for the first time, and with some in the industry bemoaning a win for a film “no one knows even exists…”, the film concluded its 7th weekend in theaters and has exceeded box office totals of $11 million in North America.

The Theory of Everything (+15%) and Whiplash (+19%) saw nice boosts in attendance, while a Best Original Song win did little to help Selma (-29%) and the Best Adapted Screenplay win for The Imitation Game could not stop a 25% slide in attendance.

American Sniper is 2014’s biggest grossing film by the time you read this and the annual program of Oscar-nominated short films from Shorts International has now become the most successful release yet in the annual series. The short film presentation will cap its box office at nearly $2.5 million this year.

Beyond The Top 10

A La Mala had a decent launch for Lionsgate, who saw the romantic comedy aimed for Hispanic audiences, net $1.4 million at just under 400 locations.

71After his breakout turn in Unbroken, Jack O’Connell’s intense war drama ’71, which was a catalyst in his winning the Rising Star Award from BAFTA this year, and delivered massive critical praise both overseas and here at home, had a strong first weekend for Roadside Attractions. At just 4 locations, the film opened with nearly $56k and will roll out into more cities throughout the month of March.

Oscar nominated foreign language film Wild Tales performed quite well, scoring a higher per screen average than Focus, and raising its box office total to $365k in its first two weeks of release.

What We Do In The Shadows continued to perform strong, adding another 30 cities (46 in total), and increasing audience by 91% to add to its VOD totals.

Up Next: Unfinished Business with CHAPPiE at the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

CHAPPiE

chappie_ver4After his breakthrough with the Oscar-nominated District 9, writer/director Neill Blomkamp polarized audiences with Elysium, his big budget, high profile sci-fi epic, which was a box office disappointment in North America but more than delivered financially overseas for Sony Pictures and TriStar. In doing press for CHAPPiEBlomkamp rather inexplicably apologized for Elysium and claimed he “did not get it right” and would like to do it again. Hmm.

Well, in a film that can best be described as a sci-fi/action/comedy starring Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel, and South African rap duo Die Antwoord, CHAPPiE also features Blomkamp’s wingman, Sharlto Copley, as the voice of a robot infused with superior intelligence. The film seems to be dividing critics already and while the film is tracking well leading up to its release, Blomkamp saw his budget slashed by more than half of what he was given for Elysium, not only lowering the bar for success with the film, but also making the margin of error less for him going forward.

Then again, Blomkamp just got the keys to the Alien franchise, so perhaps CHAPPiE‘s success or failure means little for his career, as he at least has one big payday coming on the horizon.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Yes folks – history has been made as Dev Patel has two…count them…TWO films opening in wide release this weekend. See him as the A.I. engineer who designs the consciousness of CHAPPiE the Robot, then stay for his return in the sequel to John Madden’s melodramatic 2012 comedy, where Patel plays the owner of the First Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and has now expanded with a Second. Best. Exotic. Marigold Hotel.

In 2012, Madden’s film was a slow burn of a success domestically, a robust success overseas and most of the cast is back, with Richard Gere added to the sequel as a novelist who finds himself at the Second…Best… (just…nevermind) and a cast including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Patel, Gere, David Strathairn, and many others.

Originally set to open on a small-scale platform, Fox Searchlight opted to counterprogram against science-fiction and raunchy comedy and got this into more than 1,400 screens this weekend. This will be a curious one to watch financially as the target demographic just saw most of the Best Picture Oscar nominees go dark and, outside of McFarland, USA and perhaps next weekend’s Cinderella, there doesn’t seem to be much inviting them into the multiplex.

Unfinished Business

As a film critic here in Seattle, I can inform you that no one is talking about Unfinished Business up here, largely because the studio booked the film’s press screening against CHAPPiE, which is a sign that they were looking to bury the film.  As it turns out, many cities’ reviewing press are not getting to see the film at all, which is always a wonderful indication of what the studio, 20th Century Fox in this instance, thinks about the film they have on their hands.
 
And Unfinished Business is getting the worst reviews of 2015.
 
Think about that. In a year with The Boy Next DoorFifty Shades of Grey, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and The Lazarus Effect, this film has an astonishing FOUR PERCENT on Rotten Tomatoes.
 
Fan. Tastic.
 
Not to be outdone by Mr. Slumdog Millionaire himself, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson attacks the theaters twice this weekend as well. See him in The Second Best Exotic Erotic Marigold and Carnation Hotel, Bed, and Breakfast and stay for Unfinished Business, where he stars opposite Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco as a trilogy of “business men” who go to Europe to “close a deal.”
 
The less said about this the better.

Questions To Consider…

Is this the low point for Vince Vaughn? How many words are in that Marigold Hotel title and will older audiences come out to see it? Will CHAPPiE impress audiences and give Neill Blomkamp momentum heading into Alien. What will emerge as a hit from the indie scene?

Talk to you next week!

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

1. Focus (Warner Bros.)
$18.7 million, $18.7 million total, NEW (3,323 screens).

2. Kingsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox)
$11.9 million, $85.8 million total, 3 weeks, -35% (3,282 screens).

3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (Paramount)
$10.8 million, $139.9 million total, 4 weeks, -35% (3,467 screens).

4. Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal)
$10.6 million, $147.4 million total, 3 weeks, -53% (3,383 screens).

5. The Lazarus Effect (Relativity)
$10.2 million, $10.2 million total, NEW (2,666 screens).

6. McFarland, USA (Buena Vista)
$7.8 million, $22.0 million total, 2 weeks, -29% (2,765 screens).

7. American Sniper (Warner Bros.)
$7.4 million, $330.8 million total, 10 weeks, -26% (2,914 screens).

8. The DUFF (Lionsgate)
$6.9 million, $19.8 million total, 2 weeks, -37% (2,622 screens).

9. Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
$2.7 million, $12.0 million total, 7 weeks, +24% (1,318 screens).

10. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Paramount)
$2.4 million, $10.3 million total, 2 weeks, -59% (2,901 screens).

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