November 22, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office – 11/21/14


OPENINGS:  Congratulations and condolences to THE HUNGER GAMES:  MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (Lionsgate), which had the biggest day of any movie this year–yet at $55M (slightly higher than Friday afternoon estimates had projected) was a surprising disappointment.  That number was well behind the $67.3M for the first Hunger Games and the $71M for Catching Fire, a shortfall no one saw coming.  It should lead to a $125-130M weekend, which will again underperform the $152.5M/$158.1M starts for its predecessors.  All of this is far more of a drop than Mockingjay‘s lack of Imax screens can explain, and talk of a “third movie curse” is just silliness, so what happened?  Lionsgate may have pushed too far in dividing Mockingjay into 2 parts, a maneuver that worked for Harry Potter and Twilight, but which led to Mockingjay Part 1 drawing mixed reviews (68% positive at Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 84%/89% for the franchise’s other installments), and the general feeling that this wasn’t so much the first act of a climactic event as a cash-grab.  Mockingjay may still end up as 2014’s biggest movie in the US, and it will certainly be aided by the Thanksgiving holiday ahead and little competition until mid-December, but it’s no longer a sure thing to beat Guardians of the Galaxy and its $330.5M total.  On the bright side, Mockingjay is performing strongly overseas, with $67.5M reported through Friday (in some territories it opened on Wednesday), which the studio claims is somewhat higher than the performance of Catching Fire.

HOLDOVERS:  Nothing, of course, came within a continent of Mockingjay‘s day, however diminished it may have been.  DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Red Granite/Universal) turned out to be a one-weekend curiosity, plunging 70% from last Friday to $4.3M, and heading for a $14M weekend.  A likely $85M total is nothing to feel bad about, although Dumber To won’t come near the original movie’s $127.2M total (and that was in 1994 dollars).  Any hope that BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) would benefit from word of mouth was a pipedream, as the romantic drama fell 65% from last Friday to $800K, and isn’t likely to get much past $2.5M for the weekend.

BIG HERO 6 (Disney) should take the #2 slot for the weekend.  It fell 44% from last Friday to $4.5M, on its way to a $19M weekend that will put it at $135M.  It has direct competition coming its way on Wednesday, but should still hold well through Thanksgiving, and end up at $175-185M before it’s done.

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount/Warners) held fairly well, down 49% from last Friday to $4.2M and headed for a $15M weekend that will put it at $120M.  It continues to be on track for $150M in the US, not a spectacular result for a very expensive movie, but should nudge its way to profit thanks to very strong performance overseas.

Nothing else in the market even hit $1M for the day on Friday, although GONE GIRL (20th) and ST VINCENT (Weinstein) continued to hold well, down respectively 41% and 43% from last Friday, and likely to have $2.7/$2.2M weekends that will leave them at $157M and $36M.

BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) continues to find tough sledding as it tries to move beyond the arthouse realm.  Although its Friday-to-Friday drop of 28% (to $500K at 862 theatres) may sound good, it pales next to the 17% drop that Boyhood had in its 2d weekend of wide release, let alone the dead-even 2d wide weekend for Blue Jasmine.  Birdman will badly need Best Picture and Best Actor awards from the early critics groups that announce their winners after Thanksgiving weekend (Best Director won’t be enough) if it’s to keep its momentum and get past a $20-25M US total.

LIMITED RELEASE:  Although even the indies stayed away from opening against Mockingjay, things were busy on the expansion front.  THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus/Universal) spread to 140 theatres, and should have a moderate weekend per-theatre average of $10K.  FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) was less impressive, moving into a much smaller expansion of 24 theatres and with a weekend average that may not hit $20K.  THE HOMESMAN (Roadside) didn’t find much traction with a likely $3500 average at 33 theatres.  Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s passion project ROSEWATER (Open Road) is finding few takers, down an ugly 67% Friday-to-Friday and with a weekend average at 371 that may be below $1500.  WHIPLASH (Sony Classics) is conserving itself for awards season and actually reduced its run by about 20% to 331 theatres, which should put its per-theatre weekend average at about $1500.

NEXT WEEKEND:  HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line/Warners) and THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation/20th) both arrive on Wednesday, designed to counterprogram Mockingjay over the holiday weekend.  On Friday, Oscar hopeful THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) makes its appearance in NY and LA.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."