March 22, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office – 3/21/14


What was supposed to be an exciting pre-summer weekend at the box office is instead looking rather blah.

OPENINGS:  Compared to recent YA disasters like The Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures, DIVERGENT (Summit/Lionsgate) looks pretty good with a $22.8M Friday ($4.9M of it from Thursday night), up marginally from Friday night estimates.  But this was billed as the next blockbuster franchise, and its opening day is far below the original Twilight‘s $36M, and couldn’t touch the rest of that franchise or Hunger Games.  Divergent is probably due for a major drop on Saturday with its frontloaded young female audience, and that drop could put the day at anywhere between $13-20M, and the weekend at $50-60M.  (Even with a steep slide on Saturday, figure on the studio to make sure the Sunday morning estimate is at least $50M.)  The movie carries a pricetag (worldwide marketing included) of around $200M, and depending on foreign release, that could make the Divergent business model look less than Dauntless.

The novelty is gone from 2012’s franchise reboot with the arrival of MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney), which begins with a satirical musical number about the way sequels never measure up to their originals, and… well, honesty is a wonderful thing.  Wanted is awfully weak with $4.7M on opening day, which will probably lead to a weekend around $18M.  Although the $65M production cost wasn’t high, the movie got the full-scale Disney marketing machine in gear, meaning total costs of $175-200M worldwide, and considering that the first Muppets was underwhelming overseas, the rare family movie to score better in the US than internationally ($88.6M vs. $76.6M), the franchise may need another reboot sooner rather than later.

The one positive surprise for Hollywood on Friday had almost nothing to do with Hollywood:  the hardcore religious drama GOD’S NOT DEAD (Freestyle), which proved again how strong that audience is with $2.8M in just 780 theatres, a per-theatre average that more than doubled the one for Muppets.  Not Dead should hold up extremely well on Sunday, but may be a one-week wonder, because the opening weekend box office in this genre is often loaded with bulk ticket buys by churches, and the movie faces new biblical competition on Friday.

HOLDOVERS:  Nothing looked particularly stellar this weekend.  With Muppets cutting into its family take, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks Animation/20th) fell 50% from last Friday to $2.7M, and seems likely to run out of gas in the US around $100M, with overseas box office not running far higher than it is here.  300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warners/Legendary) showed no staying power, down another 58% to $2.4M on its third Friday and similarly headed for perhaps $110M in the US (although its foreign returns are nearly double the results here, which will allow it to hit profit).  The strongest hold of the day belonged to NON-STOP (Universal), down 41% to $1.9M and still on its way to $90M in the US.

Last weekend’s openings all collapsed.  NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks/Disney) fell 66% to $2.4M and won’t get beyond $50M in the US (luckily its international numbers are double that, mostly thanks to China).  THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB (Lionsgate) dropped 71% to $940K, and may not even get to $20M here (with zero foreign prospects).  VERONICA MARS (Warners) was even worse, a catastrophic 86% plunge to $140K.

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) is still performing beautifully, now at 304 theatres and with a per-theatre average that should approach $20K.  With strong overseas business as well (over $20M in just a few territories), Budapest should be Wes Anderson’s biggest hit worldwide, and possibly in the US as well, where his current record-holder is The Royal Tenenbaums with $52.4M.  Lars von Trier’s NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME 1 (Magnolia) may have a $7500 average at 24 theatres, although it should be noted that the film has already been available on VOD for 2 weeks.  The documentary JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (Sony Classics) may average $12K at 3.

NEXT WEEKEND:  NOAH (Paramount) storms into town, trailing weeks of media attention.  The extremely bloody Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle SABOTAGE (Open Road) will be seeking a different audience, and in semi-limited release, CESAR CHAVEZ (Lionsgate) will aim for a more niche crowd.


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."