March 29, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office: 3/28/14


OPENINGS:  NOAH (Paramount/Regency) got the start it wanted and needed with $15.2M on Friday ($1.6M of that from Thursday night), which–unless word of mouth sinks the ark–should mean a $40M weekend.  The darkly revisionist biblical spectacle also has $28.3M overseas, where it’s still in just 21 markets, so for now it’s on track to earn back its $250M costs (including worldwide marketing).  There is enormous all-quadrant competition heading its way next weekend, however, from those forces of the devil known as Marvel, so Noah‘s storm isn’t over.

The producers of SABOTAGE (Open Road) will have to hope that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appeal continues to be strong overseas, because with $1.8M on Friday and a likely $5M weekend, it’s a dead loss in the US.  (Open Road only distributes the film here, and has no chance of recouping its costs.)  The good news is that the ex-Governator’s previous films The Last Stand and Escape Plan respectively tripled/quadrupled their US take internationally–the bad news is that only Escape Plan (which also featured Sylvester Stallone) may have turned a profit.

Any hope that CESAR CHAVEZ (Lionsgate/Pantelion) would bring in audiences beyond its niche were probably blown away by the largely blah reviews (39% on Rotten Tomatoes), giving it $1M on Friday at 664 theatres and a likely $3M or so for the weekend.

Two other films expanded their way into general release.  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight), now at 977 theatres, is no longer a phenomenon (its per-theatre average on Friday was only 60% of Noah‘s), but it’s still extremely strong, considering what a quirky indie it is, with $2.4M on Friday and a probable $8M+ weekend.  It’s likely to at least match Moonrise Kingdom‘s $45.5M US total, and still has a chance of becoming Wes Anderson’s biggest hit by beating The Royal Tenenbaums and its $52.4M.

BAD WORDS (Focus/Universal) is faring considerably worse, with less than $800K on Friday at 842 theatres, and a weekend that probably won’t hit $3M.  Focus picked up the film for $7M at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was a minor sensation–one of the last actions of what is now the studio’s former regime.  With marketing costs included in the mix, and little likelihood for overseas success, the investment was probably a bad one.

HOLDOVERS:  DIVERGENT (Summit/Lionsgate) had a respectable hold for a YA franchise aimed at young women, dropping 64% on a Friday-to-Friday basis to $8.1M for a likely $25M weekend.  By comparison, the 2d Friday of the original Twilight fell 70%, and the first Hunger Games lost 72%. Divergent was helped by the fact that Noah was aimed at completely different quadrants, and seems likely to reach $135M+ in the US.

Here’s a fairly reliable axiom:  if you increase your theatre count, you’ll bring in more money–or at least slow your decline.  Pundits seem shocked, shocked that GOD’S NOT DEAD (Freestyle) fell only 16% from last Friday to $2.4M despite the arrival of Noah, but, um, that’s because its theatre count grew by 50%.  Its per-theatre average for the day was actually down by 45%–which itself isn’t a terrible number, but hardly cause for celebration.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney) dropped an OK 44% to $2.6M and a likely $10M weekend (by comparison, the 2d Friday drop for Mr. Peabody and Sherman was 32%, and The Lego Movie only slipped 25%).  It’s still not going to get much higher than $50M in the US.  Thinking of MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks Animation/20th), it was down a mere 19% in its 3d outing to $2.2M, and should reach $100M by the end of this week, with $125M in its sights–still not enough for a movie with $275M in total costs (including marketing)–especially since international business is only pacing 15% ahead of the US.

NON-STOP (Universal), NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks/Disney) and 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warners/Legendary) were all at around $1.2M on Friday and heading for $3.5-4M weekends, although their respective declines were 35%/48%/51%.  Speed is far below the other two in the US, unlikely to even reach $45M in the US compared to $95M and $110M for Non-Stop and Empire, but both Speed and Empire are doing extremely well overseas, with a respective $96.1M and $195.3M.

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE RAID 2 (Sony Classics) is off to a strong start with $64K at 7 theatres, and should have a terrific $30K average for the weekend, but whether that means it has any chance of moving beyond its small but intense fanbase (The Raid: Redemption only made $4.1M in the US, despite playing in as many as 881 theatres) is unclear.

NEXT WEEKEND:  No one is coming near CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Disney), which is not only part of the massive Avengers universe, but which advance reviews are praising far beyond the normal superhero epic.  Only a few indies are opening against it, notably DOM HEMINGWAY (Fox Searchlight), the off-beat British gangster comedy-drama with Jude Law.

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."