April 19, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office: 4/18/14


Seasonal Note:  Good Friday is traditionally a strong day for moviegoing, which explains the generally solid Friday-to-Friday holds below.  Easter Sunday, though, is less of a movie day, potentially bringing down weekend multiples.

OPENINGS:  HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (TriStar/Sony) is impressively overperforming, its $7.9M Friday added to $7M from Wednesday and Thursday for a total that should reach $25M+ by Sunday.  A quartet of religious-themed movies have opened just in the past 2 months, with Heaven joining Son of God, Noah and God’s Not Dead, and all of them have been successful, a remarkable run that guarantees this genre will only be more popular among studio executives in the months and years to come.  Even better from the studio point of view:  these films don’t require major stars (Greg Kinnear, the lead in Heaven, is a marginal movie leading man, coming off a disastrous TV failure with Rake) or big-time budgets.

TRANSCENDENCE (Warners) is a flat-out disaster, headed for a $12M weekend after $4.8M on Friday, and even if it proves a smash in China (the only territory in the world where it’s opening in 3D), it can hope for no more than approaching breakeven on its $200M+ production/marketing costs.  Johnny Depp will probably have a worldwide hit when the sequel to Alice In Wonderland opens next year, but it’s clear at this point that just as much as Chris Pine or Chris Hemsworth, he’s a major star only when he’s wearing the mantle of a franchise around his shoulders.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 (Open Road) started at $4M on Friday, $2.8M below the opening day for the first Haunted House, and its $8-9M weekend won’t be much more than half the original’s $18.1M launch.  Since word of mouth will be no better this time around, it’s unlikely to get much past $20M in total (the first movie made $40M), and even with low production/marketing costs, that’s not going to justify a Haunted House 3.

BEARS (Disney) managed just $2.3M on Friday, likely leading to a $5M weekend.  That puts it at the low end of the DisneyNature quasi-franchise, below the $3.2M opening day for African Cats and the $3.5M for Chimpanzee.  Considering the scale of just about everything else Disney does these days, it’s hard not to think that these movies are made more for public relations purposes than for profit at this point.

HOLDOVERS:  Thinking of Disney gigantism, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Disney/Marvel) had another huge Friday, down just 19% to $9.6M, for what should be a $25M weekend that would push it past $200M in the US.  It’s already beaten the first Captain America here, and will certainly pass Thor 2 and its $206.4M.  Those who think of Disney/Marvel as the movie industry’s version of Hydra will have to grit their teeth and accept their domination of the multiplex for some time to come.

RIO 2 (20th/Blue Sky) also held well, down 23% from last Friday to $9.2M and a likely $23M weekend.  The sequel, however, is running behind the first Rio, and that’s not going to change, considering that the original cartoon actually climbed 3% on its second Friday.  More damaging for a movie in this genre, Rio 2 is also lagging behind internationally, an unusual event because foreign audiences normally flock to sequels once a series brand has been established.  Rio 2 will still be a success, but its strength as a franchise is in question.

Despite the overall solid box office on Friday, last week’s other openings were exceptions.  DRAFT DAY (Summit/Lionsgate) fell 40% from last week to $2.2M and a probable $6M weekend, and OCULUS (Relativity) tumbled 59% to $2M and a $5M weekend.  Both should end up around $30M in the US, which is a much better result for the low-budget Oculus, especially since Draft Day, with its NFL-centric plot, is unlikely to have much appeal overseas.

Some older movies benefited from the larger number of ticketbuyers available on Friday.  DIVERGENT (Summit/Lionsgate) fell just 5% from last Friday to $2.2M, and even more impressively, GOD’S NOT DEAD (Freestyle) withstood the arrival of Heaven Is For Real and grew by 7% to $1.7M on Good Friday. NOAH (Paramount/Regency) was down 20% to $1.6M, and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) dropped a soft 3% to $1.2M.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The offbeat FADING GIGOLO (Millenium), with its aging comedy team of John Turturro and Woody Allen, found its fans in New York and Los Angeles, with a robust $11K average in 5 theatres that should give it a $35K average for the weekend.  (Whether it will connect outside those home base cities is another question.)  However, DOM HEMINGWAY (Fox Searchlight) continued to flop with an expansion to 129 theatres, heading for a meager $1200 average for the weekend.  THE RAILWAY MAN (Weinstein) widened to 26 theatres and could have an OK $6K average for the weekend.

NEXT WEEKEND:  No studio wants its big-budget production around when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arrives in 2 weeks (it began its international run this week, and we should have some numbers for it tomorrow), so the openings are low-key:  the Cameron Diaz comedy THE OTHER WOMAN (20th), thriller BRICK MANSIONS (Relativity) starring the late Paul Walker, and horror movie THE QUIET ONES (Lionsgate).  On the specialty side, LOCKE (A24) has been acclaimed at film festivals as a one-man showcase for star Tom Hardy.

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."