June 7, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office – 6/6/14


Here’s a scary factoid for the studios.  In 2013, 5 movies opened in May/June that reached over $200M in the US alone, and none of those movies had a total lower than $228.8M.  This year, as we head to mid-June, it doesn’t look like any of the summer openings will get that high.  (The new Transformers will almost certainly be the exception, of course, when it arrives at the end of this month, and How To Train Your Dragon 2 could get there if it can top its predecessor’s $217.8M total.)  For now, at least, blockbusters are making less in the US–but certainly not costing any less.

OPENINGS:  There’s never been a phenomenon quite like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (20th), so it’s difficult to estimate just where its weekend will end up.  In the worst case scenario, it plunges a Twilight-like 40% on Saturday from its huge $26.1M Friday start (Sex and the City fell 34% on its 2d day, giving credence to that idea), and ends up with $52M for the weekend.  But Fault has strong reviews that could draw in ticketbuyers beyond its front-loaded fanbase (Divergent slipped only 13% on its 2d day of release), and that could conceivably push it all the way to $60M.  In any case, the only question now is how big a hit it’s going to be, considering that it carries only about $100M in total costs (including worldwide marketing).  A few points worth noting:  in the thick of the summer blockbuster season, Fault is the second consecutive female-centric movie to dominate the box office (and that doesn’t even count Jennifer Lawrence’s prominent presence in X-Men: Days of Future Past).  If Fault has any international audience at all, it may wind up being more profitable for its studio than X-Men, because the hundreds of millions more that the superhero blockbuster will make worldwide will be balanced by the hundreds of millions more that it cost.  And although the studios will certainly try, Fault will be a hard act to duplicate–there just aren’t that many properties out there as beloved as John Green’s novel.

What’s worse for Tom Cruise than starring in a terrible big-budget summer movie that flops?  That’s easy:  starring in a not-terrible big-budget summer movie that flops.  Despite strong critical support, EDGE OF TOMORROW (Warners) barely has a pulse after a $10.7M start that is unlikely to bring it past a $30M weekend.  With $325M+ in production/marketing costs, that’s a disaster.  (Its Friday is almost 30% lower than the highly disappointing opening day for Pacific Rim, and and 20% behind Cruise’s last–and less expensive–movie Oblivion.)  And although its final numbers may be propped up by international box office, remember that China only passes on 25% of revenue to a movie’s studio (compared to 55% in the US), so movies that rely on high China grosses see relatively little profit from them.

HOLDOVERS:  MALEFICENT (Disney) dropped 58% from its opening day to $10.1M, a reasonable decline these days.  With weekend matinees, it should easily pass Edge of Tomorrow for 2d place over the full weekend at $34M or so.  However, direct competition from How To Train Your Dragon 2 is just a week away, and Maleficent is unlikely to reach $200M in the US, putting it behind Oz The Great and Powerful‘s $234.9M, and will need substantial overseas help to reach profit.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal/MRC) collapsed by 64% on its 2d Friday to $2.2M, and won’t earn more than $7M for the weekend or $45M as its US total.  Since international interest in the western comedy will probably be close to nil, it’s a dead loss.  On to Ted 2!

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th) fell 52% from last Friday to $4.5M and a likely $17M weekend.  It should lead the pre-Transformers summer crop with around $220M by the time that it’s done.  GODZILLA (Warners) dropped 47% to $1.8M and a probable $7M weekend and $200M US total, another blockbuster that desperately needs to be a giant hit in China (and Japan).  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (Sony) will likely stay in the market until it reaches $200M in the US, but with $540K on Friday and a $2M weekend, it’ll still have to stretch to get there.  BLENDED (Warners) showed no traction, down 50% from last Friday to $1.3M and still headed to $45M in the US.  Only NEIGHBORS (Universal) is benefiting from strong word of mouth, down just 36% in its 5th weekend to a $1.6M Friday, and possibly on its way to $150M in the US.

CHEF (Open Road) expanded to a genuinely wide 1298 theatres, but one has to wonder if the increased marketing costs (especially a national TV campaign) was worth it, since it’s likely to hit just $2.5M for the weekend (a $2K per-theatre average).

LIMITED RELEASE:  The indies continue to mostly sit out the summer blockbuster season.  OBVIOUS CHILD (A24) is off to a solid start, with what should be a $28K average at 3 NY/LA theatres (although that number is boosted by in-theatre Q&As).  SUPERMENSCH (Weinstein), a documentary directed by Mike Myers, could have an $8K average at 3.

NEXT WEEKEND:  Sequels from opposite ends of the demo spectrum, as the R-rated 22 JUMP STREET (Sony) aims for the older crowd while HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (DreamWorks Animation/20th) goes for the kids.  THE ROVER (A24), which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, enters limited release.

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."