September 20, 2014

Behind the Friday Box Office – 9/19/14


OPENINGS:  As YA franchises go, the $11.3M opening day for THE MAZE RUNNER (20th) was ahead of the $9.6M for the first Percy Jackson, which ended up with a $31.2M weekend.  Maze is being pitched more to teens than to families, so it may not have quite as strong a weekend multiple as Percy, getting to $30M by tomorrow, but on the other hand it cost about 1/3 as much to produce.  Percy‘s final tally was $88.8M in the US and $226.5M worldwide, and numbers like that would make Maze a considerable moneymaker.

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (Universal) didn’t hit the Liam Neeson action movie sweet spot, with his lowest post-Taken take as an action star at $4.7M on Friday and a likely $14M weekend.  The R rating didn’t help, but the bigger overall problem may have been that Neeson’s late-career hits have been more purely escapist, fantasies of seemingly ordinary man performing heroic deeds, while Walk is much darker and takes its violence more seriously.  It’s also a reminder that the private eye genre has become almost totally subsumed by television, especially as TV dramas have themselves become more complex.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warners) cost only about $20M to produce (although it arrives laden with Warners’ expensive marketing), and if it can hang around from its $3.9M Friday and likely $12M weekend through October, the way The Hundred-Foot Journey has from its $3.7M/11M start, it might be a modest success.  Nevertheless, it too shows that the reason big studios rarely tread in the low-concept, ensemble cast dramedy genre anymore is because the audience just isn’t there to support it in large numbers, absent major critical support (which This Is Where didn’t have, at 44% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Kevin Smith’s TUSK (A24) got a barely-wide opening at 602 theatres, with $379K on Friday and a weekend that won’t get much above $1M.  Suffice it to say that the audience for walrus-based comedy-horror is a limited one.

HOLDOVERS:  Week 2 wasn’t kind to either of last weekend’s openings.  NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems/Sony) had hopes of a decent hold thanks to an older-skewing cast, but it didn’t happen, as the thriller plunged 67% from last Friday to $3M, on its way to a $9M weekend.  It remains a notch below but comparable to 2009’s Obsessed, which fell 58% in its 2d weekend.  An ultimate $55M US result won’t be bad for the low-budget effort.  A DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Alcon/Warners) is collapsing much faster than its predecessor, down 50% from last Friday to $2.1M compared to a 32% drop for the first Dolphin on its 2d Friday.  Dolphin 2 may reach $8M for the weekend, and $50M in the US, compared to $72.3M for the first Dolphin.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Marvel/Disney) is still selling tickets, down just 35% from last Friday to $1.4M and a probable $5M weekend.

Hopes of THE DROP (Fox Searchlight) being a long-simmering sleeper were crushed when the low-key thriller fell 56% from last Friday to $650K despite increasing its theatre count by nearly 50% to 1192.  It was likely a fatal decision to open Drop just before A Walk Among the Tombstones, which has similar appeal and a much bigger star in the lead.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The early fall indie box office continues to be slow.  HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (Relativity) may have a $15K average for the weekend at 4 NY/LA theatres, and that looks big compared to the very worthwhile TRACKS (Weinstein), which didn’t connect at all, heading for a $5K average at 4 theatres on the coasts.  (One less thing for the upcoming and similarly-themed Wild to worry about.)  THE SKELETON TWINS (Relativity) expanded to 49 theatres and may not have a $10K weekend average.  THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY (Weinstein) expanded to 136 and had no traction, on its way to an average that may not reach $1500.  LOVE IS STRANGE (Sony Classics) added about 10% more theatres and could have a $2K average at 112.

NEXT WEEKEND:  A pair of widely divergent arrivals, as THE BOXTROLLS (Focus/Universal) aims for quirky kids, and THE EQUALIZER (Columbia/Sony) for action-minded Denzel Washington fans.


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."