November 16, 2014

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 11/16/14


OPENINGS:  The race between DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Red Granite/Universal) and Big Hero 6 may get a bit closer tomorrow, since Universal has aggressively estimated a 28% Sunday drop even though Dumb fell 2% on Saturday.  (By comparison, Beyond the Lights climbed 14% on Satuday, yet is acknowledging a 40% Sunday drop.)  But even if its current $38.1M weekend number falls by $1M, that should be enough to hold 1st place, and in any case, the movie seems to have maximized its potential with a well-chosen opening date and a marketing campaign that played up the appeal of the first Dumb 20 years ago.  This is Jim Carrey’s biggest live-action opening since Bruce Almighty in 2003, and his 4th biggest ever (the other 2 above it being the franchise movie Batman Forever and the animated Horton Hears a Who), something his career desperately needed.  Dumb is just beginning its overseas run, and earned $3.2M in 4 markets.

BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) was marketed strictly to its target audience of African-American women, and it didn’t even do very well with its narrow base, managing just $6.5M for the weekend despite some very strong reviews.  It may eventually break even, since the production and marketing costs were low, but its chances of holding well may be the victim of the gigantic female-skewing blockbuster that’s less than a week away, even though The Hunger Games is in an entirely different genre.

THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation/20th) won’t arrive in the US for almost 2 weeks, but it’s already showing in China, where it launched with a fair $11.3M.

BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) finally hit semi-wide release at 857 theatres after 5 weeks, and the results were so-so:  despite nearly doubling its theatre count, its weekend total was up only 6% to $2.5M, giving it a mediocre $2900 per-theatre average.  That’s below the $3100 average Blue Jasmine had when it reached 1283 theatres, and nowhere near the $5800 average for 12 Years A Slave at 1144 theatres.  It’s just barely above the $2600 average Boyhood, a much less mainstream hit than the other 2, had at 771 theatres.  Birdman has earned $11.6M so far, and its ability to get much over $20M depends entirely on how many major awards it can take once the critics’ groups start awarding them in 2 weeks.

HOLDOVERS:  With only one major opening this weekend, and that one in a genre otherwise not represented in the multiplex, it was a very strong weekend for longer running titles.  BIG HERO 6 (Disney) fell just 36% from its opening to $36M, comparing well to other recent family titles like Alexander and the Terrible… (down 38% in its 2d weekend), The Book of Life (down 41%) and The Boxtrolls (down 31%).  Although everything will be hit by The Hunger Games next week, Big Hero should be among the least affected because of its pre-PG-13 audience.  After that, it will have to contend with the Thanksgiving arrival of The Penguins of Madagascar, but the early reports on the latter movie are less than enthusiastic, opening the door for Big Hero to thrive into December.  With $111.6M to date in the US, $200M seems very doable.  Big Hero is unrolling slowly overseas, where it has $36.7M so far after an $11.9M weekend in 23 territories.

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount/Warners), on the other hand, is now playing worldwide with the exception of Japan, and its fireworks are overseas.  That’s not to say it’s doing badly in the US, where it fell just 39% from its opening to $29.2M, not that much worse than the 32% Weekend 2 drop for Inception (although far from the amazing 23% drop for Gravity last year).  Interstellar is at $97.8M in the US, and should top $150M easily.  Internationally, though, it’s a blockbuster, with $224.1M after a $106M weekend that was highlighted by $42M from China.  It’s likely to feel the wrath of The Hunger Games far more strongly than Big Hero 6 next week, but still seems headed for $500-600M worldwide, a very tidy total for an expensive project that’s gotten strongly mixed responses.

The best holds in the Top 10 came once again from GONE GIRL (20th) and ST VINCENT (Weinstein). Gone Girl slipped just 26% to $4.6M in its 7th weekend and is now at $152.7M, making it Ben Affleck’s biggest hit other than his 2 Michael Bay spectacles, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor.  It’s also reached $318.9M worldwide, within reach of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button‘s $333.9M total as David Fincher’s biggest hit ever (and it’s already more profitable than the much more expensive Benjamin Button).  St Vincent has proven itself a genuine audience pleaser, down 26% in its 6th weekend to $4M, with $33M so far and the chance of ultimately hitting $50M.  Also holding well is FURY (QED/Colulmbia/Sony), down 32% to $3.8M, with $75.9M to date in the US.  The odd part of the Fury story continues to be overseas, where it’s earned only $51.5M ($3.1M this weekend from 19 mostly European markets) despite elements (WWII, Brad Pitt) that should have appealed much more strongly to an international audience.

NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) and OUIJA (Blumhouse/Universal) continue to hold on with $3M weekends, Nightcrawler down 44% with a $25M total, and Ouija down 49% with a $48M total (plus $17.5M overseas after a $3.3M weekend).  Both were low budget, but Ouija will be by far the more profitable.

LIMITED RELEASE:  It was a busy weekend for Oscar hopefuls.  The biggest splash was made by FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics), with an estimated $48K average at 6 NY/LA theatres, a notch better than last week’s $42K average at 5 for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus/Universal), which itself expanded very nicely this weekend to 41 theatres with a $18K average.  ROSEWATER (Open Road) opted for a much wider release at 371 theatres, and that may have been a mistake, providing just a $3200 average and an unclear long-term expansion plan.  WHIPLASH (Sony Classics) more than quadupled its run to 419 theatres, and held fairly well, more than doubling last week’s take with a $1900 average.  THE HOMESMAN (Roadside) started out with an OK $12K average at 4 in NY/LA.  In the as-far-from-Oscar-as-you-can-get department, Kirk Cameron’s Christian-aimed SAVING CHRISTMAS (Goldwyn) found some of its target with a $2500 average at 410.

NEXT WEEKEND:  No one, neither big-studio nor indie, wants any part of THE HUNGER GAMES:  MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (Lionsgate), which may well have the biggest weekend of the year.  The previous 2 Hunger Games opened at $152.5M and $158M, and there’s no reason to think Mockingjay 1 won’t be in that neighborhood.  

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."