November 30, 2014

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 11/30/14


Last year’s Thanksgiving weekend was the biggest ever, thanks to the combo of Catching Fire and Frozen, and while plenty of tickets were sold over the past few days, this year didn’t come close.

OPENINGS:  THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation/20th) was yet another piece of disappointing product for DreamWorks, which really needed to hit this one out of the park as it tries (with what appears to be increasing desperation) to sell itself.  Penguins took in $25.8M for the weekend ($36M since Wednesday), not even in the top 30 Thanksgiving openings, which is traditionally a big one for family movies.  A lack of competition over the next 2 weeks may boost its numbers a bit in the short term, but then family movies will start arriving by the bushel, and it’s hard to see Penguins getting much beyond $100M in the US.  Overseas, the cartoon had a $36M weekend in 44 territories, with a $63M total so far (the bulk of the additional revenue comes from China, where Penguins has already been playing for 2 weeks), an unexceptional start.  Unlike all too many other recent DreamWorks openings like Rise of the Guardians, Turbo and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Penguins shouldn’t lose money, but it will hardly present its studio as a gleaming sales target.

There wasn’t much audience appetite for HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line/Warners), which stumbled to $15.7M for the weekend ($23M since Wednesday).  That’s not even close to the $28.3M the first Horrible made in its initial non-holiday 3 days, and it’s even farther below the $36.1M opening for Dumb & Dumber To just 2 weeks ago.  It may not even get to a $50M total.  Although Bosses 2 had a moderate production budget, it carries the burden of an expensive Warners marketing campaign, so breaking even may be a challenge, unless the movie shows some strength overseas, where an $11.7M weekend in 42 territories doesn’t offer much encouragement.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus/Universal) broadened its run very nicely to quasi-wide release at 802 theatres, with a per-theatre average over $6K for the 3-day weekend.  That’s about 35% higher than the $4400 average that Philomena had when it widened to 835 theatres last Thanksgiving, and since Philomena ended up with a $37.7M US total–and Theory is likely to have more success with critics’ awards than Philomena did–the prospects are bright for a run that should roll into February.

HOLDOVERS:  The holiday numbers for THE HUNGER GAMES:  MOCKINGJAY PART I (Lionsgate) are great… as long as you don’t compare them to Catching Fire‘s box office from last Thanksgiving.   Mockingjay performed almost in lock-step with Catching Fire over the holiday, except at numbers that were 25% lower, the result being that Mockingjay had a $56.9M 3-day weekend ($82.7M over 5 days) and is currently at $225.7M, where Catching Fire was at $296.3M after the holiday weekend.  If that proportion holds, Mockingjay should duel with Guardians of the Galaxy for the title of 2014’s #1 movie in the US at around $330M.  Overseas, Mockingjay earned $67M over the weekend for a $254.4M total in 86 markets (just about everywhere except China, Japan and India).

BIG HERO 6 (Disney) slipped just 7% from last weekend to $18.8M, with a $167.2M total so far, and is poised to pass the $189.4M total for Wreck-It Ralph, and very possibly Tangled‘s $200.8M.  It’s still rolling out slowly overseas, with a $4.8M weekend in 25 territories for a $56.9M total.

The best hold of the weekend, though, belonged to INTERSTELLAR (Paramount/Warners) which actually rose 3% from last weekend to $15.8M, with a US total so far of $147.1M.  That’s still isn’t Inception territory, but it should reach $185M in the US.  Overseas, Christopoher Nolan’s epic is an even bigger hit, with a $44.4M weekend that put it at $395.2M.  A worldwide $700M is definitely doable, if Interstellar can hold onto the bulk of its theatres through the holidays.  (It will, however, lost its IMAX screens in mid-December when the final Hobbit takes them over.)

DUMB & DUMBER TO (Red Granite/Universal), possibly due to the arrival of Horrible Bosses 2, took a 41% hit to $8.3M ($72.3M so far), and ST VINCENT (Weinstein) lost 25% of its theatres and fell 21% to $1.7M ($39.3M so far).  GONE GIRL (20th), however, despite a similar decline in theatres, fell just 13% to $2.5M and has earned $160.8M in the US.  It also has $174M overseas, with Japan and Italy still to open.  Its $334.2M worldwide total makes it the biggest hit of David Fincher’s career.

BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) showed staying power, shedding 20% of its theatres but gaining 1% for a $1.9M weekend and $18.9M US total, with an OK $2600 per-theatre average.

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) is off to a splendid start with the 2d highest opening of the year, a $121K average at 4 NY/LA theatres.  (As big as that is, it’s still far below the $202K average that The Grand Budapest Hotel had earlier this year.)  These kind of swollen averages don’t necessarily translate into big overall gross (The Master:  $147K opening average at 5, $16.4M US total), but they certainly don’t hurt.  FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) had a moderate expansion to 72 theatres with a $14K average.  That’s a little better than the $11K average Magic In the Moonlight had at 65 theatres, although Foxcatcher will be hoping for critics’ prizes over the next few weeks to nudge it up to the next level.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The first weekend in December is notoriously dead at the multiplex, as holiday shopping kicks in, and the closest thing to a wide release will be the low-budget horror item THE PYRAMID (20th).  The limited release side, however, will have an interesting battle, as the two current frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar open head-to-head for a single week:  WILD (Fox Searchlight) with Reese Witherspoon and STILL ALICE (Sony Classics) with Julianne Moore.  Both will be in 4 NY/LA theatres, and in fact they’ll share screens in 3 of those 4, although their release pattern is different:  Wild is beginning a platform run that will take it through the holidays, while Alice will run for one week to be eligible for Oscar consideration and then vanish until January.  Still, the face-off will be worth watching.

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."