December 13, 2015

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 12/13/15


OPENINGS:  Let’s be clear:  the decision to greenlight a $100M production budget for IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (Village Roadshow/Warners)–a period whaling adventure that features about 10 minutes of a CG whale and is otherwise mostly (spoiler alert) about the cast starving and suffering–was fundamentally insane.  Even if the film had been good, which it’s not.  And if the decision was made because Chris Hemsworth was the star, well, nothing about Hemsworth’s non-Marvel career has suggested that he can launch a project at this budget point on his own.  So on this one, Warners and its co-financiers have no one to blame but themselves for the pathetic $11M US opening, and not-much-better $39.4M result overseas after 2 weeks in most of the world ($12.6M this weekend).  The upshot of all this, coming after an already-abysmal year for Warners, is that few studios in recent Hollywood history have had more riding on a single upcoming opening than it has on next spring’s Batman v. Superman.

HOLDOVERS:  Given the low level of competition, the accomplishment of THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (Lionsgate) in winning 4 consecutive weekends isn’t nearly as impressive as it looks.  It’s still trudging toward $300M in the US after a $11.3M weekend (down 40%).  Overseas, it earned $15.4M for a $320.1M total, and it’s unlikely to catch the first Mockingjay‘s $418.2M total, possibly coming short worldwide by $100M–which might (but probably won’t) give Lionsgate pause as it develops Jennifer Lawrence-less prequels and spin-offs.

The lesson of THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Pixar/Disney) is that for Pixar, it’s not enough to tell a conventional family story, even in a high-quality way.  Brave and now Dinosaur show that fairly or not, Pixar is held to a higher standard, and if it doesn’t deliver something mind-blowingly original like Inside Out, the studio hasn’t done its job.  Dinosaur is at $89.7M after 3 weeks of release (it fell 32% this weekend to $10.5M), and will face mega-competition next week from not just Star Wars but Alvin & The Chipmunks.  It’s almost certainly going to be the lowest-grossing Pixar release in the US (A Bug’s Life, from way back in 1998, is at $162.8M).  Overseas, it’s at an unthrilling $78.2M after a $14.2M weekend in more than half the world (but not yet China, Japan or Australia).

CREED (MGM/New Line/Warners) is performing very well, down 33% from last weekend to $10.1M, and with $79.3M earned so far and the holidays still to come, it’s going to be quite profitable.  It’s not, however, the phenom that some thought it might become.

A 51% Weekend 2 drop for a horror movie isn’t bad, and KRAMPUS (Legendary/Universal) is at $28.2M after a $8M weekend, and has a chance to reach $50M thanks to the holidays, if it can hold onto its theatres.  It also has $8.8M early in its overseas run after a $3.6M weekend.

SPECTRE (MGM/Columbia/Sony) and THE PEANUTS MOVIE (Blue Sky/20th) continue to hold well while underperforming, as Spectre fell 28% to $4M ($190.8M in the US, dwarfed by its $629.8M overseas after a $12.9M weekend, although that’s still far behind Skyfall‘s $804.2M), and Peanuts lost 26% to $2.7M ($125M US total, plus $6.6M in its overseas run after a $2.7M weekend).  This was even more pronounced for THE NIGHT BEFORE (Columbia/Sony), down a mere 23%, but still at just $38.2M after a $3.9M weekend.

SPOTLIGHT (Open Road) has an edge over BROOKLYN (Fox Searchlight) in their similar releases.  Spotlight added 109 theatres this weekend for a total of 1089, and averaged $2300 for $2.5M ($20.3M so far), while Brooklyn added 41 for a 947 total, and averaged $2100 for $2M ($14.3M so far).  TRUMBO (Bleecker Street), despite some startling awards success this week, shed 106 theatres for a total of 554 and averaged $1500 for a $800K weekend ($5.5M so far).

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE BIG SHORT (Paramount) had a terrific start, averaging $90K in 8 theatres, which is even better than it looks, because it’s wider than the usual 4-theatre NY/LA launch.  With its evident appeal to SAG and Golden Globe nominators this week, it could be the awards sleeper to keep an eye on.  CHI-RAQ (Amazon/Roadside) had a worse drop than Krampus this weekend, down 52% to a $2K average at 285 theatres, and it’s never good for a serious film to have a horror-movie comp.  Other awards hopefuls expanded.  MACBETH (Weinstein) found little traction at 108 theatres with a $2300 average, and LEGEND (Universal) wasn’t much better with a $2800 average at 107.  CAROL (Weinstein) is now in 16 theatres with a solid $21K average.  THE DANISH GIRL (Focus/Universal) was a notch behind, averaging $11K at 24.  And YOUTH (FOX Searchlight) is proving a rarefied taste with a $6K average at 17.

NEXT WEEKEND:  Yeah, that one.  A pair of counterprogrammers will attempt to catch some crumbs from the table of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Lucasfilm/Disney):  the R-rated, female-skewing comedy SISTERS (Universal) and kiddie sequel ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP (20th).  In the “and now for something completely different” category, the major limited release is the harrowing (and brilliant) Holocaust drama SON OF SAUL (Sony Classics).

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."