January 3, 2016

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 1/3/16


STAR WARS:  Whether one considers Avatar‘s proper US all-time box office record to be $749.8M (initial release) or $760.5M (includes “director’s cut” re-release), the crown will be changing hands in the next few days.  STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Lucasfilm/Disney), which declined 41% on its 3rd weekend to $88.3M (setting yet another record by blowing past Avatar‘s Weekend 3 record of $68.5M), will become the new champion (not adjusted for inflation) after no more than 3 weeks of release, smashing past a record Avatar took months to set.  Force seems likely to reach $850-900M in the US, but since it’s rewritten all the record books, it’s still hard to be sure where its ultimate destination will be, especially if it turns out to garner an Oscare run.  Overseas, Force is at $770.5M after a $96.3M weekend in every major territory except China.  If it’s possible to speak of such a blockbuster hit as “underperforming,” its overseas total would be called that, “merely” in the Top 15 of all time and with 51% of its total business outside the US market, an oddity in an industry where action hits typically make 65-75% of their totals overseas.  Even if Force is huge in China, Force is unlikely to overtake Avatar‘s $2.03B international total, and may not get past Titanic‘s $1.53B or even possibly Furious 7‘s $1.16B.  So Force may have t content itself with just being at $2B or so worldwide.  It’s good to have goals, and Disney’s team will still have something to work toward for future chapters.

OPENINGS:  At $16.2M (and that includes an aggressive estimate for Sunday), THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Weinstein) gives Quentin Tarantino his lowest solo directing wide opening weekend since Jackie Brown in 1997.  The strategy of opening the film in just 100 70mm “roadshow” theatres for the first week of the holidays was probably unwise, as close as it was to Tarantino’s heart, but even though the studio left some money on the table, the truth is that Tarantino’s brand name wasn’t enough to bring crowds into a 3-hour, ultra-violent, claustrophobic chamber piece western that would never have gotten a big-studio budget if his name weren’t on it.  Things are only going to get tougher for Hateful, as next weekend it will face the most direct competition imaginable:  the wide release of The Revenant, another 2 1/2-hour ultra-violent western, but one that features a major star and a lot more scenery.  Hateful has yet to begin its overseas run.

OTHER HOLDOVERS:  DADDY’S HOME (Red Granite/Paramount) led the non-Star Wars pack as it has throughout the holidays, down 25% for the weekend to $29M, with $93.7M earned so far.  It’s going to handily beat the $119.2M total of the previous Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg collaboration The Other Guys, so we can expect to see the two of them teamed again.  The overseas release is just starting with $21.9M so far.

SISTERS (Universal) has held extremely well since its counterprogramming debut opposite Force Awakens, slipping just 11% in its 3rd weekend to $12.6M, with $61.7M so far.  It’s no smash hit, but could end up at $80M+, a very comfortable number for a relatively inexpensive comedy.  There’s been just a small international release so far at $4.4M.

Star Wars aside, ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP (20th) was the only flat-out family movie of the season, and it held nicely, down 10% in its 3rd weekend to $11.8M.  Nevertheless, the air has leaked out of this franchise, and with $67.4M so far, it won’t get close to even the lowest previous installment, Chipwrecked with $133.1M.  It’s just begun its international rollout at $24.3M.

JOY (Annapurna/20th) is hitting a word-of-mouth wall, down 39% in its 2d weekend to $10.4M.  With $38.7M so far, the moderately-budgeted dramedy may eventually break even if it has any foreign appeal, but it’s unlikely to be in the Oscar conversation beyond a nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, and it won’t be in a box office league with her previous David O. Russell films Silver Linings Playbook ($132.1M) or American Hustle ($150.1M).  Overseas isn’t a factor yet at $13.1M.

THE BIG SHORT (Regency/Paramount) continues to be in 1200 fewer theatres than the other wide releases, and with a solid hold (down 15% to $9M for the weekend, $33M so far), it’s in a good position to capitalize on Oscar nominations and play into February.  The studio’s plan is to expand next weekend to take advantage of the Golden Globes and Oscar announcements.  It’s barely arrived overseas with $4.4M.

CONCUSSION (Columbia/Sony) never found a head of steam, and it dropped 24% to $8M in its 2d weekend, with $25.4M so far.  Even with a budget on the low end for a studio release, it still has lots of marketing costs to recoup, and with not much obvious overseas appeal given its subject matter (release hasn’t really begun yet at $1.4M), it’s probably going to stay in red ink.  Will Smith also seems to have dropped out of the Oscar consensus, although a nomination is still possible.

The one dead loser of the season was POINT BREAK (Alcon/Warners), which has something like $225M in production/marketing costs and $22.4M in the US after a weekend drop of 30% to $6.8M.  Its $57.8M overseas total is better, but still not nearly good enough.

LIMITED RELEASE:  ANOMALISA (Paramount) arrived at 4 NY/LA arthouses with a solid but unspectacular $35K average.  The arthouse leader by far is still THE REVENANT (Regency/20th), down just 6% for the weekend with a superb $112.5K weekend per-theatre average–but Revenant, an extremely expensive film for its uncompromising subject matter ($250M+ in production/marketing costs) will face its real challenge next weekend.  The other Oscar hopefuls were very steady, with a $4600 average for BROOKLYN (Fos Searchlight) at 285 theatres, $6400 for CAROL (Weinstein) at 189, $3100 for SPOTLIGHT (Open Road) at 385, $2400 for YOUTH (Fox Searchlight) at 144, and $2000 for TRUMBO (Bleecker Street) at 90.  Of these, Brooklyn is clearly getting the best audience response, up an impressive 21% (despite losing a few theatres) in its 9th week of release.  SON OF SAUL (Sony Classics) remained at 4 theatres with an OK $9200 average.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The movie year will begin as per tradition with low-budget horror, in this case THE FOREST (Focus/Universal).  As noted, though, The Revenant and The Big Short are among those more prominent films planning expansions.

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."