March 8, 2015

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 3/8/15


OPENINGS:  For the major studios, the scariest part of the failure of CHAPPIE (MRC/Columbia/Sony) isn’t its lousy $13.3M US opening, which topped a barely-breathing domestic box office, but rather its extremely unimpressive $13.7M start in 53 overseas territories.  Admittedly, those don’t include some major markets still to come, like Australia, Italy and Japan, but nevertheless–much of the current Hollywood economic model depends on sci-fi action movies performing far better internationally than they do in the US.  If a genre item like Chappie can’t do that, it may suggest that the foreign box office is starting to slow, and that would be potentially disastrous for the studios, which are investing more and more of their resources in that genre.  Chappie, meanwhile, has little if any chance of recouping its $150-175M costs of production and worldwide marketing.

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) had a very solid start with $8.6M at just 1573 theatres, less than half of Chappie‘s.  It goes without saying that Marigold cost far less to produce and market, and it’s also already earned $21M overseas, so assuming that the core cast stays in good health, a third outing is a clear possibility.

There’s not much to say about Vince Vaughn these days, other than that he defines “box office poison.”  UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Regency/20th) is the worst wide opening of his starring career at $4.8M, and while it’s not an expensive production that will put anyone into bankruptcy, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for studios to justify greenlighting his projects.  Even if True Detective 2 turns things around for him critically, that very serious drama will bring in a different kind of audience than the fans who once flocked to his comedies.

HOLDOVERS:  FOCUS (RatPac Dune/Warners) showed only moderate staying power with a 46% drop to $10M in its 2d weekend.  (It will be no surprise if that number starts with a “9” after adjustments tomorrow.)  It’s at $34.6M in the US and will struggle to reach $60M, and as with Chappie, it isn’t picking up the slack overseas, where it had a $17.7M weekend for a total of $37M.

Weak openings are often helpful to holdovers, and that was generally the case this weekend.  KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (MARV/20th) had a sterling hold, down just 30% to $8.3M, giving it $98M in the US so far.  It’s also at $150.3M overseas after a $17M weekend, with such major markets as Germany and China still to open.  THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (Nickelodeon/Par) dropped 35% to $7M, putting it at $149M in the US, plus $110.4M overseas.  MCFARLAND, USA (Disney) was down 32% to $5.3M, giving it a $29.4M US total.  Most impressive of all was THE DUFF (CBS/Lionsgate),which despite its traditionally frontloaded teen girl audience slipped a mere 29% in its 3rd weekend to $4.9M, with $26.1M so far.  DUFF‘s only problem is that there are a pair of presumed blockbusters heading straight for its target audience over the next 2 weeks, Cinderella and Insurgent.

The exceptions to the strong holds included 50 SHADES OF GREY (Universal/Focus), down 47% to $5.6M, although with $156.4M in the US and another $371.3M overseas (after a $17.7M weekend in 59 territories), it hardly needs anyone’s sympathy.  THE LAZARUS EFFECT (Relativity) crashed by 50% to $5.1M, with $17.4M to date.

AMERICAN SNIPER (Village Roadshow/Warners) earned another $4.5M this weekend (down 39%), and its $337.4M total pushed it past Mockingjay and Guardians of the Galaxy to become the highest-grossing movie to begin its US release in 2014.  In addition, it has $163M internationally, putting it over $500M worldwide.  STILL ALICE (Sony Classics) is also holding well after its Oscar win, down 39% to $1.7M, with $14.7M on a comparatively tiny production/marketing budget.  For other Oscar winners, the bump was short-lived:  BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) plunged 62% to $700K, and won’t see $45M at the US box office.

Back on the US vs foreign box office issue:  JUPITER ASCENDING (Warners) opened to $23.2M in China, which puts it at $107M overseas, with Japan still to come.  It may end up more than tripling its US result ($45.1M to date, with little more likely), which is the way the model is supposed to work–although unfortunately for Jupiter, that won’t put it anywhere near breakeven on its $300M production/marketing costs.

LIMITED RELEASE:  WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Paladin) had a fair expansion, more than doubling to 100 theatres with a $3300 per-theatre average.  On a smaller scale, WILD TALES (Sony Classics) widened by more than 50% to 28 theatres and had a $5200 average.  ’71 (Roadside) increased to 16 theatres with a $4400 average.  Showing how different the New York market is from everywhere else in the country, the death of documentarian Albert Maysles led to over $12K in a single theatre for a reissue of his GREY GARDENS (Janus).

NEXT WEEKEND:  Two wide releases aiming at different ends of the box office spectrum:  CINDERELLA (Disney) and the latest Liam Neeson action vehicle (it’s been almost 2 months since the last one!) RUN ALL NIGHT (Warners).  In addition, the critically acclaimed horror indie IT FOLLOWS (Weinstein/Radius) goes into limited release.

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."