March 30, 2014

Behind the Weekend Box Office – 3/30/14


This weekend was fine… but just wait till next week.

OPENINGS:  Polarizing, controversial, dark, revisionist, divisive–and a hit.  NOAH (Paramount/Regency) took in $44M in the US this weekend after a 16% Saturday bump.  That already makes it Darren Aronofsky’s 2d biggest hit after Black Swan.  Of course, it’s also by far his most expensive film, with roughly $250M in production/marketing costs, so the rain isn’t going to stop for a while.  This helps:  in addition to its US take, Noah brought in $33.6M from only 21 overseas territories (dominated by Russia), for an international total of $51M so far.  This is also good news for Russell Crowe, who aside from the ensemble successes of Les Miserables and Man of Steel has been in dire need of a hit to call his own.

But Noah is already paling in comparison to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Disney), which doesn’t arrive in the US until Thursday night.  Playing in just 32 overseas territories (a little more than half the world), with many lucrative ones to come (including China and Japan), Captain 2 grossed a fantastic $75.2M, almost double the opening international weekend for the first Captain America, and almost 40% of that movie’s total overseas gross.  Yet more proof that the single greatest production/marketing strategy of this movie era was Marvel/Disney’s master plan for The Avengers, which wasn’t just a mega-blockbuster on its own but expanded all of its component franchises.  

Everything else was chicken feed.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s SABOTAGE (Open Road) blew up with $5.3M, one of the lowest openings since his career began 30 years ago, and is a total loss for its US studio.  It will have to hope for international salvation.  CESAR CHAVEZ (Lionsgate/Pantelion) floundered with $3M at 664 theatres, and even that number has to be considered suspect until confirmation tomorrow, because despite being the only title in the Top 10 to fall on Saturday from its opening day, the studio is claiming that Chavez will be the only one to go up on Sunday (Noah, by comparison, is expected to fall 36%).  That’s not impossible if there are enough presold group sales already in hand (presumably in large part through churches), but it would be extremely unusual.

A pair of indies expanded to semi-wide release.  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) is beginning to hit a bit of a wall now that it’s at 977 theatres–even though that tripled its theatre count, its weekend box office was only up 30% to $8.8M–but it’s still highly successful, with $24.5M earned so far (plus $45.1M overseas).  BAD WORDS (Focus/Universal), on the other hand, is getting bounced from the general audience spelling bee, with $2.6M at 842 theatres.

HOLDOVERS:  First, a moment of respect for a 2013 veteran:  this weekend, FROZEN (Disney) became the single highest-grossing animated film of all time (not adjusting for inflation) with $1.072B worldwide.  That also makes it the 10th most successful movie ever in any genre.

DIVERGENT (Summit/Lionsgate) won’t be seeing numbers like that, but it had a very solid hold (helped by the fact that there was no new competition for its demo), falling 52% to $26.5M.  By comparison, the first Twilight and Hunger Games both dropped 62% in their 2d weekends.  Divergent might make its way to $150M in the US.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney) also held well, down 33% to $11.4M, which was just about the same Weekend 2 drop as Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and not much worse than the 28% drop for The Lego Movie.  The problem for Muppets is that even moderate decreases from such a disappointing start won’t get the movie anyplace overall.  MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks Animation/20th), meanwhile, fell just 20% in its 4th weekend to $9.5M and will hit $100M by the end of this week.  Mr. Sherman‘s problem is overseas, where it’s pacing just 30% ahead of its US total–not acceptable for a big-budget animation spectacle.

GOD’S NOT DEAD (Freestyle) sustained the arrival of Noah by expanding its theatre count by over 50%, which gave it just a 2% drop to $9.1M.  The film is clearly appealing to its fundamentalist niche, with what looks to be a $40M US total on a relatively negligible investment.

A trio of action movies were all in the $4.1-4.3M neighborhood this weekend.  For NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks/Disney) that was a 45% drop to a $37.8M total (luckily it’s made an amazing $130.1M overseas–$57M of that from China alone); for 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warners/Legendary) a 49% drop to $101.1M (an even more impressive $213.1M overseas); and for NON-STOP (Universal) a 37% drop to $85.2M (international release is still underway with $63.4M).

LIMITED RELEASE:  The most notable arrival was THE RAID 2 (Sony Classics) with a fine $25K average at 7 theatres.  The challenge it faces is expanding beyond its enthusiastic but very limited core audience.  FINDING VIVIAN MAIER (IFC) also had a good start with a $21K average at 3.

Several expansions were unexciting.  THE LUNCHBOX (Sony Classics) widened to 73 theatres with a $4300 average, LE WEEK-END (Music Box) went to 50 with a $4500 average, ON MY WAY (Cohen Media) is at 31 with a $1900 average, and JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (Sony Classics) grew to 7 with a $5200 average.

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."