July 28, 2013



OPENINGS:   Two smart studio decisions bailed out what could have been a scary opening weekend for THE WOLVERINE (20th).  Fox kept the budget relatively low for its expensive genre, just $250M or so including worldwide marketing, and it boosted international appeal with an Asian setting.  Both paid off, as the movie had the robust overseas opening that it wanted–and, as it turned out, desperately needed–after a low US start.  Its $86.1 launch outside the US doesn’t even include China or Japan, which given the setting should be very strong territories for the superhero saga.  At home, it may only be a day before Wolverine is notched as the lowest-ever X-Men-branded opening weekend, since at the moment Fox’s $55M weekend estimate is a mere $500K above the original X-Men in 2000–and to get there, Fox had to use a Sunday number with a minute 15% drop from Saturday, barely worse than the movie’s 12% drop from Friday, and by far the most aggressive estimate among the weekend’s Top 10.  The US weekend could easily fall to $53-54M tomorrow, when final numbers are released.   But even a disappointing run in the US won’t keep Wolverine out of profit thanks to its relatively low breakeven point.

FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) was well ahead of THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight), $4.7M to $3.3M, as both widened to nationwide release, although a chunk of that disparity is due to Fruitvale being in 1064 theatres, compared to 886 for Way Back.  Their per-theatre averags were just $700 apart, $4400 to $3700.  Also, it should be noted that Weinstein (as is its wont) is being much more aggressive than Searchlight on its Sunday estimate, claiming a 20% drop compared to 35% for Way Back–even though Fruitvale‘s Saturday bump of 23% was just over half of the 45% Saturday increase for Way Back.  However the seesaw between them ends up, both are doing fair but not exceptional business.

The desultory release for THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) led to a lousy start, with $1.5M at 591 theatres (a $2600 average).  CBS didn’t seem to have much interest in the comedy, and it showed.

HOLDOVERS:  In the context of the horror genre, THE CONJURING (Warners) had a sensational hold, dropping only 47% from last weekend to $22.1M.  Compare that to the drops earlier this year for Mama (54%), Texas Chainsaw (76%) and The Purge (76%).  Mama ended up with a 2.5x multiple of its opening weekend, and Conjuring should do better, putting it well over $100M.

TURBO (DreamWorks Animation/20th) also held well (in a genre that typically has much better retention than horror), down just 38% to $13.3M.  But a low decline off a flat start can accomplish only so much, and with The Smurfs 2 arriving on Wednesday, time is running out for Turbo, which will struggle to reach $100M in the US.  Overseas results so far are fragmentary, with $43M in 29 mostly smaller territories.  Meanwhile, DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal), which has been playing for nearly a month, had a smaller drop (36%) and a bigger weekend ($16M).  Despicable is at $306M in the US and $661M worldwide after a $24.5M international weekend.  With several territories left to open, including Russia, the minions should get past $750M with a good shot of topping $800M by the end of the run.

Last weekend’s other openings were DOA, as RED 2 (Lionsgate/Summit) dropped 48% (compared to 31% for the 2d weekend of the original Red) to $9.4M, and R.I.P.D. (Universal) plunged 54% to $5.9M.  (The overseas releases of both are just starting.)  R.I.P.D., of course, is the bigger disaster, because of its far higher cost.

PACIFIC RIM (Warners) is at $84M in the US and may or may not stretch to $100M, but the worse news is that its overseas weekend was only $14.3M, for $140M so far.  It still has China and Japan left to open, and those are important territories for the heavily Asian-influenced epic, but at this point the only question is how much red ink there’s going to be, not whether there’s any chance of profit.

Comedies held well, as GROWN UPS 2 (Sony) fell 42% to $11.5M, on its way to $120M in the US (foreign is just getting underway), and THE HEAT (20th) slipped just 26% to $6.9M, headed for over $150M (also barely in release overseas).

A few more international notes for releases that are essentially done in the US:  MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney/Pixar) is at $321M with Russia and China still to come, FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal) had a strong $24M China opening and is now over $500M overseas and $741M worldwide, and poor WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Sony) at least found some fans in China, with a $18.5M start.

LIMITED RELEASE:  Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) has the highest per-theatre average of the year with a superlative $102K at each of 6 locations, and as of now is also Allen’s best per-theatre opening ever, topping the $100K average for Midnight In Paris (although that lead is so slim that it may or may not hold up with final numbers tomorrow).  It’s doubtful that Jasmine can maintain quite that brilliant a pace, since this is Allen in his more serious mode (although there are some laughs along the way).  Still, it’s a spectacular start.  Nothing else was remotely as promising, as I’M SO EXCITED (Sony Pictures Classics) increased its theatre count by 50% to 76 and still fell 5% for the weekend with a $1900 average, STILL MINE (Goldwyn) had a $2900 average at 34, and CRYSTAL FAIRY (IFC) had a $1500 average at 19.  MUD (Roadside) is now just $150K behind The Place Behind the Pines as the year’s biggest indie, but that title may soon be academic, as Fruitvale Station, The Way, Way Back and Blue Jasmine all seem capable of surpassing them.

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."