January 24, 2015

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “American Sniper” Eliminates “Mortdecai” and “The Boy Next Door”


By Sunday, AMERICAN SNIPER (Warners/Village Roadshow) may have one of the top 10-day wide release box office totals in history, as Clint Eastwood’s behemoth continues to lay waste to everything else in theatres.  According to preliminary numbers at Deadline, Sniper earned $18M on Friday, down just 40% from its mammoth first day of wide release last week.  It should have a $60M+ weekend, which could put it in the top 10 2d weekends ever (The Dark Knight Rises is #10 at $62.1M)–and since, unlike everything else in that box office league, it’s not a super-expensive special effects extravaganza, it could end up as one of the most profitable movies ever made.  Tonight’s Producers Guild awards could be a critical sign of whether all this success might pay off for Sniper at the Oscars.  

Nothing remotely challenged American Sniper, but the film closest behind it is the new THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Blumhouse/Universal), which had a $5.6M opening day that may give it a $14-15M weekend.  The movie reportedly had a tiny $4M production budget (Jennifer Lopez’s high-flying salary days are gone), but that doesn’t count its marketing campaign, which probably brings US costs closer to $50M.  At that price, Boy Next Door may still need overseas help to hit profit.

Profit is a hopeless dream for MORTDECAI (Oddlot/Lionsgate), Johnny Depp’s latest disaster.  Making one of the worst movies of 3 consecutive years is quite an accomplishment (unless you’re Adam Sandler, in which case it’s another day at the office), but Depp is pulling it off, with Mortdecai following on The Lone Ranger and Transcendence.  The would-be wacky comedy managed just $1.6M on Friday, and won’t hit $5M for the weekend, a thud that won’t touch worldwide production and marketing costs in the neighborhood of $175M.  While Sniper is singlehandedly making the box office look great for 2015, it’s worth noting that Blackhat and Mortdecai already give the year a pair of expensive bombs.

STRANGE MAGIC (Lucasfilm/Disney) was acquired by Disney as part of its acquisition of Lucasfilm, and the studio is getting it out of the way before the real movies from that shop get rolling.  It barely stirred with a $1.2M Friday, although family audiences may push it ahead of Mortdecai by Sunday.  It’s another dead issue in terms of profit, despite having a bit more potential overseas and in homevideo.

Among non-Sniper holdovers, PADDINGTON (TWC/Dimension) and THE WEDDING RINGER (Screen Gems/Sony) should both have weekends around $11M, although Ringer was ahead of Paddington on Friday, $3.2M vs $2.6M.  That’s a better hold for Paddington (down 45% from last Friday) than Ringer (down 53%), and Paddington also has $129.5M in the bank from overseas release, so there’s no question about comparative profitability.  For Kevin Hart, though, this is a far better Friday-to-Friday hold than he had for About Last Night, which collapsed by 82% on its 2d Friday, and also an improvement on the 72% drop for Think Like A Man Too (and even the 56% drop for Ride Along, his biggest hit), so word-of-mouth seems to be comparatively strong.

BLACKHAT (Legendary/Universal) fell apart, down 66% from last Friday to less than $500K, and facing a total US box office that won’t touch $10M, making it a dead loss for its studios.

Aside from TAKEN 3 (Europa/20th), down 51% from last Friday to $2M and expecting a $7M weekend on its way to $90M at the US box office (about 2/3 of the other Takens), the notable holdovers were mostly Oscar candidates.  SELMA (Paramount) slipped 37% from last Friday to $1.5M, and should have a $5-6M weekend, heading for a fair $50M total.  THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) increased its theatre count by 20% and dropped a negligible 2% from last Friday to $1.8M, looking for a $6.5M weekend that would pull it ahead of The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s $59.1M as the highest-grossing indie release of 2014.

BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) boosted its theatre count by more than 75% and increased its Friday take by 20%, which would give it a $1.8M weekend with a per-theatre average just over $2K.  THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus/Universal) widened by 70% and had a 33% better Friday, aiming for a $1.2M weekend with an average around $1500.  WHIPLASH (Sony Classics) tripled its theatre count and more than doubled its Friday take, on its way to a $800K weekend with a $1500 average.

CAKE (Cinelou) opened in close to wide release at 482 theatres, and probably won’t reach $1M for the weekend, giving it a $2K per-theatre average.  In much more limited release, SONG ONE (Film Arcade) may have a $2500 weekend average at 27 theatres, and BLACK SEA (Focus/Universal) could have a $7500 average at 11.


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."