March 7, 2015

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Chappie” Wins (So To Speak); “Unfinished Business” Flops Even Worse


An oddity of this year’s box office is that while a few very big hits (American Sniper, 50 Shades of Grey, The SpongeBob Movie) have pushed the total 2015 take well above last year’s start, there have been no shortage of high-profile failures alongside them, including Mortdecai, Jupiter Ascending, Focus and Blackhat.  Add to that list CHAPPIE (MRC/Columbia/Sony), which will win this very slow weekend, but has little chance of ever hitting profit.  Like most of the year’s losers (with the conspicuous exception of Jupiter), the production budget on Chappie was moderate, although once worldwide marketing costs are included, the total will still reach $150-175M.  Preliminary numbers at Deadline have opening day at $4.7M, with a dismal $12-13M weekend likely.  Chappie is a terrible movie to begin with, as indicated by the 30% Rotten Tomatoes score, but it was also victimized by confused marketing that hid both the R-rated nature of the story and Hugh Jackman’s presence as the villain.  Even if Chappie triples its US total overseas, it would still face a struggle to reach breakeven.

Even that result, though, looks triumphant compared to UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Regency/20th), the latest and worst of Vince Vaughn’s nearly 6-year streak of flops.  (Fans are choosing to believe that Vaughn will get rehabilitated by his upcoming appearance on Season 2 of True Detective a la Matthew McConaughey in Season 1, but by the time True Detective aired, McConaughey already had an Oscar–his comeback required more than one good decision, and so would Vaughn’s.)  Business had a pathetic $1.8M opening day, and may not reach $5M for the weekend.  Even if it overperforms internationally (much of the story takes place in Germany), it has no chance of earning back its $125-150M production/marketing costs.

There was finally some good box office news courtesy of THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MAGNOLIA HOTEL (Fox Searchlight), which at only 1573 theatres (1200 less than Unfinished Business, and half of Chappie‘s), had a $2.8M Friday, and given its older audience, should have a strong weekend multiple to end up at $9-10M.  That would be better than the best weekend ($6.4M at 1233 theatres) ever recorded by the first Best Exotic, and gives the sequel the potential to outgross the original’s $46.4M US total (which it doubled overseas), with costs that were limited not just in production but in marketing as well.

Although some holdovers were very strong amid the soft openings, FOCUS (RatPac Dune/Warners) fell 55% from last Friday to $2.9M.  That will moderate over the course of the weekend, with $9-10M probable by Sunday, but the caper comedy-drama is still unlikely to get past $60M in the US.  50 SHADES OF GREY (Universal/Focus) continued to fall fast, down another 50% from last Friday to $1.8M, and likely to have a $5-6M weekend.  It’s reaching the end of a short road, but it will already be at $155M+ in the US by Sunday, and much more overseas.  Unsurprisingly, THE LAZARUS EFFECT (Relativity) collapsed by 58% on its 2d Friday to $1.6M, on its way to a $4-5M weekend.

On the other hand, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (MARV/20th) slipped just 27% from last Friday to $2.3M and a probable $8M weekend, which will put it just short of $100M in the US.  THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (Nickelodeon/Paramount) fell 33% to $1.4M for a $7M weekend that will put it in the $150M neighborhood in the US.  MCFARLAND, USA (Disney) dipped 26% to $1.5M, for a $5M weekend and $29M US total.  And THE DUFF (CBS/Lionsgate) is proving itself a solid sleeper, down 31% to $1.5M with a $5M weekend likely that will put it at $26M in the US.

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."