December 13, 2014

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Exodus” Doesn’t Reach the Promised Land


The holiday movie season is getting off to a very slow start this weekend–and since this is the same time last year when the 2d Hobbit opened to $73.6M, the early December date can’t be blamed for it.  (This year’s Hobbit has opted to open next Wednesday.)  Preliminary numbers at Deadline give Ridley Scott’s turgid EXODUS: GODS & KINGS (20th) a mediocre $8.7M Friday, which probably means a weekend that won’t top $25M.  (March’s Noah had a $15.2M opening day and a $43.7M weekend.)  The nature of Exodus may keep it going through the holidays with its appeal to a family crowd, but with a $275M+ pricetag (including worldwide marketing), even if Exodus hangs on for $100M in the US and overperforms internationally (Noah, which aimed at the same audience, made 2.6x as much overseas as it did here), breaking even is likely the best it can hope to do–barring a miracle, of course.

Chris Rock’s terrific TOP FIVE (Paramount) started small, with a semi-wide 979 theatre opening.  It earned $2.5M on Friday, and if word of mouth is as strong as it deserves to be, it might reach $7.5M for the weekend.  A strong per-theatre performance would likely lead to Paramount expanding through the holidays, so it’s too soon to tell where Top Five will end up, although by big-studio standards its cost is low, so there’s plenty of upside.

The major limited release of the weekend is Paul Thomas Anderson’s INHERENT VICE (Warners), with a 5-theatre NY/LA launch.  Typically, Anderson’s esoteric if brilliant movies have giant per-theatre averages when they open ($147K for The Master at 5, $95K for There Will Be Blood at 2), but then have a problem sustaining that strength once they widen to general release.  It’s not good news, then, that Inherent Vice looks to be opening a notch below Anderson’s norm, with a $19K average on Friday and perhaps a $60K average for the weekend.  However, it is starting better than last December’s Warners prestige release Her, which averaged $43K in its first weekend at 6 theatres and made it to $25.6M.  (Her had considerable help from awards attention, including a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and was arguably more accessible than Vice.)

Back to wide releases:  with little of interest among the new arrivals, holdovers mostly declined fairly softly.  THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART I (Lionsgate) fell 43% from last Friday to $3.7M (a slightly better hold than the 47% drop Catching Fire had at this point in its release–when, of course, it was facing Hobbit 2) and should have a $13M weekend, putting it above $275M in the US (but still likely running out of steam before it can catch Guardians of the Galaxy at $332.3M).  THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation/20th) dipped just 31% to $1.6M and should have a $7M weekend, not that it will help the cartoon’s flailing bottom line.  BIG HERO 6 (Disney) held even better, slipping a mere 18% from last Friday to $1.4M, on its way to a $6M weekend as it heads to $200M in the US.  INTERSTELLAR (Paramount/Warners) fell 29% to $1.5M, tracking for a $5M+ weekend that will put it at $167M in the US. HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line/Warners) dropped 44% to $1.5M, and should reach $4.5M for the weekend, putting it closer to $50M in the US.

We’re now in the thick of Oscar campaign season, and several contenders expanded their releases their weekend.  THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus/Universal) increased its theatre count by almost 50% to 1220, and didn’t quite manage to hold its total from last Friday, down 2% to $750K and heading for an OK $2K per-theatre average for the weekend.  WILD (Fox Searchlight) expanded from 21 theatres to 116, and should have a solid $12.5K per-theatre average for the weekend.  THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) is showing strong word of mouth, as it more than tripled its run to 25 theatres and heads for a $33K weekend average.

FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) only increased its theatre count by 5% to 79, and continues to show limited audience appeal, with a likely $5K per-theatre average.  BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight), the veteran of the group with 9 weekends of release, contracted its run by about 20% to 606 theatres, and still rode its Golden Globe nominations to a 27% Friday-to-Friday increase, with a $2200 weekend average on the way.


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."