February 6, 2016

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Hail, Caesar!” Mild, Jane Austen “Zombies” and “Choice” Crash On Un-Super Weekend


The occasional piece of youth-oriented counterprogramming aside, the studios don’t bring out their big guns for Super Bowl Weekend, since Sunday is destined to be deflated.  Even by those standards, though, this is looking like a dim few days.

The decision to hold the Coen Brothers’ star-studded HAIL, CAESAR! (Universal) out of 2015 awards season seemed odd when the studio announced it, but it seems as though Universal knew it had a very soft piece of product on its hands, neither critic bait nor crowd-pleaser, and it was hoping to steal a weekend without much competition.  That isn’t really happening, as Hail had a $4.2M Friday according to preliminary numbers at Deadline, and with a low Sunday to come, may not get much past $10M for the weekend.  It’s hard to compare that to other Coen productions, since so many of their films (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Serious Man) are arthouse releases, but it’s far below the $24.8M wide opening of True Grit and the $19.1M of Burn After Reading, and not even as high as the $12.5-$12.6M starts of Intolerable Cruelty and The LadykillersHail had a fairly serious $50M production budget, plus an A-level marketing campaign from Universal, so its only chance of breaking even will be strong performance overseas.

THE CHOICE (Lionsgate) represents the fade of Nicholas Sparks adaptations as a self-contained franchise.  As recently as 2013, Safe Haven opened with $21.4M and ended up with $71.3M, but the following year, The Best of Me was at $10M/$26.8M, and last year’s The Longest Ride wasn’t much better at $13M/$37.4M.  Choice makes both of those look like blockbusters, as its $2.5M Friday may not get it to $6M for the weekend, a disaster even with a moderate production budget.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Screen Gems/Sony) arrives years too late for its pop culture moment, with a terrible $2.1M on Friday and perhaps $5M for the weekend.  This is one corpse that won’t be rising from the dead, even if it has more appeal overseas.

With all the new flops littering the landscape, it should have been easy for KUNG FU PANDA 3 (DreamWorks Animation/20th) to hold strongly in its 2d weekend, but although Panda will easily win, its 50% Friday-to-Friday drop to $5.3M is far from impressive, and it will feel the Super Bowl effect too, giving it perhaps $22M for the weekend, which puts it on track for around $130M as a US total, about 20% less than Panda 2, although the franchise does the bulk of its business outside the US.

THE REVENANT (Regency/RatPac/20th) and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Lucasfilm/Disney) continue to show great word of mouth, with Fridays around $2M (down about 35% for Revenant and 30% for Force) and likely weekends about $7M.  This will probably be Force‘s last big milestone weekend, as it will hit $900M in the US and $2B worldwide, increasing its all-time US lead and standing in 3rd place (behind James Cameron’s behemoths) around the globe.  Revenant is the only Best Picture nominee that will top $2M at the weekend box office.

Last week’s other openings aren’t holding well.  THE FINEST HOURS (Disney) lost 53% from last Friday to $1.6M, and will earn around $5M for the weekend, on its way to a US total that may not hit $30M.  50 SHADES OF BLACK (Open Road) fared worse, down 74% from last Friday to $600K, with perhaps $1.5M for the weekend and a $12M US total.  And then there’s JANE GOT A GUN (Weinstein), a spectacular flame-out that lost 83% from its pathetic opening day to $50K, for a weekend (at 1031 theatres!) that will barely average over $100 per theatre.

REGRESSION (Radius/Weinstein), thrown away by the studio despite being from the director of The Others and starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson, may average $250 per theatre for the weekend in its 100-theatre opening.


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."