October 24, 2015

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Steve Jobs” Crashes, “Suffragette” Starts Slow On Dismal Weekend


The tricks arrived early and the treats were nonexistent on a bleak pre-Halloween weekend.

Let the second-guessing begin on STEVE JOBS (Legendary/Universal).  Last week’s limited expansion suggested softness as the awards hopeful widened beyond NY/LA, and national release has crumbled its box office hopes entirely.  Preliminary numbers at Deadline have Steve Jobs at $2.5M on Friday, and its likely $7.5M weekend will be just about one-third of the $22.4M opening of The Social Network.  Did Universal screw up the release by platforming the film over several weeks?  Was the mistake in taking over production at all after Sony passed, David Fincher moved on, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale were succeeded by Michael Fassbender?  Did audiences resist the deliberately stylized structure of the script, or simply feel that one neurotic, egomaniacal high-tech genius was enough for this movie decade?  Despite a moderate production budget of $30M, Steve Jobs carries high marketing costs–especially since it hopes to run for months through awards season–and may have problematic international appeal (although Social Network did quite well overseas).  One thing that’s clear is that without major support from critics groups, the film will be beyond the help of a software patch.

The weekend’s other failures are legion if less interesting.  THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (QED/Lionsgate) will pile up the most red ink with a production cost of $70M, after a $3.7M Friday and a likely $8-9M weekend.  It’s never a good sign when the message your studio is frantically sending the media is “Our losses are capped!,” and that’s what Lionsgate is telling anyone who will listen this weekend, although the exact level of its exposure for marketing costs isn’t clear.  The downside is that if Witch overperforms internationally, the way the somewhat similar The Seventh Son did earlier this year ($93.4M foreign vs $17.2M domestic), Lionsgate won’t share in any of that revenue.

Considering that it’s in only about 60% of the theatres that a more traditional release would normally carry, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (Blumhouse/Paramount) did OK, with a $3.7M Friday that should translate into $7-8M for the weekend.  Paramount’s strategy here was to arrange for an early VOD release, which should increase those revenues and require lower marketing expenses, more than making up for the shortfall in theatrical box office–but not all theatre chains agreed to participate.  (Those who did will receive a minimal share of the VOD revenues.)  It’s an interesting experiment, one which the studio will repeat next week with The Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, but we’ll only know if it’s been successful if Paramount discloses its VOD results.

After that, things got ugly.  JEN AND THE HOLOGRAMS (Blumhouse/Universal) may end up setting the all-time record for the worst big-studio opening at more than 2000 theatres, after a $560K Friday that could end up below the $1.8M start for Warners’ We Are Your Friends just 2 months ago.  Even with a $5M production budget and sparse marketing, this will manage to lose money.  And while not from a major studio, ROCK THE KASBAH (Open Road) is faring even worse:  $530K on Friday and perhaps $1.5M for the weekend, with a bigger budget than Jem.

Nor was there any comfort in the arthouses, where none of the Oscar candidates are catching fire.  SUFFRAGETTE (Focus/Universal) is heading for an unremarkable $17K per-theatre weekend average at 4 NY/LA locations.  The expansion of ROOM (A24) to 23 is yielding a so-so- $9K weekend average, and TRUTH (Sony Classics), now at 18, may average $6K.

All of this was great news for the market’s holdovers, which with one notable exception did superbly.  The weekend’s winner may be THE MARTIAN (TSG/20th), down 33% from last Friday to $4.2M and heading for a $15M 4th weekend, still with a shot of reaching $200M in the US.  GOOSEBUMPS (Columbia/Sony) declined an acceptable 47% from last Friday to $3.9M and should also be at $14-15M for the weekend, on its way to a $75M total.  BRIDGE OF SPIES (DreamWorks/20th/Disney) held even better, down 37% from its opening day to $3.3M on Friday and likely to hit $11-12M for the weekend, an easy victor over the competing Steve JobsHOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (Columbia/Sony) slid 33% to $2.2M on Friday with a $9M weekend ahead, and THE INTERN (RatPac-Dune/Warners) was down 31% to $1.2M for a $4M weekend.

The exception was CRIMSON PEAK (Legendary/Universal), which fell 65% from last Friday to $1.8M, perhaps reading $6M for the weekend, and not likely to get above a $35M total in the US on production/marketing costs that will top $150M worldwide.


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."