August 20, 2016

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “War Dogs” Leads Weak Openings, “Ben-Hur” Crashes


The stretch of box-office beginning in mid-August is one of the weakest of the year, and this weekend’s arrivals did nothing to change that tradition.  WAR DOGS (RatPac/Warners) had the best of the low starts, with $5.4M on Friday (including $1.3M from Thursday night) according to preliminary numbers at Deadline.  That may give it a $14M weekend, not much considering that it cost $50M to produce and carries the usual high-priced Warners marketing campaign.  With its political-satire-meets-bro-comedy mix of genres and Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as the stars, it also doesn’t seem likely to find much international interest.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (Laika/Universal) was by far the most critically praised of the weekend’s openings, but so far it’s not translating to ticket sales, with $4.1M on Friday (including about $500K from Thursday night) and a weekend that might hit $13M.  That’s a shadow of the year’s animated blockbusters (Finding Dory made almost 4x that much on its first day alone), and not even great by Laika standards, behind The Boxtrolls‘ $17.3M,  Coraline‘s $16.8M, and ParaNorman‘s $14.1M.  Even if it can quadruple that opening, it won’t get very far.  However, on a bigger picture basis, it has a solid shot at a Best Animated Film Oscar nomination, which may help its library value.

There’s nothing good to be said about the $4.2M opening day for BEN-HUR (MGM/Paramount) (which includes about $900K from Thursday night).  Depending on whether Christians turn out in force on Sunday, it might reach $12M for the weekend, a terrible result for an epic that cost $100M to produce plus tens of millions in marketing.  MGM reportedly bore 80% of the production budget (the marketing costs are less clear), but there will be plenty of red ink for everyone.

SUICIDE SQUAD (RatPac/DC/Warners) is likely to set two marks this weekend.  One is positive:  it will probably sit on top of the box office for a 3rd weekend in a row, with $5.7M on Friday that should translate into a $19-20M weekend.  But that could represent a Weekend 3 drop of up to 56%, which amazingly would be even worse than the parallel plunge for Batman v. SupermanSuicide is still headed for $280-290M in the US, but so far it’s underperforming internationally, partly because it won’t be allowed a run in China, which means it may have trouble reading $650M worldwide.  That’s enough for profit, but yet another disappointment for DC/Warners.

SAUSAGE PARTY (Annapurna/Columbia/Sony), perhaps hurt by the arrival of War Dogs, which is aimed at the same young male audience, fell 66% from last Friday to $4.6M, on its way to a $15-16M weekend.  That keeps it on track for $90M+ in the US, a fine result considering its low budget.

PETE’S DRAGON (Disney) held badly, considering its largely strong reviews and the limited competition from Kubo.  Its Friday-to-Friday drop was 55% to to $3.1M, for a $10-11M weekend and a $60-65M total in the US.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (Paramount) had the weekend’s best hold, a testament to its older audience.  It was down just 40% Friday-to-Friday to $1.2M, and should have a $4M weekend.  That’s in line with the $4.6M Weekend 2 (and 31% drop) for last August’s Meryl Streep vehicle Ricki and the Flash, which reached $26.8M in the US.

HELL OR HIGH WATER (Lionsgate) expanded to near-wide release at 472 theatres, and should have a fair $6000 per-theatre average for the weekend.

BAD MOMS (H Brothers/Tang/STX) continues to be a crowdpleaser, down 42% from last Friday to $2.1M, for a $7M weekend that keeps it pushing toward a possible $100M US total.  That’s a big success for the modestly-budgeted comedy, in comparison to the very similar Friday/weekend numbers for JASON BOURNE (Perfect World/Universal), which is heading toward $150M+ in the US, but at 6x the production cost of Bad Moms.

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."