Here's your estimated 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Kung Fu Panda 3 - $21.0 million ($69.0 million total)
2. Hail, Caesar! - $11.4 million ($11.4 million total)
3. The Revenant - $7.1 million ($149.7 million total)
4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens - $6.8 million ($905.9 million total)
5. The Choice - $6.0 million ($6.0 million total)
6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - $5.2 million ($5.2 million total)
7. The Finest Hours - $4.7 million ($18.3 million total)
8. Ride Along 2 - $4.5 million ($77.2 million total)
9. The Boy - $4.09 million ($26.8 million total)
10. Dirty Grandpa - $4.05 million ($29.3 million total)
The Big Stories
One way or another, moviegoers rejected this weekend's new offerings. This could be for any number of reasons. The Super Bowl on Sunday certainly cuts down on attendance, even more than bad weather. It could just be that the new movies aren't very appealing. (At least two of the three are not, according to critics.) Or people could simply be saving their money to give Deadpool a solid splash next weekend. Whatever the reason it was a pretty lackluster week at the box office, but maybe we can make the numbers a bit more interesting.
Hail The Coens!
One of the first things I said after leaving a screening of Joel & Ethan Coen's latest offering was that audiences were going to hate it. They pretty much confirmed that with a "C-" at Cinemascore. To put that in perspective, these two respected cinematic treasures have never -- repeat NEVER -- received higher than a "B+" from audiences at Cinemascore. Not even True Grit, their runaway success in 2010/11. They are also no stranger to the "C" grade. Intolerable Cruelty, arguably their weakest film, got a "C+." The Ladykillers with Tom Hanks got a "C." And, arguably, one of their finest achievements -- 1990's Miller's Crossing -- got the same "C-" as Hail, Caesar!
What does that tell you?
Well, maybe this is why Caesar is only the sixth film of their career to start wide on its opening weekend. That list includes True Grit ($24.8 million start), Burn After Reading ($19.1), Intolerable Cruelty ($12.5), The Ladykillers ($12.6 on 1,583 screens) and The Big Lebowski ($5.5 on 1,207 screens).
Hail, Caesar's $11 million ranks on the low end of the spectrum, but it's not like the Coens' films have been regular champions at the box office. Only six of their films grossed more than $30 millio,n but so many were championed by critics and have gone on to become genuine classics. (Neither Fargo or The Big Lebowski grossed $25 million in their runs.) This second teaming with Universal is facing an uphill battle if it wants to pass Intolerable Cruelty's $35.3 million total. Since 2003, there have been 40 films at Cinemascore to receive a "C-" and only four (How Do You Know, The Informant, Drive, The Spirit) managed to post a 3x multiple of their opening weekends. Only six did better than 2.7. Hail, Caesar is an exceedingly clever film that will just have to be discovered and discussed at a later date (like most Coen films) because the drop next weekend may confirm that $30 million is just not something that even Josh Brolin's Eddie Mannix can fix for the studio.
Choices, Zombies and Prejudice
No one can blame Lionsgate for opening The Choice in early February. After all, this is where the Nicholas Sparks brand has flourished. Three of the best four opening weekends for films based on his books were in the days just before Valentine's Day. It worked for the very first Sparks adaptation, Message in a Bottle, back in 1999. (And that was Kevin Costner's first film after The Postman.)
In 2010, the best Sparks opening occurred with Channing Tatum leading the way in Dear John, which grossed $30.4 million. Then in 2013 Julianne Hough's Safe Haven opened directly on Valentine's Day with $8.8 million and finished the weekend with $21.4 and, ultimately, $71.3 million. At least two of those numbers will not be hit by The Choice. This is bad news for the Sparks brand, which suffered its lowest opening to date with $6 million, but great news for men (and fans of good writing) who may not have to suffer the slings and arrows of Sparks' romantic tragedy porn for much longer even if audiences gave it a "B+." The fact that Sparks' 11 films have received three more "A"'s than the Coen Bros. from the survey group (and not a single "C") makes one weep harder than any Sparks ending.
Jane Austen may be crying in her grave as well (or maybe laughing) that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is looking like a waste of effort too. The $5.2 million it grossed this weekend suggests that people are officially zombied out. At least at the movies.
The Walking Dead is more popular than ever and there are certainly more than enough zombiefied straight-to-video offerings to whet the appetite of someone who needs to kill 90 minutes with the undead. No one was being fooled by the marketing trying to make PPZ sound like WWZ (or World War Z for those who like actual titles) but at least it already outgrossed last Fall's Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. But even Uwe Boll's video game-inspired House of the Dead opened to $5.6 million. It's 42% at Rotten Tomatoes is miles ahead of The Choice's 6% but the "B-" Cinemascore is not going to propel this any further. Even 1984's Night of the Comet grossed $14.4 million.
Tales of the Top Ten
TWO BILLION DOLLARS.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally reached the milestone with help of over $905 million in North America. The mic can just be dropped there but there are other success stories still in the Top Ten.
Former Star Wars owner Fox is doing great with The Revenant at nearly $150 million at home and nearly $300 million worldwide.
Also, thanks to Kung Fu Panda 3, this is the third weekend in a row that the studio has claimed the #1 spot. The grosses here for Po are still rather lackluster as the film may just quietly crawl over the $100 million mark in the coming weeks, but its overseas numbers remain solid bringing its total to over $150 million. That is still just a quarter of the first two films' international gross.
Last weekend's other releases did not exactly hold well.
The Finest Hours dipped 53% and now stands at $18.5 million while Marlon Wayans' Fifty Shades of Black dropped 63% and is up to just $9.4 million.
The Weinsteins' dumping of Jane Got a Gun continued as the film lost 179 of its theaters and nearly 85% of its first weekend's limited business for a total of just $1.38 million.
As for the week before, The Boy managed to remain in the Top Ten for one last go. It hopes to hang on long enough to join Dirty Grandpa, which is about to become just the fourth new release of 2016 to gross $30 million. Speaking of hanging on, Ride Along 2 should be enjoying its final week to the claim that it is the highest-grossing film of the year. At $77 million it should be relinquishing that title to Kung Fu Panda 3 by next weekend with both likely to fall to Deadpool in the weeks after.
- Erik Childress can be heard each week on the WGN Radio Podcast evaluating box office with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]