Here's your estimated 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Sully - $22.0 million ($70.5 million total)
2. Blair Witch - $9.6 million ($9.6 million total)
3. Bridget Jones’s Baby - $8.2 million ($8.2 million total)
4. Snowden - $8.0 million ($8.0 million total)
5. Don't Breathe - $5.6 million ($75.3 million total)
6. When the Bough Breaks - $5.5 million ($22.6 million total)
7. Suicide Squad - $4.7 million ($313.7 million total)
8. The Wild Life - $2.6 million ($6.6 million total)
9. Kubo and the Two Strings - $2.5 million ($44.2 million total)
10. Pete's Dragon - $2.0 million ($72.8 million total)
The Big Stories
It seems everywhere I’ve gone in the past two weeks everyone wants to either know about Clint Eastwood’s Sully or offer their own thoughts on it. Positive thoughts. That is what is commonly known as word-of-mouth. That is what is clearly happening as Sully has now made over $70 million and is headed to become the fifth $100 million-grosser of the director’s career. Adults are clearly beginning to take over the course of the fall box office and shall continue in the coming weeks with The Magnificent Seven, Deepwater Horizon and The Girl on the Train. Not that adults did not have other choices this weekend, but even Bridget Jones’s Baby and Snowden combined could not bring down Sully’s plane the way those birds did. Of course there was one other film that opened this weekend and there are bigger questions as to why it did not land with its core audience.
Don’t Go In The Woods
For months there were rumblings about the new Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett production, The Woods. Early previews were already being smattered with critic quotes talking about how it was going to change horror and that it was one of the best films ever made in the genre. Ever. Big words for such a generic sounding tale with a generic sounding title. That all changed at Comic-Con this year when a screening of The Woods all of a sudden became a screening of Blair Witch. This was not some late-inning marketing ploy by Lionsgate to establish more familiarity. The film was always rooted deep within the mythology of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. In fact, it directly references events of the most successful film to come out of the Sundance Film Festival. Ever. But maybe that turned out to be the biggest mistake of all.
A new horror film called The Woods from filmmakers with some established cred amongst genre followers would be a bit of an event for fans who have turned 2016 into quite the year. A film called Blair Witch brings back memories for a lot of moviegoers who still feel duped by what they saw 17 years ago. Those who love it, still love it. But even after $140 million in the U.S. and over $248 million worldwide on a $60,000 budget, there is still a lot of disdain for the Project and that is without even bringing up the dreaded Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
Yet it must be referenced here because even THAT film with its 13% Rotten Tomatoes managed to open to $13.2 million the weekend before Halloween a year later in 2000. The new Blair Witch started with just $9.6 million which is less than a million more than that other Sundance success story, The Witch, opened to back in the dead of February. As recognizable titles go, it is hardly up to the standards of The Conjuring 2 ($40.4 million opening / $102.4 million total) or even The Purge: Election Year ($31.5 / $79.0) but it trails well behind even Don’t Breathe ($26.4 million – and will be passing $75 million this week), 10 Cloverfield Lane ($24.7 / $72.0), Lights Out ($21.6 / $66.8), The Shallows ($16.8 / $55.0), The Forest ($12.7 / $26.5), and The Boy ($10.7 / $35.8).
Now the good news for Lionsgate is that the film only cost $5 million, so it is not a total disaster on its own. Except this is the kind of positive reinforcement that the studio could have used in what has been a year of bad news and worse news. Little hits like Dirty Grandpa, Now You See Me 2 or even Hell or High Water can not make up for the disastrous Gods of Egypt and Allegiant or the recent “who wanted this?” Mechanic: Resurrection. The same could now be said for Blair Witch; two words that were unlikely to escape the lips of South Park’s member berries. The film already was what it was and to trick audiences into seeing may not have helped its Cinemascore, but for once a lack of name recognition may have actually benefited the film. As for that Cinemascore, it is the 30th film since 1999 to receive a “D+” Cinemascore from audiences. It joins other horror entries such as Devil’s Due, Chernobyl Diaries, The Ruins, Primeval, Godsend, The Order, Valentine, Urban Legends: Final Cut (and even Battlefield Earth.) At least Lionsgate has a major awards player on the way in La La Land, but I’m sure they would like to have the money too.
Big Brother or Baby Daddy?
Bridget Jones, Mr. Darcy, McDreamy and Edward Snowden walk into a multiplex. None of them can beat Captain Sullenberg or the Blair Witch. The original Bridget Jones’s Diary opened to a modest $10.7 million in 1611 theaters back in 2001 -- 15 years ago. But back then and to this day it is still the best multiple for a wide release in April with a 6.66 as it made over $70 million (and another $210 million internationally.) Mark of the Beast aside, the sequel in 2004 was not as big in the U.S. (only $40.2 million) but it did manage to outgross its international tally with $222 million.
Now comes Bridget Jones’s Baby on a $35 million budget and an opening weekend lower than The Edge of Reason’s $8.6 million. American audiences are not going to help overcome even such a paltry production cost, but if it can do even half of its predecessor’s worldwide take, it will be the fourth hit in a row for Universal after The Purge: Election Year, The Secret Life of Pets and Jason Bourne. The film has made nearly $30 million overseas already.
Open Road, on the other hand, have not exactly been lighting it up since their big Oscar win with Spotlight. Snowden is just their fifth release of 2016 and it was moved from last December to May to September, presumably to take advantage of awards season with an Oliver Stone film in hand. Alas, a 56% rating at Rotten Tomatoes will not help that cause. The studio may have had some minor success with Spotlight but they have still failed to open a film to $20 million in the U.S. Even with a surprising “A” Cinemascore (joining Platoon and JFK as the best audience ratings of Stone’s career) Snowden’s $8 million start is Stone’s weakest for a film opening on more than 2000 screens. His W. finished with only $25.5 million and it opened to $10.5 million so the math is not very promising for the $40 million production.
- Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on WGN Radio with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]