Box Office Report: ‘Girl’ Lower Than Expected While ‘Nation’ Falls At Box Office

Box Office Report: ‘Girl’ Lower Than Expected While ‘Nation’ Falls At Box Office

Oct 10, 2016

Here's your estimated 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):

1. The Girl on the Train - $24.6 million ($24.6 million total)

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children - $15.0 million ($51.0 million total)

3. Deepwater Horizon - $11.7 million ($38.5 million total)

4. The Magnificent Seven - $9.1 million ($75.9 million total)

5. Storks - $8.4 million ($50.1 million total)

6. The Birth of a Nation - $7.1 million ($7.1 million total)

7. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - $6.9 million ($6.9 million total)

8. Sully - $5.2 million ($113.4 million total)

9. Masterminds - $4.1 million ($12.7 million total)

10. Queen of Katwe - $1.6 million ($5.3 million total)

The Big Stories

What is that you see outside the window of your train car? Probably the same view Val Kilmer had for his painting in Top Secret. Trains move much too fast to see suburban strife or at least are usually far enough from backyards to positively I.D. faces. Not that Tate Taylor’s adaptation of The Girl on the Train addresses such questions, but who cares. It was a wildly popular book (last year) and dang it people were going to go see it no matter what the reviews. But did they have just a little impact? Projections once again were off for the Gone Girl wannabe as many tracking outlets saw the opening over $30 million. And they were wrong. Once again. That may hardly matter though for the studio looking for their fifth straight hit at the box office.


You Saw What Again?

As movies with scenes featuring Emily Blunt in a bathroom, you may be better off checking out such a scene with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau than her boozy phone taping in The Girl on the Train. In a world of false equivalencies, that film opened to $21.1 million and finished with $62.4 million; a multiple of 2.95. The Girl on the Train opened to less than the studio’s The Purge: Election Year this summer ($31.5 million) but certainly more than their last female-centric release, Bridget Jones’s Baby ($8.5 million). Thanks to a still-interested overseas crowd, the third film in the Zellweger trilogy became a hit for Universal and they are hoping that Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson can do the same.

The good news is that the film only cost $45 million so its margin of profit error is set somewhere around $180 million. That is a total that even The Huntsman: Winter’s War could not reach for Blunt and Universal earlier this year with an 18% Rotten Tomatoes and a “B+” Cinemascore. The Girl on the Train fared slightly better with critics getting a (still weak) 43% but failed amongst what should have been its strongest supporters – the readers who could not wait to see their latest beloved book on the big screen. They gave the film a “B-.” It is the 9th such time that rating has come up in 2016 with a list that features titles such as The 5th Wave, Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, The Boy, Criminal, Norm of the North and Gods of Egypt. The average multiple of the “B-“ this year is an OK 2.74 which would put The Girl on the Train somewhere around $67 million. Not bad, hardly spectacular either. But hey, if Gods of Egypt could gross $111 million overseas, why can’t this, right? It has grossed $16.5 million so far.


Remember Stormtroopers? Remember D.W. Griffith?

The controversy surrounding Nate Parker’s past have swirled around the release of his passion project, The Birth of a Nation. To sum up how this film became such a whirlwind event we must set the wayback machine for this year’s Sundance film festival. That is where the film premiered right in the eye of the storm that was the #OscarsSoWhite outrage. If there was any evidence that audiences and press alike were ready to anoint this film, look no further than the standing ovation that Parker received – BEFORE the film even began. Few, if any, were aware of the past that would eventually come back to haunt the actor and filmmaker.

Nevertheless, Fox Searchlight made the richest deal in the history of the fest (surpassing some of their own record deals) paying $17.5 million for what many immediately branded a Best Picture frontrunner. Though the rumblings of the Parker/Celestin rape case were there in Park City, the story did not gain any serious traction until just a few months ago – culminating in the revelation that the victim had committed suicide. (Jean Celestin, the co-writer of Birth of a Nation, was initially convicted of the crime and then had that conviction overturned.) Now that critics have found themselves nine months removed from the film’s overhyped reaction to the Oscar backlash, many have been none too kind to the film. (You can hear my review of the film direct from Sundance here.) Whether or not this has anything to do with Parker’s past you can judge for yourself; though it certainly hasn’t factored in to the early reaction to Mel Gibson’s upcoming Hacksaw Ridge.

Fox Searchlight has only opened four other films in its rich history to over 2000 screens on their first weekend - The Banger Sisters (2002), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Street Kings (2008) and Baggage Claim (2013). None of those were festival pickups and every one of them opened higher than The Birth of Nation’s $7.1 million. Only Street Kings posted a higher production budget than Searchlight’s purchase ticket at Sundance ($20 million) and it finished with just $26.4 million. However the studio and Parker have chosen to sell this film as an event and an “important” film for the African-American community (TV ads feature images from the Black Lives Matter movement) there has to be extreme disappointment that – in wide release – Birth failed to open higher than Johnson Family Vacation, Baggage Claim, Just Wright, Our Family Wedding, Roll Bounce and Kingdom Come. An “A” Cinemascore may be meaningless in this case as it was this year for Eddie the Eagle, Race and Snowden; three “A”’s that opened to $8 million or less and had an average multiple of 2.54. That would give The Birth of a Nation around just $18 million when it leaves theaters. At this point, all focus at Searchlight may be shifting to Pablo Larrain’s Jackie as their golden Oscar ticket.


Tales of the Top Ten

Searchlight may have lost their assumed Oscar contender, but it is 20th Century Fox that should be more concerned with the numbers for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A 48% drop this week has the film with just over $51 million at the U.S. box office after ten days. This has put Tim Burton’s film behind the pace of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (even if its second weekend was slighty better than Scorch’s $14.2 million) which finished around the same period last year with just $81.6 million. That film was nevertheless a hit thanks to a strong international showing of over $230 million. Peregrine is currently at $94 million overseas and cost almost $50 million more than Scorch. The film still needs around $185 million for it to not be a loser for the studio.

Another storm to closely watch is the progress of Deepwater Horizon. Hurricane Matthew may have been downgraded to a Category 2 for the Florida coast, but this film could be catatrosphic for the books of Lionsgate and all those who put money into it. Whether the final price tag is $156 million or just $120 million (with tax credits) or $110 million (as Box Office Mojo lists it – the same as Peregrine) there is little getting around that this is one of the biggest losers of the year. Even if we stick to the lowball figure on the cost, Peter Berg’s second teaming with Mark Wahlberg (his third, Patriot’s Day, opens on Christmas) has only passed Lionsgate/Summit’s Gods of Egypt on the loser list for 2016. If we grant the film the $69 million estimated for it after its opening last week (it currently stands at $38 million in the U.S. and $66 million worldwide) it would STILL need another $32 million to not join the estimated $100 million loser club this year, a list that also currently includes The BFG, Star Trek Beyond, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Ben-Hur and Ghostbusters.

One film that has cleared itself from that company but still coming up well short of its target is Sony’s The Magnificent Seven. While still very much in danger of joining a very small list of “A-“ films to open to over $32 million and not reach $100 million in the U.S., it’s bigger problem is that its overseas numbers have only topped $58 million thus far. While its run is far from finished, the film currently stands as Sony’s third biggest loser since 2013 behind Ghostbusters and White House Down.

Over on the family side there was another new release this week for them, but this column has forgotten about it almost as quickly as audiences have. Lionsgate & CBS Films’ Middle School was projected for $8-10 million this weekend and finished with just $6.9 million. The $8.5 million production is hardly in the same category as Deepwater Horizon but this is yet another example of a failed potential franchise for the studio (i.e. Mortdecai, Blair Witch) that is having trouble even concluding their Divergent Series theatrically. At least THEY still have an Oscar golden ticket with La La Land this winter. On the other side of the family there is Warner Bros.’ Storks which has not hit $50 million yet in its third weekend. With $106 million worldwide thus far, the animated film still needs roughly over $103 million to break even. The studio’s Sully, on the other hand, is less than $14 million away from that mark. Certainly a solid success in the U.S., it probably has one more week in the top ten before it begins a hopeful awards campaign for Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks.

Finally, just to catch up on story that we were monitoring all summer, Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory has finally crossed the one billion mark at the box office. It is the 27th film to reach that milestone, the 12th Disney film to do so and the third of 2016 – all released by Disney. In 2015 Universal became the first studio to release three billion dollar films (Jurassic World, Furious 7 & Minions) in a single calendar year. Disney has matched that feat this year with Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and now Finding Dory. Plus the year is not over and they still have Doctor Strange, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Place your bets on whether or not they can get a fourth.

- 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]

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