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Box Office Report: ‘Rogue One’ Dominates As Only ‘Sing’ & ‘Fences’ Win Out Among Newcomers

Here’s your estimated 4-day box office returns (new releases bolded):

1. Rogue One – $96.0 million ($318.0 million total)

2. Sing – $56.0 million ($76.6 million total)

3. Passengers – $23.1 million ($30.4 million total)

4. Why Him? – $16.7 million ($16.7 million total)

5. Assassin’s Creed – $15.0 million ($22.4 million total)

6. Fences – $11.3 million ($11.5 million total)

7. Moana – $10.4 million ($183.4 million total)

8. La La Land – $9.7 million ($17.5 million total)

9. Office Christmas Party – $7.2 million ($44.2 million total)

10. Collateral Beauty – $7.0 million ($18.0 million total)


The Big Stories

So it’s Christmas time and Hollywood has given moviegoers its annual presents and lumps of coal for everyone to decide upon once their gifts are opened. You’ve got something for kids, something for sci-fi fans, wacky comedy, Oscar-wannabe dramas and expansions and Assassin’s Creed. Between that, Passengers and Why Him? the critics could not even get them to 100% combined. Sing is right in there in that Illumination realm of 71% and Denzel Washington’s Fences is riding high with 94%, but it’s still the film with the 85% approval garnering the bulk of the attention once again and should be doing so for weeks to come.

And Your Animated Idol Is…

We start with the new stuff this week and as I have anticipated for months, Illumination’s Sing has leapt out as a big winner. The studio that has become a direct challenger to Disney & Pixar even if their efforts are more cartoony than cinematic is doing so not just by making big bucks at the box office but by keeping the costs down on the front end. While Finding Dory was the unquestioned victor at the box office this summer, it was The Secret Life of Pets and its $75 million budget (compared to Dory’s $200) that made it the winner of the profit margin. They already have a billion-dollar film under its belt in Minions ($1.159 billion) as well as $975 million with Despicable Me 2 and another $875 million for Pets with Despicable Me 3 on the horizon for next summer.

Sing is also rockin’ a $75 million budget and in its first six days (since opening on Weds) it is estimated to gross $76.6 million. That’s just in the U.S. (it has made another $17.2 internationally) and it is now halfway to recouping its budget. P&A will come after that and then its nothing but profit town. Shocking as it may seem, studios have avoided releasing full-on animated fare in the month of December. The Princess and the Frog was in limited release going back to November before being launched wide on Dec. 11, 2009. That leaves the all-time animated champ of December as The Prince of Egypt, which opened to $14.5 million on Dec. 18, 1999 and went on to gross $101.4 million. Sing is likely to reach that before next weekend.

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We’ll get to the full chart in a minute, but in relation to films that have opened in the days before Christmas, Sing’s six-day total ranks only behind Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Meet the Fockers and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. In other words, Sing is the all-time six-day champion amongst non-sequels during this time of year.

The Chipmunks and Nicolas Cage grossed $219.6 & $219.9 million, respectively, while the Fockers went on to gross over $279 million. $200 million seems a given at this point and from there it will be after Illumination’s $214 million gross for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and then the $251 million of the first Despicable Me film. The $336 million that Minions made in the U.S. is probably a stretch, but if Sing manages to hit the three-quarter billion dollar mark worldwide it will be the animation studio’s fourth to do so. Not bad.

Wait! Chris Pratt Did WHAT???

Last week Collateral Beauty was criticized for withholding its disturbing setup from audiences. Critics called the film on it (as part of its overwhelming awfulness) and then attention was turned on them as the blame for the film tanking at the box office. (As of this Monday it is estimated to have grossed just $18 million for what will become Smith’s lowest-grossing star vehicle to date.)

Last week, Passengers was unleashed to critics with another ethical dilemma kept out of the film’s trailers. (We’re talking first half-hour here, people.) Sony did not clamp down on the first responders and the hate was all over Twitter. By the time the second responders got to weigh in, the word was already out that Morten Tyldum’s Passengers was an outright disaster and that maybe Jon Spaithis’ long-cherished script maybe should have stayed on the infamous unproduced pile where it sat for several years.

32% is the score Passengers is feeling from Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not THE worst of the holiday season (still higher than Collateral Beauty, Assassin’s Creed and Bad Santa 2) but it’s down there. Studios can deal with bad reviews. If the film does poorly now they (or their media surrogates) can just blame the critics for the film’s performance. But it’s the dollars front and center and now is a good time to bring in that chart.

This chart reflects the six-day performance of films opening between Dec. 20-23. (*Beavis is based on a 7-day number.) You can see how concerned the studio may be now about Passengers:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($87.6), Meet the Fockers ($84.4), National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($77.8), Sing ($76.3), Night at the Museum ($67.6), Cast Away ($60.8), Little Fockers ($53.4), Titanic ($43.7), True Grit ($43.1), Beavis and Butt-Head Do America* ($30.9), Passengers ($30.4), Fun with Dick and Jane ($29.1), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ($27.8), Jack Reacher ($26.9), Rocky Balboa ($26.6), Any Given Sunday ($24.2), The Family Man ($22.876), Miss Congeniality ($22.870), Two Weeks Notice ($22.81), Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ($22.5), Assassin’s Creed ($22.2), This is 40 ($20.7)

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Miss Congeniality is the only film on that list under $27 million to gross $100 million. ($106.8 million to be precise.) And Beavis and Butt-Head is the only film above $27 million to fail to reach $100 million. Sony is staring at a $110 million budget on the film, which is not a bad investment on a high-concept sci-fi film with two of the most successful young stars of the day. Seeing as how most concepts begin with envisioning the trailer it’s a bit shocking that nobody recognized the problem they had before a frame was ever shot.

Sony already took a bath banking on Pratt as second-billed to Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven a few months ago. After a really solid summer (The Angry Birds Movie, The Shallows, Sausage Party, Don’t Breathe) that was unfortunately tempered by the disaster of Ghostbusters, Sony is on another losing streak including Seven, Inferno and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk –and unless Passengers can find another $300 million, well, they have Underworld: Blood Wars and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter up next.

Why Creed?

Speaking of video game adaptations that brings us to Fox’s Assassin’s Creed, which was my pick for the potential biggest loser of the holiday season. $125 million spent on a genre that has only ever seen one film (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) gross that much in the U.S.  While they may not have expected it at the time of production, Warcraft’s $386 million gross overseas might have provided some hope for this one (Assassin’s Creed has made $14.2 million internationally thus far.) Even though Warcraft grossed only $47 million and has one of the worst opening weekend multiples of the year (1.95). If we take the grosses of the video game films that made it into wide release, their average multiple is a measely 2.52. That would put Assassin’s Creed somewhere in the vicinity of $45 million. (At least it would be more than 47 Ronin’s $38.3 million.)

If we refer to the above chart though, the lowest-grossing film on that list is Beavis & Butt-head’s $63 million. With only $15 million this weekend after $7.4 million its first two days, the lower-end appears to be a good bet. That will leave the film looking for a minimum of $350 million to break even. When will studios learn these films are not a good idea?

Assassin’s Creed is not the only Fox film being released this week. John Hamburg’s comedy, Why Him?, with Bryan Cranston and James Franco was launched on Friday. The budget on this one is far more respectable at $38 million and its estimated $16 million start in its first four days is hardly a death sentence this time of year. As evidenced by this chart of “comedies” opening on Dec. 18 or later.

Parental Guidance ($14.5 / $77.2), Fun with Dick and Jane ($14.38 / $110.3), Two Weeks Notice ($14.32 / $93.3), Sisters ($13.9 / $87.0), Dude Where’s My Car? ($13.8 / $46.7), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ($12.7 / $58.2), This is 40 ($11.5 / $67.5), The Family Man ($10.5 / $75.7), Why Him? ($10.1 / ???), Miss Congeniality ($10.0 / $106.8), Fat Albert ($10.0 / $48.1), Kate and Leopold ($9.7 / $47.1), Charlie Wilson’s War ($9.6 / $66.6), We Bought a Zoo ($9.3 / $75.6), Cheaper by the Dozen 2 ($9.3 / $82.5)

You will notice that the BOLD titles are all Fox releases, so clearly they have a type this time of year and that doesn’t even mention Gulliver’s Travels and Joe Somebody. (In their defense, 9 to 5, The Flamingo Kid and Johnny Dangerously opened around this time too.) Though even if Why Him? does reach the lowball figure of $47 million on that list it will still need about another $67 million to break even. If not that means that Why Him? (and likely Assassin’s Creed) will be added to a growing losing streak at Fox that goes back to September starting with Morgan and on to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Trolls and Rules Don’t Apply. Again in their defense, they do currently own the second most profitable film of the year in Deadpool behind just The Secret Life of Pets.

Tales of the Top Ten

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story may still be about $725 million away from being the most profitable film of 2016, but it is well on its way to challenge Finding Dory to become the highest-grossing film of the year in the U.S.  After just ten days the film is at $286.3 million. That is the 9th best 10-day total ever and no film on that top ten list have grossed less than $400 million. After Monday it is being estimated at over $318 million which is just under both Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Dark Knight; summer releases which finished, respectively, with $459 million and $533 million. That is your new range for Rogue One, which would be good enough to be one of the ten best U.S. grossers ever. It will need $859 million overseas to break into the top ten on that list. (It has currently grossed $237.4 million internationally.) If it does crack the top ten on both lists then it is guaranteed to be the most successful film of 2016 along with making history for Disney as they would become the first studio to release four billion-dollar films in a calendar year.

Going down the list we look at Moana and its expected march towards $230 million. By the day after Christmas it is estimated to be $40 million ahead of the pace of Tangled, which grossed $200.8 million domestic. It is also still over $6 million ahead of Toy Story 2’s $245 million pace, though it is steadily falling behind its weekend pace. Though as of now, $240 million may be the new number to watch. Will that be enough to outpace Sing? Could be an interesting race to the finish. Moana is over $327 million worldwide. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has jumped over $744 million worldwide and into the Top Ten of the most profitable titles of 2016.

On the expansion front, Manchester by the Sea is over $21 million by Monday making it the highest-grossing Sundance film of the year. La La Land expanded into 734 theaters and has now grossed over $17 million on its way to its Oscar nominations next month. Also making the big jump is Denzel Washington’s Fences, which grossed $11.3 million after bursting into over 2200 theaters. The thing is that it did that number in a mere two days after opening on Christmas. It did not quite crack the Top 15 list of all-time of single-day Christmas openers, but it came within $2 million of doing so. Dreamgirls is 14th on that list and it started with $8.7 million compared to Fences’ $6.6 million. Dreamgirls also failed to get a Best Picture nomination while Fences is in line to.

Over to the limited release front, Hidden Figures also managed to start with $955,000 in its first two days on 25 screens. Peter Berg’s Patriots Day grossed over $241,000 in just seven theaters and Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta made over $151,000 on six.

On the four-screen front, Martin Scorsese’s Silence opened to $180,000, Ben Affleck’s all-but-hidden-from-critics-during-awards-season, Live By Night, made just $56,000 and J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls started with a mere $42,000. To put those numbers in perspective, Captain Fantastic ($93,824), Indignation ($93.125), Hello My Name is Doris ($84,896), Equity ($82,434), American Honey ($71,203), Knight of Cups ($60,860) and The Meddler ($57,022) all had stronger openings on four screens.

– 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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