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Sunday September 10, 2017

Box Office: Stephen King's 'It' Grosses A Lot

The Losers Club in "It"

The Losers Club in “It”: losers no more. 

On Friday afternoon, contemplating the release of “It,” the 2017 movie based on the 1986 Stephen King novel, and which almost assuredly got greenlit in April 2016 because of the huge buzz for Netflix's upcoming Stephen King-inspired TV series “Stranger Things,” I tweeted the following:

It was a joke. But after the success of “It” this weekend, it feels like less of a joke.

Some background. There are only three months in the calendar year that have not seen a movie gross more than $100 million opening weekend: January (best: “American Sniper,” $86m), October (“Gravity,” $55m), and September (“Hotel Transylvania 2,” $48m). September is a month, generally, to premiere lesser animated films (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), Christian-y flicks (“Dolphin Tale”), and movies that have Oscar buzz until everyone sees them (“Black Mass”). It's a dumping ground. 

Well, this weekend, “It” grossed $117 million.

That's the third-biggest opening this year, after “Beauty and the Beast” and “Guardians 2.” It's also—by far—the best opening for a movie based on a Stephen King novel. With a few exceptions (“The Shining,” “Shawshank,” “Stand By Me”), most of these have been schlock. More than 10 years ago, I had to do a piece for MSN ranking Stephen King movies and I thought my eyes were going to bleed from watching so much crap. Before “It,” only six King-based movies even grossed > $15 mil:

MOVIE STUDIO THTRS OPENING TOT. GROSS YEAR
1408 MGM/W 2,678 $20,617,667 $71,985,628 2007
The Dark Tower Sony 3,451 $19,153,698 $48,903,461 2017
Secret Window Sony 3,018 $18,237,568 $48,022,900 2004
The Green Mile WB 2,875 $18,017,152 $136,801,374 1999
Carrie (2013) SGem 3,157 $16,101,552 $35,266,619 2013
Dreamcatcher WB 2,945 $15,027,423 $33,715,436 2003

“It” got good reviews (86% on RT), and has talent behind it (Cary Fukunaga of “True Detective” season 1 was one of its screenwriters back in 2010), and its first teaser trailer got more than 197 million views within 24 hours—a record for a trailer. But it surely owes this success, and probably its existence, to “Stranger Things.” Someone needs to send the Duffer brothers a thank-you note. 

So should we, now that I think about it. “It” has shown Hollywood that if it's good, and there's interest, we will show up. Even if you release it in September. 

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Posted at 08:47 AM on Sep 10, 2017 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday September 03, 2017

My Father Rails Against the Dog Days of Late-Summer Moviegoing ... in 1975

In early Sept. 1975, my father, movie critic for The Minneapolis Tribune in the '70s, and inspiration for the William H. Macy character in “Fargo,” wrote the below. Things haven't exactly changed. And if they have, it's in the wrong direction. Just look at that list of movies one could've seen in theaters in late-summer 1975: “Nashville,” “Love and Death,” “Jaws,” and a re-release of “Gone with the Wind.” Not to mention one of the Python movies. Wow. These days, we're happy if we're not too insulted by a late-summer movie.

I never did understand studio temerity during late summer and Labor Day, but according to the below it originated because the movies didn't want to compete with the new fall TV lineups. Yet with Netflix, amazon, et al., and a 365-day schedule, that's mostly a thing of the past. Isn't it? Surely a fun, interesting movie could clean up this weekend. But what did we get? A much-panned historical epic (“Tulip Fever”), a comedy from Mexico (“Hazlo con Hombre”) and various forgettable indies in limited releases. The result, according to the Box Office Mojo headline, is  “the Worst Labor Day Weekend in 17 Years.” The highest grosser among new releases is indicative: The 40th anniversary re-release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Which came out two years after Dad wrote the below. 

Enjoy.  


Current Films
Sep 11 1975

Elliott Gould and Trevor Howard in Who?For years I thought that the term “dog days” owed its origin to the fact that the Dog Star was in its ascendancy in August. Nonsense. The phrase was coined by an irate moviegoer leafing through the amusement pages of his newspaper in a futile search for new, first-run movies in late summer. I haven’t seen such a profusion of canines since “1,001 Dalmations.” Most of them are such bombs they can’t be shown on airliners.

If you’ve already seen “Nashville,” “Love and Death” and “Monty Python,” and you don’t want to wait in line an hour to see “Jaws,” and you don’t want to see “Gone with the Wind” or “Clockwork Orange” for the umpteenth time, you’re out of luck these days. Unless, that is, you’re turned on by such turkeys as “White Line Fever,” “Blazing Stewardesses” and “Bucktown.” Or an Elliot Guould vehicle, aptly named “Who?,” that slipped into town last weekend, unheralded, and is departing today the same way.

Why is it that, with summer over for most of us, the kids back in school and a new television season starting, the film industry is still heavy on reruns and schlock? A local film distributor, who doesn’t agree with the policy but is at its mercy, says that the major companies prefer to wait “until the impetus of the new televion season has died down.” 

And the prospects for the next month or so can be summed up by the name of one of the “stars” of “White Line Fever”: Slim Pickens. ....

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Posted at 11:35 AM on Sep 03, 2017 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday July 30, 2017

Brooks Barnes Touts 'Box Office Success' that Isn't

I was alerted to a pretty suspect box-office argument by Mark Harris on Twitter and it turned out it was written by Brooks Barnes, whom I used to critique regularly, and who is apparently still fudging the details. 

Barf emojiHere's his lede about the weekend box office:

LOS ANGELES — The disconnect between Hollywood's taste and that of the masses has rarely been more sharply drawn as it was over the weekend, as the stylish “Atomic Blonde” sputtered and “The Emoji Movie” pushed past horrified critics to become a box office success.

Harris' thought: What an odd point to make when five of the other six top movies of the weekend are all critically acclaimed: 90 percenters on Rotten Tomatoes.

My addition: Barnes is positing a great divide between “Hollywood taste” and “the masses” based on two movies that did nearly the same business:

RNK MOVIE WKND GRS THTRS AVG PER
2 The Emoji Movie $25,650,000 4,075 $6,294
4 Atomic Blonde $18,554,000 3,304 $5,616

That's a pretty thin difference to hang your hat on. 

More, 14 movies this year have opened in 4,000+ theaters, and their opening weekends range from “Beauty and the Beast,” which grossed north of $174 million in March to “The Mummy,” which managed only $31.6 in June. Until “Emoji”'s $25 mil. That's Barnes' “box office success”? The weakest 4,000+ theater opener this year?

Hell, it would've been the weakest 4,000+ opener last year, too. And the year before that. And ... You know what? It's the weakest opening for any 4,000+-theater movie ever.

To Barnes that means “box office success.” 

It's such an odd piece. It almost feels like Barnes is settling scores or something; like he's got skin in the game:

Rival studios have spent the summer mocking Sony for backing “The Emoji Movie” with a full-throated marketing campaign, including a stunt at the Cannes Film Festival involving a parasailing actor, confetti and people in emoji costumes. Surely, sniffed the film elite, Sony was delusional if it thought it could make something out of such dreck.

“Sniffed the film elite”? Seriously, New York Times?

The weekend was won, by the way, by Christopher Nolan's “Dunkirk,” which fell off 44%, grossed another $28 mil, and passed the $100 million mark domestically. Worldwide, it's at $234.

Third place was the raunch comedy “Girls Trip,” which fell off only 35% to gross another $20 mil. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fell off 39% to gross $13.5. It's at $278 and looks like it'll pass $300 mil. “Wonder Woman” added another $3+ to edge $5 mil closer to $400.

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Posted at 04:19 PM on Jul 30, 2017 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday July 23, 2017

'Dunkirk,' 'Girls Trip' Win Weekend; 'Wonder Woman' Tops Summer Box Office

Dunkirk box office

Go.

A summer movie for adults, Christopher Nolan's “Dunkirk,” about the evacuation of British soldiers from Europe at the start of World War II, won the weekend with a $50 million haul. It added another $55 million from abroad. 

Its numbers are good but nothing to change the risk-averse, tentpole mindset of Hollywood execs. To put it in perspective: It's just the 13th-best opening of the year, domestically, on par with “Boss Baby,” but ahead of the latest “Transformers,” so we'll take our victories where we can find them. (Kind of like Dunkirk.) The movie only got made, I'm sure, because of Nolan's success with “The Dark Knight” series, so enjoy while you can. I am. I'm seeing it tomorrow.

OK, but will this year change the mindset of some Hollywood execs? This weekend, after all, “Wonder Woman” added another $4.6 million to reach $389 domestic, surpassing “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” to become the summer's biggest hit. It's now the second biggest movie of the year—after “Beauty and the Beast,” which opened in March, and which grossed $504 million. Meaning the two biggest movies of the year star women. Remember that demographic, Hollywood?

Or how about this one? The second-biggest movie of the weekend was the well-reviewed, raunchy “Girls Trip,” starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, et al., which got $30 mil stuffed down its trunks. 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” dropped another 50% to gross $22 mil more, good enough for third place and $251 overall. Can Spidey swing toward $300? Would like to think he's got it in him. The movie was good. People should go. 

The well-reviewed “War for the Planet of the Apes,” meanwhile, dropped a hefty 63% and fell from first to fourth place, with $20 mil and $97 overall. I still need to see it. 

The other big opener, which earned mixed reviews (54% on RT), Luc Besson's “Valerian and the ... yadda yadda,” didn't prop any tentpoles: $17 mil for fifth place. I have no interest. 

My movie, “The Big Sick,” fell just 33% and added another $5 mil to its numbers. It's now at $24 mil. It should be way higher than that. This is the movie to see this summer, folks. Go. 

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Posted at 11:04 AM on Jul 23, 2017 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday July 16, 2017

Box Office: Well-Reviewed 'Apes' Doesn't Exactly Blow Up

War for the Planet of the Apes box office

Les Biz

For once it's not Hollywood's fault. 

Normally the summer months mean shitty movies that everyone goes to see. This weekend was kind of the opposite of that. 

It was the first weekend of “War of the Planet of the Apes,” which got great reviews (95% on Rotten Tomatoes), and whose predecessor in the series, “Dawn of...,” opened at $72.6 million. But this one opened down, at $56 million.

It was the second weekend of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which got great reviews (93% on Rotten Tomatoes), and which opened last weekend at a sturdy $116 mil. But this weekend it dropped 61.4%, grossing just $45.2. 

Most disappointing for me, it was the first weekend of a wide-ish release (2,000+ theaters) of the brilliant rom-com “The Big Sick,” which got greater-than-great reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), and which, in limited release, had done well on a per-theater basis, averaging between $10k-$84k per theater. But this weekend it averaged just $2.9k per theater, pulling in $7.6 million. It finished in fifth place. 

You can make excuses as to why the three underperformed. Sequels tend to open on the strength of the previous film, and “Dawn of...” was just so-so. “Homecoming” was the sixth Spider-Man movie in 15 years and people are franchise fatigued. And “The Big Sick” stars nobody big, the lead is Muslim-American, and we're still a shitty, racist society. 

OK, some excuses are better than others. 

Seriously, though, I can't remember a summer with so many wide-release movies that got these kinds of rave reviews: “Baby Driver” at 95%, “Wonder Woman” at 92%. True, I thought both of those movies weren't all that, but at least they're not “Transformers”-type films that leave you brain-dead and ready to throw western civilization in the trashcan. 

Indeed, that's a positive takeaway of the summer: Domestically anyway, “Transformers,” with its shitty reviews (15%), is taking a nose dive—or a belly flop:

Year Movie Total U.S. Gross Opening Wknd
2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $402,111,870 $108,966,307
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon $352,390,543 $97,852,865
2007 Transformers $319,246,193 $70,502,384
2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction $245,439,076 $100,038,390
2017 Transformers: The Last Knight $124,888,619 $44,680,073

Since 2009, the “Transformers” domestic total has fallen off by: 1) $50 mil, then another 2) $100+ million, and now yet another 3) $100+ million. Down $250 million? Stick a fork in it. 

Meanwhile, Spidey, with its good reviews, is on the upswing: 

Year Movie Total U.S. Gross Opening Wknd
2002 Spider-Man $403,706,375 $114,844,116
2004 Spider-Man 2 $373,585,825 $88,156,227
2007 Spider-Man 3 $336,530,303 $151,116,516
2012 The Amazing Spider-Man $262,030,663 $62,004,688
2017 Spider-Man: Homecoming $208,270,314 $117,027,503
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 $202,853,933 $91,608,337

In just its second weekend, it's already surpassed “Amazing 2,” and looks to pass “Amazing.” It will be the highest-grossing Spidey since Raimi. 

So there's that. 

Other poorly reviewed movies that underperformed this summer include “The Mummy” (15%/$79 mil) and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (29%/$170 mil, down $70 mil from the one six years ago). The third “Cars” (68%/$140) is grossing $100 mil less than the first “Cars” 11 years ago (unadjusted), while the third “Despicable Me” (61%/$187) is, after three weekends, at half of what “2” grossed three years ago. 

So there is correlation between quality and box office—even for the tentpoles. 

But c'mon people, go see “The Big Sick” already. Don't make me come over there.

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Posted at 02:12 PM on Jul 16, 2017 in category Movies - Box Office
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