Movies - Box Office postsSunday 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.
Sep 11 1975
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. ....
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.
Here'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|
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.
'Dunkirk,' 'Girls Trip' Win Weekend; 'Wonder Woman' Tops Summer Box Office
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.
Box Office: Well-Reviewed 'Apes' Doesn't Exactly Blow Up
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|
|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|
|2012||The Amazing Spider-Man||$262,030,663||$62,004,688|
|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.
'Transformers' Transform Into Blah Box Office
I've got good news and bad news for people who hate the “Transformers” movies as much as I do.
The good news is that domestically the series peaked at the box office in 2009 with “Revenge of the Fallen.” It's tough to compare their opening weekends since the movies opened on different days—a Tuesday, a Friday and three Wednesdays—so I've compared opening days, as well as first five days, below:
|Movie||Opened||1st day||5 Days||Total|
|2007||Transformers||Tues., July 3||$36||107.3||$319|
|2009||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||Wed., June 24||$62||200.0||$402|
|2011||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||Wed., June 29||$43||162.5||$352|
|2014||Transformers: Age of Extinction||Fri., June 27||$42||120.9||$245|
|2014||Transformers: The Last Knight||Wed., June 21||$16||68.4||??|
As you can see, the shamelessly titled “Last Knight” is taking in a fraction of what “Fallen” did eight years ago—and that's unadjusted. Hell, it's taking in a fraction of what “Extinction” did in 2014. All of the sequels generally make half of their final total domestic gross in their first five days, and if this trend continues “Last Knight” is topping out at around $140, or $70 million short of its production budget. Bye bye, Optimus. Time to shut down this idiotfest.
Except, of yeah, there are other people in the world, and they seem to love this idiotfest.
|2009||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||$402||$434||48%|
|2011||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||$352||$771||31%|
|2014||Transformers: Age of Extinction||$245||$857||22%|
|2014||Transformers: The Last Knight||$69*||$196*||26%|
Other mechanized, sequelized heroes, Pixar's “Cars 3,” grossed $25 million in its second weekend to finish No. 2 at the box office. This sequel too is down from the heights of its predecessors. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, “Cars 2” was actually the second lowest-grossing film in Pixar history, after “The Good Dinosaur,” so you kind of wonder why “3” was made. Oh right. Worldwide, it grossed $562 million. Sigh.
Third place is occupied by the third weekend of “Wonder Woman,” which fell off only 39% and is now at $319 million domestically. Worldwide, it's at $652. It's the crown jewel of the DC Extended Universe. Low bar, yes.
The weekend's best box office news? Word-of-mouth is apparently working for the summer's best comedy, “The Big Sick,” which opened in five theaters in NY and LA and grossed an average of $80k per. Those are good numbers. It opens at a theater near you on July 14.
UPDATE: The fourth weekend of “Wonder Woman” actually edged out the second weekend of “Cars 3” by about a million ($24.9 vs. $24.0). The estimates for “Transformers 5” were also a little optimistic: Its five-day total is down by half a million to $68.4. The above chart is corrected accordingly.