erik lundegaard

Movies - Box Office posts

Sunday January 25, 2015

Box Office: 'American Sniper' at $200 Million, Sets Sights on Katniss and Biggest Hit of the Year

American Sniper: biggest hit of the year?

Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to buy and buy.

We’ve been asking the wrong question with “American Sniper.” Instead of asking “Can it win best picture?” we should be asking, “Can it be the biggest box office hit of 2014”?

This weekend, Eastwood’s superpatriotic flick dropped only 27.9% for a $64 million haul. That’s the 8th-best second weekend (or “second” weekend, since “AS” opened in four theaters in late December) in movie history, behind such movies as “The Avengers,” “Avatar,” and “The Dark Knight.” In fact, with the exception of “Iron Man 3,” every one of the movies with a better second weekend went on to become the biggest box office hit of its respective year.

According to Box Office Mojo, “American Sniper” is now at $200 million. The No. 1 movie of 2014, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1,” which just surpassed “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” is at $334 million. By its second weekend, “THGMP1” was at $225 million, but it had fallen by 53%, then fell another 61% in the third weekend. So if “American Sniper” can keep from falling at those levels, it'll do it. 

Pretty stunning. I didn’t think “AS” would do $50 million and now it’s going to be the biggest hit of Clint Eastwood’s career. Actually it already is. Some day I’d like to read how Warner Bros. handled the rollout strategy. There’s a story there beyond showing people what they want to see.

I should be happy about this, by the way. A serious film will be the biggest hit of the year! When was the last time that happened? Something, in other words, that isn’t superheroes or cartoons or sci-fi fantasy? You’d have to go back all the way to 1998 when another war film, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” was the biggest hit of the year.

So I should be happy. Except how serious is “American Sniper”? I’d argue that it overlays a reductive Hollywood formula upon our most serious subject: the war on terror. I’d argue it’s doing as well as it is because it’s giving people the Iraq War they (and Pres. Bush) always imagined they’d fight, rather than the complicated one we wound up fighting. In “Saving Private Ryan,” one of the characters ironically recites Tennyson: “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die,” but in “American Sniper” that’s actually the movie—unironically. “American Sniper” doesn’t reason why. (My review here.)

Even so, what a fascinating few weeks at the box office. You can’t tell me Clint Eastwood isn’t hanging somewhere grinning over this. His late entry has stirred the pot again.

In other box office news, Jennifer Lopez had her best opening since “Monster in Law” in 2005, as “The Boy Next Door” (hot sex leads to stalking, per Hollywood) opened to $15 million and second place. The George Lucas-written cartoon “Strange Magic” had none, managing only $5 million in 3,020 theaters, while Johnny Depp’s latest foppish adventure, “Mortdecai,” flopped, grossing just $4 million. His reign is over.

Eastwood’s continues. 

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Posted at 09:35 AM on Jan 25, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday January 18, 2015

America Celebrates MLK Weekend by Flocking to 'American Sniper' in Record Numbers

American Sniper

On Thursday I participated in a discussion on Nathaniel Roger’s Film Experience site about interesting stats on the Oscar nominations, and for me it was all about box office. Its lack. The highest grossing best picture nominee, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” was only the 53rd highest-grossing movie of the year, and I didn’t see that changing. Someone else immediately piped up: “‘American Sniper’ could easily gross over $100 million.”

My response:

The last Clint Eastwood movie to gross more than $100 million was “Gran Torino,” which he starred in. Before that, it was “Million Dollar Baby,” which he co-starred in. None of the others since 2004 have broken $50 million.

Iraq War movies don’t do well at the box office, either.

“American Sniper” could be different. But I doubt it.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  

Expanding from four theaters to 3,555, Eastwood’s movie not only set a January box office record with a $90 million haul, it will easily become the highest-grossing movie of his career. Right now that’s “Gran Torino,” which grossed $148 million in 2008. “Sniper” might even surpass Eastwood’s biggest adjusted-for-inflation movie: “Every Which Way But Loose,” at $294 million.

More, it’s the biggest weekend of any winter movie, surpassing Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” which grossed $83 million in 2004.

“Sniper” obviously shares with “Passion” a conservative pedigree that brought out non-traditional moviegoers and stunned folks like me. I’m curious how Warner Bros. did it. Gibson relied on very public battles with folks, notably Frank Rich, before the movie opened, but I don’t think I’ve heard a peep from Eastwood. Was Chris Kyle’s book a best-seller? Or were folks just ready for an unapologetic movie about the war in Iraq and the greatest country on earth?

Here’s a triumphant John Nolte on the conservative Breitbart site:

The early estimates for director Clint Eastwood’s pro-War On Terror masterpiece “American Sniper” hovered around $40 million. Obviously our provincial box office gurus under-estimated the American people’s desire to see their warriors, wars, and country properly honored and honestly portrayed. In its wide-release debut, the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is estimated to hit $75 million.

He adds: 

God, family and country are box office bonanzas.

Race-hoaxes are box office embarrassments.

Gee, who would have ever guess that?

“Race hoaxes,” by the way, are Nolte’s words for “Selma,” the movie about MLK and the Voting Rights Act, which was dismissed by the Oscars on Thursday and now by moviegoers this weekend. It expanded to 2,235 theater but managed only $8.3 million and fifth place. On MLK weekend, Americans would rather see (12 times over) a movie about a man of war rather than a man of peace. Plus ca change.

They’d also rather see a silly comedy (Kevin Hart’s “The Wedding Ringer,” $21 million), a good British kids movie (“Paddington,” $19 million), and the second weekend of a Liam Neeson shoot-em-up (“Taken 3,” $14 million).

What didn’t they want to see? Michael Mann’s “Blackhat,” starring Chris Hemsworth, which grossed only $4 million in 2,567 theaters. Its themes of computer terrorism and global hacking are perhaps too close to the headlines, and what people fear, to provide the proper escapist fantasy.

Not “Sniper.” That’s the perfect escapist fantasy for a country that can’t get enough of it. My review here.

Enjoy MLK weekend. 

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Posted at 10:05 AM on Jan 18, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday January 11, 2015

'Taken 3' Takes Box Office, 'Selma' a Distant Second

Liam Neeson in Taken 3

Letting freedom ring.

America has a particular set of skills, and history isn’t one of them.

“Taken 3,” with a 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating, shot up everything at the box office this weekend, grossing $40 mil domestically. This is down from “Taken 2”’s take ($49 mil), but that film opened in October. The original debuted in January 2009 and raked in $24 mil on its way to $145. Don't expect that overall gross here. Instead, fast and furious. Short shelf life.  

“Selma,” expanding from 22 theaters to 2,179, was a distant second, earning $11 mil. I’m curious about the racial demographics of the audience on this one. Even “Ride Along,” last January’s “urban” comedy, opened to $41 mil. So many are willing to go to that, but no one wants to see the first feature-length film focusing on MLK? Or are they saving it for next weekend?

The rest of the top 10 took big hits. “The Woman in Black 2,” per the horror genre, dropped 68% and fell from 4th to 9th. “Hobbit,” “Unbroken,” “Night at the Museum,” “Annie” and “Hunger Games” all fell in the 50s. “Into the Woods,” in third place, did the best of hanging on: It dropped in the 40s.

BTW: the $4 mil “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” earned puts it within $4 mil of “Guardians of the Galaxy” for 2014’s biggest movie, domestically. Will probaby take 10-14 days to get there.

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Posted at 11:10 AM on Jan 11, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday January 04, 2015

Box Office: ‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death’ is the Biggest Movie of the Year!

Once again, a horror film has been released during the first weekend of the year, has done so-so business against December standouts, but is, for now, the biggest movie of the new year. Because no competition.

A year ago, it was “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” which grossed $18 on its way to $32 (and $90 worldwide). Two years ago, “Texas Chainsaw 3D did  $21 on its way to $34, and in 2012 “The Devil Inside” grossed $33 on its way to $53 (and $101 worldwide).

Consider it box-office stretching before the real competition begins.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of DeathAnd this year? “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” a sequel to the Feb. 2012 horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe, grossed $15 and finished in fourth place behind “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” ($21/$220 total) “Into the Woods” ($19/$91) and “Unbroken” ($18/$87)

So how did horror wind up with the first weekend of the year? I did a little digging.

From 1980 to 2005, it was rare when a new movie was mass-released this weekend. It just wasn’t worth it. If a movie was any good, you released it during December when the kids were out. If it wasn’t any good, you’d released it later in the month. Or in February. Or March. Or ...

Then in Jan. 1986, a Judge Reinhold comedy, “Head Office,” was released on the first weekend of the year. It finished eighth and grossed $1.9 million. A year later, they tried the Emilio Estevez/Brat Pack vanity project “Wisdom.” No go: 11th place and $1.9 million.

In the mid-90s they gave urban comedies a try. “The Air Up There” (Kevin Bacon recruits tall Africans to play basketball) finished in fifth place with $5.2 million in 1994. The year after, Sinbad was the “Houseguest”: $5.8, third place. So doing better. But urban comedies were soon pushed to later in the month. To honor MLK, I guess.

The new horror formula was hit upon in 2005 when “White Noise” (Michael Keaton tries to converse with the dead, not Don De Lillo) racked up $24 million and second place. In 2006, Eli Roth’s gross-fest “Hostel” actually won the weekend with $19 million. And a brave new world that has such people in it was born.

So meet the new year. Same as the old year.

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Posted at 12:34 PM on Jan 04, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday December 21, 2014

Weekend Box Office: America Declines Thirds, 'Annie'

Annie 2014

It's a hard-knock life for “Annie.” But maybe the sun will come out tomorrow? 

The weekend before Xmas is usually not a big box-office winner. Everyone’s too busy to go to the movies. But even by those standards this weekend was problematic.

The top two movies are both final chapters in a trilogy, and both underperformed compared to their predecessors.

Well, you could argue “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” It won the weekend with $56 million, down from last year’s “Desolation of Smaug” opening ($73 million) and 2012’s “Unexpected Journey” opening ($84 million), but this one, unlike those, opened on a Wednesday, so its weekend total was diluted. The five-day total is $90 million. That said, sequels, particularly final-chapter sequels, usually open bigger than the earlier chapters and that’s not happening here. Adjusted for inflation, “Five Armies” grossed in five days what “Unexpected Journey” did in three.

But it’s worse news for the “Night at the Museum” series:

Date Movie Open  Gross
Dec. 22, 2006 Night at the Museum $30.4 m $250 m
May 22, 2009 NATM: Battle of the Smithsonian $54.1 m $177 m
Dec. 19, 2014 NATM: Secret of the Tomb $17.3 m  ?

Side note: Is Ben Stiller done as a box-office attraction? “Walter Mitty” grossed $58 million last year, “The Watch” $35 million the year before—I know: complications with that one—“Tower Heist” $78 million in 2011. His last live-action movie to go over $100 mil was “Little Fockers” in 2010; but its $148 was down from the $279 million “Meet the Fockers” grossed in 2004.

Meanwhile, “Annie,” starring Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhane Wallis, debuted to bad reviews and $16.3 million for third place. Last weekend’s winner, Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” fell off by a Satanic 66.6% to gross only $8 million, while “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1” added another $7.7 million for fifth place. At $289 million domestic, it’s sputtering its way to $300 million when its predecessors both topped $400 million.

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Posted at 09:50 AM on Dec 21, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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