erik lundegaard

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Saturday September 10, 2016

The History of Clint Eastwood's Box Office

Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks

Harry and Woody make a movie.

The new Clint Eastwood movie, “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks, grossed $12 mil domestically on Friday and is heading for a $34 million opening, according to Box Office Mojo. That would make it the fourth-best open of Tom Hanks' career, unadjusted.

And Eastwood's?

It would be his biggest opening ever. By almost double.

Really? But what about as an actor? A star.

The same. By almost double.

This should've been a trivia question, really. Before “Sully,” the biggest opener of Clint Eastwood's career, as both actor and director, was ... wait for it ... “Space Cowboys,” which grossed $18 mil in 2000. Second as actor is “In the Line of Fire,” with $15.2 in 1993. Second as director (and third as actor) is “Unforgiven,” which opened to $15 mil in 1992.

It's all a little scrimpy and stunning. That's his best? Clint Eastwood? 

But when you step back a bit, it makes sense. 

Eastwood's heyday as a box office star really occurred in the 1970s (and a bit in the early 1990s), when ticket prices were a fraction of what they are now, and opening weekend wasn't the thing it is now. Meanwhile, in the 21st century, he's made more prestige pictures, which open in a handful of theaters in NY and LA and then build and find an audience. Even “Gran Torino,” which grossed a total of $148 mil in 2008, and was, by all accounts, a classic revenge flick (Dirty Harry's “get off my lawn” movie), opened in only six theaters before finally expanding.

So if you look at total gross, I'm sure you'll find some bigger numbers. 

Not really. As an actor, Eastwood's biggest box office hit is that same old “Gran Torino” and its $148 mil. Which is “Kung Fu Panda 3” territory. 

Right. Unadjusted. But if you adjust for inflation, I'm sure it'll be something huge. 

Yes and no. Even when you adjust for inflation, Eastwood's biggest hit as an actor is “Every Which Way But Loose,” his first orangutan movie, which made $85 mil in '78 or $315 today. And $315 is about what “Suicide Squad” will end up making this year. So Eastwood's biggest hit is on par with a very, very lame superhero flick. I thought he was way bigger than that. But I guess he just kept going. And he had a loyal audience. They just kept returning. 

Here are his top 10 highest-grossing movies as an actor, adjusted for inflation: 

Rank Movie Studio Adjusted Gross Unadjusted Gross Release
1 Every Which Way But Loose WB $315,299,800 $85,196,485 12/20/78
2 Any Which Way You Can WB $227,565,900 $70,687,344 12/17/80
3 In the Line of Fire Col. $214,020,900 $102,314,823 7/9/93
4 Unforgiven WB $211,221,800 $101,157,447 8/7/92
5 Magnum Force WB $194,571,100 $39,768,000 12/25/73
6 Dirty Harry WB $188,819,500 $35,976,000 12/22/71
7 The Enforcer WB $187,983,000 $46,236,000 12/22/76
8 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly UA $181,138,300 $25,100,000 12/29/67
9 Sudden Impact WB $180,201,300 $67,642,693 12/9/83
10 Gran Torino WB $172,003,500 $148,095,302 12/12/08

As director, his biggest hit is a little more recent: “American Sniper,” which opened in four theaters in late December 2014 before absolutely killing it at the box office, and suprassing the last “Hunger Games” to become the biggest movie of 2014: $350 million. It's the only movie Eastwood has directed or starred in that was the No. 1 movie of the year.  

That was at age 84. And “Sully” is at age 86. To me, that makes Clint Eastwood more of a hero than anything he ever did as Dirty Harry.

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Posted at 11:24 AM on Sep 10, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday September 04, 2016

Box Office: Laborious Weekend

Morgan movie

Want some alone-time? See “Morgan” this weekend!

I don't get why more people don't go to the movies on Labor Day weekend. How is it different than any other three-day weekend, which can draw big bucks? MLK has “American Sniper”* ($107 mil), President's Day “Deadpool” ($152), Memorial Day “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” ($139). And Labor Day? The 2007, extremely forgetable version of “Halloween” ($30).

(*BTW: Am I the only one who finds it hugely embarrassing that the biggest movie to play on MLK weekend was called “American Sniper”?)

I assume Hollywood doesn't open shit during this time for a reason. They must know we're tapped out or something, but I'm not sure why that is. Why not one last fling before school (traditionally) starts? Weather often cooperates. 

Well, here we are again. Brad Brevet over at Box Office Mojo says the top 12 films this weekend grossed $75 mil, which is 24% less than last weekend, and even 13% less than last year's Labor Day weekend. So this is one of our most laborious Labor Day weekends. It's also the stinkiest box office of the year by about $8 mil.

Last weekend's horror flick “Don't Breathe” won the weekend again with $15.7, followed by the fifth weekend of “Suicide Squad” with $10, and the fourth weekend of “Pete's Dragon” with $6.

Of the openers, the 1920s-era melodrama, “The Light Between Oceans,” did best, finishing in sixth place with $4.9 mil in 1500 theaters, followed by the Mexican comedy “No Manches Frida” ($3.6 mil in 362 thtrs, 12th place), followed by the sci-fi horror film “Morgan” ($1.9 mil in 2,020 thtrs, 17th place). 

Wait. $1.9 in 2,020? That's pretty bad. 

How bad? This bad. It's a chart of the lowest opening grosses for any film that opened in more than 2,000 theaters:

  MOVIE Opening Gross Thtrs  Date
1 Oogieloves In The BIG Balloon Adventure $443,901 2,160 8/29/12
2 Delgo $511,920 2,160 12/12/08
3 Saw (10th Anniversary) $650,051 2,063 10/31/14
4 Jem and the Holograms $1,375,320 2,413 10/23/15
5 Rock The Kasbah $1,470,592 2,012 10/23/15
6 We Are Your Friends $1,767,308 2,333 8/28/15
7 Morgan $1,960,000 2,020  9/2/16

Not the company you want to keep. Why? It got negative reviews on RT, but I assume it's something else. I assume people who wanted to watch a sci-fi/horror story about a girl-figure with great powers simply turned to Netflix. 

Patricia and I watched “Stranger Things” during the week, and yesterday went to see “Hell or High Water” at the Cinerama in downtown Seattle. It's currently at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and while it's not 98% good, it's pretty damn good. Particularly given the options. But I don't think much of it will stick with me.  

Next weekend, Clint Eastwood's “Sully” arrives, followed a week later by Oliver Stone's “Snowden.” Too bad they're not going head to head.

Posted at 11:56 AM on Sep 04, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday August 22, 2016

Box Office: 'Ben-Hur' Crashes

Ben-Hur 2016

Scream all you want.

Well, that sucks. 

“Suicide Squad” dropped another 52% to $20 mil, which would've been third place two weekends ago and fourth place last weekend, but this weekend it's good enough for first. “Sausage Party,” the raunchy, anthropo-mocking animated film from Seth Rogen and company, came in second with $15 mil. In its second weekend, it dropped 55%.

None of the new big releases did well:

  • “War Dogs”: $14.3 mil, 3rd place
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”: $12.6, 4th place
  • “Ben-Hur”: $11.3, 5th place*

This last is the shocker. The film got so-so reviews, but I heard the filmmakers heaped on the Christianity to get out the faithful. Didn't work. The movie that was the second-biggest box-office smash of the 1950s (after “Ten Commandments,” $848 million adjusted) couldn't even win its late-August opening weekend in 2016. It finished in fifth place.*  

I've said it before: a religious movie alone doesn't cut it (see: “The Nativity”). To become a hit, it has to become embroiled in the culture wars (“Passion of the Christ”; “God's Not Dead”). Being devout is all well and good, but the faithful want to rub someone's nose in it—Hollywood's, if it can. I suppose they just did. 

Anyway, I'm bummed “Suicide Squad” is still humming along. Two weeks ago I predicted it would top out at $270, but now it's at $262. Where will it stop? $300, more likely. Short of that, if we're lucky. Last week I had dinner with a friend who was a fan. Or at least he saw “Suicide Squad” and liked it enough. I brought up a few of the issues I had with the film, its overwhelming stupidity, that it's just chunks of story placed together without thought for what connects them. I brought up the scene where Deadshot has to prove himself to Flag by firing weapon after weapon at cardboard cutouts. Why does he have to prove himself? Isn't Flag an underling? Isn't Waller the boss? Why does nobody else have to prove himself? And isn't it a little dangerous to be giving all of these weapons to this stone-cold killer—particularly with the sadistic guard he wants to kill right next to him? “Sure,” my friend said. “When you think about this stuff afterwards.” “No,” I said. “I think about it during. That's why it's painful.”

* ADDENDUM: The actuals have come in, and “Ben-Hur” actually finished in sixth place. Same gross but “Pete's Dragon” surpassed it. 

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Posted at 06:49 AM on Aug 22, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday August 14, 2016

Box Office: 'Suicide Squad' Drops But Not Epically

Suicide Squad

This thing still. 

Last week I said I expected “Suicide Squad” to take a big fall, and it did, 67.3%, but it wasn't an epic fall. I wanted it to be record-breaking to break Zack Snyder's stranglehold on Warner Bros. To save us all from more of this.

“Squad” still won the weekend with another $43 mil, bringing its domestic total to $222 and its worldwide to $465. 

These are the biggest drops for movies that opened in > 4,000 theaters:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 $169 $47 -72.00% 4,375 $381
The Twilight Saga: New Moon $142 $42 -70.00% 4,042 $296
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 $138 $41 -69.80% 4,066 $281
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 $141 $43 -69.10% 4,070 $292
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $166 $51 -69.10% 4,256 $330
X-Men Origins: Wolverine $85 $26 -69.00% 4,102 $179
Fantastic Four $25 $8 -68.20% 4,004 $56
Suicide Squad $133 $43 -67.30% 4,255 $222

* in millons

Mostly “Twilight” movies and shitty superhero flicks. Not a good crew to be associated with. And I still say it won't break $300 domestic. 

“Sausage Party,” the R-rated animated movie from Seth Rogen, et al., came in second with $33 mil. Trailer here. It's all about taking anthropomorphized kiddie cartoons to their logical end. Anyone see it? Looks good. And 82% on RT. 

“Pete's Dragon,” also well-reviewed (86%), came in third with $21 mil. 

The new August Meryl Streep movie, even better reviewed (87%), came in eighth with $6.5 mil (but in only 1,500 theaters). 

Good options, people chose shit. WOTW.

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Posted at 01:23 PM on Aug 14, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday August 08, 2016

Box Office: 'Suicide Squad' Blasts Through Negative Reviews to Gross $135 Million

 Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn

Last laugh? Maybe not.


“Suicide Squad” was so universally panned that fanboys wanted to shut down the Rotten Tomatoes site, where its shame, its 26% rating, was visible for all to see. But the American moviegoer, or at least those fanboys, still came out in droves. The David Ayer-directed supervillain slash-em-up/blow-em-away grossed $135 million domestically (and $132 abroad), which, if it holds, is our 19th-biggest opener ever.

So the critics lose again, right? Haw haw on us?

Yes and no. 

As I was pondering “Suicide”'s numbers, I casually wondered whether any movie that had grossed more on opening weekend had a lower RT rating. Yes, it turns out: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” which grossed $138 million domestically during its Nov. 2011 opening weekend despite a 24% rating. 

As I was putting together this info, I also noticed something that should be obvious to everyone by now: Blockbusters with low RT ratings tend to have shorter legs than blockbusters with high RT ratings. 

Here's a chart of the 20 highest-grossing openers of all time (sans “Suicide”) sorted by their Rotten Tomatoes rating:

Rnk  Movie Opening $$ RT% Open % 
7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 $169,189,427 96% 44.4%
10 The Dark Knight $158,411,483 94% 29.7%
20 Finding Dory $135,060,273 94% 28.5%
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens $247,966,675 92% 26.5%
3 Marvel's The Avengers $207,438,708 92% 33.3%
5 Captain America: Civil War $179,139,142 90% 44.0%
11 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $158,074,286 89% 37.2%
9 The Dark Knight Rises $160,887,295 87% 35.9%
12 The Hunger Games $152,535,747 84% 37.4%
6 Iron Man 3 $174,144,585 79% 42.6%
14 Furious 7 $147,187,040 79% 41.7%
4 Avengers: Age of Ultron $191,271,109 75% 41.7%
2 Jurassic World $208,806,270 71% 32.0%
13 Spider-Man 3 $151,116,516 63%* 44.9%
18 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $135,634,554 54% 32.0%
16 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 $141,067,634 49% 48.3%
15 The Twilight Saga: New Moon $142,839,137 28% 48.2%
8 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $166,007,347 27% 50.3%
17 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 $138,122,261 24% 49.1%

* Yeah, I can't believe “Spider-Man 3” got a fresh rating, either.

That last column is the percentage a movie's opening gross contributed to its overall gross. You want a low number there; it means your movie lasted. It didn't nova and then die. And generally, the lower the RT rating, the higher that percentage.

A fresh blockbuster (> 60%) makes an average of 37% of its total gross during its opening weekend; a rotten one, 45.5%. The extremes are even more extreme. A blockbuster in the 90s makes about one-third of its total gross in the first three days; a blockbuster in the 20s like “Suicide Squad”? Half. They make noise for three days, then crickets. 

Here are two recent examples. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the biggest opener ever: $247 million. But it got great reviews, great word-of-mouth, and grossed nearly four times that: $936 million. “Batman v Superman” is the eighth-biggest opener ever: $166 million. But it got shitty reviews, shittier word of mouth, and grossed just twice that: $330.

If “Star Wars” had grossed just twice its opening, it would've stopped shy of half a billion rather than bumping up against a billion. The difference between a good and bad blockbuster can be half a billion dollars. And that's just domestically. 

So for “Suicide” and its shitty 26% rating, I expect to see a big dropoff next weekend, and a total domestic gross of around $270 million. Which ain't victory for critics; but it ain't exactly victory for Warner Bros. either. 

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Posted at 05:39 AM on Aug 08, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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