erik lundegaard


Movies - Box Office posts

Sunday November 12, 2023

'The Marvels' Less-Than-Marvelous Opening

“The Marvels” didn't exactly crackle with energy at the box office.

The last time a Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel movie opened, it was March 2019, in the midst of the Avengers-Thanos wars. Half the universe, including Black Panther and Spider-Man, had already been snapped out of existence and we didn't know how we would get them back. We would find out in May. “Captain Marvel” was a prequel but it was the last chance to see an MCU movie before the big battle, and many jumped. It grossed $153 million opening weekend.

This weekend, its sequel, “The Marvels” opened to $47 million.

How low is that? The lowest opener for an MCU movie has always been the second in the series, “The Incredible Hulk,” with Ed Norton rather than Mark Ruffalo in the lead, way back in 2008: $55 million. And that was 2008 dollars. Adjusted, that's now closer to $80 million. So $47 million is ... not good. I'm sure everyone at Marvel and Disney are scrambling for answers. I'm sure pundits and critics will provide their own. Among the suspects:

  • Superhero oversaturation. There's just too many of these damn things. That's what my wife said when I asked her about her interest in “The Marvels.” (Her interest was zero.)
  • Tepid critic response. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 62%, which doesn't exactly make you want to dash out in November weather to see it.
  • Is this even a popular character? This could be 1970s me talking, but this version of Captain Marvel, originally called Ms. Marvel, isn't iconic in the way that Spider-Man or Hulk or Captain America are.
  • Is she even a character? How would you describe her personality? I'm not sure. You understand who Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Natasha Romanova, et al., ARE. All I know of Carol Danvers is she's a former test pilot from the 1990s who's now, somehow, one of the most powerful beings in the universe. But what's the hook? Where's the personality?
  • Misogyny. That's the excuse I've been reading on social media. Which doesn't explain “Barbie” or Taylor Swift box office. Maybe it's suggesting that the comic dudes who always go to these things opening weekend should also go to this OR they're misogynist? That it's up to them and not the women who made “Barbie” and Taylor the box office stories of the year? 
  • We've lost the thread. This dovetails with the first about oversaturation. Because it's not just movies; it's TV shows. The other Marvels depicted above have appeared in Disney+ shows, right? Didn't one of them have her own show while the other figured into the “WandaVision” thing? But to what end? I don't know what's going on anymore.
  • Identity politics is all well and fine, John, but you'll never make a living with it. It feels like Marvel feels like it's enough that they have Black and Indian characters to go with the white one, and they're all female, and rah, and it's not. You need the other stuff. You need a thread, and you need personality, and you need to give us a reason to go out into the November weather. And I don't know if “The Marvels” had any of that.

It still won the weekend, of course. In second place was the third weekend of “Five Nights at Freddy's” ($9 million --> $127), and then the fifth weekend of Taylor Swift ($5.9 --> $172). Then the arthouse stuff: “Priscilla” ($4.7/$12.7), “Killers of the Flower Moon” ($4.6/$59.9), and the Alexander Payne/Paul Giamatti reunion “The Holdovers” ($3.2/$4.2). I want to see “The Holdovers.” We'll probably go this week.

What does all of this mean in the long run? More movies like those last three? Doubtful. “Marvels” still swamped them in per-theater average. But maybe we'll begin to get a greater search for what the next phase might be. I would love to think it was serious films but I don't think we're a very serious country or a very serious world. 

Posted at 01:05 PM on Sunday November 12, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday October 15, 2023

Box Office: Swift Rise

Before this weekend, the biggest domestic opening for a concert film belonged to “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert,” which grossed $31 mil over three days back in Feb. 2008, on its way to a $65 million haul.

Before this weekend, the biggest domestic haul for a concert film belonged to “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” which took in $73 million during the early months of 2011.

Both records were shattered this weekend by Taylor Swift and her Eras Tour film, which has taken in (or is taking in) an estimated $95-$97 million in North America over three days.

And where she stops nobody knows.

Does it help or hurt that the movie didn't have any major studio involvement? She had it distributed via AMC Theaters, which is also obviously an exhibitor. Yesterday, checking which films were out there, I noticed the listings for AMC Pacific Place 11 in downtown Seattle seemed thin. That's because more than half the theaters were showing “The Eras Tour.” If you went to Pac Place, there were 21 viewings of Taylor Swift and 18 viewings of the other six movies playing.

(So why doesn't U.S. v. Paramount (1948) come into play? I believe in that case SCOTUS separated production from exhibition, not distribution. So it's cool.)

In second and fourth place at the domestic box office were some horror retreads: the second weekend of “The Exorcist: Believer,” which added $11 million for a $45 million gross; and the third weekend of “Saw X,” which added $5.7 for a $44 million domestic total. In third place was the third weekend of “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” ($7/$49). 

So another medium conquered by Taylor Swift. Apparently it's a good film, too—100% on Rotten Tomatoes. But that list of big box-office concert films, at least the music portion of it, feels like another film festival in Hell to me. It's the lastest white teen craze (Bieber, Cyrus, One Direction, Katy Perry, Joan Brothers), or the latest Black standup star (Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Kevin Hart), with Micheal Jackson (“This Is It”) in between. I've seen the Michael (Second overall, or third now). Also Madonna's “Truth or Dare” (14th), “U2: Rattle and Hum” (19th), “Shine a Light” (22nd), “Stop Making Sense” (23rd). 

Anyway, Taylor seems like an improvement over Miley or Justin.

Posted at 11:48 AM on Sunday October 15, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Monday July 24, 2023

Box Office: 'Barbie' Shatters the Glass Ceiling

Yesterday I was returning from the Olympic peninsula on a mid-morning ferry loaded with Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays fans arriving way early for the 1:10 game; but I also noticed a few women and girls glitzed up in pink and shiny baubles and taking selfies. I figured—unless they were arriving super early for the evening's Taylor Swift show—that they were heading downtown to see Greta Gerwig's “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie. Indeed, that's why I was traveling alone. My wife stayed behind an extra day to see the film with her sister-in-law at the Rose Theater in Port Townsend. Her toenails were painted pink in honor.

So I got some sense of the groundswell of support before finding out, via Box Office Mojo, that “Barbie” topped the weekend with a $162 million haul. That's the 20th-best ever, unadjusted, and fourth-best since the pandemic all but destroyed the movie-theater industry—while the three ahead of it are the usual super-powered suspects: Spidey, Doctor Strange and Wakanda. Which, right, makes “Barbie” the biggest opener of the year. It did what Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, The Little Mermaid, Flash and Transformers couldn't: Got people to the movie theater in droves.

As for the other half of the “Barbenheimer” weekend? Chris Nolan's “Oppenheimer” opened to $82 million. Some IMAX shows are sold out until August. 

All of which is good news for people like me who like watching movies in theaters, and who wouldn't mind something besides superhero movies now and again.

I'd love to see how the opening weekend of “Oppenheimer” stacks up against other biopics, or against other films with a 3-hour runtime. You used to be able to get that kind of info on Box Office Mojo. Then Amazon bought it and enshittified it. Now it's a battle to just find all-time opening weekends. (For the record: Go to the “All-Time” tab, then the “Weekend Records” tab, and it's the third one down—but after “Biggest Second Weekend Drops” and “Largest Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Drops.” That's right, they alphabetized it. Because who doesn't want to know which movies performed poorly the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend? That's like a weekly conversation for me.) 

In third place with $19.8 million is the third weekend of “Sound of Freedom,” that right-wing, anti-Hollywood Angels Studio production starring a blonde-haired Jim Caviezel in “the incredible true story of a former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers,” per IMDb. It's done gangbusters business, thus far outdoing Cruise's seventh(?) turn as Ethan Hunt: $124 million in three weeks vs. $118 in two. Cruise came in fourth: $19.3. Rounding out the top 5: “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” with $6.6 mil for a $158 domestic total.   

It is pretty amazing what three days of “Barbie” has already walloped: Not just four weeks of Indy and two of Ethan but the domestic runs of “Creed” ($156), “Transformers” ($155), “Fast X” ($145), and “The Flash” ($107). The Old Boys Club ain't what it used to be. 

Posted at 07:08 PM on Monday July 24, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Thursday June 22, 2023

Costner: 'It's Not Just About That Opening Weekend'

“A lot of times, the industry tells itself what happens on its opening weekend is what a movie is about. It's not just about that opening weekend. It's about 30 years from now. Movies have a chance to change us forever.”

-- Kevin Costsner, “100 Years of Warner Bros.,” on HBO Max, as scenes from “Blade Runner” play (ironically, given what WB did to the original release). I don't know about “Blade Runner” but fuck yeah to this quote. A thousand times this quote. And not just for movie but for everything. Look past this moment, this quarter, and at the big picture. The big picture that includes all of us. 

Posted at 10:16 AM on Thursday June 22, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday June 18, 2023

Box Office: Flash Doesn't Exactly Zip Out of the Gate

The DC Extended Universe or DCEU is ending not with a bang or a whimper but more of an audience shrug. Deservedly. For an extended universe, they never really extended themselves. I mean, these are the movies:

Look at that. They had the most popular superheroes in the world and kept returning to bit players. They went “Suicide Squad” third, before Wonder Woman or Aquaman, and then kept giving it to us. Somebody had to make that decision. So much of their strategy seemed to be: “Well, that didn't work ... so let's try it again.” And the universes never really intermingled. Maybe a cameo here or there, but “Suicide Squad” was its own thing, “Shazam” was its own thing. And boiled down, it makes no sense:

  • 3: Suicide Squad
  • 3: Shazam/Black Adam
  • 2 Wonder Woman
  • 2 Aquaman
  • 1.5 Superman
  • 1 Justice League
  • .5 Batman

And now, finally, “Flash” arrives a year after its star, Ezra Miller, kept getting arrested. (The Times has a good rundown of the charges; it's a little sad but less problematic than the initial headlines.)

But yes, “Flash,” the Fastest Man Alive, arrives late. He arrives last. That is so DCEU.

It did OK, $55 million opening weekend, but that's not OK when you consider the return of Michael Keaton's Batman. I attribute the soft box office to Ezra's issues and Zack screwing up the DCEU from the get-go. Fool me 10 times, shame on me. Plus if you're in the know, you know that the EU is in fact ending. Quickly. James Gunn is taking over and trying a new DCU. These are sale items. They need to empty the shelves.

So how does that $55 mil compare with other DCEU movies? Not great, but not horribly for recent ones:

2013 Man of Steel $116 $291
2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $166 $330
2016 Suicide Squad $133 $325
2017 Wonder Woman $103 $412
2017 Justice League $93 $229
2018 Aquaman $67 $334
2019 Shazam! $53 $140
2020 Birds of Prey $33 $84
2020 Wonder Woman 1984 $1 $46
2021 The Suicide Squad $26 $55
2022 Black Adam $67 $168
2023 Shazam! Fury of the Gods $30 $57
2023 The Flash $55  

Grey = pandemic-era

I remember when “Man of Steel” opened with a mere $116 and I was bummed. Shouldn't it be higher? Well, that turned out to be the third-highest opener for a DCEU flick. And yes, COVID hurt, particularly “Wonder Woman 1984,” which I think would've opened well since there were such good vibes from the first one. But Zack hit before the pandemic did. Zack hurt before COVID did. 

“Elemental,” a Pixar flick, opened second with $29. That feels soft, but then the reviews were soft: 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Or—I should say—the reviews were soft for a Pixar flick. If it stays there, it'll be Pixar's fifth-worst RT score.

The third weekend of “Spider-Verse” fell off by 50% ($27.8) for third, and the second weekend of the latest “Transformers” crap was fourth ($20), falling off 67%.  

Posted at 05:22 PM on Sunday June 18, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday June 11, 2023

'Transformers' Returns w/ So-So Box Office

I don't think the COVID pandemic gets enough credit for its positives—such as limiting the number of “Transformers” movies we're subjected to. We used to get one every 2-3 years, but the latest, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” is the first since 2018's “Bumblebee,” which itself was a kind of spinoff. The last time we had a true “Transformers, colon” movie was in 2017: “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Alas, it wasn't the last. 

Of course, the drop off might've happened anyway. The series was fading at the box office.

2007 Transformers Shia  Megan Fox $70 $319 3 $709
2009 Revenge of the Fallen Shia Megan Fox $109 $402 2 $836
2011 Dark of the Moon Shia R. Huntington-Whiteley $97 $352 2 $1,123
2014 Age of Extinction Marky N. Peltz Beckham $100 $245 7 $1,104
2017 The Last Knight Marky Laura Haddock $44 $130 24 $605
2018 Bumblebee Hailee John Cena $21 $127 25 $468
2023 Rise of the Beasts A. Ramos ??? $60      

* Annual ranking at domestic box office

“Beasts,” starring “Hamilton”'s John Laurens, opened better than the two most recent “Transformers,” but even unadjusted it's nowhere near the box-office powerhouse it once was. One assumes its Millennial fanbase, which grew up on the '80s cartoon, has aged out of the moviegoing demographic and hasn't been easily replaced, since, for the rest of us, the series has always been a WTF proposition. Wait, they're what? And pretend to be what? And have been around for how long? And there's evil ones? And they're all really from another pla-- Fuck it, I'm outta here. It's the stupidity, stupid, and everyone just got tired. The first had a nearly positive Rotten Tomatoes rating (57%) but it was all downhill from there, except for the Hailee Steinfeld one, which was hailed by critics (91%), and then, as if to underline how little its audience wants that (not to mention smart female leads), promptly died at the box office.

Man, I remember the early days of this blog when I would rail against “Revenge of the Fallen”'s dominance at the summer box office as if democracy itself depended upon it. As if the popularity of something this stupid meant that someday we might be dumb enough to do something really stupid—like, I don't know, elect an evil game-show host president of the United States.

No. 2 at the box office was the second weekend of the second “Spider-Verse” movie, at $55 million, a not-bad 54% dropoff. No. 3 was the third weekend of “Little Mermaid” ($22), followed by the sixth weekend of “Guardians Vol. 3” ($7). “Guardians” is currently No. 2 for the year at $335, a fer piece behind “Super Mario Bros.”'s $570.

Posted at 12:08 PM on Sunday June 11, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday June 04, 2023

Box Office: 'Across the Spider-Verse' Opens at $120

In 2017, when “Spider-Man: Homecoming” opened at $117 million domestically, I went “Meh.” This weekend, when I found out that “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is opening at an estimated $120 million, I'm all: WOW!

A pandemic will change you like that.

Alright so it's not just the pandemic. “Homecoming” was the opening salvo of the third iteration of live-action Spider-Man movies, and live-action Spider-Man movies used to break box-office records: 1 and 3 (first iteration) were the biggest openers ever up to that point. Hell, the first was the first to cross the $100 million barrier. It was an event. So when the third iteration opened as merely the 29th biggest opener ever, it was a bit of a shrug.

“Spider-Verse,” meanwhile is a cartoon, and so seems, I don't know, less adult. The first one in 2018 only opened at $35 million—a fraction of what live-action Spideys brought in. But it was diverse and critically acclaimed and gained adherents once it began streaming. Plus it was the first superhero movie (right?) to bring universes together, which is the great plotline of 2020s superhero cinema—not to mention Oscar-winning movies—so I guess that's why we got this. “Across the Spider-Verse” is the lucky 13th film to open north of $100 million since the pandemic began. It's also the second-biggest opening of the year—after another cartoon, “Super Mario Bros.,” in April—and the third biggest opening ever for a Spidey movie.

Here's a chart of those openings. Keep in mind that three of them (“Spider-Man 2,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and “Far from Home”) didn't open on a Friday but on the Tuesday or Wednesday before July 4, so their “weekend” numbers are skewed. The first RNK column is where the movie's opening ranked at the time of its release; the second is where it ranks now:

2021 Spider-Man: No Way Home $260 $804 2 2
2007 Spider-Man 3 $151 $336 1 26
2023 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse $120 n/a 52 52
2017 Spider-Man: Homecoming $117 $334 29 54
2002 Spider-Man $114 $403 1 58
2019 Spider-Man: Far from Home* $92 $390   85
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 $91 $202 33 87
2004 Spider-Man 2* $88 $373 7 98
2012 The Amazing Spider-Man* $62 $262   188
2018 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse $35 $190   470 

Either way, that's a lot of web-slinging. Probably too much. What stories aren't being told because we don't want to hear them?

Posted at 12:21 PM on Sunday June 04, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Monday May 29, 2023

Box Office: The Post-Pandemic $100 Million Openers

This is more for me than you—unless you're curious about it like I am—but here are the movies with $100 million domestic openings since the pandemic:

Rank* Movie Opening Total Date
2 Spider-Man: No Way Home $260 $804 Dec. 2021
11 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness $187 $411 May 2022
13 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $181 $453 Nov. 2022
30 The Super Mario Bros. Movie $146 $552** April 2023
31 Jurassic World: Dominion $145 $376 June 2022
32 Thor: Love and Thunder $144 $343 July 2022
38 Avatar: The Way of Water $134 $684 Dec. 2022
39 The Batman $134 $369 Mar. 2022
44 Top Gun: Maverick $126 $718 May 2022
52 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 $118 $304** May 2023
63 Minions: The Rise of Gru $107 $369 July 2022
64 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania $106 $214 Feb. 2023

* I.e., its rank among all-time openers
** And counting

Obviously none in 2020 and just one in 2021—at the tail end—but that one was a doozy. Last year, though, there were eight. Eight! That seems like a lot. Is it? Here are the number of $100 million domestic openings prior to Covid:

  • 2019: 6
  • 2018: 5
  • 2017: 7
  • 2016: 8
  • 2015: 6

So, like St. George Costanza, are we back, baby? Not quite. Actually not even close. Total domestic box office eclipsed $10 billion in 2009, reached highs of $11.8 and $11.3 billion in 2018-19, then plummeted to $2.1 billion during our first, shuttered year. It's been rising slowly since: $4.4 billion in 2021, $7.3 billion in 2022 and $3.3 so far this year. Not bad, but nothing approaching 11 digits. Plus higher ticket prices means we're actually talking fewer asses in seats. Plus, based on the above, I'd wager many of those asses are the same ones over and over again. I.e., if you come out for opening weekend of “Doctor Strange” you probably do the same for “Thor” and “Black Panther” and all of it. I do worry what happens if we tire of superhero flicks the way we tired of westerns. I don't know what comes next. Superheroes are basically supercharged John Waynes, and is there anything beyond supercharged John Waynes? I don't have the imagination for that. I just have the imagination to see more theaters shuttered forever. 

This weekend, Disney's live-action “Little Mermaid” nearly became the 13th post-pandemic $100 million opener but it topped out at $95 (sans Memorial Day). The second weekend of “Fast X” grossed another $23, the fourth weekend of “Guardians 3” added $19, the eighth weekend of “Super Mario” $6. Among the smaller openers, “The Machine” (topless standup Bert Kreischer) grossed $4.9, “About My Father” with Robert De Niro $4.2, “Kandahar” $2.4, and Nicole Holofcener's “You Hurt My Feelings” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus $1.3.

Posted at 02:07 PM on Monday May 29, 2023 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Saturday December 10, 2022

Brooks Was (A Dick) Here. Again.

There was an article in the New York Times yesterday about the poor box office of Oscar films, and since that used to be one of my bailiwicks (box office, Oscars, the twain), and since I totally lost the thread during the pandemic, I checked it out. Then I saw the byline.

Oh right, Brooks Barnes. He still doing this? 

Yes, he, is.

The article is about how serious films, released this November, are doing horribly at the box office. It's sad. No one is going to see “Tar” or “Armeggedon Time” or even Steven Spielberg's “The Fabelmans.” And I'm one of them. Of course, I was sick with COVID for most of the month.

Barnes, though, implies that the poor box office can no longer be blamed on the pandemic. Or he claims that Hollywood insiders feel that:

But studios held out hope, deciding that November 2022 would give a more accurate reading of the marketplace. By then, the coronavirus would not be such a complicating factor. This fall would be a “last stand,” as some put it, a chance to show that more than superheroes and sequels could succeed.

Except ... When did they think this? A year ago? Do they still think it? I mean, isn't COVID still complicating things? Particularly with the demographic (older, smarter) that tends to see prestige pictures in theaters?

So my antannae were already up. Something felt wrong. And then Barnes lays this graf on us: 

This is about more than money: Hollywood sees the shift as an affront to its identity. Film power players have long clung to the fantasy that the cultural world revolves around them, as if it were 1940. But that delusion is hard to sustain when their lone measuring stick — bodies in seats — reveals that the masses can't be bothered to come watch the films that they prize most.

How do you even unpack a paragraph like that? First, he's ascribing a monolithic personality to a hugely mulitfaceted entity—Hollywood—and then he's critiquing that monolithic personality. I don't think anyone in Hollywood is saying, “Yeah, we're clinging to the fantasy that the cultural world revolves around us like it's still 1940.” That's Barnes' reading. Basically, he's slamming people who are just trying to make a few good, serious movies during turbulent times. 

What. A. Dick.

Barnes has a long history of disparaging movies he thinks are hifalutin (“Up”) and cheering on movies he think are not (“The Emoji Movie”), and I guess this is that writ large. But the Times should be better. 

The sad part is I like most of the article. Later in the piece, we hear from film scholar Jeanine Basinger, who says, “When films are too introspective, as many of these Oscar ones now are, the audience gets forgotten about. ... When I think about going out to see misery and degradation and racism and all the other things that are wrong with our lives, I'm too depressed to put on my coat.” I couldn't agree more. This is something I've long argued about serious Hollywood films. Serious used to be more fun. Make it more fun again.

The bigger question is whether the demographic who tend to see serious films in theaters would rather just stream them now. I wouldn't be surprised if we've lost a percentage of those folks. Me, I miss going to theaters.

Posted at 09:21 AM on Saturday December 10, 2022 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday March 06, 2022

Box Office: 'The Batman' Has the Second-Biggest Opening of the Decade

Normally a $128 million opening weekend for a Grade-A superhero movie would be OK but kind of meh. Put it this way: It's $30 million less (unadjusted) than “The Dark Knight” grossed in 2008.

But obviously we're not in normal times. This haul for “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson is in fact the second-biggest opener of the decade. Plus, even without the spectre of COVID, you'd expect some sort of Bat-fatigue. In the last 17 years, there have been three Christian Bale Batman movies and Ben Affleck has played him in three other films—and apparently in the upcoming “Flash” movie, too. We know how his parents die. We've seen it again and again and again. Now this third 21st-century reboot? With a third Batman, a third Alfred, a third Commissioner Gordon?

And yet ... $128 mil. The reviews probably helped: 85% on RT

“Uncharted,” starring Tom Holland, came in second with $11 mil for a domestic total of $100. Channing Tatum's PTSD “Dog” came in third ($6/$40) while “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was fourth ($4/$786). That $786 million for Spidey is No. 3 all-time domestic.

Anyway, it's a sign of a kind of normalcy. I'll take it. 

Posted at 05:05 PM on Sunday March 06, 2022 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday February 06, 2022

Box Office Returns: Spider-Man vs. China

Once upon a time I did a regular box office post on Sundays. Then Covid. The last one I did, March 29, 2020, was called “No Time to Die,” and included a photo of the shuttered Uptown Theater in Minneapolis and “I ASSURE YOU WE'RE NOT OPEN” displayed on the marquee. A month before that I had a post, “Coronavirus Shutters Chinese Theaters,” which now reads incredibly short-sighted to me. I can't believe it took me that long to figure out why Chinese movie theaters were closed—and with no inkling that U.S. theaters and the rest of the world would soon be next.

All this time I haven't been paying much attention to movie box office. Here's the big picture of what I missed:

  • China had the No. 1 worldwide box-office hit in 2020, “The Eight Hundred,” about a small group of Chinese soldiers who battle the Japanese Army in 1937 Shanghai. Well, “worldwide.” It grossed $460 million in China and $1 million in the rest of the world—and most of that, one assumes, from the Chinese diaspora. Even so, I believe it's the first non-western film, and probably the first non-Hollywood film, to top the worldwide box office. It's always Hollywood. Kind of fascinating when you think about it. A virus that begins in China shutters the rest of the world, allowing China to reopen and take all the goodies. Most conspiracy theories are made of less stuff than this.
  • In 2021, China had Nos. 2 and 3 in the worldwide box office: another historical war epic, “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” in which the Chinese fight the Americans during the Korean War, and which set a record for Chinese domestic and non-English worldwide box office with a $900 million haul; and “Hi, Mom,” a goofy time-travel comedy, in which a woman travels back to befriend her mom in the hope of making her own life better. That did $822 million. (I'm always amazed at how well Chinese comedies do. American comic actors must shake their heads in wonder.)
  • No. 1 for 2021 was Hollywood again, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and by a longshot. The numbers it pulled in during the pandemic's highly contagious Omicron stage are stunning and demonstrate how much people want a return to normalcy: second-highest domestic daily opening ($121 million), second-highest domestic opening weekend ($260 million), fourth-biggest domestic gross ($741 million and counting), and sixth-biggest worldwide gross ($1.7 billion and counting). 

I'm reminded of America flocking to the original “Spider-Man” in May 2002 after eight months of 9/11 news—making it the first flick to gross north of $100 million opening weekend. Now, nearly two years into this thing, Spidey saves the day again. Or makes us momentarily forget the day.

Will the Chinese ever figure out a way to make movies that appeal to non-Chinese? Xi Jinping loves Hollywood movies, and wants China to become that, but over the last five years it's felt like their movies are getting more doctrinaire rather than less. They speak more to the Chinese and less to the rest of us.  

I've only seen one movie in a theater this year, “Drive My Car” at NW Film Forum (which was great), but I hope to see “Spider-Man: No Way Home” soon. Thwip.

Anyway, that's your box office update.

Posted at 11:10 AM on Sunday February 06, 2022 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday March 29, 2020

Box Office: No Time to Die

This photo was posted on Twitter the other day. It's from the Uptown area of Minneapolis—yes, the same as in the early Prince song. It's also the arthouse theater that ran a calendar schedule in the ‘70s and ’80s where I first saw so many classic films: from “Casablanca” to “A Clockwork Orange.”

I like the callout below the marquee to the post-credits scene in “Ferris Bueller.” Nice touch. 

My first blog post on the Covid-19 epidemic related to China closing all its theaters in January/February. If I thought the same would happen to us I didn't think it would be this soon. I also couldn't imagine it. China is an authoritarian country so it can do this. In the U.S., I thought, it would take businesses to do it. And they wouldn't do it; they'd lose money. But they did it. They stepped up. Relatively quickly. SIFF closed all its local theaters on March 13. Regal closed its theaters nationwide on March 16. SIFF canceled its annual film May/June film festival on March 18. Studios pushed back release dates for the 25th James Bond movie, the ninth Fast & Furious, Wonder Woman 1984. The Bond movie is appropriately titled “No Time to Die.”

Of course, box office dwindled down to nothing:

  • March 6-12: $134 million
  • March 13-19: $58 million 
  • March 20-26: $5,176 *

* How is money still being made in theaters? Apparently, two movies are still playing somewhere. One is titled “Lost in America.”

Against this backdrop, then, it was huge news that China was reopening its theaters. It had flattened its curve and could now tentatively celebrate with re-releases of “Avengers,” “Avatar,” “Wolf Warrior II” and “The Wandering Earth.” From The Hollywood Reporter:

China's theater operators have faced two interrelated difficulties: convincing customers it is safe to return to the multiplex in large numbers and convincing distributors that there are enough customers to resume marketing and releasing their most valuable film titles—and without the latter, it would seem hard to achieve the former.

Agreed. The germaphobe part of me thinks this is premature. It still feels like no time to die.

Posted at 12:18 PM on Sunday March 29, 2020 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday March 15, 2020

U.S. Box Office Has Worst Weekend Since 2001

Anyone go to the movies this weekend? Not us. We‘re kind of hunkered down as the coronavirus situation in the U.S. worsens and there are few (no?) signs of leadership from Washington, D.C. So the leadership has to be us. 

People are definitely staying away. The second weekend of Pixar’s “Onward” came in first place with $10.5 million—a drop of 73%. Is that a big drop? God, yes. It's big for a shitty live-action movie let alone a good, Pixar movie. A 30-40% drop is probably more common. Second place was a Christian movie from Lionsgate, “I Still Believe,” which grossed $9.5. Vin Diesel's sci-fi superhero/live forever flick “Bloodshot,” came in third with $9.5. 

Overall, Box Office Mojo reports we spent a total of $53.9 million domestically at the box office. For the 11th weekend of the year (i.e., this one), that's the lowest since ... 1995. Unadjusted. 

How long has it been since we had any weekend that low? Here are the lowest weekend totals for each year this century:

  • 2019: $73.4 million (Feb. 1-3)
  • 2018: $85.8 million (Dec. 7-9)
  • 2017: $69.3 million (Aug. 25-27)
  • 2016: $83.7 million (Dec. 9-11)
  • 2015: $74.1 million (Oct. 30-Nov. 1)
  • 2014: $66.1 million (Sept. 5-7)
  • 2013: $85.0 million (Sept. 6-8)
  • 2012: $67.9 million (Sept. 7-9)
  • 2011: $75.3 million (Dec. 9-11)
  • 2010: $82.2 million (Sept. 10-12)
  • 2009: $90.8 million (Oct. 30-Nov. 1)
  • 2008: $68.2 million (Sept. 5-7)
  • 2007: $77.9 million (April 27-29)
  • 2006: $71.6 million (Sept. 8-10)
  • 2005: $82.9 million (April 15-17)
  • 2004: $71.3 million (Sept. 24-26)
  • 2003: $67.5 million (Sept. 5-7)
  • 2002: $72.6 million (Sept. 6-8)

Box Office Mojo's numbers get a little odd in 2001. They list two weekends worse than our current one—both holiday weekends:

  • April 13-16, Easter weekend: $26.2 million
  • Oct. 5-8, Columbus Day weekend: $2.9  million

$2.9 million? My immediate thought was the anthrax scare after the 9/11 scare, and maybe theaters were shuttered, but I can't find any evidence of that. And it doesn't explain the Easter weekend fiasco before any of that happened. The next year's Easter weekend grossed $136. The previous one, in 2000, grossed $80.

Either way, this weekend was historically bad at the box office. And it's going to get worse as more people stay away and more theater chains close. In fact, it should probably be worse already. We're not taking this seriously enough. Cf., what China did

Posted at 03:44 PM on Sunday March 15, 2020 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Sunday March 01, 2020

Box Office: ‘Wendy,’ ‘Burden’ Open

Six movies opened this weekend and these were two of them:


What's the significance? Wendy Burden is my wife's best friend, the maid of honor at our wedding, and the author of a very good, very funny memoir, “Dead End Gene Pool,” which should be the next book for your book group. I‘ve recommended it to a few groups and they always love it. Several years back, Wendy was visiting us in Seattle and we were standing in line at one of the shops down at Pike Place Market when a teenage girl in front of us, who kept looking back, interrupted and asked, “Are you Wendy Burden?” She’d read the book, loved it, etc., and had to tell her so. It was nice. That kind of thing doesn't happen every day, you know. 

Anyway, I‘ve never seen two movies—let alone two movies opening on the same day—that spelled out a friend’s name. So I had to mention it. Sadly, neither did gangbuster business: “Wendy” finished 36th ($30k in 4 theaters), “Burden” 40th ($20k in 5 theaters). Neither got a fresh rating from critics, either. So it goes.

The big movie for the weekend was the horror/sci-fi amalgam “The Invisible Man,” starring Elisabeth Moss, which grossed $29 mil. The third weekend of “Sonic the Hedgehog” finished second ($16), the second weekend of “Call of the Wild” finished third ($13).

“1917” is still in the top 10 and pulled in another $2.6 million for $155.8 domestic, $362 worldwide. In terms of true WWI movies (i.e., not “Wonder Woman”), it's now the biggest WWI grosser of them all. Well, unadjusted. Adjust for inflation and it's got competition:

  • “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921): $430 million
  • “Sergeant York” (1941): $450.9 million
  • “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962): $519 million

The other big post-Oscar grosser has been “Parasite,” of course, and this weekend it grossed another $1.5 million for a domestic total of $51.5. That's the fourth-best domestic showing for a foreign-language film ever. “Hero” is third with $53.7; “Life is Beautiful” is second with $57.2, while “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” soars above everyone else (on invisible wires) at $128.

Speaking of: Chinese movie theaters are still closed because of the coronavirus. Since mid-to-late January, its total gross has been around $120k. A year ago, during the same timeframe, the Chinese box office grossed about $900 million.

Don't forget to read “Dead End Gene Pool.” 

Posted at 02:45 PM on Sunday March 01, 2020 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  

Wednesday February 26, 2020

Box Office: Three Eddie Murphy Trivia Questions

Rising: The Billy Bear bar scene in “48 Hrs.”

Quick trivia question: What was the first feature film starring Eddie Murphy—i.e., no concert films, no “Best Defense,” which was a Dudley Moore vehicle—that wasn't among the 10 highest-grossing movies of the year?

Answer: it took a while. Here's his ‘80s output:

1982 48 HRS  93% $79 7th
1983 Trading Places  87% $90 4th
1983 Eddie Murphy Delirious  83%  n/a  n/a
1984 Beverly Hills Cop  81% $316 1st
1986 The Golden Child  26% $80 8th
1987 Eddie Murphy Raw  81% $51 20th
1987 Beverly Hills Cop II  45% $154 3rd
1988 Coming to America  67% $128 3rd
1989 Harlem Nights  21% $61 21st

It wasn’t until the end of the decade, with the abyssmal “Harlem Nights,” that audiences finally went “Nah.” to Eddie. Otherwise, in the ‘80s, he didn’t star in anything that wasn't critically acclaimed or box-office gold, and usually both. Since then, the reverse. Here's the ‘90s output—live action only:

1990 Another 48 Hrs.  18% $81 14th
1992 Boomerang  44% $70 18th
1992 The Distinguished Gentleman  13% $47 34th
1994 Beverly Hills Cop III  10% $43 34th
1995 Vampire in Brooklyn  10% $20 82nd
1996 The Nutty Professor  64% $129 8th
1997 Metro  15% $32 65th
1998 Dr. Dolittle  42% $144 6th
1998 Holy Man  12% $12 118th
1999 Life  50% $64 37th
1999 Bowfinger  81% $66 35th

Amazing thing? I actually kept going to his movies. Was I on autopilot? Did I think he would return to form? I definitely saw both “Boomerang” and “The Distinguished Gentlemen” in theaters. I think I waited on “Nutty Professor” until its video release. I think I was disappointed that he even made it. Eddie doing a Jerry Lewis remake? He was supposed to be better than that. But his trajectory followed that of most other SNL breakout stars: mock the cultural crap on “SNL,” then contribute to it in Hollywood. 

“Shrek” and his AA nomination helped obscure how bad the aughts were for him. Here’s the live-action movies. Remember in the ‘80s when his movies were both critically acclaimed and box-office hits? Now he couldn’t manage either. 

2000 Nutty Professor II: The Klumps  26% $123 16th
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2  42% $113 16th
2002 I Spy  16% $34 78th
2002 The Adventures of Pluto Nash  4% $4 177th
2002 Showtime  25% $38 70th
2003 Daddy Day Care  27% $104 26th
2003 The Haunted Mansion  14% $76 38th
2006 Dreamgirls  78% $103 19th
2007 Norbit  9% $96 30th
2008 Meet Dave  20% $12 139th
2009 Imagine That  41% $16 119th

When did it finally feel like it had all slipped away for him? Or maybe if the paycheck was there, he didn't care? What other explanation is there for this? 

So if the first feature film starring Eddie to not be among the top 10 box-office hits of the year was “Harlem Nights,” what was his last feature film—and live-action (no “Shrek”), to have that distinction? The thing that he used to do so easily—when was the last time he did it? 

You‘ve got to go back to “Dr. Doolittle” in 1998. In the most recent decade, he barely did anything. He limped through it and then righted himself at the end with “Dolemite.” He reminded us why he mattered.

2011 Tower Heist  67% $78 43rd
2012 A Thousand Words  0% $18 112th
2016 Mr. Church  24% $1 260th
2019 Dolemite Is My Name  97% n/a n/a

I’d like to think he learned his lesson from “Dolemite,” but these are the movies on his plate according to IMDb:

  • “Coming 2 America”
  • “Triplets” (a sequel to “Twins,” with Arnold and Danny, in which the missing sibling is Eddie)
  • “Beverly Hills Cop IV”

Third and final trivia question: Animated movies and concert films aside, what is the highest-rated Eddie Murphy movie according to the users of IMDb?

Would you believe THIS

Posted at 09:50 AM on Wednesday February 26, 2020 in category Movies - Box Office   |   Permalink  
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