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So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: Godzilla proved the power of brand recognition, effective marketing which challenged the franchise’s camp history by daring to take the material seriously, and the benefit of targeting young males too young to remember the notoriously atrocious 1998 Godzilla film. Hollywood may have finally turned Godzilla into a new franchise, to which Japan says, “Um, we’ve been making those movies for decades. Why so late to the game, Hollywood?” Let’s break it down.
Top 10 Actual Domestic Totals (5/16-5/18)
1. Godzilla (Opening Weekend)
- Opening Weekend Gross=$93.1 million
- Budget=$160 million
Foreign: Starting this past Wednesday (5/15), Godzilla opened in nearly 75 foreign countries, including every major film market other than China and Japan. This made for a 5-day foreign debut of $103 million which adds up to worldwide debut of $196.1 million.
Why did this huge debut, the second biggest of 2014 behind Winter Soldier’s $95 million, happen for Godzilla this year but not Pacific Rim last year? After all, Pacific Rim is basically Mechagodzilla Vs. Godzilla. Plus, it had generally positive word-of-mouth, a 72% Fresh rating from critics on RottenTomatoes, a 78% approval rating from RottenTomatoes readers as well as an A- CinemaScore grade from opening night audiences. Compare that to Godzilla, which has the exact same RottenTomatoes critic rating, 78% from RottenTomatoes readers, and a B+ CinemaScore grade. So, as much as these types of things can be quantified Godzilla is not a demonstratively better or more liked movie than Pacific Rim.
Yet Pacific Rim opened with a soft $37.2 million, taking 98 days in theaters to finally end with a domestic gross of $101 million, a total which it tripled overseas making for a worldwide gross ($411 million). That’s high enough that Legendary Pictures, a high-powered production company and finance house, is still talking about a sequel, but enough of a disappointment considering its $190 million budget that Legendary soon thereafter split from its long-time deal with Pacific Rim distributor Warner Bros., joining up with Universal instead. Godzilla is a remnant of Legendary’s earlier WB deal meaning that although the actual filmmakers are different most of the executives behind Godzilla were the same people behind Pacific Rim.
Most importantly, most of the same advertising people from Pacific Rim got a second crack at monster movie glory with Godzilla. They clearly did a better job this time because Godzilla made more on Friday ($38.5 million, the biggest single-day haul for any 2014 film to date) than Pacific Rim did in its entire opening weekend. The disparity can’t really be chalked up to a disproportionate take from inflated 3D ticket sales. 15% of Godzilla’s overall weekend gross came from IMAX theaters, and over half came from 3D ticket sales. That’s very similar to Pacific Rim‘s opening weekend taking 19% and 50% from IMAX and 3D ticket sales respectively.
Maybe it very simply comes down to this: there’s a huge difference between being able to say a movie is “like Godzilla” and saying “it is Godzilla” (i.e., Pacific Rim was an original property whereas Godzilla is a pre-existing franchise). Plus, last year Pacific Rim was advertised more like a Transformers film than a big monster flick, emphasizing its giant robots over its monsters whereas Godzilla wanted to come off as more of a disaster film, ala the way Paramount sold World War Z last year. So, while Pacific Rim didn’t hide from the type of film it was, highlighting war-time speechifying and big set pieces in its trailers/TV spots, Godzilla was hyper-focused on character and tone, emphasizing a recognizable Bryan Cranston and universally human moments like a wife worrying about her military husband. When they did finally reveal Godzilla in their advertising he was familiar to but MUCH BETTER than how we might think of him. Plus, for the hardcore faithful they made sure we knew that Godzilla’s distinctive roar had been restored.
As a point of comparison, the 1998 Godzilla opened with $44 million, which adjusts to $74.7 million at current ticket prices. It ended up with $136 million domestic ($231 million at current ticket prices). With Days of Future Past coming next weekend, will this new Godzilla actually make much more than $231 million? Let’s see how well it holds next weekend.
- Weekend Gross=$25 million
- Total Gross to Date=$90.5 million
- Budget=$18 million
Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $54.8 million for a worldwide total of $145.3 million.
Last weekend, even Seth Rogen went on record as being surprised that Neighbors scored the 5th best ever opening for an R-Rated comedy, behind Hangover 2 ($85.9 million), the first Sex and the City ($57 million), Ted ($54.4 million), and Jackass 3D ($50.3 million). Well, Neighbor‘s improbable run of success has continued, declining a mere 48% this weekend, a remarkably strong hold for an R-rated comedy. Of those other listed R-rated comedies – Hangover 2 (63%), Sex and the City (62%), Jackass 3D (57%) – only Ted (40%) had a better second weekend hold. Two years ago, Ted was the big surprising R-rated comedy hit, ending up with $218 million domestic. Is Neighbors this year’s Ted? Could it end up near $200 million in domestic gross? Probably not quite that high, but it will have Ted‘s creator Seth MacFarlane to contend with since his live-action directorial/acting debut A Million Ways to Die in the West arrives in 2 weeks.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Weekend Gross=$16.8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$172.1 million
- Budget=$200-250 million
Foreign: $31.5 million this weekend for a new international gross of $461 million and worldwide total of $633.1 million
In 2012, Sony conceded May/June to The Avengers, holding The Amazing Spider-Man off until the 4th of July, watching as it sailed passed $200 million in just 10 days. However, then The Dark Knight Rises dropped, and ASM 1 plummeted 68% in its third weekend, only managing to add around $30 million in additional domestic gross from that point forward. ASM 1 survived getting its butt kicked by The Dark Knight Rises like that because it opened so huge. ASM 2 doesn’t quite have that since although its $91.6 million debut was most certainly big it wasn’t nearly on par with Spider-Man franchise standards, even ASM 1. Now, in its second and third weekends it has had to battle Neighbors and Godzilla courting similar demographics, causing weekend-to-weekend drops of 61% and 51%. It’s not going to get any better. X-Men: Days of Future Past is due up next weekend, tracking to make a huge global premiere. So, ASM 2 is shaping up to have a relatively short tail at the box office, making the majority of its domestic gross from its first two weekends. Sure, a first 17-day gross of $172.1 million is plenty impressive for most movies but not a Spider-Man movie. After 17 days, ASM 1 had made $217 million, Spider-Man 1 had $285.5 million, Spider-Man 2 had $284.6 million, and Spider-Man 3 had 282.3 million, keeping in mind that those Raimi films didn’t have the benefit of 3D/IMAX ticket pricing.
However, really, forget all of that. International audiences are eating ASM 2 (and its 3D and IMAX-friendly viewing) up, turning it into a bigger foreign hit than the far better reviewed and respected Captain America: The Winter Soldier. At this point, ASM 2 has a higher total foreign gross than either of Sam Raimi’s first 2 Spider-Man films and is on pace to easily surpass ASM 1‘s foreign gross of $490 million, although it remains to be seen if it can come close to Spider-Man 3‘s franchise-best $550 million foreign gross.
4. A Million Dollar Arm (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$10.5 million
- Budget=$25 million
Foreign: No official foreign box office figures yet.
The last big baseball movies have been 42, Trouble with the Curve, and Moneyball, although other than featuring baseball those are three very different movies. So, maybe it’s not fair to compare them to A Million Dollar Arm, but 42 opened with $27 million, Trouble with the Curve with $12 million, and Moneyball with $20 million. Even if you go further back and look at something more similar to A Million Dollar Arm, specifically Disney’s similarly hopeful, inspiring real-life baseball story The Rookie, it too had a better opening weekend, $16 million, which would be like making $21.9 million at current ticket prices. The point being that sub-$11 million opening for A Million Dollar Arm is likely a tad disappointing based upon recent precedent since its closest to Trouble with the Curve, which ultimately topped out with $35 million domestic.
5. The Other Woman
- Weekend Gross=$6.3 million
- Total Gross to Date=$71.6 million
- Budget=$40 million
Foreign: Currently, its international gross stands at $79.3 million making for a worldwide total of $150.9 million
Just for the heck of it, let’s look at Cameron Diaz’ last big comedy: 2011’s Bad Teacher –
- Opening Weekend: $31 million Bad Teacher vs. $25 million The Other Woman
- Domestic Gross: $100 million Bad Teacher vs. $71.6 million The Other Woman
- Worldwide Gross: $216.1 million Bad Teacher vs. $150.9 million The Other Woman.
Bad Teacher did all of that while costing exactly half the amount of money to make, $20 million for Bad Teacher, $40 million for The Other Woman. Let’s see how much longer Other Woman’s run will last.
6. Heaven is for Real
- Weekend Gross=$4.8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$82.6 million
- Budget=$12 million
Foreign: A current foreign gross of $2.1 million for a worldwide total of $84.7 million.
This is the highest grossing “Christian” film not named Passion of the Christ or featuring a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe.
7. Rio 2
- Weekend Gross=$3.7 million
- Total Gross to Date=$117.9 million
- Budget=$103 million
Foreign: Currently, its international gross stands at $309.5 million making for a worldwide total of $427.4 million
Rio 2 opened even with the first Rio from 3 years ago, but by this point it’s fallen behind by around $13 million. Similarly, its $309.5 million at the foreign box office is still behind the first Rio‘s ultimate foreign gross of $341 million, though not so behind that the studio should be disappointed.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Weekend Gross=$3.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$250.5 million
- Budget=$170 million
Foreign: Currently, its international gross stands at $452.8 million making for a worldwide total of $703.3 million
Going off of box office alone, Winter Soldier‘s performance indicates that as a bankable entity Captain America is surging in popularity, but he still trails several other comic book properties, Amazing Spider-Man 2 a bigger hit overseas ($460 million), Man of Steel a bigger hit domestically ($291 million), and Iron Man 3 bigger everywhere what with its worldwide gross of $1.2 billion. On the plus side, Winter Soldier managed to do something none of those other listed films could: keep the production budget under $200 million.
9. The Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
- Weekend Gross=$1.95 million
- Total Gross to Date=$6.5 million
- Budget=$70 million
Foreign: No official foreign box office figures yet.
The Wizard of Oz 3D/IMAX re-release pulled in $22 million domestic and Oz: The Great and Powerful ended with nearly $500 million worldwide last year, but Legend of Oz appears to have missed that Wizard of Oz nostalgia window. After 10 days, it stands at an astonishingly awful $6.5 million domestic after having reportedly cost as high as $70 million to make not to mention any marketing costs. Ouch.
10. Mom’s Night Out
- Weekend Gross=$1.7 million
- Total Gross to Date=$7.2 million
- Budget=$5-10 million
Foreign: No foreign release planned at the moment.
Will faith-based audiences turn a faith-based film whose subject matter doesn’t directly involve matters of faith and religion? Um, no, at least not in the case of Mom’s Night Out, which features Patricia Heaton’s beleaguered mother character attempting to have a fun night out with two gal pals from her same church congregation. Its distributors (TriStar Pictures, Provident Films, and Affirm Films) were behind faith-based hits Facing the Giants and Fireproof, and its directors (Andrew and Jon Erwin) were previously responsible for anti-abortion film October Baby. However, maybe they should have called it Mom’s Night Out…With God or something because the prior 2014 faith-based hits cut straight to the chase with their titles, e.g., Son of God, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven is For Real.
What Happened Outside of the Top 10?
Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: Divergent (#9 to #11) and Brick Mansions (#10 to #16). Divergent exits the top 10 with a total domestic gross of $146.7 million.
What’s Up Next?: Just a little thing called X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23), which is the most expensive film not made by James Cameron in 20th Century Fox’s history. Perhaps as a reflection of X-Men‘s relatively shaky recent domestic box office performances Warner Bros. is not hiding, opening the Drew Berrymore/Adam Sandler rom-com Blended (5/23) as counter-programming. Sadly, Blended is currently tracking to open with a colossal thud.
UPDATED 5/20/14 – The studio-estimated box office totals have replaced with the actual totals. There were no significant changes, i.e., all films stayed in their originally estimated position in the top 10. Most notably, Godzilla made exactly as much as had been estimated whereas Neighbors actually made around $1 million fewer than estimated.