Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was supposed to bomb, or at the very least plummet in its second weekend. Neither has happened. Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to be a modest hit. Now, after 17 days it’s on pace to be the biggest domestic hit of the summer (suck it, Transformers). Expendables 3 was supposed to have the franchise’s worst-ever opening, but not so low that they’d feel embarrassed. Well, after this weekend they’re probably a little embarrassed. At least The Giver did what was expected, even if what was expected was not particularly great. The real surprise of the weekend may have been Let’s Be Cops, which was absolutely not supposed to do better than Expendables 3. However, that’s just how the domestic box office goes – rarely exactly as you’d expect. Let’s do the numbers:
Top 10 Actual Domestic Totals (8/15-8/17)
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Weekend Gross=$28.5 million
- Total Gross to Date=$117 million
- Budget=$125-150 million
Foreign: $25.6 million from around 20 markets (most notably Russia, Brazil and Mexico) this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $67.5m/$185.1m.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a film which is winning more with its newer audiences (those who know it through the recent, CGI-cartoon) than the older ones (those who know it from the late 80s/early 90s), and the fact that it’s doing so well in such close proximity to Guardians of the Galaxy seems to make that film’s box office seem somehow less special, less of a validation. If you subscribe to that train of thought then prepare to be annoyed because that huge second-week drop we might have expected for TMNT (because screw that movie and Michael Bay, that’s why) did not come. In fact, it actually posted one of the best second-week holds (57%) of the summer for a big budget movie, roughly on par with Guardians (55%). It’s even outperforming Guardians in certain foreign markets (thanks a lot, Brazil). TMNT actually still has a ton more foreign releases planned over the next 2 months.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
- Weekend Gross=$25.1 million
- Total Gross to Date=$222.2 million
- Budget=$170 million
Foreign: $33.1 million this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $196.4m/$418.6m. It still has Germany, Italy, Japan, and China on the way.
So, you know how 2014 is shaping up to be the first summer since 2001 in which not one film grosses $300 million domestic? Nobody told Guardians of the Galaxy that because after declining 40% this weekend it is on pace to become the biggest film of the summer, passing Transformers: Age of Extinction’s $243 million, as well as the biggest film of the entire year, passing The Lego Movie ($257m) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259m). That doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to zoom by all of those on the way to $300 million; It’s still unlikely to top out over $280 million, but with the way the rest of the month and September are shaping up…
3. Let’s Be Cops (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$17.8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$26.2 million (it opened this past Wed.)
- Budget=$17 million
Foreign: Less than $1 million from extremely limited release.
Two guys pretend to be cops, hilarity ensues. A premise that simple is an advertiser’s dream, and the people at Fox played that card quite beautifully, embracing younger audiences with a Twitter-centric ad campaign. They didn’t screen it for critics, instead running TV ads with a Twitter scroll atop the screen highlighting actual enthusiastic Tweets in lieu of meaningless pull-quotes from professional reviews. The only thing that really worked against them was the horrible timing of being a movie mining laughs from cops abusing their power when that would seem like no laughing matter after what went down in Ferguson. However, as brilliantly argued by Forbes’ Scott Mendelson the relevance of current hot button issues to a film’s bottom line are often over-stated, and as much as the studios lead us to believe otherwise something like Neighborhood Watch was not a box office casualty of opening so close to the Treyvon Martin shooting but instead of being a bad movie with poor marketing.
Let’s Be Cops is probably not a very good movie (I don’t know; I haven’t seen it), but it was definitely one with a great marketing campaign, delivering a solid 5-day opening of $26 million, with 54% of its opening weekend audience being younger than 25. August has had some real big hit R-rated comedies recently (Tropic Thunder, The Pineapple Express, and We’re the Millers) as well as some flops (The Change-Up, 30 Minutes or Less). Across its first 5-days, Let’s Be Cops has fallen somewhere in-between those two poles, but while its totals won’t likely approach those of Tropic Thunder or We’re the Millers opening nearly $10 million above its production budget is an undeniable victory for all involved.
4. The Expendables 3 (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$15.8 million
- Budget=$90-100 million
Foreign: $15 million from limited release, most of it from Russia, for a global debut of $30.8 million.
All three Expendables films have opened in a roughly analogous mid-August weekend, with the first earning $34 million in 2010 and the second $28 million in 2012. The first Expendables then went on to a $103 million domestic total, Expendables 2 falling short of that mark with $85 million. That’s totally fine because the opposite trend was happening overseas where Expendables pulled in $171 million but Expendables 2 triumphed with $220 million. This all added up to the expectation that Expendables 3 would simply continue this trend of diminishing domestic returns/booming international figures, making a domestic opening of $22-26 million best-case scenario. So, how did it fall so far short of that, barely crossing $16 million?
As usual, it’s probably not any one thing. The film leaking in a DVD-quality format nearly a month before its release didn’t help, but there is no way of actually knowing how many people who watched the bootleg would have otherwise gone to the theater. There have been several notable films (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Taken) many of us don’t even realize suffered internet leaks before their release because those leaks ultimately had no noticeable effect on box office. In the case of Expendables 3, if the leak seriously suppressed viewer turnout you would expect that to be reflected in the viewer demos since younger audiences would be the ones more likely to have downloaded a film illegally and thus less likely to see it in theaters. However, Expendables 3 opening demo of 66% over the age of 25 is almost identical to Expendables 2‘s 65% in the same category. This remains a series which primarily plays to older audiences.
Equally tough to figure out is how much of an effect the film’s rating might have had on the box office. It’s the first in the franchise to earn a PG-13, which Sylvester Stallone and the producers have admitted was a conscious effort to attract the family audience. However, it appears to have backfired on them, emphasis on the appears, because, I’m sorry, but would an Expendables fan seriously not go see Expendables 3 just because it was a PG-13 instead of an R? Maybe. But would enough of them feel that way to account for Expendables 3 opening $10 million below expectations? Hollywood’s on-going chase for the 11-25-year-old male is increasingly futile as they turn out in fewer and fewer numbers, causing seemingly younger-skewering releases like Transformers 4 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be much bigger hits with the over-25 crowd. As such, making Expendables 3 PG-13 was a bad choice because it courted the most fickle demographic at the risk of alienating the core audience of people old enough to actually feel some nostalgia for the glory days of 80s action fests from Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Snipes, etc. The hope was probably more that those older audiences would now take their kids with them to Expendables 3 since it was PG-13, but that same logic failed nostalgia fests like the Total Recall and RoboCop re-makes.
Ultimately, it might simply come down to the fact that at the end of the day The Expendables films are novelty items, and the charm has simply worn off. Here. It’s worn off here. Expendables 2 earned 72% of its worldwide gross overseas, which is where Expendables 3 now turns for redemption.
5. The Giver (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$12.3 million
- Budget=$25 million
Foreign: No foreign box office yet.
Jeff Bridges first approached The Giver as a film he could star in with his father Lloyd. Um, Lloyd Bridges has been dead since 1998. That should give you some sense of how long Jeff has been working to make this film happen, which makes it such a shame that it ended up not getting great reviews, and oddly came off as a Divergent rip-off even though The Giver predates the first Divergent novel by nearly 20 years. It’s a novel which seems to have simply taken too long to make it to screen as its concepts have been ripped off so many times by movies over the years. This was at least a better debut than the $9 million for last year’s Mortal Instruments, another YA-adaptation, mid-August release, and that $25 million budget is low enough you could look at this and say that after 3 days they’re around half-way to making back their budget. However, it needs to double that budget to actually break even (since they have to split ticket sales 50/50 with theaters), and a $50 million total seems highly unlikely after this start.
6. Into the Storm
- Weekend Gross=$7.8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$31.4 million
- Budget=$50 million
Foreign: $6.7 million this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $18.5 m/$49.9m
There have been a crap-ton of B-movies with natural disaster plots in the past handful of years. The thing that makes Into the Storm different is that it actually scored a theatrical release as opposed to simply airing on SyFy or going direct to VOD/Blu-Ray. However, one recent natural disaster film which did end up in theaters is Pompeii, which could only manage $23 million after 58 days compared to Into the Storm’s $31.3 million after 10 days.
7. The Hundred-Foot Journey
- Weekend Gross=$7.1 million
- Total Gross to Date=$23.6 million
- Budget=$22 million
Foreign: No international box office yet
Typically, any film which appeals to old people, male or female, is capable of having a sneaky long life at the theaters because those audiences can’t be bothered to rush out and see something in the first 3 days. It remains to be seen how long of a life Hundred-Foot Journey really will have, especially since it is now in the bottom half of the top 10. Plus, although it seems fantastic that it only dropped 35% this weekend that’s also identical to the second-week drop of similarly older-skewering Million Dollar Arm, which ended its run with $36 million after 13 weeks.
- Weekend Gross=$5.4 million
- Total Gross to Date=$107.6 million
- Budget=$40 million
Foreign: $22 million overseas this weekend (mostly from France), upping the foreign haul to $61 million and worldwide to $168.6 million.
This is now the biggest domestic gross for a Luc Besson-directed film, although after you adjust for ticket price inflation The Fifth Element jumps to the top of the list with $115 million. However, his films typically play stronger overseas, where Lucy has thus far been staggering its roll-out due to a scheduling glut created by studios avoiding direct competition with the World Cup. So far, Lucy has become one of the biggest hits of the year in Besson’s home country of France, and still has big markets like UK, Brazil, Russia, and Japan a little further down the road.
9. Step Up All In
- Weekend Gross=$2.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$11.7 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: $37.7 million to date internationally for a worldwide total of $49.5
There has been a new Step Up film once every 2 years since 2006, and like all assembly-line, B-movie franchises audience fatigue is inevitable. Each film since the first has made less domestically than the one that came before it, and Step Up All In is clearly the franchise finally bottoming out in that area, scoring roughly $12 million in 10 days. Unlike prior installments, it’s not really receiving a big boost from international play, having begun its foreign roll-out to a largely muted response in early July. It’s only major market from this point forward is South Korea.
- Weekend Gross=$2.1 million
- Total Gross to Date=$68.1 million
- Budget=$100 million
Foreign: $80.1m to date internationally for a worldwide total of $148.2m
- Weekend Gross=$1.9 million
- Total Gross to Date=$13.6 million
- Budget=$4 million
Foreign: $8.8 million from limited release for a global opening of $22.4 million.
It finally happened. Richard Linklater’s buzzy, ambitious drama Boyhood – which was filmed over a 12-year-period to mark the actual legitimate aging of its central character, played by Ellar Coltrane (who is now 19-years-old) – finally cracked the top 10 after weeks of strong play in limited release. This was its first weekend of wide release, playing in 771 theaters, the limited/wide cut-off being 600 theaters. It is now the fifth-biggest platform release of the year, trailingThe Grand Budapest Hotel ($59 million),Chef ($29 million), Begin Again ($14.5 million) and America ($14.4 million).
*Boyhood was originally estimated to have finished in the top 10, but it actually came it at #11.
What Fell Out of the Top 10?:
Hercules (#7 to #11), Get On Up (#8 to #12), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (#9 to #13), and Planes: Fire & Rescue (#10 to #15). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has now officially crossed $200 million domestic, and currently sits at $536 million worldwide compared to Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ $480 million.
What About the Specialty Box Office?:
The Daniel Radcliffe/Zoe Kazan rom-com What If played in 787 theaters this weekend, an addition of 767 new theaters after its limited debut last weekend. It’s difficult to make any kind of direct comparison because no recent indie rom-coms have jumped from limited to wide release that fast except for Richard Curtis’ About Time, which jumped from 175 theaters its first week to 1,200 its second, scoring a 10-day total of $6.7 million in the process. What If‘s 10-day total is just barely over $1 million.
What’s Up Next?:
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, If I Stay, and When The Game Stands Tall open wide on Friday (8/22).
The first Sin City dropped way back in 2005, and the box office history of sequels with such long gaps is not kind. Plus, the first Sin City gained so much notoriety for its unique visual flair it may now seem to us like it was a bigger hit than it actually was, posting an unadjusted domestic/worldwide split of $74/$158 million against a $40 million production budget. Even at current ticket prices, it still would have fallen just short ($94 million) of the $100 million domestic barrier. The sequel is currently tracking for a meager $14 million debut on the way to a total domestic gross south of $40 million.
That is roughly the type of business also expected from When The Game Stands Tall, a football movie depicting the real life of the 151-game 1992–2003 winning streak by De La Salle High School of Concord, California.
The more interesting case will be If I Stay, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a 17-year-old girl who goes through an out-of-body experience after a car accident leaves her in a coma. The story is adapted from Gayle Forman’s 2009 young-adult novel, and the film will be the big test of whether or not The Fault In Our Stars was a fluke or if the wave of YA-film future is less-dystopia, more sad, dying kids. Right now, If I Stay is expected to score around $20 million next weekend on the way to a domestic haul somewhere south of $60 million.