Here’s what happened at the domestic box office this weekend: The summer movie season officially came to a close with Labor Day weekend, which was exactly as soft as had been expected. The two new releases (As Above/So Below, November Man) failed to even pull in $10m while Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again dominated the top of the chart The bigger story is the bigger picture, with THR estimating that North American revenue for the summer movie season barely cracked $4 billion, marking an eight-year low and, when accounting for inflation, a 17-year low. And revenue is down 15 percent from last year’s record haul of $4.75 billion, the biggest year-over-year decline that anyone can remember. Let’s do the numbers:
Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (8/29-8/31)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
- Weekend Gross=$16.3 million
- Total Gross to Date=$274.6 million
- Budget=$170 million
Foreign: $19.7m this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $273.1m/$547.7m.
Earlier this month when Guardians of the Galaxy dropped from #1 in the domestic top 10 after just one week, I put together a history of Hollywood’s obsession with big opening weekends. The only reason I did that was because I found it so frustrating that Guardians was supposedly such a beloved movie, and here it was getting pushed aside by Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as if was just another flash in the pan. At the time, I never considered the possibility that Guardians could actually leapfrog TMNT to re-take the top of the chart.
Well, shut my mouth because not only did Guardians leapfrog TMNT last weekend it repeated at #1 this weekend. In fact, I had to double-check this to make sure I saw it right but Guardians only declined 5% in this its fifth weekend in theaters. That is as much a testament to word-of-mouth as its a byproduct of the weak Labor Day weekend. The Butler (-10%) and We’re The Millers (-5%) posted similar holds last Labor Day. Still, at this point Guardians has become the highest-grossing film of the year, well above Winter Soldier‘s $259m. A final domestic total north of $300m is a safe bet at this point. Its worldwide totals aren’t quite as big as you’d expect yet, but that’s largely because it has yet to open in two of the biggest markets: Japan (9/13) and China (10/10).
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Weekend Gross=$11.7 million
- Total Gross to Date=$162.4 million
- Budget=$125-150 million
Foreign: $13m this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $112.1m/$274.5m
Are you ready for some hardcore box office math nerd action? Well, you’d better be because I’m pretty much going to write what I wanted to either way. There is a box office measurement known as the multiplier, which is achieved by dividing a film’s total box office by its opening weekend box office. You do this as a rough way to measure a film’s word-of-mouth, operating under the hypothesis that the higher the multiplier the more people actually liked the movie as opposed to having simply been herded like sheep to see it opening weekend. Anything with a multiplier of 2.0 or below is terrible while in the current market anything with a 6.0 or above is unheard of (e.g. Frozen had a 5.9 multiplier).
So, how is TMNT shaping up? They’ve yet to actually double their production budget (assuming it was as high as $150m) in worldwide gross meaning they’re still in the red, but that will soon change after foreign openings in Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.K. Plus, a movie like this can often actually make more money from toy and merchandising sales than at the box office. Right now, its $162.4m domestic total represents a 2.4 multiplier over its $65.5m opening weekend, which is around the same territory as other relatively front-loaded summer hits like Transformers 4 (2.4), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2.5), and The Fault in Our Stars (2.5). The absolute worst multipliers of the summer came from Godzilla (2.1) and Spider-Man 2 (2.2) with the best belonging to Tammy (3.8), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (3.5), Maleficent (3.4), and Edge of Tomorrow (3.4). The average multiplier for the top 15 films of the summer has been 2.8 (Guardians currently has a 2.9).
Of course, that’s all kind of meaningless since, for starters, movies like TMNT and Guardians are still adding to their totals thus bumping up their multipliers. Plus, the multiplier doesn’t take into account the international market, can’t account for movies which opened over long holidays or earlier in the week, and it tends to favor those movies which have lower openings and thus much more room to grow. Heck, something like The Avengers only scored a 3.0 multiplier back in 2012, but that’s because it ended up with $623.3m domestic after posting $207.4m in its opening weekend.
I don’t know if I’ve offered any real insight here, but just for the heck of it what was the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ multiplier? It ended with $135.2m after opening to $25.3m, a 5.3 multiplier, but that was a long, long time ago.
3. If I Stay
- Weekend Gross=$9.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$29.8 million
- Budget=$11 million
Foreign: $4.6m this weekend for a new worldwide total of $34.4m
This is a drop of just 41%, far better than what Fault in Our Stars (-69%) did in its second weekend. Of course, after 10 days Fault had made $80m domestic, nearly 7 times above its $12m budget. Worldwide, If I Stay has only tripled its budget. That is still a fantastic return on investment, and the type of business that you’d think would lead to more movies like If I Stay in the future. However, it is quite clearly nowhere near as profitable as Fault, but, come on, it was never going to be.
4. As Above/So Below (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$8.3 million
- Budget=$5 million
Foreign: $2.4m for a worldwide debut of $10.7m
This is pretty much on par with the performance of recent low-budget Labor Day horror movies like Apollo 18 ($8.7 million) and Shark Night 3D ($8.4 million), both of which ended with domestic totals just south of $19m. Given As Above/So Below‘s C- CinemaScore, that seems like its ceiling as well. However, it doesn’t really matter. You make a micro-budget found footage horror movie hoping for a ginormous hit like Paranormal Acivity, but if that doesn’t happen you’ll probably still have doubled your budget in your opening weekend. With $10.7m worldwide, that’s exactly what As Above/So Below did.
5. Let’s Be Cops
- Weekend Gross=$8.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$57.3 million
- Budget=$17 million
Foreign: $6.6m this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $9.3m/$66.6m
With $66.6m worldwide, Let’s Be Cops has now nearly quadrupled its production budget, keeping in mind that it all had to do to break even was double its budget.
6. The November Man (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$7.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$9.3 million (opened on Wednesday)
- Budget=$20 million
Foreign: No international box office yet
From director Roger Donaldson, The November Man follows an ex-CIA agent (Brosnan) who is brought back for one more mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil. It played mostly to older males (83% above the age of 25, 55% male), and is most comparable to Labor Day releases like The American ($13.2m), The Debt ($9.9m) and Lawless ($10m), each of which had bigger openings and ended with at least $30m in total domestic gross. November Man seems unlikely to make it that high. Playing to older audiences who gave it a B+ grade on CinemaScore could but probably won’t translate to long legs.
7. When the Game Stands Tall
- Weekend Gross=$5.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$16.3 million
- Budget=$15 million
Foreign: No international box office yet
When The Game Stands Tall is an inspirational football movie dramatizing the real life story of the 151-game 1992–2003 winning streak by De La Salle High School of Concord, California. It comes from Sony’s faith-based label Affirm, and is thus far performing slightly behind the pace of the most recent football movie to hit theaters (Kevin Costner’s Draft Day, $19m 10-day total).
8. The Giver
- Weekend Gross=$5.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$31.5 million
- Budget=$25 million
Foreign: A new international/worldwide split of $2.9m/$34.5m
The opening round for this movie was North America, and it’s lost that battle. The next round will be overseas with openings in Brazil, Italy, UK, Germany, and France scheduled through the end of October.
9. The Hundred-Foot Journey
Foreign: No international box office yet
Movies that skew older tend to have longer tails because old people can’t be bothered to rush out and see something in its first 3 days, dang nabbit. This has allowed Hundred-Foot Journey to post a 3.6 opening weekend/total gross multiplier, on pace to double its budget by this time next weekend.
10. The Expendables 3
- Weekend Gross=$3.5 million
- Total Gross to Date=$33.1 million
- Budget=$90-100 million
Foreign: $8.8m this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $50.4m/$83.5m
Franchise fatigue? Check. Darn internet piracy? Check. PG-13 rating alienating core, older audience while foolishly courting the very fickle young male (11-17-year-old) moviegoer who only actually accounts for around 10% of all tickets sold in the US? Check.
Those are your three bullet points in any conversation as to exactly why Expendables 3 has so massively under-performed, sitting at just over $30m after 17 days. It will probably barely cross $40m domestic now, a truly astonishing plunge from Expendables 2‘s total domestic gross of $85m. Wow. Just, wow. When franchise fatigue hits it hits hard. The good news? They still have China (9/1), Italy (9/4), and Japan (11/1) left, but this is going to have to hit really big in those markets to make up for its otherwise terrible box office.
What Fell Out of the Top 10?:
Into the Storm (#10 to #13) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (#8 to #14). Into the Storm is now up to $90m worldwide, closer and closer to doubling its $50m production budget. A Dame to Kill For plunged nearly 66% in just its second weekend, and after 10 days its worldwide total is a mere $15.3m. Holy crap is that bad considering that it cost $60-70m to make. Lucy repeated at #11 on the chart for the second straight weekend, but the true story is the way the film is exploding overseas, up to $151m international along with $117m domestic.
What’s Up Next?:
The summer movie season is over, and Hollywood is mostly taking next weekend off to recover. The only new movie opening wide is The Identical, which stars Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta and carries the following plot synopsis, “Twin brothers are unknowingly separated at birth; one of them becomes an iconic rock ‘n’ roll star, while the other struggles to balance his love for music and pleasing his father.” Other than that, Forrest Gump will be playing in 300 IMAX theaters for a limited engagement celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary.