Here’s what happened at the box office this weekend: The Battle of the Five Armies dominated despite not quite returning to the Hobbit franchise highs of Unexpected Journey, Night at the Museum set a franchise low (by a wide margin), Annie overcame dreadful reviews and commanded a large family audience, and a Bollywood film, B.K., came out of nowhere to set a new record for an Indian film in North America. Among the holdover releases, my word has Exodus: Gods and Kings turned out to be a humongous flop.
Let’s do the numbers:
Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (12/19-12/21)
1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$56.2 million
- Wed-Sun Gross=$90.6 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: Adding 22 new markets after its international debut last weekend, Five Armies hauled in $105.5m from nearly 60 total markets this weekend giving it a 12-day international/worldwide split of $265m/$355.6m. Its leading foreign markets are Germany ($37.7m) and the UK ($31.4m).
I saw Battle of the Five Armies at my local, ginormous IMAX theater at 12:15 PM on Saturday. I assumed the theater would be plenty full but nowhere near a sell-out because it was the first showing of the day for the final entry in a trilogy that everyone seems to agree is just not as good as Lord of the Rings. However, I greatly underestimated the appeal of seeing the final installment of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings saga because by the time Five Armies started I was sitting in a clearly sold-out theater. My experience is probably by no means unique, especially since Five Armies‘ $13.6m from IMAX this weekend is a new December record for the large-screen format, but I use it to illustrate a point about how we might assume Five Armies must have enjoyed a big, “end of franchise” surge compared to the first two Hobbit films. However, the data doesn’t actually support that. It’s actually kind of hard to prove because while Five Armies came out on a Wednesday both Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug were more traditional Friday-Sunday releases. So, it kind of does us no good to compare weekend totals here since by the time Five Armies got to its weekend it had already enjoyed two days of release, pulling in the most enthusiastic fans who simply couldn’t wait for the weekend. By that same token (or Tolkien?), it’s still not an exact comparison to look at 5-day totals since with Journey and Smaug we’re talking about Friday-Tuesday.
That all being said, when I looked at 5-day totals I was surprised to see that Five Armies didn’t really enjoy some huge burst compared to the prior two films. Unexpected Journey had $100m after its first 5 days, Smaug had $86m, and now Five Armies has $90m. Compare that to the Lord of the Rings films, all of which came out on a Wednesday. Those three grew from film to film, $75m 5-day for Fellowship, $102m for Two Towers, and $124m for Return of the King, and that’s without adjusting for ticket price inflation. All of this means that Five Armies will probably end up making more than Smaug while failing to completely re-capture the Lord of Rings-nostalgia-infused box office run enjoyed by Unexpected Journey.
2. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$17.3 million
- Budget=$127 million
Foreign: $10.7m from 28 markets this weekend, most notably the UK and Germany, for a worldwide debut of $28m.
The first Night at the Museum opened on a comparable December weekend in 2006, scoring $30.4m. The second Night at the Museum was a Memorial Day weekend release in 2009, pulling in an impressive $54m. Based on that franchise history, it’s hard to be particularly positive about Museum 3‘s sub-$18m debut, especially when you look at that $127m production budget. Maybe too many years have passed in-between sequels. Maybe this is yet another indication of Ben Stiller’s ever-dwindling box office relevancy. Maybe the marketing didn’t do a very good job of communicating what made this one different than the first two franchise entries or worth seeing. Maybe this is simply a casualty of the family film crunch facing Hollywood right now, with nearly half of this weekend’s top 10 films being family fare targeting identical-to-similar audiences. Maybe it’s all of those things. Either way, that family film marketplace is about to get a little more crowded when Into the Woods arrives.
3. Annie (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$16.3 million
- Budget=$65 million
Foreign: No foreign box office yet
This is a pretty standard-to-kind-of-good opening for any recent musical not named Les Miserables, which scored $27m in its Christmas 2012 debut. That was big, Mamma Mia-sized business for a musical. However, the more common openings have been $13m for Jersey Boys, $14m for Rock of Ages, and $12m for Burlesque, with the floor being set by Nine‘s disastrous $5.4m. Nine bombed to the tune of a final domestic gross of $9m, but Jersey, Rock and Burlesque at least made it to $40m. Annie should definitely top that, although with another musical, Into the Woods, due out less than a week from now it’s hard to know for sure. For now, this opening is a bit of a surprise victory for Annie considering its truly dreadful reviews, but opening audiences seemed to like it, giving it an A- on CinemaScore. The opening weekend audience was primarily comprised of families (76%), with way more females (70%) than males.
4. Exodus: Gods and Kings
- Weekend Gross=$8 million (-67% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date-$38.9 million
- Budget=$140 million
Foreign: $7.6m from nearly 40 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $61.9m/$100.8m.
Yikes. This is really bad. Exodus‘ $24.1m opening was roughly on par with past mid-December releases The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ($24 million) and The Golden Compass ($25.8 million). Narnia ended up making $104m whereas Golden Compass barely made it past $70m, which was so low that it ultimately forced New Line Cinema into bankruptcy because they made some bad deals and didn’t see a penny of Compass‘ $302m international gross. The lesson is that not all movies can actually be saved by a strong international performance. You’re better off at least doing okay domestically because that’s where the revenue splits are most favorable to the studios. Exodus simply isn’t doing a good job of that right now. After this big second weekend drop, Exodus is actually tracking off the pace of The Golden Compass‘ domestic performance by around $2m now. I’m not saying that Exodus is going to force its distributor, Fox, into bankruptcy or anything remotely like that. It’s just that I don’t think it has any chance of being saved by the international market at this point.
5. Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
- Weekend Gross=$7.7 million (-39% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$289.2 million
- Budget=$125 million
Foreign: $9.3m from pretty much everywhere possible in the world this weekend except for China, upping Mockingjay‘s international/worldwide split to $350.5m/$639.7m. The UK ($45m) and Germany ($35m) remain the leading overseas markets for Katniss’ penultimate adventure.
Mockingjay is simply not quite up to Hunger Games franchise standards, around $68m behind the pace of the first Hunger Games and $82m behind the pace of Catching Fire domestically. It does continue to perform slightly better than the most recent Part 1’s, Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Breaking Dawn Part 1, which were sitting at $265m and $266m respectively at the same point in their release cycles. Plus, box office has pretty much been down across the board this year, and Mockingjay has still managed to become the second highest-grossing film of the year domestically and eighth highest worldwide.
- Weekend Gross=$4.1 million (+171% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$7.2 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: No foreign box office yet
Wild is turning into a very successful platform release for Fox Searchlight, making humongous percentage gains over the past two weekends and clearly building up positive word of mouth. This was actually its first weekend of wide release, upping its theater total to just over 1,000. I previously wondered if wider audiences would be particularly enthused to see Sweet Home Alabama‘s Reese Witherspoon play a sexually adventurous character who actually has a threesome at one point and goes on a long “finding myself” hike. However, for now that hasn’t been a problem.
- Weekend Gross=$3.5 million (-48% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$12.4 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: No foreign box office yet.
Paramount won the bidding war of Chris Rock’s Top Five at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, and they are trying a slight platform release for it to build up word of mouth, putting it in just over 900 theaters last weekend and adding over 300 more this weekend. However, Top Five may be getting lost in the shuffle out there right now as this second weekend drop is not great for a movie that actually added more locations. Recent word-of-mouth comedy hit St. Vincent did a more traditional slow roll-out, and it didn’t decline 48% or more until its final weekend of release. That being said, Top Five has pretty much already equaled the domestic gross of Chris Rock’s last directorial effort, I Think I Love My Wife ($12.5m).
- Weekend Gross=$3.5 million (-41% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$190.4 million
- Budget=$165 million
Foreign: $11.5m from 38 markets this weekend, including a $5.3m debut in Japan where the film has been re-titled Baymax. For now, Big Hero 6 is looking at an international/worldwide split of $81.6m/$272m, but it is still playing in less than half of the potential international market.
Big things are expected for “Baymax” in Japan after Big Hero 6 has been breaking records throughout Asia, and while its debut there this weekend doesn’t seem that impressive it’s important to note that Frozen also had a modest opening in Japan before going on to gross $250m in the country. Switching over to the domestic side of things, Big Hero 6 has finally passed Wreck-It Ralph ($189m) to become the second biggest film in the history of Disney Animation Studios, trailing Tangled ($200m) and Frozen ($400m).
9. The Penguins of Madagascar
- Weekend Gross=$3.5 million (-51% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$64.1 million
- Budget=$132 million
Foreign: $16.5m from over 50 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $135.6m/$199.7m.
The last time DreamWorks Animation put out a movie over Thanksgiving and thus for all of December they took a loss of nearly $90 million on Rise of the Guardians. Well, poor Penguins is currently performing around $8m behind the pace of Guardians. Luckily, Penguins didn’t cost as much to make. So, it probably won’t lose quite as much money, but it definitely will lose money. That’s a crappy silver lining.
10. P.K. (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$3.5 million
- Budget=$14 million
Foreign: $25.6m from 22 markets this weekend for an international debut of $29.1m.
What the what! What the hell is P.K.? According to Wikipedia, it is an “Indian comedy-drama about an alien who lands on Earth but gets stranded in Rajasthan as his spaceship’s remote control device gets stolen” and used by a “godman” who fools the world into thinking he got it from the Himalayas. I’ve honestly never heard of it before, but this is far from the first time a Bollywood film has crept into the domestic top 10 seemingly out of nowhere. Dhoom 3 did the same thing in this same exact weekend last year, at which point it set a North American record for best opening Friday ($1.075m) and weekend ($3.4 million) for an Indian film. P.K. came up a little short beating that Friday opening, but if the estimates are correct it set the new record for opening weekend. These kinds of things tend to be mere blips on the radar screen, though, as Dhoom 3 only ended up with a total domestic gross just barely over $8m. That was to go along with the $80m it made from India and everywhere else in the world. So, clearly P.K.’s true business will be elsewhere. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some random Bollywood film crack the top 10 on this same weekend next year as a firm release pattern seems to have been established by Dhoom 3 and P.K.
What Dropped Out of the Top 10?:
It was a bloodbath out there for holdovers this weekend. Interstellar (#6 to #11), Horrible Bosses 2 (#7 to #12), The Theory of Everything (#9 to #13), and Dumb and Dumber To (#8 to #17) all left the top 10. Interstellar is now up to $171m domestic/$635m worldwide. That places it well behind Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, both domestically and worldwide, but it still managed to become the 8th biggest worldwide hit of 2014.
What’s Up Next?:
Well, one thing that’s not coming next is The Interview. So, the Christmas Day release slate is currently at wide openings for The Gambler, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and Big Eyes, very limited debuts for American Sniper and Selma, and expansions for awards contenders like The Imitation Game.