Box Office

Four Main Takeaways From This Weekend’s Box Office

1. The Circle Failed Because Movie Stars Mean Nothing, and Millennials Love Technology Too Much To Care About Yet Another “Rise Up Against the Tech Empire” Hollywood Fantasy

Emma Watson has 25 million Twitter follows and is a U.N. ambassador. Her most recent film, Beauty and the Beast, has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Tom Hanks is a Hollywood legend with two Oscars and a box office hit (Sully) under his belt less than a year ago. Their first movie together, the paranoid, Orwellian “big tech’s coming to get ya’” thriller The Circle (based on a 2013 novel), tanked, grossing just $9.3m this weekend.

But, but, but…Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Together. In a movie. Hermione Granger and Forrest Gump playing out their own little Social Network-meets-Snowden thriller. This is a thing that actually happened, and the world just didn’t care? Why?

Because we don’t mindlessly buy tickets anymore just to see certain actors; we buy tickets to see pre-branded products and, on occasion, specific actors we like if they happen to have been paired with an ideal project. Keanu Reeves and John Wick? Fuck yeah we’ll watch that. Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin, The Whole Truth, Exposed or Henry’s Crime? Um, we’re not even sure you didn’t just make all of those titles up, at least the ones after 47 Ronin. But, no, those are all real movies, and no one went to see them or rent them on VOD.

Similarly, Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast? It’s insane how many nostalgia boxes that ticks off. Emma Watson in 2017’s version of The Net? Yeah, hard pass. Same goes for Tom-Hanks-as-Sully-Sullenberger versus Tom-Hanks-as-more-evil-Steve-Jobs, especially after seeing this:

Moreover, as Emily Yoshida argued on Vulture The Circle and the recent Ghost in the Shell live-action remake with a down with corporations twist is the type of American fantasy which does not at all align with how audiences actually feel about tech:

The Circle – There is something vaguely opiatic about these films’ insistence that we will all #resist and #riseup in the face of a tech monopoly, when in real life we’ve already agreed to hand so much of our time and attention over to the actual Circles of the world. The movies flatter us into thinking we would certainly act up to stop them when they cross the line, so that we don’t have to think about what we’re doing right now.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, The Circle and Ghost in the Shell are DOA at the box office.

2. Globalism Is a Force…Duh

The Circle was actually bested in the top 10 by How to Be a Latin Lover (#2, $12m) and Baahubali 2 (#3, $10.1m), both of which exceeded expectations but still fell into a now-familiar pattern of seemingly random Spanish or Indian movies coming out of nowhere and popping big. Of course, they don’t actually come out of nowhere for their target audience who are already familiar with the involved stars or franchise (e.g., the first Baahubali was a blockbuster in India in 2015), but these films never really receive mainstream attention. That’s because the studios employ hyper-focused marketing strategies, pooling (for example) all of How to be a Latin Lover‘s resources into reaching the Hispanic audience that makes up 19% of moviegoers. That’s the audience more likely to remember Derbez from his 2013 movie Instructions Not Included, which was also a surprise hit, grossing $44m.

3. Vroom, Vroom, Vroom in China

Domestically, Fate of the Furious isn’t quite the hit that Furious 7 was, although it’s only off Furious 7‘s pace by $10m. However, it just passed Furious 7 in China to become the highest grossing Hollywood movie in the Middle Kingdom’s history. That record comes with some asterisks, related to currency fluctuations (Fate has made more the Furious 7 in yen, but not when that yen is converted using 2017’s dollar value), but the bigger point is vroom, vroom, vroom, family, family, family, money, money, money. Fate has now made over a billion worldwide. You know what this means: we’re eventually getting that Fast and Furious in Space movie whether we want it or not.

4. Guardians Go Up

As per usual, Marvel opened its latest movie overseas prior to its stateside debut. In this case, it was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which premiered in 58% of the international marketplace, grossing a combined $101m since last Tuesday. According to Forbes, “At a glance, that was 57% better than the original Guardians of the Galaxy, 50% ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 19% ahead of Thor: The Dark World in the same territories at today’s exchange rates. It was the top movie everywhere it debuted except for Portugal, Turkey and Vietnam.”

That’s good, right?

Yes, it is. It’s not just Civil War ($200m overseas debut), Iron Man 3 ($195m overseas debut), Avengers ($185m overseas debut) or Age of Ultron ($201m overseas debut) good, and all of those movies eventually made it to $1 billion worldwide. That’s probably not going to happen for Guardians 2, but it could still be the first non-Tony Stark MCU movie to hit $800m worldwide. When that’s your consolation price you’re definitely living the good life.

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