THB #227: Box Office Waaaaa
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If qualified, you won’t keep trying to make a $19 million opening seem like a great success. If you are doing this, you should move on from box office analysis as soon as possible. The only exception is when you explain clearly and concisely that if top openings are $20 million and less on the regular, movie theaters will continue to close and then those $20 million openings will be $15 million openings, on their way to even less.
For starters, the Smile opening is as likely as not to be under $19 million. It’s a reasonably conservative call, given that it’s less than 3x Friday’s actual $6.2 million open, plus the $2 million from Thursday ($20.6m). But still… wouldn’t bet the house.
I also don’t want to be negative about a very effective publicity/marketing campaign, Stripped down, simple, clean. One idea. Not many details. 3 weeks space since the last launch in this genre space. Creepy smiles all pointed to this movie for the last week or so. Paramount’s Marc Weinstock blew up (in the good way) at Screen Gems back when they were opening genre to $20m+ on the regular… he knows how to do this as well as anyone in the game. Good work.
This is the 8th straight domestic weekend with a different movie in the #1 slot. The highest grosser of all of those 8 weekends was Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero with $21.1 million. That would be an anime release by a streaming network. Proud moments.
We’ve now had 3 straight weekends with the $1 movie in America grossing just under $20 million. And people are out there popping champagne corks like something good happened. This is the shit storm that I told you about 6 months ago and 3 months ago and that everyone has been talking about in the last 6 weeks. It’s not a happy story.
I’ve been trying to find ways to show this problem more effectively. Here, I am separating the charts from 2019 and 2022.
The Blue section is $0 - $50 million a weekend. Solid all across.
The Brown section is $50m - $100 million. Pretty solid across.
The Gray section is the winning part, $100 million - $150 million.
The 4 segments above that are happy days.
The Blue section is mostly solid… but that is not a healthy level to accept as a norm.
The Brown section is seriously eroded on either end here and has holes in the middle.
The Gray section exists… but only in 14 weeks of the year 2022, where 2019 hit gray in 36 of its first 39 weekends.
The segments above gray… happy days here too. I don’t worry about those levels.
It is the brown segment that needs to be rebuilt for movie theaters to be anywhere close to “normal.” The higher levels - the blockbusters - will take care of themselves. The weekends that were not great in 2019 will take care of themselves.
The brown is the middle class of the movie industry. This is where the movies “they don’t release anymore” make the industry - exhibitors and distributors alike - healthy.
Here is 2021… in case you were wondering…
That sudden surge of Brown is the summer movie season, as it was, last year. Notice that even then, there was not the drop off in August and September we are having this year. 7 of the last 13 weekends of last year were in the Brown and higher, which was the first serious sign of Exhibition coming back.
Okay… enough of that…
A 75.2% drop off of a $150 million opening can be rationalized away, but it’s challenging. A 75.2% drop off at $19.4 million opening for Don’t Worry Darling is an embarrassment. Ironically, young women seem to be treating the film like young men too often treat them… one weekend promising heat, delivering mediocrity, and then they go ghost. Social media analytics corp RelishMix is doing its best to offer hope for the lie that this is hit movie and Harry Styles is now a movie opener. Embarrassing.
But not quite as painful as this opening for Bros. I made the dumb mistake of thinking that unexpected social media attention my review was getting last week was a good sign. Apparently not. A projected $4.8 million opener is shattering. And again shattering of the myth that social media sells movie tickets. Universal did everything they could come up with, including resurrecting Billy on the Street.
Putting aside Focus releases and the Jaws re-release, Universal now has the bottom 4 spots from the majors this year, including a service deal on Redeeming Love, the Peacock day-n-date Firestarter, and The 355, which was swamped by ongoing Spidey and Sing business, as well as an early year emergence of Omicron, a new variation of COVID 19.
I am not a big fan of Bros, but I certainly expected better than this. It seems that they managed to deliver the worst of both worlds. A movie that the gay audience didn’t think was edgy enough to actually be as important or fun as the hype in some quarters suggested and a movie that straight people felt was not made for them. I don’t know what the politics of thinking Fire Island was a better movie for free on Hulu… but I think it was a better movie. Ultimately, the marketing leaned so hard on the gay angle that there was nothing else much there to hang onto aside from that. Still, it should have done better than this.
One wonders whether Billy Eichner will get a Ponniyin Selvan to mark the occasion. (That was the film that outgrossed his yesterday on just 500 screens.)
The Woman King, another mediocre but “surprising” opener at $19 million is working to get to $45 million in its 3rd weekend and past $60 million domestic overall.
Barbarian continues to add to its wholly unexpected total. Imagine if it has gotten as hard a marketing push as Smile! The publicity department worked hard on the film and it’s paid off handsomely, given the $4.5 million budget. And it is going to be an even more valuable streaming title, which I assume is going to Hulu… but could be going to HBO Max.
Bullet Train finally chugged into $100 million domestic station. 7 of the 13 movies at #8 - #20 on the box office charts have been there for more than 5 weekends. Recent adds to the $90m domestic list, legging it out, are DC League of Super-Pets and Where the Crawdads Sing, the latter of which will pass the line sometime in the next week.
If the studios aren't going to provide the product to prime the exhibition pump, then it seems doomed to me. I fail to understand why the owners of all the IP reject the idea of sending their movies into the exhibition world at this point; it seems like a missed opportunity most of the time, and it simply makes zero sense to me.
The truth from me at this point is, I probably see more old movies in the theater than i do new releases. That's the truth. I'm most likely an exception, since I live in SoCal, where there are as many opportunities to see old stuff as anywhere I know. And I've loved going to the movies all my life, and still love seeing movies in a darkened theater with an audience.
Between all the "classic cinema" nights, combined with the Cinematheque, The Frida in Santa Ana, the New Bev, The Academy theater, LACMA, and on and on at all the places I can see old films, my movie theater visiting is split down the middle at the very least at this point. And for most of my life that's NOT how it went. Alot of it is due to there not being nearly enough new stuff that interests me any more. Sometimes there's nothing new interesting me for WEEKS.
The single best screening I've had this year is a Jaws screening at the Irvine Spectrum IMAX (one of the best IMAX theaters I've ever seen, and fortunately my home base IMAX). Part of me wishes I've had many great theatrical experiences with new movies this year, but no. Perhaps Oscar season will change that.
The studios should be giving it everything they've got to fix this, but their actions clearly don't reflect that, and for a movie lover like me, that's quite dispiriting. It's depressing as hell is what it is. The Regal right by my house (Anaheim Hills) just closed. I keep waiting for the Dome to reopen. It's all so depressing.
I think you're still not giving enough blame to streaming, and Disney in particular. Three Pixar movies plus MULAN and now HOCUS POCUS 2--you can't tell me that wouldn't be at least a billion domestic right there. As people get used to seeing new movies at home (especially those that are day-and-date), theatrical is never going to return to pre-pandemic levels. Hell, even the MCU is starting to crack; of the six pictures released post-pandemic, only one (SPIDEY) broke a billion WW (cf. the six pre-pandemic, all of which did so except ANT-MAN 2, which was never expected to).
Solution: I don't think there is one anymore.