THB Headlines: Only 1 Film Should Really Have A Big October Smile... No Matter How The Trades Spin It
In 11 days, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be the nuclear box office event that will end all complex conversation for a few weeks. I believe tracking is underestimating the number, as it did the first time around. The only thin spot will be people over 50 and even they will show up with their kids and grandkids going back for a second look at the new Panther over Thanksgiving.
We have been in a drought, created by the studios, since Bullet Train opened in the first week of August, so I get the urge to finally get to have some enthusiasm for the 3 movies of any real potential size that have opened in October: Halloween Ends, Ticket to Paradise, and Black Adam. There is a family movie, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Smile, the one title that really encourages enthusiasm, opened September 30.
Last October was blessed with the unique event of having a Bond movie in the mix. So let’s put that aside, out of fairness.
Black Adam is 27% behind Venom: Let There Be Carnage after 2 weekends.
Halloween Ends is 30% behind Halloween Kills after 3 weekends.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is 31% behind The Addams Family 2 after 4 weekends.
I would love to do comps for Ticket To Paradise, but to my astonishment, once I looked at 2021 for a romantic comedy, there was not a single one released wide by a major last year unless you want to include Licorice Pizza, which had a few movie stars in supporting cameos, but two unknown leads falling it love. Ticket to Paradise is kicking Licorice’s ass.
2022 is no less challenging. It doesn’t seem right to call Don’t Worry Darling a rom-com. So that leaves The Lost City and Marry Me.
Ticket To Paradise is 20% behind The Lost City after 2 weekends. And yes, ToP is way out ahead of the day-n-date release of Marry Me, both released by Universal.
Look… months come and months go. Black Panther is coming so we can tell ourselves that one movie will save us all. And no doubt, last October got a “theaters are finally open” bump.
But if you read the trades… all the trades… you would think October was a cause for celebration.
Halloween Ends was made for a modest budget and will be profitable. Ticket to Paradise will be reasonably close to profitability, thanks to international, which is looking like it will be double domestic. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile will be somewhere in the neighborhood of breakeven after you add in the Netflix output deal. Black Adam is going to lose money, regardless of the accounting games.
So the studios aren’t going to be particularly damaged. But no one really helped themselves heaps this month… except for Paramount and Smile. Parker Finn’s first feature (which I haven’t seen, but really need to) meets Marc Weinstock’s greatest strength as a marketer meets a genre where audiences are motivated and BOOM!
Really, it is time to reconsider Paramount as a theatrical powerhouse. Universal, Disney, and Warners all are also in the year-end conversation about which studio had the best year. But Paramount had a positive, but soft start to the year, winners in March, April, and May (home of the biggest win of the year so far), and after an almost inverted 3 months, Smile is yet another winner.
I won’t recall all the trade rationalizations because I am really not intending to be unkind to individuals. But it’s not helpful… because it’s not true. When you feel like you have to compare a DC Superhero movie to the lead actor’s career numbers week after week, you have to know you are selling a lie. No other lead of a superhero movie, especially much more successful superhero movies, could stand up to that way of thinking without laughing.
Robert Downey, Jr is one of his generation’s great actors… but commercially, he is Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, which was built on his Iron Man success, and after that, 3 post-Iron Man movies between $212m and $251m worldwide and 33 movies under $20 million worldwide.
Comic book movies are not about having a movie star come in and drive the movie’s box office. Ever. For someone with Dwayne Johnson’s success level as an actor to take on superhero is a unicorn. And when that superhero movie doesn’t build significantly on the star’s box office success, but just barely matches what was already built… IT IS NOT A WIN!!!!
And as I noted before, it’s gonna lose money.
If the standard for theatrical success moving forward is going to be not failing, theatrical will eventually fail. It’s not the market. It’s a choice.
I am not throwin' away my shot… I am not throwin’ away my shot…