Friday Box Office Analysis
By David Mumpower
June 29, 2013

We were told this was where we could audition for Girls Gone Wild.

Another electric Friday at the box office was predicted. Three titles all garnered supporters in the debate regarding which potential blockbuster would take the day and thereby (presumably) the weekend. While a pair of heralded newcomers faced high expectations, last week’s champion succeeded in defending its title as the number one film in North America for the eighth consecutive day. With regards to the debuting titles, there was some very good news and some very bad news.

For weeks now, there has been a perception that The Heat would behave as a de facto sequel to Identity Thief and Bridesmaids. Rising box office star Melissa McCarthy added cohort Sandra Bullock for an old school buddy flick, and the pairing of two of the most bankable actresses in Hollywood right now led to high expectations. The Heat more than met those expectations, debuting to a tremendous $13.6 million.

For comparison, Bridesmaids started with $7.8 million on its way to a $26.2 million opening weekend and a dazzling domestic gross of $169.1 million. Identity Thief surpassed Bridesmaids on its first day and first weekend with $11.1 million and $34.6 million, respectively. It also earned a shocking total of $134.5 million, far beyond even the most optimistic of predictions for the comedy. Meanwhile, Bullock’s biggest recent release, The Blind Side, debuted to a modest $11.0 million on its first day and $34.1 million on its opening weekend. Its final domestic take was an almost incomprehensible $256 million. Her earlier romantic comedy, The Proposal, began with $12.7 million and $33.6 million before ending with $164 million.

What we can learn from the above is that a combination of McCarthy and Bullock is the most dynamic leading lady tandem in Hollywood at the moment. Their joint presence in a buddy cop film represents a casting masterstroke. Audiences absolutely agreed as the movie’s Friday gross surpassed all of the titles listed above. Fox has another $100 million comedy in the offing and probably a LOT more.

The primary question right now is how big the opening weekend will be. The four films above all fell in the range of 3.1-3.36 on their weekend multipliers save for The Proposal, which was considerably lower at 2.65. Ergo, the reasonable worst case scenario for The Heat is $36 million, which would also represent the best of the five blockbusters under discussion. My believe is that The Heat will follow the 3.1 pattern and thereby become the only $40+ million debut of these titles with $42.2 million.

Now here is the bad news. There are a few laws in Hollywood, one of the most important being the following. On those rare occasions when two projects with the same theme are released, becoming the first title in theaters represents a huge competitive advantage. The later release had better be good enough to entice consumers to watch the same basic concept twice.

White House Down failed to deliver in this regard. As such, the $150 million (!) production debuted with a measly $9 million, barely good enough for third place yesterday. White House Down provided something idea-clone Olympus Has Fallen lacked, star power, due to the combination of Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum. Alas, audiences determined it had little else to offer. White House Down is likely to finish in fourth place for the weekend and will inevitably join After Earth as the worst bombs of the summer. For Foxx, this is a Stealth redux. Meanwhile, the movie in which Tatum provided a cameo appearance, This Is The End, will probably winding up earning the same amount of domestic box office for roughly 20% of the cost.

In case you were wondering, Olympus Has Fallen debuted to $10.1 million on its way to an opening weekend of $30.4 million. More important, it cost only $70 million to produce, thereby leading to the obvious conclusion that FilmDistrict’s release was a much better investment than Sony’s. Realistically, this situation is similar to Mission to Mars and Red Planet in 2000. Neither of the Destruction of D.C. movies will be remembered for anything more than parts of “identical movie twins” lists.

The wizards at Pixar are experiencing a fantastic June. Monsters University already stamped itself with the second best opening weekend in the history of the storied animation house. The Disney production follows that frame with a stellar $14.3 million on its second Friday, a weekly decline of only 53%. For comparison, the two previous Pixar releases were Brave and Cars 2. Those two titles fell 58% and 70% respectively. Obviously, Monsters University is striking a chord with consumers in a way that other recent Pixar titles had been unable to manage.

Monsters University has already grossed $139.1 million and is poised to become the third most popular Pixar film thus far. For all of the social media criticism about Disney's decision to sequel-ize many of their beloved titles, the box office results as well as the toy sales revenue figures speak for themselves. Monsters University should gross $45.8 million this weekend, thereby narrowly edging Monsters, Inc.'s $45.6 million to become the fourth best second weekend in Pixar history. Any total over $46.6 million would raise Monsters University to third while an admittedly unlikely $50.4 million would place it in second. Finding Nemo and The Incredibles currently hold second and third place in this regard. Toy Story 3 holds the current Pixar record with $59.3 million.

Last weekend's other huge opener, World War Z, once again defied expectations. By earning $8.9 million, the movie declined "only" 65% Friday-to-Friday. Remember that movies are less Friday-skewed after opening weekend so the weekend decline for WWZ should be less than 60%. A second weekend of $28.5 million is roughly what the projections had been for the film's opening weekend just a couple of months ago. With $102.8 million in the coffers against a $190 million production budget, the zombie flick has a long way to go to become profitable. It has avoided the disastrous fate that we are witnessing this weekend with White House Down, though.