Weekend Wrap-Up
Turtles Rule Galaxy with Guardians; $100 million Top Two
By John Hamann
August 10, 2014

They're off to solve some mysteries!

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles people should send the Guardians of the Galaxy people flowers, as foot traffic to theaters for Guardians and Transformers pulled these turtles out of their shells – big time.

Opening alongside Ninja Turtles this weekend was Into the Storm, the new Twister wannabe from Warner Bros. Also new in theaters was The Hundred Foot Journey, the latest attempt to intrigue the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel audience. It starred Helen Mirren and Om Puri and had Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg providing marketing support. Finally, we had another new release in Step Up All In, the fifth film in the dance series that has pulled $200 million domestic and even bigger amounts overseas from four films so far. The elephant in the room, though, is Guardians of the Galaxy, last weekend’s $94 million record breaker. How far would the surprise starter fall in its second weekend? Would it hold up better than the other $90 million plus openers we’ve seen this summer?

After Disney and Marvel turned Guardians of the Galaxy into the "it" thing last weekend, Paramount rides that wave of success this frame with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, producer Michael Bay's oft-mocked franchise restart. Bay, famous for continually managing to turn garbage into gold, has released two of three three films this summer that opened at number one but were less than 25% fresh at RottenTomatoes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles almost matched the critical negativity of Transformers: Age of Extinction, yet it still managed to open beyond tracking estimates for the weekend.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles broke out in a big way from the $40 million tracking estimates released prior to the weekend. The comic crossover earned $4.6 million through its previews (7 p.m. start) and a huge $21 million over Friday proper for a combined first day estimate of $25.6 million. Normally with a film like TMNT, I would expect a tiny internal multiplier (fanboys seek it out on Friday, followed by a large drop off over the remainder of the weekend). Saturday and Sunday were solid days for the film, giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in internal multiplier of 3.1 (excluding Thursday previews), and a surprisingly strong opening weekend total of $65 million.

Considering that the tracking figures had anticipated much less and the fact that the costs of production for the film were huge ($125 million), Paramount must be breathing quite a sigh of relief. Over the long haul, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will need to earn at least its production budget back stateside. Given the weak reviews and B Cinemascore, a $40 million opening weekend wasn’t going to be enough. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will need to earn more than $300 million worldwide and the big opening this weekend will only further help awareness and raise the profile to overseas audiences. It has already amassed $28.7 million from international venues, so it is certainly well on its way to profitability.

Ninja Turtles is another stupid and disappointing way to spend $125 million; however, we are beginning to see these types of movies released more and more often. These movies "for kids" are poorly made, violent, and just plain stupid, but they also make a ton of money. Readers of this column know I blame Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks. The two Garfield movies made $350 million worldwide, and the three Alvin movies have made $1.1 billion globally – just on the initial release of the film. These films have an average fresh rating of 17% at RottenTomatoes, and it’s a shame that this money can’t be spent making these movies better (Michael Bay doesn’t even care!).

Finishing second this weekend is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, last weekend’s breakout success. After a big weekend, Guardians had a really strong Monday and Tuesday, bringing in almost $12 million on both days, before cooling off the remainder of the week. Guardians earned $12.3 million on Friday, off 67% from the Thursday/Friday combo, and 53% from its "true" first Friday. Over the weekend proper, Guardians earned $41.5 million – this summer’s first film to hit or even approach $40 million in its second weekend. All of the other $90 million openers this summer (Godzilla, Transformers, X-Men, Spider-Man) had drops that were 60% or higher. The last film to open above $90 million and have a weekend-to-weekend decline of less than 60% was of course Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It opened to $95 million and fell 57% to $41.3 million. After two weekends, The Winter Soldier had earned $158.9 million, compared to Guardians of the Galaxy, which has surprisingly earned even more at $175.9 million. Transformers: Age of Extinction had looked as though it would be the top domestic earner of the summer at about $245 million, but with a couple of good holds over what is likely to be a couple of quiet weekends, Guardians is going to pass it.

Third goes to the special effects monster Into the Storm, this summer’s attempt at recreating Twister. That earlier tornado movie opened to a surprise $41.1 million over the May 10, 1996 weekend as it helped to change summer box office forever by widening the summer schedule earlier into May. Twister this is not, as Into the Storm opened to an only okay $18 million, nowhere near the heights its stormy sibling achieved so many years ago. Still, for a film that cost only $50 million to make, it should pick up $40 million stateside and find solid success overseas. For comparison's sake, Twister earned as much overseas as it did at home, which was about $250 million. Reviews for Into the Storm weren’t great (20% fresh), but most critics had problems with the found footage story rather than the effects themselves. Into the Storm earned a mediocre B Cinemascore. With the low budget, this is simply risk-free filler for Warner Bros.

Fourth spot goes to The Hundred Foot Journey, the new product targeting the older female demographic. This attempt at counter-programming succeeded nicely thanks to strong promotion from producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. The Hundred Foot Journey earned $11.1 million from only 2,023 venues, giving it a decent per venue average of $5,498. That means that the drama had a better venue average that the effects heavy Into the Storm, which earned $18 million form 3,434 venues, giving it an average of $5,246. Made for $25 million, The Hundred Foot Journey was not a big hit with critics (64% fresh), but received an A Cinemascore, with adults 25-49 giving it an A+. It should have long legs here before seeing overseas numbers similar to Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($92 million overseas).

Fifth is Lucy, our number film before all this new business showed up. After a searing drop last weekend (58%), Lucy was looking to even out a bit this weekend, despite having $88 million domestic against a $40 million budget heading into the weekend. This time around, Lucy earned $9.3 million, off 49% from its second weekend. Lucy will have to wait a weekend to get to $100 million, when it becomes the 12th film of the summer to reach that total. So far, the Luc Besson flick has earned $97.4 million.

Sixth goes to Step Up All In, the latest dance release from Lionsgate. This franchise peaked a long time ago, in August 2006, when the first Step Up film managed a $20.7 million debut, almost doubling its production budget in three days. Three further iterations followed, all with lower opening weekends than the original. The last one, Step Up Revolution, opened to only $11.7 million. Like a hissing tire, Step Up All In debuted with only $6.6 million from 2,072 venues. Audiences seem to like it (B+ Cinemascore), but really these films are made for the overseas audiences. The last two Step Up films pulled in over $100 million overseas, and did so with $30 million budgets. In fact, it has already earned more than $25 million from those international venues.

Seventh is Hercules, which has been trounced since opening three weekends ago. After debuting with an okay $29.8 million, the Dwayne Johnson sword and sandal flick earned only $11 million in weekend two against Guardians of the Galaxy. It falls another 48% this weekend with a take of only $5.7 million, lifting its domestic haul to $63.5 million. Hercules had a budget of $100 million, and looks like it will top out domestically prior to hitting $75 million. Overseas, it has pulled in $72 million, so it looks like trouble for Paramount at this point.

Finishing eighth is Get On Up, the James Brown biopic. This one is a bit of a head scratcher, as after debuting to an okay $13.6 million opening last weekend, the bottom has fallen out on Get On Up. The Chadwick Boseman starrer earned only $5 million in its second frame, giving it decline of 63% compared to opening weekend. Made for $30 million, this one seemed to be a good bet, but with a gross so far of $22.9 million, this one is in trouble.

Ninth is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a film I thought would do much better than it has this summer. Dawn earned only $4.4 million, dropping 49% from the previous weekend. That joins the declines of 50%, 54%, and 48% it had seen prior to this weekend. I thought this one would see better legs after its $72.6 million debut, but it will settle for a gross so far of $197.8 million). Still, with overseas revenue of more than $300 million, the studio has to be pleased with the overall result compared to the production budget of $170 million.

In tenth is Planes: Fire and Rescue, which thankfully is going to be flushed out of the top ten after only four weekends of release. It earned a woeful $2.4 million and was off 60% from its $6 million frame last weekend. It has now earned $53 million domestic against a $50 million budget, along with $37 million overseas.

Overall, it’s starting to look more like summer. The top 12 films this weekend stayed on pace with last weekend’s $172 million breakout, earning $173.6 million. That’s a step up on last year’s top 12, when Elysium led that group of films to $142.3 million. Next weekend brings Expendables 3, and will tell us whether a film like this can survive a piracy leak; The Giver, another YA property with a prominent adult cast (Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes) and Let’s Be Cops, a comedy with New Girl stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.