Weekend Wrap-Up
Ghostbusted by Pets
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
July 17, 2016


Women battled pets this weekend in one of the strangest box office showdowns in ages. The pets had an unfair advantage heading into the weekend, as they’d already spent a week absolutely eviscerating all comers. The women weren’t as well positioned. They were battling a venomous combination of hostile buzz and unreasonable expectations. In an unexpected turn of events, the battle wasn’t at all lopsided and while it wasn’t quite a photo finish, the two combatants both walked away from the conflict feeling good about themselves.

Yes, the number one movie in North America this weekend was the one that most observers expected. The Secret Life of Pets, the spiritual sequel to the Minions/Despicable Me franchise from Illumination Entertainment, continued to charm audiences young and old alike. Presuming actuals hold, its second weekend gross of $50.6 million places it on the shortlist of movies that earned more than $50 million in a weekend multiple times.

The charming family film fell 52% from its historic opening weekend of $104.3 million. That leads to an odd bit of trivia. Animated movies have finished in first place at the box office for five consecutive weekends, a cool streak that probably ends on Friday, although the release of the next Ice Age could extend it.

For perspective, Toy Story 3 dropped 46%, Minions fell 57%, Despicable Me 2 depreciated 48%, Finding Dory declined 46%, and Inside Out dropped only 42%. So, The Secret Life of Pets declined just a bit more than average for such a massive animated opener during its second weekend.

Now that we’ve split hairs about holdover appeal in its second frame, let’s focus on the positives. After only 10 days in theaters, The Secret Life of Pets has already crossed the $200 million barrier, which is absolutely amazing for a new intellectual property. Sitting at $203.2 million, it’s certain to fly by $300 million, which means it’ll finish at least $50 million higher than the original Despicable Me.

Any international appeal – it’s already grossed more than $50 million overseas – is a serendipitous bonus at this point. The film has already accomplished what every distributor wants for its releases. The Secret Life of Pets only has a production budget of $75 million, meaning it’s 100% in the black based solely on North American ticket revenue.

Although most forecasters were predicting that The Secret Life of Pets would win the weekend, not many of them believed that the final results would be as close as they were. Ghostbusters, the female-driven reboot of the classic 1984 comedy, finished just behind the animated film with a solid $46 million. It also added $19 million from international theaters.

A third Ghostbusters movie had been an on again, off again project ever since 1989 when Ghostbusters II was released in 1989. Over the years, many concepts were discussed, and a version where Bill Murray himself becomes a ghost came near to production, but was scrapped after Harold Ramis, who played Egon and co-wrote the original film, passed away.

Eventually, the decision was made to give Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) the director’s chair and to reboot the story with female leads. Although Feig clearly had a high comfort level with women-driven projects, the idea was quickly met with derision that smacked uncomfortably of sexism. Still, there was reason for optimism. Feig re-teamed with his Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and rising stars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were brought on to round out the core group. Casting Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, as the nerdy male Annie Potts counterpart would have seemed to be a silly masterstroke.

Then, the trailers for the movie were revealed. Lacking humor and feeling scattershot, people understandably reacted negatively (the preview would even eventually become the most disliked on YouTube). Naturally, this brought about its own share of controversy, as media outlets noted that comments on YouTube tended to be misogynistic rather than pointing out legitimate concerns with the movie’s quality. For his part, Ivan Reitman, director of the original film, credited the negative reaction more to people's nostalgia for the 1984 version rather than any true sexism or anti-feminist sentiment.

With all the toxicity surrounding Ghostbusters’ impending release, the outlook was grim. 2016 has not been kind to reboots and sequels that are viewed as unnecessary, and it seemed that the outcry against this particular film update was stronger than any other. Yet, reviews were solid (73% at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences liked it well enough to give it a B+ Cinemascore (same as Bridesmaids and Spy). Its Thursday preview box office of $3.4 million was neither disastrous nor exciting.

The total box office for Friday was $17.2 million, a number that factors in those Thursday showings. Thus, the “true Friday” box office was $13.8 million. In a surprising show of strength, Ghostbusters was able to increase on that “true Friday” number for a Saturday take of $16.4 million. Ultimately, the three-day total of $46 million exceeded most tracking and forecasting expectations, and should lead to decent enough headlines that future audiences will remain intrigued. Ghostbusters 2016 is saddled with a $140 million plus production budget, which is the primary reason it may not approach profitability. Sony has to be pleased with what has turned out to be a best-case scenario for box office performance.

If Warner Bros. hadn’t lost their minds with the production budget for The Legend of Tarzan, we’d be calling it an unqualified hit right now. For the third straight weekend, it finished in the top three and has yet to decline more than 50% in a weekend. Its third frame earnings of $11.1 million bring its domestic total to $103.1 million after 17 days. For a story that’s been told so many times, that’s a very strong performance. The problem is that sticking a television actor in a loincloth and running him through the jungle somehow cost $180 million, and that’s crazy. The Legend of Tarzan has averted disaster and will wind up with global revenue in excess of its budget. If Warner Bros. had been more frugal in making the movie, it’d stand as one of the solid hits of the summer. Instead, the best that they can hope for is a draw.

Rounding out the top five are Finding Dory and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. The latest Pixar release has staked a mighty claim as the number one release of the year. With another $11 million this weekend, a 47% drop, it’s now the most popular Pixar film ever with domestic box office of $445.5 million. Along the way, it’s also upended Shrek 2’s 12-year reign to become the most popular animated movie ever. It’s also currently the 11th biggest domestic performer ever, and it’ll move into eighth place by this time next week. It’s probably going to finish in seventh place all-time, a scintillating outcome for a sequel many observers felt came a decade too late.

As for Mike and Dave, the honeymoon’s not quite over, but they’re sobering up fast. A $7.5 million weekend gives the movie 10 days of box office totaling $31.3 million. For a $33 million production, that’s a solid total, but the 55% drop indicates that audiences have already done their walk of shame with Mike and Dave. Now, they’re ready to shower and move on with their lives. Still, the writers of this article want to emphasize that every movie on the planet would be better if it featured any or all of Adam DeVine, Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, or Sam Richardson. Mike and Dave won with the casting and deserved a better box office fate.

Sixth place goes to The Purge: Election Year, and even though it’s down another 51%, the horror/thriller has accomplished everything it needs to already. A weekend take of $6.1 million brings its overall domestic total to $71 million, which is almost enough to match the film’s overseas revenue of $78 million. Considering the $10 million budget, Universal has to be extraordinarily thrilled with the way things have gone here.

Central Intelligence once again has the best hold of any film in the top 12. The comedy from Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson earned another $5.3 million, down just 34% from the previous frame. It has quietly become one of the best earners of the year, as its domestic tally has now reached $117.5 million. Overseas audiences have added another $63 million to the coffers. Central Intelligence carried a $50 million production budget, so it’s definitely fair to call this Warner Bros. effort a success.

Closing out the top ten are a new release and a pair of box office duds. The Infiltrator stars Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as the real life federal agent who went undercover to take down notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. It’s the latest release from Broad Green Pictures, a relatively new distributor, and it struggled to earn venues or consumer support. Playing in only 1,601 locations, it earned a modest $5.3 million, a mediocre per-venue average of $3,302. Including its Wednesday and Thursday revenue, The Infiltrator grossed $6.7 million in five days. Sure, that’s not a great total but for an upstart studio, it’s not bad.

Ninth and tenth place go to the duds. Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, a reunion of the director and his Academy Award-winning actor, Mark Rylance, fell another 52% to $3.7 million this weekend. After three frames, its box office is $47.3 million, which would be fine if the film hadn’t cost $140 million to produce. Suffice to say that it’s going to go down as one of the worst box office failures of the year. Independence Day: Resurgence is in similar decline. Its fourth weekend drop of 56% means that this is its final stand in the top ten. Another $3.5 million brings its domestic tally to $98.5 million after 24 days in release. It’s brutal to do this comparison, but the original Independence Day had already crossed $200 million by this point. With a production budget of $165 million and overseas revenue approaching $200 million, this project isn’t a disaster. It does, however, border on a least case scenario result for Fox, though.

Woody Allen’s latest directorial effort, Café Society, debuted on just five screens with a terrific $355,000, which comes to $71,000 per location. The well-reviewed film with such featured performers as Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, should see a platform rollout in the coming weeks.

This year’s top 12 lags well behind the same weekend last year, when new releases Ant-Man and Trainwreck combined for more than $87 million. The top 12 for 2016 earned $154.1, while 2015’s set of films tallied $183.4 million. Next weekend offers a chance to push ahead, as Star Trek Beyond, Ice Age: Collision Course and the latest horror production from James Wan, Lights Out, will be newly released. There’s some question as to whether audiences are dying for another Ice Age or Star Trek, and we’ll see if they continue the 2016 story of sequel underperformance.