Weekend Wrap-Up
Don’t Breathe Chokes Out Competition
By John Hamann
August 28, 2016

Don't take my photo - I look terrible with night vision enabled!

In a summer of blockbusters, it’s been the smaller, scarier films that have been hugely profitable, and this weekend, our last of the summer, is no different.

Horror is the shizzle again, and this summer has proved it. The Conjuring 2 cost $40 million and made $300 million worldwide, The Purge: Anarchy cost $10 million and made $100 million, and The Shallows earned $85 million against $17 million. The best is Lights Out, which cost only $4.9 million, and has earned $111 million worldwide to date, or more than 22 times its production budget. This weekend, Don’t Breathe closes it out, as we have a film that cost less than $10 million to make and has a ton of promise heading into its opening weekend. Oh – and Mechanic: Resurrection also debuted.

Our number one film of the weekend is Sony and Screen Gems' Don’t Breathe, the latest summer 2016 horror flick that has found grand success. The studio used an old fashioned way to get this to pop on opening weekend – they showed a good film to people with influence, and got word-of-mouth cooking. The advertising buy for Don’t Breathe wasn’t huge; it has no stars and none of the gloss that comes with a $150 million budget. Normally this would mean trouble for any film, but Don’t Breathe got started decently at Thursday previews, earning $1.9 million, a powerful amount for a film that was supposed to open between $10 and $12 million.

The combined Thursday/Friday for Don’t Breathe was huge at $10 million, a number that touched the low end of the tracking estimate. That’s also a very high single day for Screen Gems, which had an $11.3 million Friday for The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30 million weekend) and an $8.6 million for Underworld. Instantly, Don’t Breathe was going to do very well amongst Screen Gems horror titles, many of which have been successful. Emily Rose, for example, cost Screen Gems $19 million to make (actually high for Screen Gems), and it made $144 million worldwide.

The weekend figure for Don’t Breathe came in at an excellent $26.1 million, awesome for this late into August, and proof again that any film can open successfully at any time – as long as all the elements are in the right place. It more than doubled its $9.9 million budget (a similar amount was likely spent on catering for Suicide Squad), and closes the summer out with a bang, drawing older audiences back to theaters (when they are usually empty). Why did Don’t Breathe go so nicely against the grain? It’s a good movie. Don’t Breathe is certified fresh at RottenTomatoes with a 87% fresh rating, and top critics – the ones who only usually like Victorian romances, came in at 94% fresh, with only two finding something not to like. The Cinemascore was out of hand for horror at a B+, better than Lights out (B) and just missing The Conjuring 2 (A-). Lights Out got to 3x its opening weekend with its Cinemascore, and there is no reason Don’t Breathe can’t do the same.

That puts Suicide Squad down to second, but with less competition in the marketplace, Suicide Squad is showing some staying power, and continues to dumb down the youth of America. This weekend, the bad guy team-up earned another $12.1 million and fell 42%. Suicide Squad is finding the Let’s Be Cops trend, where through late August 2014, choices became limited, and Cops turned a $17 million opening frame into $82 million despite being only 19% fresh. Suicide Squad has now mustered $282.9 million, and does look like it will limp past the $300 million mark.

Kubo and the Two Strings is third. The animated film from Laika earned another $7.9 million in its second weekend, and drops a higher than expected 37%. The success from Kubo will come down to how it does overseas, as it's tracking to finish with about $40 million, $20 million less than that $60 million budget. To date, Kubo and the Two Strings has earned $24.9 million stateside, and is just starting to roll out overseas.

Fourth goes to Sausage Party, as this actually holds better than I thought it would. After opening to $34 million, the naughty animated flick from Seth Rogen fell 54% last weekend to $15.5 million. This weekend, Sausage Party earned another $7.7 million, and dropped 51%. Normally, I would rip a film for two drops like that, but the audience for something like this is always small, so to earn $80 million so far indicates something has gone very right for Sony and Annapuma Films. It has picked up $8.7 million overseas.

Jason Statham’s Mechanic: Resurrection finds itself all the way down in fifth place. After the original Mechanic earned $62 million worldwide against a $40 million budget, one has to wonder why Lionsgate thought this was a good idea. The bad idea opened badly, earning only a single digit debut. Mechanic: Resurrection could find only $7.5 million from a low 2,258 venues, as it would appear the studio bailed on this one late. Reviews were not good (shocking, right?), coming in at 25% fresh at RottenTomatoes, but at least Statham has fans at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as both trade mags gave positive reviews. Overseas might help a little, as the first Mechanic earned only $30 million away from North America, but Statham’s international flavor is rising. Like the original, this one cost $40 million, and it will struggle to earn that back, although the Cinemascore was better than the original (B+ versus a B-).

Sixth is Pete’s Dragon, now in its third weekend. The Disney remake earned another $7.3 million, off 36% from the previous frame when it earned $11.3 million. This one needs to fly high overseas, as the domestic take sits at $54/7 million against a $65 million budget. Overseas, it has picked up $22 million, but still has a long way to go.

War Dogs is seventh, and does not hold well in its second weekend. The Jonah Hill/Miles Teller flick earned $7.2 million in its second frame and declined a distasteful 51%. This Todd Phillips flick cost $40 million to make, and is another that will need significant help overseas if its going to find a profit – so far, it has earned about $15 million over there.

Eighth is Bad Moms, one of the big surprises of the summer. Bad Moms earned another $5.8 million this weekend and fell 28%. The $20 million STX Entertainment effort has earned $95.4 million domestically, and has another $20 million overseas.

Jason Bourne takes the ninth place spot. The five-weekend-old Universal flick earned another $5.2 million this weekend and dropped 35%. Matt Damon has managed to lift Bourne to $149.4 million, a lower number than was hoped for, and has picked up $200 million overseas, not enough for a film that cost $120 million to make.

Ben-Hur, one of the big flops of the summer, has a devastating second weekend. After the religious flick opened to $11.2 million last weekend, it held poorly in the follow-up frame, earning only $4.5 million, rubbing salt in an already open wound. The domestic total has hit $19.6 million against that #100 million budget.

A couple of critical darlings fared decently in more limited release than the films in the top 10. Hell or High Water, a film that is 99% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, increased its theater count to 909 venues and slipped into 12th place as a result. Its $3.7 million represents a 38% increase over last weekend. The Lionsgate release is one to watch as it platforms, especially as we haven't had many films this year that have been good enough to enter the awards conversation.

In 813 venues, Southside With You, the Before Sunset-like story about the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama, finished with $3.1 million. The per venue average is slight at $3,764, but given its 88% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it may show some continued interest in the coming weeks. At the least, it should be a money maker on home video.

Overall, the box office is settling in for its Labor Day nap. The top 12 films this weekend pulled in an okay $98.8 million, yards ahead of last year when the 12 earned only $68.9 million. Next weekend is very light, with The Light Between the Oceans, a drama with Michael Fassbender, opening on 1,500 screens, and Morgan, a sci-fi/horror release with Kata Mara, debuting on 2,000 screens.