Weekend Wrap-Up
Dark Tower Opens Ugly As Year-Over-Year Comparison Plummets
By John Hamann
August 6, 2017

Walking like a bunch of hobbits to find a tower.

Throw some more gas on the summer 2017 box office bonfire. We’ve got another wannabe blockbuster and franchise going down in flames.

I will show you box office fear in a handful of dust. It’s close, but not quite the opening line of Stephen King's eight-book Gunslinger opus, but this weekend it works. Sony's The Dark Tower may have opened to number one this weekend; however, the box office bullets were few, and the reviews for the hopeful franchise kick-off were nothing but vicious. This weekend last year, Suicide Squad opened to a ridiculous $133.7 million, so this frame’s overall box office would be extremely happy to even match that figure. Also opening this weekend is Kidnap, starring Halle Berry, a small thriller like 2013’s The Call, which cost $13 million and earned $51 million domestic and $70 million worldwide. Also opening is the very serious Detroit, a film about that city’s race riots and the tragic deaths of three black men during the nightmare. Like Dunkirk, Detroit is positioning itself early for the Oscar race, and like Dunkirk, has a great pedigree given that it is directed by Zero Dark Thirty’s Katherine Bigelow.

For years, many studio executives have taken a stab at how to bring Stephen King's mid-world of the Dark Tower series to life, but how does one leave an audience satisfied after telling only one-eighth of a story (and not even really that)? King's first Dark Tower book is a mix of genres: spaghetti western, new age think-piece, and sci-fi/horror (in the first book, the central character shoots down an entire village). Because this movie is a "sequel" of sorts to the book series, much of the content of the first book was thrown out of the movie, leaving only the story of The Man in Black, The Gunslinger Roland, and the boy Jake. Fans couldn’t have been pleased at this, so even early character names released a year ago had fans up in arms, questioning the filmmaker’s decisions, as some characters came from books much later in the series, and some seemingly from nowhere at all.

Simply said: fans did not show up en masse for The Dark Tower. The Thursday preview amount came in at only $1.8 million and the combined opening day was a disappointing $7.7 million. For the studio, the best news from that number is that they only dropped $60 million on the King box set, because they would have been in a deep financial hole had it carried a $120 million production budget. Over the entire weekend, The Dark Tower came in at $19.5 million, definitely at the low end of expectations, as tracking had been looking for $20 million plus. It was no secret that reviews had been embargoed until Wednesday, and when critics released their wrath, the outcome was a 18% fresh rating from regular reviewers and an even lower 13% from top critics. The Cinemascore was also severely underwhelming, coming in at a low B, indicating that legs could be as bad as the opening.

Ron Howard was the first to envision a multi-platform approach to The Dark Tower series, where a big screen film would kick-off an approach that would see a TV series and more features following after. That is all toast now, as director Nikolaj Arcel failed to deliver a product that audiences wanted to see. Matthew McConaughey has his third consecutive miss after flopping with Gold ($3.3 million opening, $7.2 million domestic), The Sea of Trees (the Gus Van Sant flick made $20,444 total), and Free State of Jones ($7.6 million opening, $20.8 million domestic total). Idris Elba failed to build on any fanboy love earned from Star Trek Beyond and will have to find another entry to build a fanbase in the US. Elba is the only thing The Dark Tower has going for it overseas, and it will be a severe stretch to find a profit on the $60 million film, given the domestic debut and the likelihood of this genre mix working overseas.

Finishing second is Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic. The much-loved film earned $5 million on Friday night, falling a very slim 37% when comparing this Friday to last. From that number alone, we knew the weekend hold would again be impressive. Dunkirk earned $17.6 million in its third weekend and fell only 34%, a massive hold considering the film had already earned $116 million heading into the weekend. The total for the $100 million flick has now risen to $133.6 million, and it joins the $180 million earned overseas.

Third is The Emoji Movie. After a life-affirming 62% drop from Friday-to-Friday, the movie about nothing came back a bit. Regardless, audiences have figured out there is nothing to see here. The weekend total came in at $12.4 million, off 50% compared to opening weekend. The domestic total for Sony’s $50 million animated feature has now hit $49.5 million after 10 days of release.

Fourth is Girl Trip, the other leggy film in the top ten. The Bridesmaids-like hit earned another $11.4 million and dropped only 42% compared to last weekend. The summer hit from Universal has already racked up $85.4 million after three weekends of release, and stands as a jewel against its $19 million budget. This one should play nicely over these slower August weekends, like an African-American We’re the Millers.

Halle Berry’s Kidnap did okay for a smaller film this weekend, opening to a not terrible $10.2 million from 2,378 theaters. I say not terrible because this was originally a Relativity Media release, the company that went bankrupt and had to sell off their remaining film inventory. This one was sold off to a company called Aviron Pictures, which picked it up for $3 million. So, considering it was on the shelf for three years, I would be happy with this result. At Rotten Tomatoes, Kidnap came in with a could-be-worse 41%, and the Cinemascore was better than I expected at a B+. If word-of-mouth can get out, a film like this could gain a following in the dog days of summer.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is sixth, as the Sony/Marvel release has a strong weekend. The latest film incarnation of the webslinger earned $8.8 million in its fifth weekend and fell 34%, giving it its first weekend-to-weekend drop below 40%. The domestic gross for Homecoming has risen to $294.9 million, and it will cross the $300 million mark this week. The overseas gross has gone beyond the $375 million mark, so the $175 million film has earned $670 million plus at the worldwide box office.

Atomic Blonde drops heavily after finishing fourth over its opening frame with $18.3 million. Over its second weekend, the Charlize Theron flick picked up another $8.2 million but fell a heavy 55%. The $30 million Focus release has now earned $34.1 million domestically.

In eighth, new release Detroit has a rougher weekend than most expected, but the Detroit riots make for tough subject matter. So, an early August release date was not a great choice. After opening on 20 screens last weekend, Annapurna Pictures went very wide in its second weekend, taking the film out to 3,007 venues. Detroit earned $7.3 million this weekend from all of those screens, which would have left half-empty theaters instead of packed houses had the studio chosen to platform the release. Reviews for the Kathryn Bigelow flick were great like usual – 88% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, but I think the release strategy was not smart, and could sink the $34 million film. The good news is that the Cinemascore was an A-, so like Kidnap, word may get out. Give Detroit $7.8 million to date, and my hopes that audiences check it out.

War For The Planet of the Apes continues its freefall to ninth, as it earned only $6 million and declined 43%. The film, which held so much promise prior to release, will likely exit the top ten with a domestic total of $130.3 million, against a budget of $150 million. The $145 million plus earned overseas helps, but it's just not enough to save this one.

Universal and Illumination land Despicable Me 3 in tenth, giving it six weekends at least in the top ten. This weekend, Gru and Family earned $5.3 million, and the animated film dropped 30%. The total for the $80 million release has hit $240.8 million, while the overseas gross is huge at $640 million.

Overall this weekend, the top 12 records a terrible combined gross of $111.6 million, as it fails to earn what Suicide Squad opened to ($133 million) last year. Last year’s Suicide Squad top 12 combined for a masterful $221.3 million, which simply embarrasses the 2017 number. Next weekend brings Annabelle: Creation, the prequel that is earning fabulous reviews. Also opening is The Glass Castle with Brie Larson and The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, a film where one wonders why they don’t remember the original Nut Job.