Weekend Wrap-Up
Kingsman 2 Opens Near Original; LEGO Franchise Waning
By John Hamann
September 24, 2017

Is that a clown? In a sewer?

Kingsman may be static against its original, and the LEGO house seems to be falling apart. Remember this is September, though, so if three movies earn $20 million or more in a single weekend, the box office is on fire.

When the original Kingsman opened in February 2015, it opened in second behind Fifty Shades of Grey, and over its first four weekends, it faced off against weaklings like McFarland, USA, The Duff, Focus, and Chappie. Yeah, the original Kingsman had great legs, but so did Let’s Be Cops, the August 2014 comedy. Let’s Be Cops opened to $17.8 million, and went on to do $82.4 million – giving it an opening to total multiplier of 4.6 – a multiplier most films would kill for, and Cops was a terrible 19% fresh, and carried a B Cinemascore – nothing to write home to mama about. The original Kingsman had a better B+ Cinemascore, was 74% fresh, but had an opening-to-total multiplier of less than 3.5, opening to $36.2 million, and finishing domestically with $128.3 million.

My point is that Let’s Be Cops faced the same forgettable competition as the original Kingsman, facing off against classics like If I Stay, As Above, So Below, The November Man, and The Identical. Kingsman went on to earn $414 million worldwide, which is why we are talking about its sequel today and not Let’s Be Cops 2, which finished with $155 million worldwide.

The weekend was looking pretty damned rosy after Thursday night, as new release Kingsman: The Golden Circle got started with $3.4 million from previews, more than double what the original did in previews. Given that fantastic start, everyone was pretty high on the weekend, with many looking for an opening in the high $40 millions. That bubble got popped somewhat Friday, as combined with previews, the opening day was reported at $15.3 million, still ahead of the original’s $10.4 million. It's important to note that the original opened on a long weekend, which increases the Sunday gross due to the holiday Monday. Additionally, the higher preview amounts skew everything.

Another factor in the mild expansion is that the sequel did not have the "holy shit did you see that" kind of moments that create that instant word-of-mouth studios crave. The original had already surprised with an out of the box concept and stunts, great effects, and inexplicable fun, so the sequel would have to go pretty far to repeat that kind of success. Unfortunately, reviews were worse (51% fresh), and the Cinemascore the same (B+). With the studio picking an odd release date, the deck was stacked against Kingsman: The Golden Circle over the rest of the weekend.

The weekend gross for the Kingsman sequel came in at $39 million, not far off from (but ahead of) the original’s $36.2 million. Unfortunately, the R-rated action comedy cost Fox about $25 million more this time. The original cost $25 million before marketing, whereas the sequel had a budget of $104 million, likely the most expensive September release ever. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is estimated as the fifth biggest September opening, behind only It, two Hotel Transylvania movies, and Insidious Chapter 2, which opened to $40.3 million. K2 has also gotten a strong start overseas, picking up $61.2 million to date, putting itself in position for at least take a run at the first film's $414 million worldwide gross.

Still, I think Fox will be ecstatic if Kingsman 2 even approaches the $400 million mark. This is an expensive, star-studded film from the UK, and given a guest star lineup that includes Elton John, one might think you could market the hell out of this one overseas. Even so, $400 million is a tough task for any film.

The next film in the franchise has already been announced as going forward, but I think the real decision is still coming. - it will depend on how the foreign gross turns out. If the domestic gross can crack $100 million, I think we will see another Kingsman film from Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class) a director who certainly can take an interesting, over-the-top, spin on things. His Kingsman films resemble the Roger Moore James Bond films, which seemed to live in a different world of physics. If Flatliners and Tom Cruise’s American Made make the grade next weekend, there may be significant pressure on Kingsman 2's second weekend. Reviews for American Made have been solid thus far, but given the fact that Cruise is the star, it has to be considered a wild card.

Second this weekend is Warner Bros. and New Line’s It, which had another powerful weekend, earning another $30 million. It fell 50% compared to its second weekend gross, a strong figure considering the genre and the high box office numbers it has been pulling in. It became the highest grossing horror film this weekend, taking over from The Exorcist, and has climbed to a powerful $266.3 million. Overseas, It has also crossed the $200 million mark, pulling up to $211 million for a worldwide figure of $478 million. Remember, It cost only $34 million to make, so WB is whistling all the way to the bank on this one.

Our second new release this weekend, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, is third, but the blossom is coming off of the Lego franchise, or at least off of its choices of content. TLNM did not come close to the levels of the earlier LEGO releases, earning only $30 million over its first three days, compared to $69.1 million for The LEGO Movie and $53 million for The LEGO Batman movie. The choice of Ninjago likely limited the audience beyond where WB and LEGO wanted to go, but The LEGO Movie 2, due in February 2019, will likely get this franchise back to its winning ways. Made for $70 million, this one is going to have to stretch out some legs both home and abroad (it has $10.5 million over there to date) in order to save any face whatsoever.

American Assassin drops hard from a $15 million second place finish, to fourth this weekend. AA earned only $6.3 million with Kingsman clogging up the screen, and drops 58% compared to its opening frame. At a cost of $33 million, Lionsgate wrote off any expenses for this one through overseas sales, so a domestic take to date of $26.2 million will at least help with marketing and distribution costs. The Michael Keaton/Dylan O’Brien film will likely exit the domestic box office with less than $40 million.

Home Again, the Open Road Films Reese Witherspoon rom-com landed softly in fifth this weekend, earning a small $3.3 million, but dropping a decent 36%. Made for $12 million, Home Again has now earned $22.3 million domestically about $ 2 million overseas.

Mother!, the Jennifer Lawrence/Darren Aronofsky horror misfire, fell steadily this weekend, with the second frame’s ugliness matching the first. After opening to an awful $7.5 million, the follow-up frame came in at only $3.3 million, giving it a 57% drop against a small opening figure. The $30 million Paramount release has a domestic total of $13.4 million, and it has picked up $12.5 million overseas. I would imagine the stateside marketing budget was at least $30 million.

Friend Request is the latest from Entertainment Studios, which released 47 Meters Down in June, a film that earned $45 million domestically against a $5.5 million budget. The studio did not have the same kind of luck the second time around. Friend Request earned an awful $2.4 million from a quite wide venue count of 2,573 theaters, making it the 21st worst opener ever for films released on more than 2,500 screens. It was made for $10 million, so its makers will take a tidy hit on this one.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is eighth after six weekends of release, as stars Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds have kept Bodyguard going, to the point of finding a profit. This weekend it earns a paltry $1.9 million and drops 58%, but brings the domestic gross up to $73.6 million, against a $30 million budget. Overseas, it has a similar $71 million to date, so Lionsgate has another for the win column.

Stronger, the new Jake Gyllenhaal flick, opened in nationwide release this weekend at 574 theaters. The result was only okay, with Stronger earning $1.7 million and a venue average of $3,045. With a cost of $30 million, Stronger is already in a bit of trouble. Still, reviews are fantastic at 95% fresh, so word-of-mouth could still pick up should Lionsgate go wide next weekend.

The last film worth mentioning is Brad’s Status, the new comedy from Ben Stiller and writer/director Mike White (The Good Girl, School of Rock). Brad’s Status opened in four venues last weekend and had an average of $22,000. This weekend, it expanded to 453 theaters, earning $1 million and a $2,210 venue average. It is certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, but is coming off more like a Ben Stiller in Greenberg (A $4.2 million earner in 2010) than one of his wider releases.

Overall, the box office continues to shine in September, with three films earning more than $21 million this weekend. Usually, September is a quagmire of August cast-offs and films that are not big enough to open in December or May. This year is the opposite, with good scores all around. The top 12 films this weekend took in $112.4 million, while last year, The Magnificent Seven was on top with a quiet $34.7 million, and Storks opening in second with $21.3 million, bringing the top 12 to $94.9 million.

Next weekend brings four new releases that should varying degrees of success with. American Made has to be the show pony in the group, what with Tom Cruise in the lead of a crime thriller directed by Doug Liman. The pressure is even off Cruise a bit stateside, as overseas venues have already taken in $58 million. Screen Gems dusts off Flatliners, this time with Diego Luna and Ellen Page. We also get a religious flick with A Question of Faith, and a new distributor called Novus releases a Taye Diggs thriller called Til Death Do Us Part. Can the September hot streak continue?