Weekend Wrap-Up

Box Office Sputtering as Wolverine Fades

By John Hamann

July 28, 2013

Why does he even need that sword?

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After a few weekends of questionable entries at the box office, and a muted opening for The Wolverine, any momentum that Hollywood had going this summer is now gone.

After an expected debut in the $65-75 million range, The Wolverine missed this weekend – not badly, but still coming in lower than expected. Along with the recent openings of R.I.P.D., Turbo, RED 2, and Pacific Rim, the box office is running on fumes and starting to backfire. Wednesday’s Smurfs 2 release might bring the kids back next weekend, but with animation overload happening right now, even that title is fraught with risk. It’s too early in the season for the summer doldrums at movie theaters, so the series of bombs we’ve seen over the last few weeks is catching up to the year overall, and will leave the box office with a hangover, one that could get worse next weekend.

This weekend, expected superhero blockbuster The Wolverine failed to break out or even get to the level of tracking expectations. The Fox release got started nicely with Thursday previews, where it earned $4 million, but instead of those previews adding something to the opening, it appears that those dollars simply made Friday night at theaters less busy. On Friday, The Wolverine was reported at $21 million, a decent enough number on its own, but when those Thursday previews are removed, the number in the half-empty scenario becomes $17 million, about $4 million LESS than the very first X-Men opened to 13 years ago. In the half-full scenario, that $21 million is also very close to what X-Men: First Class earned on its first Friday in 2011, so one has to wonder if the same people are showing up for all of these films. If so, one has to wonder about the logic around spending $120 million or more bring one of these films to the screen, given that prints and advertising are bringing that number up to at least $200 million.


Over the weekend proper, the Hugh Jackman starrer didn’t pick up much steam, and finished the weekend with only a so-so $55 million. Fox was likely very happy with the first tracking estimate that came out earlier in the week that had The Wolverine potentially opening to $75 million. The writing was on the wall when that tracking estimate was downgraded to $65 million later in the week. Tracking firms have had an abysmal summer, as they have been out and out wrong many more times than they have been right. This is a 25% miss on the estimate, and I would not be pleased if I were Fox. Had the studio known their blockbuster was going to open at $50 million and change, it could have adjusted their last minutes marketing strategy, much like Pacific Rim did.

The Wolverine will make money for Fox thanks to overseas grosses (it earned a bountiful $86 million overseas this weekend), but in the end, Fox is left with another dubious entry on their summer slate, as it joins Epic, Turbo, and The Internship as forgettable openings for their summer films. All they have left now is a Percy Jackson sequel, which is a follow up to a so-so original that likely lost money after all was said and done.

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