Soft Openers Cool Box Office Momentum
By John Hamann
July 26, 2015
There were three more original openers and once again, we didn't have much to party about at the box office this weekend. The July 24th frame sports the lowest earning #1 film in July since 2009’s Funny People, and like Pixels, that also starred Adam Sandler. Thankfully, other than Pixels, there are no disasters either, as five films finish with more than $15 million in ticket sales, thereby saving the weekend.
With three completely original openers this weekend, and one and a half last weekend (anything from Marvel’s Universe has to be considered sequel-ish), there is a lot of shiny new product in the top 12. That originality has pushed out some sequels that didn’t work, such as Terminator: Genisys, Ted 2 and Magic Mike XXL. Still, the barrage of sequels and reboots will return next weekend in the form of Vacation and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
For now, though, original films come in the form of Adam Sandler’s Pixels, a good idea with a bad script; Paper Towns, another cheap-to-produce teen-lit adaptation (this time without vampires, death or dystopia); and Southpaw, Jake Gyllenhaal’s boxing drama in which he transformed his body to play the lead. Only one of these films, Pixels, feels like a summer film, while the other two feel like they would be more comfortable either when school is back in, or Southpaw’s case, closer to Oscar season.
All of the new titles faced an unexpected obstacle. On Thursday night, a psychopath in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire in a crowded theater during a screening of Trainwreck. He killed two people and injured nine others. The events occurred almost three years to the day after the incident in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 people dead. The 2012 event negatively impacted the box office of The Dark Knight Rises, and none of this weekend's titles were anywhere near as engaging as a Batman movie. So, a key question that may never get resolved is whether the new films were damaged by the Lafayette tragedy. All that we can do is evaluate them based on their actual weekend performance, so that's what we'll do.
It’s a close race to number one this weekend as three films, Ant-Man, Pixels and Minions, all finished within a few million of each other. Our current #1 (rankings are useless in the top three this weekend, and may change when actuals are released on Monday) is last weekend’s top film Ant-Man, which is really becoming ant-sized compared to the rest of the Marvel canon. Last weekend, I expected Ant-Man to open the way it did, and then hold above 50% this weekend, but that wasn’t to be.
After opening to $57.2 million last weekend, the Paul Rudd starrer could only find $24.8 million in weekend two. That gives the $130 million Marvel release a second weekend drop of 57%, well off the 47% that Thor fell, but in line or better than the 60% that both Captain America and The Incredible Hulk fell in their second weekends. Ant-Man, if it can improve on the size of these drops, could be a $175 million finisher; however, its current trajectory puts it lower. Ant-Man needs about $400 million worldwide to see profit, and so far, it has $106.1 million domestic. Thus, it has a long way to go to see profitability.
Second, at least for now, is Pixels, the Adam Sandler space invaders movie from Sony and Chris Columbus. Pixels was always going to be a long shot given its description, and terrible reviews sealed its fate prior to its debut. A film like Pixels, with its outlandish plot and setup (gamers from the '80s reunite to save the world from Donkey Kong and other arcade classics), only works with a strong script, and from all accounts, that is drastically missing here. In the age of social media, the days of marketing the hell out of crap and still getting a response are over, as Pixels found out this weekend.