Openers Surprise to the Upside at Weekend Box Office
By John Hamann
July 31, 2016
How did Universal find success despite a seven year break between Damon-led films? See: Jurassic World. This studio is good at this, as they used a similar strategy here as they did with the Jurassic blockbuster. Universal provided a great advertising campaign that put Damon upfront with the bareknuckle boxing, and instantly reminded us of the great pugilistic aspects of the film. The first film, Bourne Identity, showed a sharp hand-to-hand style, but that film's director was Doug Liman, whereas Paul Greengrass (who has directed all of the follow ups) does a better job at getting the performance out of Damon and provides sharper, more intricate stories.
This time around, though, critics grew a little tired with the sameness (and a questionable final act). Jason Bourne is 56% fresh, and reviewed less like the Bourne series (83%, 81%, 93%) and more like Bourne Legacy, which also finished at 56% fresh. I am proud to say I have never seen Legacy, and was a little disappointed that Jason Bourne didn’t continue the positive review streak. The Cinemascore though provides some relief, as it came in at an A-, tying the first two films, and just missing Bourne Ultimatum’s A.
Jason Bourne provides entertainment for adults for the first time this summer, and is likely seeing the bump up in the opening box office due to that factor. If you starve an audience for long enough, they are bound to come out. Unfortunately, positioning it behind Suicide Squad – which everyone knew was going to be a $100 million plus opener since it was announced – seems like a stupid idea. However, Ninja Turtles stole $200 million from your children while Guardians of the Galaxy earned $333 million at the same time, so obviously anything is possible. I do believe Jason Bourne could have been bigger with a May, June or July date, and had it opened against a film like the Independence Day sequel, it likely would have dominated. Good to see the support for the mid-40s Damon, but we'd better enjoy it, as we don’t get another adult action pic until the end of August, when Mechanic: Resurrection opens.
Second place goes to Star Trek Beyond, but its financial hole is getting deeper with every day that passes. After opening last weekend to a lower than expected $59.3 million, the bottom drops out this weekend. Star Trek Beyond pulled in only $24 million, giving it a nasty drop of 60%. This is disappointing, because it shows us that the Star Trek series is falling into old patterns. The first two films in the reboot fell between 43 and 47% in their second weekends, whereas this one declined 60%. This is what the previous series did. Star Trek Nemesis fell a shocking 76% in weekend two ($18.5 million opening, $4.5 million second frame). Star Trek Insurrection fell 62%, but Star Trek: First Contact fell a more reboot-like 42%, as that was the first film in New Generation series. Paramount now has a real problem on its hands, as this one cost a stupid $185 million, and chances are getting bigger and bigger that some sort of huge writedown is going to be needed. So far, Beyond has earned only $55 million overseas and will need another $400 million globally if there is to be a chance at a theatrical profit (not going to happen).