Ben-Hur a Disaster at the Box Office
By John Hamann
August 21, 2016
The good news this weekend is that we have six films earning more than $10 million. The bad news is that only one touched $20 million, and that is the flailing, three-weekend-old Suicide Squad.
These late August weekends can be a tough time to open a film. Over the last 10 years, only one film – Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, managed to open at #1. Every other year, a holdover has claimed top spot, whether it be Straight Outta Compton last year (top opener was Sinister 2 in third), The Expendables 2 in 2012 (Premium Rush was the top opener – in eighth), or Superbad, which was a holdover number one in 2007, while Mr. Bean’s Holiday opened in fourth. One might think this is not the weekend to roll out your $100 million epic in Ben-Hur, or even the other two smaller openers in War Dogs or Kubo and the Two Strings. However, with more product than weekends these days, something had to open, and the victim this year is Ben-Hur.
Our number one film is not Ben-Hur or even War Dogs. Instead, we are stuck with the third weekend of Suicide Squad on top. One might think that with the three main openers struggling to come up with $40 million, Suicide Squad would be in a much better position to hold. After falling 67% last weekend (much like Batman v Superman’s 69% second weekend dip), Suicide Squad was looking to again improve on Dawn of Justice's third weekend of $23.4 million and 55% third weekend plunge. Suicide Squad started its weekend with a $6 million take, about $50,000 worse than the third Friday for Dawn of Justice. If there is good news, the Friday-to-Friday drop for Suicide came in at 54%, a few points better than Batman v Superman’s 60% Friday-to-Friday drop. Unfortunately, it’s all lipstick on a pig, as both of these films performed horribly after opening weekend.
Over the weekend, Suicide Squad picked up another $20.7 million, off 52% compared to last weekend’s $43.5 million take. The good news for Warner Bros. is that Suicide Squad will earn more than two times its opening weekend, something that Batman v Superman failed to do. The bad news is the same – between these two films, Warner Bros. and DC Comics have left about a half-billion on the table, as the domestic gross for Suicide Squad has meandered its way up to $262.3 million. Does Suicide Squad make it to $300 million domestic? It will be close, but I think it will. Overseas, box office over there has crossed the $300 million mark. Suicide Squad has been able to cross $500 million worldwide, but will never match the promise it had prior to opening.
It’s a tight race amongst members of the top five this weekend, and for now, second spot goes to last weekend’s surprise, Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party. The R-rated animated comedy earned $34.3 million to open in a healthy second last weekend, and performs admirably again. Sausage Party earned $15.3 million in its second frame and fell 55%. It’s important to remember that films like Sausage Party can hit their opening weekend and then completely disappear over the weekends that follow. The target (college age) is small, and an R-rated animated comedy isn’t going to break out. The fact that Sausage Party has earned $65.3 million already is a huge success for Sony, and even better news is that it cost only $19 million to make. It will be interesting to see if this plays overseas – it is off to a hot start in Australia, where it’s already picked up over $2 million.