Ben-Hur a Disaster at the Box Office
By John Hamann
August 21, 2016
Third spot finally brings us to our first of three openers, but it’s not the $100 million Ben-Hur. Instead, it’s the $40 million action comedy War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller (who wants to be remembered for Whiplash, not Fantastic Four). Fans of Jonah Hill and director Todd Philips showed up this weekend, and War Dogs got started with a little over $1 million via Thursday previews and then scored a combined $5.5 million on Friday. We knew at this point that War Dogs was not going to break out, but could do okay versus that small budget. Over the weekend, War Dogs picked up $14.3 million, an opening frame more like Hill’s Get Him to the Greek ($17 million opening) than his 22 Jump Street ($57 million opening).
Mixed reviews and a questionable release date dogged War Dogs. At Rotten Tomatoes, War Dogs is 57% fresh, with 68 reviews to the good and 47 to the bad. The Cinemascore was worse, coming in at a sullen B, which does not indicate good legs for this one. That’s the same Cinemascore that Get Him to the Greek had, and it had great legs ($17 million open, $61 million domestic finish), so one never knows. It will need some overseas help; however, with the two leads it should pick up $40 million it needs to find a profit.
Animated Kubo and the Two Strings is fourth this weekend, as two very small films bet up on ol’ Ben-Hur. Kubo, from Laika but distributed by Focus Features, saw the usual result from one of their stop motion, animated films. Other Laika films have included Coraline ($16 million opening), ParaNorman ($14 million opening) and The Boxtrolls ($17.3 million opening). Kubo got started with a $12.6 million frame, slightly lower than the usual, but given the title and the different kind of story here, I am not surprised that it’s a little bit lower.
The Laika films are often the same, start in the teen-millions, and then leg out some success pushing the total above the $50 million mark. Then, given the foreign nature of this one, it should outgross the domestic side overseas. Kubo and the Two Strings cost $60 million to make, so it will have to do well overseas in order to find a profit. The A Cinemascore is going to push it along nicely, so there is still hope.
That leaves Ben-Hur in a sad fifth spot, and in a hole much too deep to dig its way out of. It "started" on Thursday, but failed to even earn a million dollars from Thursday previews, despite a heavy marketing push to faith-based audiences. Friday was no better. Combined with the preview, the Friday number came in at only $4.1 million, which meant an opening weekend below $15 million, even if the faithers drive the Sunday number was way up. Remember, this one cost $100 million to make, so it needs $300 million worldwide to find a profit for MGM, who put up 80% of the budget, and Paramount, who put up 20%.