Weird and Wild MLK Box Office Weekend
By John Hamann
January 15, 2017
This frame features three new wide releases, three major expansions, and three films adding screens after the Golden Globes. To say it’s moving day at the box office is an extreme understatement.
Any awards given out this weekend should go to people that have to book films into theaters. Hidden Figures added 800+ screens, La La Land added almost 350, and Moonlight bolstered its number by 350. Major expansions included Martin Scorsese’s Silence, adding almost 700, Mark Wahlberg’s Patriots Day, increasing by 3,100+, and Ben Affleck’s Live by Night, which expanded by 2,800+ locations. New films include the disastrous Monster Trucks, a film even the studio disowned, announcing a $115 million write-down several months before it opened, The Bye Bye Man, a horror title from STX Entertainment, and Sleepless, a little advertised action flick with Oscar winner Jamie Foxx. There is a lot of action at the box office this weekend - let’s see how it turned out.
Last weekend, Rogue One was announced as the weekend winner when estimates came out, but when actuals were released, the number one film ended up as Hidden Figures, the inspirational story about NASA and the African-American women that were a key part of the space program in the 1960s. After further exposure at the Golden Globes last weekend (no wins, two nominations, advertisements up the ying-yang), coupled with amazing word of mouth (A+ Cinemascore), a solid hold was definitely in the cards for its second wide weekend of release. On Friday, Hidden Figures pulled in $5.5 million, off a slim 28% from its wide opening day, heralding success over the long MLK weekend. A year ago over the same long weekend, eight films in the top ten earned more on Sunday than they did on Friday, and there was no reason to expect different from a film like Hidden Figures (and many others in this weekend’s top ten).
Over the three-day portion of the long weekend, Hidden Figures earned a stellar $20.5 million, giving it a tiny drop of 10% compared to its opening frame, and putting it in position for a long, and very successful run. Hidden Figures effectively used a strong cast that includes Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae in the lead roles, with support from Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Sheldon Cooper himself, Jim Parsons. The marketing is perfect, showing an inspirational, well made film, and promoting the awards recognition it has received to date.
The real driver here is word of mouth, as the A+ Cinemascore is catapulting this one forward. This kind of story works perfectly during the doldrums of January, and even though it is on the fringe of awards season, I would expect at least a couple of Oscar nominations when they are announced on the 24th. Momentum won’t stop in the short term, and given the $25 million production budget, Fox stands to reap a nice reward off of Hidden Figures, as the domestic gross already stands at $54.8 million, with $100 million almost a given at this point. Its overseas rollout gets started in earnest next weekend.