March 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

April 5, 2018

Again? Yes. Again.

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March can come in like a lion or a lamb, and this year seems to be mostly on the side of lamb. Which, if you enjoy a delicious MLT, mutton-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, then there’s nothing better in life, except true love. A lot of meat was thrown at the wall, and it all kind of stuck for a moment, and then slid off and hit the ground with a wet smack. Meanwhile, Black Panther kept humming along nicely, breaking records, and kept the conversation on last month’s big winner. Looked at from afar, this month had quite a few movies with franchise potential, or the chance to break out, but none could muster the goods outside of a Christian-themed film. The Wall Street Journal even used March as an example of Hollywood’s bigger, broader issue, where only one blockbuster dominates multiplexes, whereas the rest of the screens are fighting for scraps. I would argue this is only half of the story (a long-running story), and the other half is simply how gigantic Black Panther was for this time of year, continuing a seemingly new trend after last year’s Beauty and the Beast.

1) Black Panther

Monthly Total: $219M

Disney releases a movie in the first few months of the year that begins with a “B”, receiving rapturous reviews and incredible box office. Next year will be the suddenly renamed “Bumbo”. Black Panther, as of this writing, is the fourth biggest domestic film of all time, with eyes on dethroning Titanic for spot number three. Who’s king of the world now? It is the biggest comic book movie of all time, and may even retain that title for some time unless Avengers: Infinity War can build some extra buzz. Worldwide it is currently sitting in tenth place on the all time list, and still has a bit over $200 million to accrue if it wants to catch the first Avengers film. Interestingly, while Panther is well ahead of Beauty and the Beast stateside, it is performing very similar on a worldwide scale. Between Star Wars and the MCU and the occasional film about beastiality, Disney is now averaging two billion dollar hits every year. Let’s hope China does not slap tariffs on films.

Unfortunately, Black Panther was the only huge success story of the month, and it was a holdover. Last year saw multiple films gross over $100 million in March alone, whereas 2018 has seen a drought of such movies for the entire year. This month’s top twenty films earned over $250 million less than last year’s, making about $850 million in total compared to last year’s $1.1 billion. The best this year has been able to muster so far has been Fifty Shades Freed, which limped over the century mark, and Peter Rabbit, which has had excellent weekend drops. Black Panther is still going strong, being in third spot this past weekend after seven weekends in release. Given the small drops from one weekend to the next, expect it to finish just short of $700 million, right about when the next film co-starring Black Panther comes out.

2) A Wrinkle in Time

Opening Weekend: $33.1M
Monthly Total: $82.2M

When Disney misses, it still has the number two spot for March. A Wrinkle in Time is the biggest movie of all the openers this past month, although it still feels like a disappointment given the high price tag and pedigree of the novel. Quite a few classic novels have been adapted into lukewarm films recently, and A Wrinkle in Time’s box office follows their trajectory nicely. Perhaps if Disney had animated a version of the story in the 1960’s, it could have blossomed into a major hit. Ava DuVernay continues her trek from excellent smaller fare like Selma to the big leagues, with a DC comic book adaptation of The New Gods next. Since Wrinkle will not make it to $100 million, and has low international grosses so far, she better hope her next film breaks out.

3) I Can Only Imagine

Opening Weekend: $17.1M
Monthly Total: $52.3M

Despite opening in third place two weeks ago, this faith-based film has held very well, and ranks above many other March films with higher debuts. It would appear I Can Only Imagine benefitted partially from being first out of the gate, as each subsequent weekend another faith-based film opened but had to settle well within Imagine’s shadow. With a great $10,000 per screen average opening weekend, and expanding into more theaters every weekend, this film could earn over ten times it’s $7 million production budget. This will probably become the biggest Christian film since 2014’s Heaven is for Real.

4) Tomb Raider

Opening Weekend: $23.6M
Monthly Total: $49.3M

I doubt many ever expected a reboot to this franchise, which last saw a film release fifteen years ago! And I doubt further that my bet for another reboot in fifteen years will yield much of a return (but if it hits, I’ll win the jackpot). Alicia Vikander is going down the Jake Gyllenhaal route, when Hollywood tried to shoehorn him into Prince of Persia. Given her string of phenomenal performances after her stunning debut in Ex-Machina, I doubt her career will suffer too much. This latest Lara Croft film opened with less than half of the original’s bow, which mostly banked on the appeal of Angelina Jolie, but it is matching the 2003 sequel’s open and final take quite nicely. Given fifteen years of inflation, that has to hurt, if only tempered by the fact that the budget matches the 2003 film as well. Will we ever get that fabled video game adaptation that wins our hearts and our wallets?

5) Red Sparrow

Opening Weekend: $16.9M
Monthly Total: $45.5M

A film that gave March a touch of intrigue was unable to ride Jennifer Lawrence’s coattails to much success, continuing a run of misses she has been a part of since Passengers and Mother! I mean who really wants to see a movie about Russian spies in this day and age, it’s so quaint. Continuing a trend this month where movies all seem to follow similar patterns, Red Sparrow has a similar budget, opening weekend, and eventual domestic total as 2014’s Jack Ryan.


6) Pacific Rim: Uprising

Opening Weekend: $28.1M
Monthly Total: $43.3M

If there is a trade deficit between the United States and China, I think the number one reason is because nobody sees those darn Pacific Rim movies here in the US! For all intents and purposes, this franchise that Universal somehow swiped from Warner Bros. was continued solely for the sake of Chinese box office. The United States was icing on the cake, and I am not sure why they even cast western actors at all (Charlie Hunnam saw the writing on the wall and bounced). Consider the fact that the opening weekend in China, $65 million, is probably larger than the final domestic take will be. Or, maybe we should redefine “domestic” for this film.

7) Game Night

Monthly Total: $42.7M

Even though March feels like it had few big hits, there were enough modest films to keep holdovers from taking any top spots outside of Black Panther. Game Night is the next February film here, taking seventh spot for the month. This film is a success story simply by virtue of the fact that it has earned two times its budget stateside. It does feel like a bit of money was left on the table, considering the fairly good reviews, but maybe that’s because most people do not associate Rachel McAdams with comedy. Look for this films to keep playing a few more days until Blockers steals its thunder (how fitting).

8) Ready Player One

Opening Weekend: $41.8M*
Monthly Total: $42.6M

Technically its opening weekend included a day in April, but regardless Ready Player One is really the biggest opener in March, and within just a few days is the eight biggest release of the month. Honestly, I think Warner Bros. is breathing a sigh of relief, as the debut was on the upper end of expectations, and the daily holds have been decent. Plus, as with Pacific Rim, the debut in China was even larger at $61 million, meaning RPO has a good shot at over $500 worldwide. This will be Spielberg’s biggest hit since Indiana Jones ten years ago, and feels like a swan song to the films he used to make and the movies that were mainstream in decades past. While the reviews are not glowing, the film has definitely scratched an itch for some. Between this and The Post, Spielberg has had a very good past few months.

9) Peter Rabbit

Monthly Total: $36.7M

The biggest movie of the year outside of Black Panther lands in ninth place for March. Filling the family void left behind by Jumanji, I doubt many would have expected this classic’s adaptation to outgross A Wrinkle in Time. But some re-imaginings work for whatever reason, and some do not. Since opening almost two months ago, Peter Rabbit has had minuscule drops averaging about 30%. It will more than double its budget, reaching around a 4.5 multiplier, and will retain the crown as the number two film of 2018 for about another week or so. While not extraordinary, it at least wipes away the stain of the last year’s Smurfs and Emoji movies for Sony.

10) Death Wish

Opening Weekend: $13M
Monthly Total: $33.3M

In a world, where Bruce Willis is still a badass, and white people are allowed to enact vigilante justice without putting on an animal suit, this movie smashes records, smashes faces, and smashes the world into oblivion. I mean, I suppose Eli Roth feels great having his second biggest hit after Hostel. Bruce gets another paycheck to tide him over until the true Unbreakable sequel. And some angry white men got to live vicariously through this film and vent some rage. Yay’s all around!

March of the year 2018 was a middling month, with no outright disasters, and no breakout hits. It finished decidedly in the middle of the pack of recent years, and was way down from the high water mark of last year with Beauty and the Beast. To complete the list with the top ten films that opened in March, add Love, Simon with $31 million, The Stangers: Prey at Night with $23 million and Sherlock Gnomes with $21 million. Isle of Dogs wins the award for biggest per screen average, splitting the money on 27 screens for about $60,000 each. And God’s Not Dead for a third time, so I hope you got it by now. If you are quite finished with your MLT by now, then we can get on to April, which guarantees some Big Freaking Movies. Ready Player One will ride a wave of nostalgia for a few weeks, Dwayne Johnson will save the world again from big damn animals, some adults will block some sort of chicken, John Krasinski will shut up for two hours, and then a bunch of adults are going to put on costumes (not animal suits) and save the world yet once more after Dwayne Johnson has become exhausted. All in all, April sounds fantastic!



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