November 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

December 15, 2018

Not the Grumple.

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Once upon a time, there was a miserly old grinch who was planning his third bohemian rhapsody, a whimsical affair full of colorful decorations and fantastic beasts. Because he was so frugal with his spending, he chose not to invite his friend Ralph, who was known to break things frequently and would increase the bill. This old man could not break his creed of holding this traditional social gathering, however, certainly not while owning his famous eight-foot nutcracker, which would be the centerpiece of the whole affair. In an instant his guests would become his family, giving birth to a star making performance as he showed the whole of the town why he was nobody’s fool, and could remain a charmer long after becoming a widow. And then, at the end of the party, November turned into December, and Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and Aquaman all showed up.

Whoops, I forgot to add a spoiler alert before that paragraph, as I just leaked the top ten for November and the top three for December (unless the Schindler’s List re-release really over performs). November 2018 has come and gone, and continues positive trends for theatrical films this year. It is the third best November of all time, being only about $50 million off the record 2012, with $1.04 billion in grosses. This also occurred after a record October, and yet the vast majority of November grosses came from new films and not holdovers. This is all while having the lowest grossing number one film since November of 2008 was led by Twilight (although The Grinch will likely pass Moana’s $248 million). This shows November had a deep, wide slate of films, with some performing as expected a some breaking out or crumbling. I love being surprised, except on election night, and while performances like this year’s Solo have me scratching my head, I was pleasantly shocked at how well Bohemian Rhapsody performed considering the production issues and lukewarm reviews. Overall it was a fabulous month with two original titles at the top.

1) Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

Opening Weekend: $67.6 M
Monthly Total: $189.7 M

Once upon a time, there were two studios that ruled the roost of animation of the third dimensional variety, Pixar and Dreamworks. One was gobbled up by Disney, somehow becoming two different animation studios that are really just the same place (I am convinced the whole thing is a tax avoidance scam). The other languished, gradually diminishing into a shadow of its former self, until it was bought out by a scrappy newcomer named Illumination, owned by Universal. Now the big two animation studios, still of that fabled 3D style, are Disney Animation/Pixar and Illumination-addendum Dreamworks. The more things change the more they stay the same. I mean, seriously, look at the Grinch movie from 2018 and tell me that does not resemble a Dreamworks Animation hit from ten years ago.

Regardless of what studio owns what, this new incarnation of The Grinch stole the box office crown from Whoville. With the month’s largest opening, The Grinch appears poised to be right in the middle of Illumination’s stat sheet, perhaps beating the original Despicable Me’s $251 million domestic total. With weekly drops averaging 35%, this film should coast all the way through December if the 2000 Grinch’s performance is any guidance. That film opened with $55 million, dropped almost 50% in week 2, and yet still earned over $100 million in December. 2018’s Grinch opened a bit earlier, but with the smaller weekly declines it could conceivable aim for a similar milestone.

2) Bohemian Rhapsody

Opening Weekend: $51.1 M
Monthly Total: $158.6 M

Once upon a time, Queen was a band known mostly for rock anthems, and popularizing the term “bite the dust”. Then a duo of unlikely events propelled an older single to the stratosphere, as Freddie Mercury died and two dudes named Wayne and Garth partied on quite hard. Then Bohemian Rhapsody became synonymous with Queen and its frontman, becoming one of the most famous rock songs of all time. Therefore, instead of a more appropriately literal title such as We Are the Champions, we have a biopic about Freddie that has a more poetic ring to it.

The budget for Rhapsody was almost exactly its opening weekend, which means this film is a massive hit. Even better, music is universal, so worldwide grosses are already more than double what they are stateside. Over half a billion worldwide is a great boon for Fox, which struggled to have a hit this year outside of Deadpool 2 (probably why they were re-releasing it later this month). But with a sale to Disney looming, I suppose it does not matter much in the end. Mr. Robot is the champion.

3) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Opening Weekend: $62.2 M
Monthly Total: $126.2 M

Once upon a time, J.K Rowling was a single mother writing a story in a coffee shop, banging out what would practically become the modern mythos of Great Britain on a typewriter while living on welfare. A few years later this dutifully became a major film franchise from Warner Bros. Never content to allow a gift horse to spend its twilight years in golden pastures, WB continually beats said horses (long after death, in fact), as evidenced by The Hobbit Anthology of 18 trilogies, and now the Fantastic Beasts Continuum ad nauseam. In both cases, the original transcription from book to silver screen had been a miracle, with smashing success after smashing success (both series beginning within a month of each other in 2001, no less). However, once the originally intended story had been told, Warner Bros. amassed huge fortunes to have the content creators return for more, only to accomplish the task of spreading the butter too thin. Peter Jackson and J.K. Rowling, along with their respective companies, could not spin wool into gold a second time, leading us to the current state of affairs.

To be fair, Fantastic Beast is doing great business worldwide, with half a billion and counting, and could easily meet the mark of the first film’s $814 million. However, with a $200 million budget and falling domestic totals, the reins may have to be pulled in on this franchise before it becomes another Chronicles of Narnia. The first film did not do great business during Christmas, either, so this film will be lucky to reach $160 million, or about a third less than the first Beasts. I concur with an assessment I read that David Yates needs to be replaced as director, as the Harry Potter franchise took off under the guiding hand of multiple directors. Consider that this film will have a far lower domestic total than any other film in this 17-year old franchise, barely a smidgen above half of what The Sorcerer’s Stone accrued so long ago.

4) Ralph Breaks the Internet

Opening Weekend: $56.2 M
Monthly Total: $99.3 M

Once upon a time there was an internet, but then Ralph broke it. We shall never know what fortunes it may have borne.

But we did get this fantastic film! This, Walt Disney Animation Studios film had the second biggest five-day opening during Thanksgiving, and is pacing well ahead of the first Ralph film. It did remain number one in its second weekend, although with a worrying 54% drop, but it should still beat the first film’s $189 million domestic and $471 million worldwide totals. Being buffeted by Grinch and the upcoming Spider-man films on either side may blunt the box office somewhat, although all three titles will certainly do well enough.

5) Creed II

Opening Weekend: $35.6 M
Monthly Total: $69.3 M

Once upon a time two fictional figures duked it out for heavyweight champion. We rooted for the underdog, but while he did not win the prize, he won our hearts. Inevitably there was a rematch, and the underdog came from behind to win the championship belt. Years later, the Underdog trains the other contender’s son, leading to the unlikely revival of both their characters and/or careers. Now we have the inevitable sequel to the reboot, which lost the original director but kept the cast, leading to diminishing critical and box office returns.

Creed II opened six million larger than its predecessor, but will probably not be able to sustain a pace that will beat the first film’s $109 million finish. However, the miracle of keeping this franchise alive cannot be denied. Adjusting for inflation, the first film would have accrued an astonishing $500 million, back when boxing was one of the top sports. Now, as more of a niche, and MMA being more popular, this new Creed franchise is showing once again that an underdog can win it all. Look for Stallone to win his Oscar in Creed III, which obviously needs to costar Mr. T.


6) The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Opening Weekend: $20.4 M
Monthly Total: $50 M

Once upon a time sounds like the perfect beginning to a film with a title such as this. Alas, Disney has a dud every now and again, and Nutcracker will be one of those films to be swept under the rug and never spoken of again. First of all, Disney broke their own rule, which states that all live action fairy-tale films must be remakes of prior animated classics! Or, at least the successful ones need to be. Also, who determined that Lasse Hallström was the director of choice for this work? I love me some Hallström, but the director brought on for some reshoots, Joe Johnston, was probably the better choice.

I suppose an opening of about twenty million could have been worse. With a budget of $120 million, and maybe a couple million left in earnings, this one will fall woefully short. Even with a setting and theme that fits the Christmas season, this one will never make it that far. I am guessing this was green lit with the idea of an Alice in Wonderland type of success, but the pieces of this puzzle just do not fit.

7) Instant Family

Opening Weekend: $14.5 M
Monthly Total: $40.9 M

Once upon a time Mark Wahlberg defended humanity against the wind. Now, adoption agencies believe he is suitable material for fatherhood. 2018 is really testing my limits, people.

Surprisingly, given how easy it would have been to get this film oh, so wrong in hilarious fashion, it appears that this is a genuinely sincere story that delves into the world of adoption in heart-warming ways. The bad news is that his never really translated into box office success, as the domestic total is aiming for $60 million, or just above the budget. After one of their better years, Paramount is still struggling, being far behind the other big six studios (soon to be five). This will, sadly, be their fourth biggest hit of 2018, just behind Book Club, a destination Marky Mark probably has in his sights soon enough.

8) A Star is Born

Monthly Total: $39.4 M
Running Total: $192.5 M

Once upon a time there was a small-town girl, hoping to live in an uptown girl world. She met this guy, who was a famous singer, and he gave her the shot of a lifetime and stardom. Drunken shenanigans ensue, and the unlikely pairing of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga truly made a couple of stars.

With a great opening weekend for a genre like this, Star kept the momentum going and is the only holdover from October to appear on this list. With drops around 30%, this film is going to wind up with a 5.0 multiplier and a domestic total over five times its budget. Between this and Rhapsody, I think the music biopic, fictional or otherwise, just got a huge shot in the arm.

9) Nobody’s Fool

Opening Weekend: $13.7 M
Monthly Total: $30.9 M

Once upon a time Paul Newman enlisted the help of Tiffany Haddish to find out if he is being catfished online. If you have no idea what the hell I am talking about don’t worry about it. Believe it or not, though, this Tyler Perry feature will not outgross the Paul Newman film from 1994.

With the third worst open of his career, and similarly the third lowest domestic total in its sights, Perry was unable to turn his trio of comedic women into box office success. I blame the fact that this was his first film done under a new deal with Paramount, and we know they have no idea what they are doing.

10) Widows

Opening Weekend: $12.4 M
Monthly Total: $29.9 M

Once upon a time Liam Neeson was the badass who avenged the bad deeds enacted upon his family. My how the tables have turned. Widows turns what is typically a very male-dominated genre, and turns it on its head in very successful fashion. What did not show up, however, is the box office more typical for this genre’s offering. With a small opening, Widows was unable to break out, and will likely not meet it’s $42 million budget. While Steve McQueen is not a director who necessarily aims for box office success, his follow-up to the 2013 Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave has to be considered a disappointment.

Once upon a time, there were films that did not make it into the top ten, and they felt intense shame and regret. But a fire burned within them nonetheless, as they felt they still mattered, and were important parts of a greater whole. They were Venom, with about $22 million, Halloween with $21.3 million, Overlord with $20.7 million, Robin Hood with $18.4 million and The Girl in the Spider’s Web with it’s disappointing $14.6 million. On the independent side of the coin, there were a few brighter spots, but we are still waiting for the bulk of awards contenders to appear. Green Book chugged it’s way to $11.2 million, and The Favourite debuted with a wonderful per-screen average over $100,000. Otherwise most smaller titles could only muster a few million. I personally am looking forward to The Favourite’s director Yorgos Lanthimos winning an Oscar, because I love his films and can hardly imagine his acceptance speech.

November was a smash, October was a smash, now the pressure is on December. A record year is a foregone conclusion, but the specifics are what everyone is looking forward to. The first two weeks appear to be dead zones (could you even call them...dead pools?), followed by the box office bonanza known as the twelve days of Christmas.



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