Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Martian Blasts Off At The Box Office While The Walk Stumbles

While Matt Damon was stranded on Mars, everyone seemed to be stranded at the movies this weekend, as The Martian did exceptional record-breaking business and holdovers like Hotel Transylvania 2, Sicario and The Intern also drew great business. Of course, the biggest of all releases this weekend was The Martian, scoring a $55 million opening weekend that makes it the second biggest opening of all-time in October (it may overtake the current October opening weekend record-holder Gravity and its $55.7 million opening if it outperforms box office estimates). With the feature drawing excellent word-of-mouth, it should have no problem sticking around at the box office for weeks to come.

The Martian is proof positive how important a good release date can be. Originally, this Ridley Scott feature was planned to be released over Thanksgiving, which would have put it directly in between the release of the final Hunger Games movie and the small indie feature Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Knowing they had a crowd-pleaser on their hands, 20th Century Fox moved it to the first weekend of October, where they've had great success with two films (Taken 2 and Gone Girl) over the last three years.

With no other major blockbusters set to be released until Spectre in over a month, The Martian should have no trouble managing to hold on well at the box office. It should at least get to $160 million by the end of its domestic run, and may even go go beyond that if word-of-mouth really gets going in its favor.

In second place was Hotel Transylvania 2, whose second weekend hold was so good it's kind of scary. Losing only 29% this go-around (which is the second smallest drop for a 2015 film released in over 3000 theaters, behind the 25% drop of Magic Mike XXL), Dracula and his monster pals made $34.4 million this weekend for a 10-day domestic total of $92 million. The next two weeks will each bring a new family film to the marketplace (next week see's likely box office dud Pan open, while potential nostalgia fueled sleeper hit Goosebumps arrives the week after), but this tiny dip indicates Hotel Transylvania 2 has the kind of word-of-mouth that could help it weather such competition.

Sicario expanded into wide release this weekend to slid numbers, grossing $12 million at 2620 theaters. It even received an A- Cinemascore, which I personally found to be a shock given that darker films like Sicario (which I haven't seen yet FYI) typically get lower Cinemascore ratings. That sort of positive audience response indicates the film will likely hold on well in the coming weeks, making this a big win for Lionsgate, who, as I said two weeks back, have minimal experience launching films in a platform release like this. That lack of experience just makes the stunning success of Sicario all the more impressive to watch.

Like fellow holdover Hotel Transylvania 2, The Intern also had a strong second weekend hold, losing only 34% this weekend for an $11.6 million haul. The films more comedic and lighter tone is making it a strong contrast to more intense fare in the marketplace, and considering that the next two weeks are devoid of more breezy films, The Intern should continue to hold well in the weeks ahead.

Debuting exclusively at IMAX 3D locations this weekend, The Walk grossed an underwhelming $1.6 million this weekend at 448 locations. That's about 78% below what Everest made in its IMAX 3D exclusive opening weekend two weeks back in slightly more locations. If The Martian was a demonstration of how a great release date can help a film, The Walk shows what happens when a release date can hinder a movie. Originally planned for a wide release on October 2nd, it was obvious Sony/TriStar hoped the film would follow in the footsteps of 3D spectacle October release Gravity and make tons of cash and garner lots of Oscar nominations. But when The Martian moved into this October weekend, audiences chose that Matt Damon film for their cinematic dose of excitement.

The good news is that the movie should do much better in wide release this weekend thanks to strong reviews, though this underwhelming box office performance in IMAX 3D will likely dilute its reputation and it's hard to see it grossing more than $10-12 million this coming weekend.

Overall, the Top 12 this weekend grossed $142 million, a 2% improvement over last year when Gone Girl narrowly edged out Annabelle for the top spot at the box office. This sum also makes this the biggest October weekend of all-time, a sterling accomplishment that gets this month off to a roaring start.

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