Sunday, July 3, 2016

Finding Dory Rules The Box Office Again While The Purge Rampages, Tarzan Does Better Than Expected And The BFG Has Small Debut

All of the numbers discussed in this column are for the three-day weekend.

And so, yet again, Finding Dory ruled while big-budget fare faltered at the domestic box office.  This weekend’s blockbuster casualties were a new take on Tarzan as well as Steven Spielberg’s newest motion picture. But first, Finding Dory, which continued to rake up big bucks at the box office. Dory and her underwater pals grossed another $41.9 million in their frame of release, a 42% decline that’s smaller than third weekend dips of past PIXAR follow-ups Toy Story 3 and Monsters University. Finding Dory has grossed $372.2 million in 17 days and should cross $400 million by next weekend. Next up: overtaking Shrek 2 as the biggest animated film ever domestically (not adjusted for inflation).

Expectations were basically in the cellar for The Legend Of Tarzan. Hell, I didn’t expect it to gross more than $20 million over its opening weekend. Yet, the film did surprise by opening to a much bigger than expected $38.1 million. Unfortunately, with a $180 million budget looming over its head, this debut is still nowhere near enough to make the film a hit. This bow looks to put The Legend Of Tarzan in the same financial range as recent Warner Bros. summer blockbusters Edge Of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim, two other non-sequels carrying budgets in the $178-190 million range. Neither one really fired up the box office, though they weren’t excessive money-losers, which looks to be where Tarzan is heading.

The Legend Of Tarzan likely got a boost by the dire lack of compelling summer blockbusters in the marketplace as well as the fact that everyone knows who Tarzan is; he’s a dude who swings around in the jungle and is friendly to apes. With a marketing campaign that emphasized a more unique plotline and with better reviews, perhaps Tarzan could have really gone the distance at the box office. As it stands, at least Tarzan will cross $100 million domestically, a mark movies in already established franchises like Ninja Turtles and Alice couldn’t hit.

In third place was The Purge: Election Year, the newest installment in this horror franchise that’s showing remarkable financial stamina. Grossing $30.8 million, that’s only 10% below the opening weekend of the first movie and is also above the debut of the second film. The positive word-of-mouth on the second film obviously gave this third entry a boost, as did timely marketing (like that “Keep America Great” tagline) that tied it into this years political landscape. This one was super front-loaded, as is the nature of horror sequels, though the more front-loaded nature of all films this weekend indicates that could also partially be chalked up to the holiday weekend.

In the back of the pack of this weekend's three new wide releases was The BFG, which debuted to only $19.5 million, a dismal bow that puts more in the realm of the $15 million opening of notorious box office bomb Pan rather than the box office heights hit by director Steven Spielberg’s biggest movies. This opening weekend is on par with the debut of The Huntsman: Winter’s War from a few months ago, $500,000 above the debut of The Spiderwick Chronicles  and only 11% ahead of the opening weekend of notable summertime Disney fantasy family movie box office dud The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The feature got solid marks from critics across the board, but the reviews weren’t strong enough to compensate for weaker TV ads, posters and even a jumbled title (couldn’t they just call it The Big Friendly Giant instead of that acronym that most people are unfamiliar with?) that turned off audiences. I’d also say that opening it directly in-between Finding Dory and The Secret Life Of Pets wasn’t exactly a brilliant move. With direct competition coming next week from guaranteed box office smash The Secret Life Of Pets, it’s likely The BFG will vanish quite quickly and could even struggle to get past $60 million domestically. Who’da thunk Steven Spielberg’s smaller-scale drama Bridge Of Spies from last fall would end up making more domestically than his second most expensive movie in history?

Bill Pullman and crew were unable to save face in the second weekend of Independence Day: Resurgence’s release, losing 60% for a second weekend gross of $16.5 million, taking its 10 day cume to $72.6 million. While ID4: Resurgence will squeak past $100 million domestically, that’s a nearly 70% drop from the first movies domestic gross and that’s before taking inflation into account! On a happier financial note, Central Intelligence held well in its third frame, losing 32% to gross another $12.3 million, bringing its 17 day domestic gross to $91.7 million. This one could end up grossing over $120 million domestically, which could be enough to make it one of the ten biggest movies of this summer.

The Shallows lost 46% in its second weekend, taking in $9 million for a 10 day total of $35.2 million, already doubling its $17 million budget domestically. Looks like this shark themed movie will gross well over $50 million domestically, a great haul for the micro-budgeted film.  Coming in at eighth place was another movie that debuted last weekend, Free State Of Jones, which lost 45% to gross another $4.1 million. Matthew McConaughey’s newest drama has grossed $15.1 million in its 10 days of release and will end its domestic run somewhere in between $20 and $25 million, meaning its final gross will be in the same neighborhood as the far lower-profile Matthew McConaughey drama Mud.

Right outside the top ten in eleventh place was Swiss Amy Man, which expanded into wide release, specifically 636 theaters. It grossed a decent $1.44 million for a per-theater-average of $2,276. Another small-scale drama from an indie movie studio, Our Kind Of Traitor, debuted to $1 million at 373 locations for a per-theater-average of $2,685.

Losing 598 of the 783 theaters it was playing in last weekend, The Neon Demon plummeted 77% to gross another $134,558. It has now grossed $1.09 million domestically, interestingly making it only the second Nicolas Winding Refn movie ever to gross over $1 million domestically. Meanwhile, The Innocents debuted in 3 theaters to $31,500 for a per-theater average of $10,500. Also bowing this weekend in limited release was Life, Animated, a documentary that opened to $26,547 in 3 locations for a per-theater average of $8,849.

The Top 12 movies this weekend grossed $181 million, the fourth biggest three-day frame ever for a first weekend in July. It’s also up 42% from this same weekend last year when Inside Out topped the box office in its third weekend while Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL had underwhelming bows.

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