Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sully Flies Above The Competition In Weak September Frame As Blair Witch And Bridget Jones Perform Far Worse Than Expected

Well now, this was a pretty tepid weekend at the box office, one where newcomers pretty much across the board failed to break out at best and at worst utterly failed to live up to their promise. But on top again was Sully, one of the big sleeper hits of the year that continued to perform well, grossing another $22 million this weekend, a 37% dip that's on par with the 36% decline experienced by fellow Tom Hanks Fall drama Captain Phillips three years ago. Sully has grossed $70.5 million in ten days, and if it continues to perform like Captain Phillips, it would end its domestic run with a spectacular $147 million.

In second place was Blair Witch, which managed to come in far far far beneath expectations. This one managed to gross only $9.6 million, way below the debuts of other big horror movies this year like Lights Out and Don't Breathe and even beneath the $13.2 million opening weekend of Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 sixteen years ago. In terms of recent high-profile horror movies, only Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Darkness and The VVitch performed worse, with even non-sequel horror fare like The Boy managing to have bigger debuts.

So what went haywire here? Well, a couple things. For one, many people I know thought this was just a remake of the original Blair Witch Project instead of a sequel and the more generic marketing campaign put no effort into debunking that concept. There were also the mixed reviews that kept it from having the "critically raved" buzz that recent horror non-sequels like Don't Breathe and Lights Out had. And the divisive nature of the original Blair Witch Project amongst general moviegoers could have also hurt it. With a D+ CinemaScore to its name (which is bad even by horror movie standards), Blair Witch is probably gonna struggle to get much higher than $20 million domestically.

Renee Zellweger returned to the silver screen this weekend with Bridget Jones's Baby, which debuted to a paltry $8.2 million, though it did do far better overseas with a $29.9 million bow. Domestically though, this was by far the weakest debut in the series, coming in 5% behind the bow of Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason from 12 years ago. Even with strong reviews on its side, this newest Bridget Jones adventure just didn't connect with audiences and will have to rely on foreign grosses to make back its $35 million budget. Chalk up Blair Witch and Bridget Jones's Baby as two more casualties in the 2016 Box Office Sequel Massacre. The next four weeks likely won't have any new titles to add to this phenomenon, but look for late October to have plenty of titles to add to the piles, namely Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Oujia: Origin Of Evil, Rings and Inferno.

In fourth place this weekend was Snowden, the most expensive of this weekends newcomers (and the only one I've seen and, for the record, I thought Snowden was a solid stuff and a marked improvement on Oliver Stone's most recent films) debuted to an underwhelming $8 million, in the same range as other Joseph Gordon-Levitt headlined movies like 10 Things I Hate About You, 50/50 and Don Jon. It's actually the ninth biggest opening weekend ever for director Oliver Stone. Even with an A CinemaScore at its back, it's doubtful Snowden sticks around awhile thanks to a deluge of new titles coming out in the next few weeks.

Two original Screen Gems thrillers could be found in fifth and sixth place this weekend. First up was Don't Breathe, which held exceptionally well in the face of Blair Witch, dipping only 32% to gross another $5.6 million, taking its domestic haul to a fantastic $75.3 million. Meanwhile, When The Bough Breaks lost 61% this weekend (about on par with the 62% second-weekend decline of last year's The Perfect Guy), adding another $5.5 million to its domestic total that now stands at $22.6 million. The most outstanding example of legs at the box office this weekend has to go to Suicide Squad, which lost a scant 18% to gross another $4.7 million. Suicide Squad has now grossed $313.7 million domestically and will end its domestic run in the same vicinity as the far more high-profile DC project Batman v. Superman.

The Wild Life lost only 21% this weekend, which would be great if it hadn't had such a dismal bow last weekend. Those isolated animals only added $2.65 million to their meager 10-day total of $6.6 million. Right behind The Wild Life was fellow family movie holdover Kubo And The Two Strings, which dipped only 24% this weekend, grossing another $2.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $44.2 million. Rounding out the top ten was yet another family movie, Pete's Dragon, which lost 34% for another $2.04 million that brought its domestic gross to $72.8 million.

Debuting in wide release this weekend was the Christian concert film Hillsong- Let Hope Rise, which had anemic bow even by the standards of typical non-God's Not Dead Christian movies, grossing only $1.3 million. Amongst the subgenre of Christian movies, that's just below the opening weekend sums of Seven Days In Utopia, Facing The Giants and Captive. Hillsong- Let Hope Rise went through two more distributors (Warner Bros. and Relativity Media) and multiple release date changes before it ended up being released in this mid-September date by Pure Flix, the studio whose been struggling to replicate the success of Christian movie sleeper hit God's Not Dead over the past 30 months. The band Hillsong United just doesn't seem to be popular enough to warrant a theatrical concert film and the dismal box office backs that assumption up.

Another band had more success at the domestic box office this weekend, the band in question being a little known musical act called The Beatles. A documentary directed by Ron Howard entitled The Beatles: Eight Days A Week-The Touring Years debuted in 85 theaters to gross a solid $615,632. Also bowing this weekend, in significantly more theaters, was Mr. Church, Eddie Murphy's first theatrical release since the 2012 box office dud A Thousand Words. Mr. Church grossed a meager $407,151 at 354 theaters for a pitiful per-theater average of $1,150. Eddie Murphy did a few talk shows (namely, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) to promote the project, but that was the extent of the promotion I ever saw for the project, which also received disastrous reviews, a kiss of death for adult-skewing dramas.

There was no easy exit from its box office troubles for The Disappointments Room, which lost a massive 71% this weekend, grossing only $400,000 and taking its abysmal domestic gross to only $2.2 million. The Chinese crime comedy Cock And Bull debuted in 12 theaters to $35,000. Did you know a comedy starring Shirley Maclaine and Jessica Lange opened this weekend? No? Don't worry, you're not alone. That movie, Wild Oats, debuted to a disastrous $18,700 at only 100 theaters. Finally, Miss Stevens debuted to $3,005 at 2 locations.

Independence Day: Resurgence and The Legend Of Tarzan both ended their domestic box office runs this past Thursday. I already covered both films in my Summer 2016 box office retrospective, but briefly, Independence Day: Resurgence finished its domestic run with only $103.1 million, a dismal sum that came thanks to a generic marketing campaign and word-of-mouth from critics and audiences alike that the film was just a dull retread of its predecessor. The massive $180 million budget of The Legend Of Tarzan, as well as its only OK overseas grosses, keeps it from being more than an OK performer, but it was the only summer blockbuster to significantly outperform expectations this year and beat out more high-profile offerings like the aforementioned Independence Day sequel and the newest Ninja Turtles movie.

The Top 12 grossed $74.6 million, a 25% decline from the same weekend last year when Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials raced to the top of the box office.

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