Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dumbo Debut, Unlike Unplanned, Disappointing, Beach Bum Bombs

Previously, modern-day live-action remakes of classic animated Disney movies had been foolproof at the box office. Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, all of them grossed over $200 million domestically and became massive moneymakers for Disney. The newest entry in this trend, Dumbo, failed to soar compared to its predecessors with only a $45 million bow, which does make it the fifth biggest bow for a Tim Burton directorial effort (only about $600,000 behind the bow of Batman Returns from all those years ago) but puts it way behind all the other recent live-action Disney remakes and is a poor showing for a movie that cost $170 million (you read that right) to make. For comparison's sake, Cinderella opened to $67.8 million four years ago while costing only $90 million.

Dumbo is not a flop by any stretch of the imagination but it is a box office disappointment, a sign that Disney can't just lean on nostalgic cash-grabs alone for box office glory. People didn't rush out to see The Jungle Book or Maleficent solely because they were live-action remakes of an animated Disney fare, it's because other elements were in play (spot-on casting for iconic characters, interesting visuals, exciting trailers, etc.) that made people shell out money for a ticket. Dumbo's marketing, meanwhile, relied too much on people solely on the Disney name and the presence of a CGI version of Dumbo. If Dumbo holds like most past live-action Disney remakes, it'll make about $130-135 million domestically, though it might have harsher falls in the weeks to come due to Shazam! stealing away much of the family audience next weekend. It'll also be interesting to see if Aladdin performs more like Dumbo or The Jungle Book in its own domestic box office performance in two months. If it also fails to make Disney magic at the domestic box office, this live-action Disney remake trend might be starting its descent, though some singing lions might be able to jolt it back to life by the ending of the summer.

In second place this weekend was Us, which fell 53% to gross another $33.6 million. That's a much larger drop than either Get Out or A Quiet Place but it's still a much smaller than usual second-weekend decline for a horror film and on par with the second-weekend drop of It. Us has now grossed $128.2 million domestically and is at least looking at a final domestic haul in the range of $180-190 million. In third place was Captain Marvel, which dropped another 40% for a $20.5 million fourth-weekend and a $353.8 million domestic total to date. As long as she doesn't have a 70+% drop next weekend when Shazam! comes around, look for Captain Marvel to cross $400 million before her domestic run is finished. Five Feet Apart continued its impressive box office run by dipping only 27% this weekend for a third-weekend haul of $6.2 million for a $35.8 million. Having now surpassed the lifetime gross of Everything, Everything, it looks like Five Feet Apart might make a run at beocming only the third CBS Films release to crack $50 million domestically.

The big surprise of the weekend was the performance of Unplanned, an anti-abortion drama that served as the first R-rated release by Pure Flix, a studio that's struggled recently (it's been two years since their last release to crack $10 million domestically) but finally bounced back with this solid bow. Though it was surprisingly frontloaded, making nearly half of its opening weekend on opening day, the film's well on its way to being profitable considering it only cost $6 million to make. Abortion's been all over the news lately, including with that "Heartbeat Bill" that is likely on its way to getting passed in Georgia, and that helped make Unplanned a topical movie for its audience. The key pieces of "controversy" used here to drum up buzz, namely how certain TV stations decided not to run ads for the film and the feature getting slapped with an R-rating, also helped get faith-based audiences to rally around the film since the producers behind Unplanned were able to make their film look like a victim of that nefarious "liberal media agenda" that hides under your bed, teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red. Like with that first God's Not Dead movie that Pure Flix was a part of five years ago, Unplanned made sure to use fear-mongering to make privileged members of society feel like they were under attack from a non-existent boogeyman and proceeded to ride that tactic to the bank. As a sidenote, in the wake of renewed attacks on women's reproductive rights in the form of movies like Unplanned or rhetoric from our current disgraceful President of the United States, might I suggest making a donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds or one of its state branches? Every penny helps!

Wonder Park continued to fall slightly harder than usual for an animated family film as it dropped 43% this frame for a fourth-weekend gross of $4.9 million for a domestic gross of $37.8 million. How it holds in April will determine if this one cracks $50 million domestically. Despite a new family movie blockbuster entering the marketplace, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World dipped only 35% this frame to add $4.2 million to a domestic gross that now stands at $152.9 million. Pure Flix wasn't the only indie studio to have a recent box office dry spell come to an end this weekend as Bleecker Street saw their first box office hit in a good long while with the wide release expansion of Hotel Mumbai. Grossing $3.1 million at 924 locations for a great per-theater average of $3,425, Hotel Mumbai is already the sixteenth biggest movie ever for Bleecker Street and looks likely to become only the fourth feature ever for the studio to crack $10 million domestically. Between this movie and The Upside, 2019 has been a good year financially for projects originally slated to be released by The Weinstein Company.

A Madea Family Funeral once again had a far better than usual weekend-to-weekend hold for a Madea feature as it dipped only 38% to add $2.7 million for a $70 million domestic total. Rounding out the top ten was the last of our new wide releases this frame was The Beach Bum, which grossed only $1.8 million from 1,100 in its opening weekend for a $1,636 per-theater average. That does dethrone the $1.6 million bow of Apollo 11 to score the biggest opening weekend ever for NEON, but Apollo 11 was opening in about 1,000 fewer locations. As a star-studded wide release, The Beach Bum was a dud and served as the newest box office non-starter for Matthew McConaughey, who scored his lowest wide-release opening weekend ever with The Beach Bum. NEON is now the rare movie studio where one can accurately state that their documentary releases tend to fare far better at the box office than their conventional narrative features.

Expanding into 1,127 locations this weekend, Gloria Bell took in only $1.1 million this weekend, a 32% drop from last weekend when it was playing in only 654 theaters, for a poor per-theater-average of just $985. Having grossed $4.1 million so far, Gloria Bell is headed for a $6-6.5 million domestic total. No Manches Frida 2 dropped 49% this weekend to gross another $900,000 for an $8 million domestic total while The Mustang expanded into 181 locations and grossed $585,000 for a per-theater average of $3,232 for a domestic total of $989,179. Apollo 11 dropped 49% this weekend to gross an additional $402,990 for a domestic total of $7.6 million. This one likely won't cross $10 million domestically but it's still fared great at the domestic box office. The Aftermath seems to be headed for the end of its poor domestic box office run after it grossed only $310,000 this weekend from 161 locations for a per-theater average of $1,925. Having grossed only $556,753 to date, this makes The Aftermath, when discounting outlier releases Patti Cake$ and Wilson, the lowest-grossing Fox Searchlight title since I Origins in July 2014.

It was a quiet frame for limited release newcomers, with Diane leading the pack with $27,043 from 3 locations for a per-theater average of $9,014. Slut in a Good Way debuted to $22,000 from 7 locations for a per-theater average of $3,143 while The Brink opened to $18,370 from 4 locations for a per-theater average of $4,593. Our final two new limited releases for this frame were The Chaperone, which grossed $12,150 from 2 locations for a per-theater average of $6,075 and, finally,  Screwball took in only $12,020 from 13 locations for a per-theater average of $925.

The final weekend of March 2019 closed the month out with $130.3 million, the ninth-biggest 13th weekend in any given year. The fact that this weekend wasn't higher compared to years past can be chalked up to how the top title, Dumbo, wasn't as big as other movies that have closed out past March's like The Boss Baby, Monsters vs. Aliens or Batman v. Superman. March 2019 has grossed a projected $953.5 million, and though the under-performance of certain titles like Dumbo kept March 2019 from becoming only the second March ever to hit over $1 billion, March 2019 is still the second-biggest March in history. With its first three months in the bag, 2019 has now grossed $2.3 billion, which is behind the domestic box office performance of the last five years through the same point. That can be chalked up to a particularly dismal January/February 2019 period and it'll be interesting to see if 2019 can make up domestic box office ground in the next few months ahead.

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