BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: GHOST CAN’T CATCH PETS

DESPITE A STRONG OPENING, SONY’S GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT CAN’T CATCH REIGNING BOX OFFICE CHAMP SECRET LIFE OF PETS

Sony’s much maligned, female centric Ghostbusters reboot was the center of attention this weekend as insiders and trackers were keeping a close eye on the controversial movie’s box office performance. But while everyone was watching what could be the most talked about movie in years, Universal/Illumination Entertainment’s animated blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets snuck past the supernatural comedy to claim box office supremacy for the second weekend in a row.

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BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: SECRET SUCCESSFUL

SECRET LIFE OF PETS FINALLY DEFEATS FINDING DORY AND GIVES HOLLYWOOD A MUCH NEEDED SHOT IN THE BOX OFFICE ARM

Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory has been killing the competition since it was released last month, dominating the box office three weekends in a row (and the first two weeks weren’t even close as Dory doubled and even tripled the next closest titles). Few doubted that Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets would open in the top spot this weekend, but the question was by how much and would Dory prove to be a speed bump on Pets way to box office dominance. The answer to both those questions were“a lot” and “no.”

Last summer should have proven to everyone that there were plenty of dollars in the animated movie kitty to go around as Pixar’s Inside/Out and Universal/Illumination’s Minions squared off in a battle of the animated titans, with Minions coming out on top (though both movies made insane amounts of money). Insiders were keeping a close eye on this year’s rematch and the two heavyweights didn’t disappoint.

Pets silenced the doubters with a whopping 103.2 million dollar debut at the North American box office, the third highest opening in what has been an otherwise disappointing summer (the average box office debut of this summer’s new releases are down an estimated 27% from this time last year) and laid waste to conservative predictions of a debut in the 80 to 85 million dollar range. It is the sixth highest opening this year and breaks the box office record for the highest opening gross for an original property (non sequel, prequel, remake, reboot or adaptation). The previous record was set last year by, you guessed it, Inside/Out. Trackers will now be watching to see what kind of legs Pets will have and what kind of profit margin it can generate against a very reasonable 75 million-production budget.

The Legend of Tarzan narrowly held onto second place, snaring an extra 20.6 million in its second weekend. Warner Bros. revisiting of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic has netted 81.5 million since its debut last week but will need a strong overseas performance to balance its 180 million dollar production budget.

Despite being bumped from the top spot, this was hardly a bad week for Finding Dory. The sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo unseated The Lion King as Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time and it passed Captain America: Civil War to become 2016’s reigning box office champ. Currently sitting at just over 422 billion, the race is on to see if Dory can reach the elusive half billion domestic box office mark. If it can, it may well be the only 2016 release to do so.

Fox’s R-Rated comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opened fourth, outperforming some expectations but still only pulling in 16.6 million on its opening weekend (with grim long-term prospects). Has the raunchy comedy genre run out of steam, or is it the raunchy comedy starring Zac Efron’s abs genre that has run its course? Efron’s other two adult comedy efforts this year-Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Dirty Grandpa-were both disappointments. It may be time him to try and expand his resume a little.

The Purge 3: Election Day’s box office performance dropped an eye popping 63 percent, but it was still able to claim fifth spot with 11.7 million in earnings, bringing its two week total to 58 million. Considering it only cost 10 million to make, every dollar Purge rakes in at this point is pure gravy for Universal. And the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart buddy movie Central Intelligence passed the 100 million dollar mark this week, raking in another 8.1 million to bring its four week total to a shade over 108 million. Holding the sixth spot this week, Intelligence should hold onto a spot in the weekly top ten for at least one or two more profitable weeks.

Independence Day Resurgence continues to (barely) hang onto a spot in the top ten, adding 7.7 million to a dismal total of 91.5 million domestically. How bad has it been for 20th Century Fox’s pricey (165 million) sequel? According to IMDB, the original Independence Day made over 306 million dollars domestically; the sequel could be hard pressed to hit 100 million despite IMAX showings, 3D ticket prices and two decades worth of inflation. Ouch. And speaking of bombs, The BFG brought in only 7.6 million on its second weekend for a total of 38.7 million against a production budget of 140 million. Fortunately Disney has four billion dollar properties under its belt so far this year and has a few big bullets left in its chamber (plus Walden Media shouldered some of BFG’s swollen budget, meaning Disney won’t take as big of a bath on it).

Sony’s small budget suspense The Shallows also continues to swim with the box office sharks, adding 4.8 million to a 45.6 million total that is nearly triple the film’s production budget. And just to add a surprise to the mix, Bollywood import The Sultan ranked tenth among North American box offices this weekend, bringing in 2.2 million on only 287 theatres. Not too shabby.

With Secret Life of Pets breathing some much needed life into a stagnant 2016 summer box office; distributors can breath a small sigh of relief. Attention now turns to Sony’s Ghostbusters opening next weekend. The female centric remake/reboot is one of the most hated things on the Internet (and has been since it was first announced in 2014) and responses from both Sony and director Paul Feig have only added fuel to the online fire. A lot of eyes will be on Ghostbuster’s bottom line this time next week. Stay tuned.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

 

BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: DORY REIGNS SUPREME

If Pixar decides to make a third installment in the Finding Nemo franchise, they should consider making the main characters piranhas, because they’re devouring everything in their path. Not only did Finding Dory defend its title as current weekend box office champion against three new high profile releases, but it also became the first movie to rule the box three weekends in a row since Zootopia (also a Disney property) did it last March. Dory added over 41 million to its domestic coffers over the holiday weekend and has now grossed over 372 million since its release three weeks ago. It’s well on its way to becoming the highest grossing movie of the year and will have no problem becoming Disney’s fourth billion dollar title of 2016 (it’s already made 538 million world wide). It has equaled Batman Vs Superman’s entire North American gross in just three weeks, it will likely pass Captain America: Civil War in a week or two and still has plenty of steam heading into July. And none of this takes into account all the Finding Dory merchandise currently flying off store shelves (just in time for summer vacation) or the fortune the home release will inevitably make when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray players next fall. If someone isn’t making a documentary titled “The Power of Pixar” yet, they should be.

One of those new releases, The Legend of Tarzan, opened in second with a healthy 38.1 million debut. But Warner Bros is already keeping a close eye on the weekly ticker tape considering Tarzan’s pricey 180 million dollar production budget. The Purge 3 was this weekend’s big winner, opening in third place with just over 30 million in ticket sales. Universal’s third (and final?) entry in the hyper violent film series tripled its ten million dollar budget in just its first weekend and it should prove interesting too see what kind of legs the action flick (which slyly paraphrased its tag line Keep America Great from Donald Trump’s xenophobic presidential campaign) has moving forward.

In a rare misstep, Disney’s other family friendly summer release, The BFG, opened fourth with a disappointing 19.5 million. The big budget BFG seemed to have everything going for it; based on the popular Roald Dahl book (and released on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, a fact Disney made sure to play up in the film’s promotion), it was directed by Steven Spielberg (his first Disney title) and had the full weight of the Disney hype machine behind it. Lukewarm reviews, a narrow target audience (seriously, this one was just for the kids) and a weekend full of competition combined to kill BFG’s prospects and the race is now on to see which will be the bigger Disney bomb; BFG or last April’s Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Speaking of disappointments, Independence Day: Resurgence took a near 60 percent hit to it’s weekend performance, tumbling from second place to fifth and only adding 16.5 million to it’s total. Resurgence came with a 165 million price tag (before promotional spending) and at its current pace it will be lucky to hit 100 million in domestic gross (it currently sits at just over 72). It will need a crazy overseas performance just to break even, which is currently looking unlikely. At best, 20th Century Fox is now looking to minimize the bath they’re going to take on this tent pole release.

Central Intelligence continued its strong run, holding down sixth spot with 12.3 million. Intelligence has made Fox over 95 million since it’s June 17th release and the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart buddy movie should have no problem hitting the 100 million milestone later this week, effectively doubling its production budget. And speaking of doubling budgets, the Blake Lively thriller The Shallows, which was made on the cheap for 17 million, made a cool nine million in it’s second weekend of release, bringing it’s total performance to over 35 million. Not a bad July 4th present for Sony.

Civil War period piece The Free State of Jones failed to capitalize on the July 4th weekend, falling to eighth spot with 4.1 million. The Matthew McConaughey vehicle has been a disappointment since it’s release last week, earning a total 15.2 million despite a 50 million dollar budget. Jones might hold on to a spot in the top ten for another week but is likely to be relegated to a box office memory by the time Ghostbusters hits theatres July 15th. This will be the second big write off studio STX is forced to make this year after Hardcore Henry bombed last March.

A pair of sequels rounded out the top ten, with The Conjuring 2 scaring up another 3.85 million. The latest title in the James Waan/Warner Bros. horrorverse has totalled 95.2 million on North American shores and all but guarantees a third Conjuring, not to mention an already announced spin off featuring the movie’s demonic protagonist, a la Annabelle. But while that sequel is doing gangbusters at the box office, Now You See Me 2 sits on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. The Lionsgate sequel only managed another 2.95 million in what is likely its last weekend in the top ten, brining its domestic total to a little over 53 million. Lionsgate needed Now You See Me to be a success after the disappointing performance of Allegiant last March and the appalling bomb Gods of Egypt last February. The combined losses on those three titles (and the absence of any more Hunger Games movies) may have severe consecequences for the studios future.

Also worth mentioning is Warner Bros. romantic drama Me Before You. The adaptation of JoJo Moyes bestselling book has not been without controversey but it has proven to be fairly resilient. Five weeks after release, it has grossed over 53 million at North American box offices on a humble 2o million dollar budget. Could some of the controversy have  translated into box office dollars? If so, perhaps that may bode well for Sony’s incredibly maligned Ghostbusters remake.

Next weekend presents a rematch of last summer’s animated Battle Royal. Can Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory fend off Universal/Illumination’s Secret Lives of Pets and hold the title for a fourth week in row? Or will Pets succeed where others have failed and be the movie to finally put Dory down? Last year’s battle between the two animated giants was definitely one for the books. Pixar’s Inside Out was yet another blockbuster but couldn’t handle the juggernaut that was Illumination’s Minions. Round two should be a blast.

 

Shayne Kempton

BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: RESURGENCE NO RESURRECTION

DON’T EXPECT AN INDEPENDENCE DAY 3 AFTER RESURGENCE’S DISMAL OPENING WEEKEND

Any plans 20th Century Fox had for an Independence Day movie trilogy are probably getting put on ice as studio number crunchers perform a post mortem on what can only be described as a depressing opening weekend for Independence Day Resurgence.

The long awaited sequel to the 1996 science fiction blockbuster Independence Day, Resurgence wasn’t only intended to be a summer tent pole release for Fox, but a renewal of the franchise as well. Resurgence (clumsily) sets up another would be blockbuster in the series, but a poor box office performance may kill any hopes for a third round between Earth and Roland Emmerich’s CGI aliens.

A two-decade wait and a year of hype should have generated a voracious audience appetite for Resurgence, especially when it opened against the little known (and also poorly performing) historical action movie Free State of Jones. Yet Resurgence, with an estimated 165 million dollar production budget, opened with just 41 million over the weekend, a distant second to Finding Dory, which came in at number one the second weekend in a row adding an extra 73 million plus domestically. Pixar’s sequel to it’s 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo has grossed over 286 million domestically since being released on Father’s Day weekend, and has topped 396 million globally. Last weekend was the twelfth weekend this year that a Disney property has been number one at the box office (and it’s only June). With titles like The BFG, Pete’s Dragon, Dr. Strange, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all scheduled for release later this year, we should get used to seeing Mickey perched at the top of the box office food chain (Disney has three billion dollar properties under it’s belt since January).

Even if Resurgence proves to have serious box office legs (a long shot considering the competition being released over the next few weeks) and it somehow manages to triple its opening numbers over the course of the summer, it will still fall well short of equaling its production budget and would need to have a ridiculous overseas performance to break even let alone post a profit big enough to justify a sequel.

Central Intelligence fell from second to third, adding an additional 18.7 million to it’s domestic total, and the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart action comedy continues to perform relatively strong despite a humble opening opposite Finding Dory. The low budget horror movie The Shallows was this weekend’s surprise, opening in fourth place and nearly recouping its entire seventeen million dollar budget (it missed by a few hundred thousand). The Free State of Jones dismal 7.7 million dollar opening was good enough for fifth.

Sequels rounded out the rest of the top ten. The Conjuring 2 continued to surprise by capturing sixth place (7.7 million), Now You See Me 2 continued to underperform in seventh (5.6 million), X-Men Apocalypse trundled along, with it’s 2.475 million narrowly edging out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows 2.4 million for eighth. Alice Through The Looking Glass finished tenth during its fifth weekend with just over 2.1 million. While The Conjuring’s latest horror chapter is exceeding expectations (inspiring Warner Bros. to green light a stand alone movie for the demonic antagonist the same way the original Conjuring launched Annabelle) the other sequels in spots seven through ten range from mild to severely disappointing.

It’s also worth noting that in just it’s third weekend, Warcraft has tumbled out of the North American top ten, though it’s incredible oversea performance means it may break-even. Still, it’s horrible domestic performance may threaten future co-operation between gaming giant Blizzard and any other movie studios.

Next weekend should prove very interesting as three sizeable titles are slated for release on a giant holiday weekend (Canada Day north of the border and July Fourth for the U.S of A) and it will be interesting to see if either The BFG or Tarzan can slow the tsunami that is Finding Dory (and how Dory and BFG, both Disney properties, share the family movie dollars). And what kind of niche can the uber-violent Purge 3 carve for itself? Will America’s polarized political climate help or harm its bottom box office line?

Shayne Kempton

 

 

SMART CHEMISTRY

GREAT CHEMISTRY BETWEEN IT’S LEADS MAKES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE THIS SUMMER’S BEST BUDDY MOVIE

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurper

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 1 Hr, 47 Mins

Summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one good buddy movie. Buddy movies have been around longer than super hero epics and romantic comedies for a reason-the good ones embody everything enjoyable about going to the movies between May and September while the bad ones quickly fall off the radar and are forgotten. And the best part about successful buddy flicks? It’s the chemistry between the leads that make them stand out, and Central Intelligence is that move for 2016.

In 1996, Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart) graduates at the top of his class. An award wining athlete, an honour student adored and worshipped by the entire student body whose destined to marry the most beautiful girl in school, his fairy tale life has success written all over it. The world is his oyster and everyone expects big things once The Jet escapes the confines of high school. Robbie Weirdich (Dwayne Johnson) is the polar opposite. Mercilessly bullied because of his name, looks and weight, he disappears from sight after one final, horrible humiliation during his senior year.

Twenty years later Calvin is stuck in a dead end job and disappointed with his station in life. With his graduating class reunion looming, he wrestles with a sense of failure and can’t escape the shadow his promising teenage self cast. The day before the reunion, Calvin is mysteriously contacted by Robbie, who nobody’s seen since high school. Not only does Robbie have a new name (Bob Stone), but a new body as well, transforming his flab into rock hard muscle. But despite his new body, Bob retains the emotional and social maturity of a teenage outcast and continues to idolize Calvin (Calvin was one of the few who showed Bob any kindness in high school). It also turns out that Bob is a CIA agent wanted for treason and the murder of his partner (Aaron Paul) and Calvin soon finds himself tangled up with Bob while he’s being hunted by the entire CIA, lead by the relentless, no nonsense agent Harris (Amy Ryan).

The thing that makes Central Intelligence works is the chemistry Johnson and Hart share. The contrast between their screen characters is highlighted by the drastic difference in physical size and style between the two actors. Hart’s diminutive stature and restrained yet borderline hyperactive slapstick is as far as you can get from Johnson’s imposing, primal physicality. They’re the most lopsided bookends in movie history. And yet they have a great give and take relationship on screen. Nowhere is this more obvious then the scene in the therapist’s office (if you don’t shed at least one tear crying during that scene you probably don’t have a pulse).

Hart delivers exactly what is expected of him and his performance offers no surprises (it doesn’t have to, he contributes everything he was cast for), but Johnson steals the show. Not only does the former wrestling superstar kill his action scenes and match Hart joke for joke, he sells his misfit of a character perfectly, making his vulnerability and extraordinary social awkwardness perfectly believable.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurper realizes that the relationship between his two leads is the heart beat of this movie and clears everything else out of the way. The action is so-so, the story little more the a clothesline to hang jokes and sight gags on and there’s little else to really talk about, so he keeps everything focused on his two leading men, wisely allowing them to carry the movie. And if you doubt how much Hart and Johnson successfully play off each other, make sure you stick around for the blooper real during the credits. Some of its funnier then the actual stuff that made it into the final cut.

Central Intelligence probably won’t be a big blockbuster and likely won’t find it’s way into this year’s Top Ten Grossing Mega Movies, but it’s an amusing little action comedy that sells itself on the strength of it’s two leads. And it’s a nice diversion from the billion-dollar special effects extravaganzas that have become the hallmark of the summer movie season.

Shayne Kempton