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

 

 

 

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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

 

 

NOT WORTH THE WAIT

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE FAILS TO ADAPT TO MODERN MOVIE AUDIENCES OR EXPLOIT ITS OWN NOSTALGIA VALUE

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Judd Hirsch, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sela Ward, Patrick St. Esprit, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner

Rated: PG

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Running Time: 2 Hrs.

There’s been a pretty strong wave of high priced nostalgia running through Hollywood lately. Last year we got Jurassic World over two decades after the original blockbuster as well as Poltergeist and Point Break remakes. Nostalgia was behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles renewal and most likely the culprit behind the new Ghostbusters (which Sony desperately hopes to turn into a lucrative new franchise). The fond childhood memories of an entire generation were the biggest engine to pull the new Star Wars gravy train out of the station. And now we have Independence Day: Resurgence, released almost twenty years to the day that the original Independence Day conquered theatres in 1996.

Video: 20th Century Fox

Resurgence’s story picks up on the eve of the celebration commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Earth’s victory over the invading aliens. The nations of the world have since come together, uniting for the singular purpose of preparing Earth for future alien attacks (there is a strong belief, especially among the survivors of the first invasion, that the aliens will inevitably return). David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) spends his time hopping across the globe and integrating alien technology into powerful new weapons. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is also on hand for the celebrations, although the retired Commander-in-Chief now wrestles with a variety of psychological problems as a result of his telepathic connection to the aliens twenty years earlier. His daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) meanwhile is all grown up and an aide to current President Lanford (Sela Ward).

But as the world prepares to celebrate the anniversary (which includes the opening of a new defensive base on the moon), a number of ominous events take place. People who had telepathic contact with the aliens the first time around begin experiencing troubling visions, alien prisoners who have been dormant for twenty years awake in hysterical excitement and there are troubling signs in the distant stars. Before the world can celebrate its victory, it’s plunged into a battle for survival once again, but this time the aliens are bigger, meaner and a little pissed off. Humanity finds itself relying once more on the heroes who saved it two decades ago as well as a generation of new ones.

When Independence Day captured the world’s imagination in the summer of 1996, everyone thought a sequel was inevitable. It broke new ground, not only with the sophistication of its special effects but with the sheer scale of them was well. Independence Day was also key in launching Will Smith, one of the hottest celebrities on the planet for years, into stardom. How could there not be a sequel? So when Resurgence was announced expectations were justifiably high.

Unfortunately, it misses the mark.

Make no mistake, the special effects are still great but other than the final battle scene with the alien queen, there’s not much we haven’t seen before. The first Independence Day didn’t really invest in story telling (aliens invade Earth in really big spaceships and are narrowly beaten by the courage and resourcefulness of our heroes while lots of stuff blows up in the meantime), relying on its mind-blowing special effects and the performance of its cast to carry it. But Resurgence’s story feels recycled and arguably stale (although it resolves itself with a little more intelligence then having a Mac power book bring a near omnipotent space faring civilization to its knees), failing to understand that it’s visual effects can no longer be counted on to carry the entire film.

Jeff Goldblum lacks the same kind of restrained, anxious energy that endeared him to audiences twenty years ago and he sorely misses Will Smith’s presence. He and Smith enjoyed great chemistry in the original, as Smith was the perfect balance for Goldblum’s focused neurosis. But not only is Smith and his charisma absent (a big strike against the film), but director Roland Emmerich and Resurgence’s producers fail to find anyone to pick up that slack and partner opposite Goldblum. While Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth may share a lot of screen time together, they share zero chemistry, denying Resurgence one of the biggest things Independence Day had going for it.

The movie offers little to no insight into it’s new characters, failing to give audiences reason to make any emotional investment and spoiling any attempts to generate tension. You wanted the President’s plane to escape the destruction of Washington D.C. in the original and you were rooting for the heroes to make it back from outer space. Now, you really don’t care. When you saw Independence Day for the first time, you probably had goose bumps; this time around there’s a good chance you might be bored.

Outside of the returning Goldblum, Pullman and Brent Spiner, the golden oldies are either given insultingly tiny nods of acknowledgement or ignored altogether. Vivica A. Fox is given a handful of lines before being shoved aside and while Will Smith is given a single line of dialogue and a portrait of remembrance, at least he is given some sort of acknowledgement. Other important characters from the original are completely forgotten. Randy Quaid and Margaret Colin’s characters, who played significant roles in the original, aren’t even mentioned.

Resurgence fails to understand that the audience has changed since 1996. Twenty years ago a movie could not only succeed as a result of imaginative, groundbreaking special effects, it could rule the box office. But these days, audiences want a compelling story and interesting characters to go with their visual effects. It’s obvious that Resurgence was also hoping to ride that aforementioned wave of Hollywood nostalgia, but it’s own disregard for some of it’s most important past is likely to alienate a sizeable share of its fan base. It’s as underwhelming as it is disappointing. In the end, Independence Day: Resurgence fails to adapt to the present and judging by it’s weak weekend box office, it’s going to be an expensive lesson.

Shayne Kempton