BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: SUICIDE RUN

THERE WAS NEVER ANY DOUBT SUICIDE SQUAD WAS GOING TO OWN THE BOX OFFICE THIS WEEKEND DESPITE POOR REVIEWS. NOW THE QUESTION IS HOW FAR WILL THIS GRAVY TRAIN RUN?

There was never any doubt that DC/Warner Bros. Suicide Squad was going to open huge. After weeks of tracking and speculative monitoring, there was no question it was going to open number one this weekend, laying waste to every record in its path and forcing every other movie on the planet to scramble in it’s colossal wake. So Suicide Squad’s record-breaking success came as absolutely no surprise to anyone anywhere.

Now is when it gets interesting.

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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

 

 

 

THE SECRET’S OUT

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS MAY NOT BE IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS DISNEY OR PIXAR, BUT THERE’S STILL PLENTY TO ENJOY

Director: Chris Renault

Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress and Steve Coogan

Studio: Illumination/Universal

Rated: G

Running Time: 1 Hr, 30 Mins

A handful of heavyweights have risen to the top of the animation world over the years. Disney’s in house studio as well as their Pixar brand are easily the top dog (refer to the box office numbers of Zootopia and Finding Dory if you have any doubts) while studios like Dreamworks and Sony’s Blue Sky vie for second place. Universal’s animation division-Illumination Entertainment-is looking to challenge the status quo by building off the enormous success of their Despicable Me/Minions franchise and challenge Disney’s place on top of the animated food chain with the much-hyped Secret Life of Pets. While Pets falls a little short of that lofty goal, it’s still an amusing romp that’s more than worth the price of admission.

Video: Illumination Entertainment

Max (Louis C.K.) and his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) live the perfect life in New York. Katie adores Max and Max pretty much worships the ground Katie walks on. When Katie leaves everyday for work (her daily disappearance remains a complete mystery to Max, who tries every day to convince her to stay) Max dutifully waits by the door, eager for her return. While the other pets of the city spend their days partying, watching TV and raiding the refrigerator, Max pines away the hours until his beloved owner returns home.

But one day Katie returns with a new addition to their family-Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a hulking brute of a dog that’s all slobber and fur. Max’s exclusive place in Katie’s life is challenged and he immediately resolves to do everything in his power to get Duke out of their lives and back in the pound where Katie found him. Understandably Duke isn’t a fan of this and becomes determined to get Max out of the picture (strictly as self defense of course). As a result they both find themselves on the streets, trying to get home while on the run from New York Animal Control and Snowball (Kevin Hart), a psychotic rabbit that leads an army of abandoned pets called The Flushed that seek revenge on the human world.

Pets takes some time to get going, spending a good chunk establishing the characters, back story and premise. But when it does get going, it’s a roller coaster of laughs, sight gags and inside jokes. The animators perfectly captured the spirit of the characters and embedded them into their animal likenesses. Whether through body language or facial expressions, the visual imagery sells the character side of story.

Unlike some other animation studios, Illumination cast its voice actors from TV, keeping the budget reasonable (Pets estimated budget is around 75 million compared to the average Pixar budget, which easily surpass the 100 million dollar mark). But that doesn’t subtract from the impact the voices have at all. Albert Brooks is fantastic as Tiberius, the domesticated hawk that constantly wrestles with his predatory instincts while trying to make friends. Louis C.K. does a more then decent job as Max, really selling the conviction of the little terrier’s love for his master and his contempt for his new rival. You can truly tell that Kevin Hart had a blast as Snowball, the sociopathic, murder crazed bunny out for blood. But Jenny Slater steals the show as Gidget, the demur, polished toy poodle with eyes for Max and an addiction to Mexican soap operas. Gidget is the real star of the movie, going from prim and proper, long distance admirer to a pet-of-action, leading the search party for Max who eventually becomes a fierce engine of hand-to-hand combat. And Slater brings her to life with nothing short of perfection.

Pets plot is essentially Toy Story recycled. But instead of toys coming to life when their owners aren’t around, household pets reveal their true selves once their humans have departed for the day. The former favourite has to deal with the strange newcomer but soon they have to join forces to get home safe. Pets succeeds because while the writers borrowed the storyline from another movie, they heavily invested in creating a world of talking pets and vengeful bunnies, and then allowed their characters to explore the comedic boundaries. The jokes (and there lots of them) write themselves.

Unlike Pixar though, Pets doesn’t yank on any heartstrings, though considering the subject matter that’s probably a wise decision (few things are more devastating, especially for a child, then the loss of a pet). It flirts with a little genuine emotion before quickly returning to the jokes. That’s why it fails to reach the same territory as Pixar. Make no mistake, there’s pretty much the same amount of laughs for both kids and adults, but Pixar has perfected the recipe of brilliant visuals, comedy and just the right amount of pathos, while Pets prefers to focus on the laughs.

Pets even opens with an animated short-a new Minions adventure-but it doesn’t have the same presence that Pixar or Disney animated shorts do. It was amusing but not really memorable.

The Secret Life of Pets is a great family movie nonetheless. The kids will love it and the parents will love taking them. It’s a visual roller coaster ride full of laughs and you may never look at a poodle or a bunny the same way ever again. It’s the fun family movie that reminds us why summer is movie season. And while it falls a little short of Pixar, don’t be surprised if Illumination is soon challenging the creators of Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Dory for animation’s top spot soon (they’re already hyping their Christmas release Sing). Pets may even have a sequel in it too. If Max and company get into this much hijinks just welcoming a new dog, imagine what could result if one day Katie brought home a husband?

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