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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by 11.5% Klady

Friday Estimates 2014-07-26 at 9.25.13 AM

If there is a “box office trend,” it cannot be reversed by the success of one or two or three movies. You see, that would negate the presumption of there being a trend at all. This is one of the hard parts of covering box office for journalists, especially for those without much history of doing so… box office is neither weather nor sports. Have you ever read a sports writer talking about the history of a team as though there is a new manager/head coach or 40% or more of the team has been turned over… as though the uniforms are out there playing? This is a false narrative. Likewise, the idea that change in the weather somehow colors the entire season that has already occurred or which can and will often change on the day.

So… Lucy. Far and away the biggest opening for Scarlett Johansson outside of The Marvel Universe. It’s was little surprising, looking back at her numbers. If you discount He’s Just Not That Into You as a group movie, The Prestige as a Jackman & Bale movie, The Horse Whisperer as her first film and a Redford movie, and Just Cause as Connery/Fishburne – and I think that is all more than fair – you realize that she has never led or been Top 3 in a movie that’s opened over $10 million.

It’s a little mind-blowing, really. The machinery around this young woman and the media hyperventilation is remarkable. And we are finding out, more and more, that she is actually a talented actress with serious aspirations about the work, not just a blonde with puffy lips and big boobs. Ironically, Lucy, which is, to its core, a genre movie, continues to make the case for Johansson as a quality actress. It was interesting talking to Luc Besson about her…

Anyway… here is one of those great twisty stats. Lucy will be the #2 all-time late July opening for an original film behind only The Village, which could be argued was a title in the Shyamalan franchise, empowered by his previous smash hit, Signs. So in that context, this is a huge success. Since the first couple of weekends of July are considered the sweet spot, you don’t see a lot of big openings in the second half of July and the ones that venture there come with a pedigree. Parts 2 and 3 in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Simpsons, Austin Powers 2, Burton’s Apes, the 1st Captain America, Mangold’s Wolverine, Jurassic 3. These films and the Shyamalan are the only ones out ahead of Lucy in this release window. (And for the record, the choices the industry makes about when it releases movies is much more trackable than the box office fates of specific movies in specific years.)

Hercules is more on the Apes reboot tip. But the number will be more like the Lone Ranger or Wild Wild West reboots. Both of those films had the crap killed out of them for being very, very expensive and starring the hottest actors on the planet at their retrospective moments. The Rock is a real star, but not that star. Funders on the film surely looked not only at The Rock’s numbers, but international on movies like Clash of The Titans which did $330m international and even the sequel, Wrath, which did $220m international.Domestic will be okay. $100m is not out of the question. But the win or loss on the film will be in the international market… $200m minimum ($300m ww) before this isn’t seen as a mistake.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will pass Rise next weekend, domestically, it would seem. But we’re still waiting on international to load up, thanks to the World Cup. So only judging domestic… a bit of a disappointment, given the bigger opening on this one and another round of rave reviews. Still a likely success, but maybe a franchise with a glass ceiling.

It tells you a lot that studios are now handing out weekend estimates for international box office on Friday night/Saturday morning… nothing good about journalism or a strong interest in the detailed truth when it comes to these numbers. Nonetheless, Paramount has projected a $202 million international weekend for Transformers 4, driven primarily by China and a pre-estimated $92m opening weekend gross. This pretty much guarantees the first billion-dollar worldwide gross of 2014. As noted before, Chinese grosses should probably start being discounted significantly in box office coverage, especially when they are such a large percentage of the overall number. Why? Nothing against Transformers or any other film, but Chinese box office grosses return less than half of what other markets return to the distributor. But that detailed reporting (which is so easy) won’t be happening anytime soon, so…

Woody Allen’s seventh release by Sony Classics is opening a lot like their 2012 release, To Rome With Love… if a little softer in that its one more screens (17 vs 5). SPC seems to have found a “new normal” with Allen, grossing low teens with the not-sensational ones and doing serious numbers for arthouse with the ones people love. This trend is actually not new for Allen, but the lows are less low and the highs are higher.

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23 Responses to “Friday Estimates by 11.5% Klady”

  1. matt says:

    Any theories on the Lucy success? After seeing the relatively low gross for Under the Skin (which, to be sure, was not a “mainstream” film) and reading that Lucy is an action-film version of Malick’s Tree of Life, a 40 million+ weekend seems almost bizarre!

  2. doug r says:

    People keep getting surprised when Luc makes a movie that doesn’t suck. Taken, for example.

  3. rufus says:

    Thought Taken was one of the most overrated movies of the last ten years. Standard kidnapping/revenge plot, not very comprehensible staged fight scenes, and brought nothing innovative to the action. Guess I’m in the minority though.

  4. Mostly Lurking says:

    So was Inception not released in the second half of July or is it not original for purposes of the discussion? I see you mention it with all of the sequels/preexisting properties but do not place it in the same category as The Village.

  5. Gustavo says:

    Taken sucks.

  6. eric says:

    It’s kind of funny how much of a love/hate relationship I have with international box office. It’s great seeing that it has turned Edge of Tomorrow from a big dissapointment to just a slight one financially. But seeing how overseas audiences have eaten up Transformers: Please Stop and do something you really want to do Michael Bay, makes me die a little inside knowing that we are going to get another one that he does not really want to do, despite the fact that domestic audiences are showing obvious fatigue. But that is the modern day film biz I guess.

  7. movieman says:

    The Island as a Leo movie

    “Leo” who?
    In “The Island,” Scarlett’s costar was Ewan McGregor,

  8. Mostly Lurking says:


  9. Bulldog68 says:

    “So only judging domestic… a bit of a disappointment, given the bigger opening on this one and another round of rave reviews. Still a likely success, but maybe a franchise with a glass ceiling.”

    Sometimes I just don’t get your logic Dave. Apes is a disappointment when it opens bigger and also is outperforms its predecessor? But yet Spiderman wasn’t when it did neither of the two. The first 3 days of Spiderman 2 was Fri-Sun @ $91m, the first three days of Spiderman 1 was a Wed-Fri @ $95m. Over the first 5 days there totals were $103m and $137m respectively. And this is a comparison to the revamped Spiderman that was considered a minor disappointment at $262m domestic gross. And yet still I haven’t seen you call Spiderman 2 “a bit of a disappointment.”

    And also Apes will outgross Spiderman domestically. So which is the disappointment?

  10. Casey says:

    “Any theories on the Lucy success?”

    The campaign was great, even if the movie isn’t. Unlike Transcendence, which Lucy bears more than a passing resemblance to, the campaign for Lucy was able to make the movie look more action-packed than it is. It also was very clear in communicating what the story was–what was happening to Lucy at each stage, what happened to her in the first place, etc.

    Plus, it just looked damn cool.

  11. SamLowry says:

    INCEPTION isn’t an original movie because it was an adaptation of the Uncle Scrooge story “The Dream of a Lifetime”. 🙂

    “the campaign for Lucy was able to make the movie look more action-packed than it is”

    Sounds like Lindy West’s complaint about HERCULES. Let’s just say that she’s pissed. (For example: “You know all that monster-punching in the trailer? Literally all of it takes place in the first ten fucking seconds of the movie.”)

  12. YancySkancy says:

    “It’s was little surprising…It’s a little mind-blowing, really.”

    Words I thought I’d never see in a David Poland box office column again. 🙂

  13. Triple Option says:

    I thought the early ads for Lucy made it seem like some sorta SciFi-ish Bourne or The Professional sequel – which, grown up Natalie Portman taking up Leon’s position as a hitman, why hasn’t that happened?? I thought the foreign control was ideal in preventing an inundation of stills and leaks and constant cast interviews from the set that have a tendency to dilute the actual experience of the film. Going in, I was expecting truly straight forward badass film. I could see why it would open really big.

    Now, having seen said film, if this thing does an abysmal tank w/70% loss of ticket sales, I wouldn’t be surprised by that either. It prolly won’t be that bad but it’s disappointing and confusing. If marketing was so bent on selling a particular film, why not just make that particular film?

  14. leahnz says:

    “INCEPTION isn’t an original movie because it was an adaptation of the Uncle Scrooge story “The Dream of a Lifetime”. 🙂 ”

    hilarious, i know someone who’s been harping on that scrooge mcDuck thing for years (not sure if he got if from the Cracked article or not, that’s the first i’ve seen of it) and it’s totally true, Nolan’s a big fat comic copy cat and he should just admit it already – it would put ‘inception’ in the running for best comic book adaptation to film anyway, explains why the movie has about as much random internal logic as a comic strip as well

  15. Bitplayer says:

    Shouldn’t Besson be getting the love for this ? His organization is really good at pumping out these mid-budgeted action movies sometimes with female leads. His crew put out Columbiana a few years ago and opened it to number one too.

  16. jesse says:

    I think Dave is both right and wrong about Apes. I don’t think Fox is really considering it a disappointment. It’s going to wind up with $220 million or so in North America. I don’t think they were really expecting a Dark Knight style crazy breakout where the second one zooms past $300 million or something. But yes, it does suggest a glass ceiling on the franchise: this probably isn’t a series that’s going to get over $250 million domestic. That’s still remarkable, though — both how well these very good Apes movies do, and how resilient it’s been as a brand, considering almost all cinematic incarnations of it have been financially successful.

    So maybe it’s more like Bourne than Batman. I don’t think that’s anything to be disappointed about.

    Especially considering that Fox is not exactly franchise-rich. I’m sure that between X-Men and Apes, Fox thought that MAYBE they could eke out a $300 million movie, but I’m also sure that both movies hitting that $230 million range, and more overseas, works fine. The whole reason they sequelized those 2011 installments so quickly (and are planning 2016 installments of both) is that Fox doesn’t actually have a lot of mega-franchises. WB has Batman/Superman/Potter. Disney has the Marvel, Pixar, and in-house animation. Paramount has Transformers and Mission: Impossible and Star Trek (so the big TV-to-movie transplants, basically). Universal has Despicable Me, Fast & Furious, and is teeing up a revival of Jurassic Park. Sony has Spider-Man and Bond.

    In other words, all of those studios have at least one franchise that aims for $300 million domestic (or has proven it can go there). Now that it doesn’t distribute Star Wars, Fox is obviously trying to get that by sequelizing Avatar and Independence Day, but until those are going before cameras, or something else takes off, they need X-Men and Apes — even if they’re more Fast/Furious or Mission: Impossible than mega-grossing Iron Man or Batman.

  17. Hallick says:

    “So maybe it’s more like Bourne than Batman. I don’t think that’s anything to be disappointed about.”

    That’s only if you’re spending Bourne-level money in the making of the movie. But they apparently spent nearly Batman-level money on this one, so if they were just expecting to top out around $220 million domestic and be happy about it, they were insane.

  18. Hallick says:

    “As noted before, Chinese grosses should probably start being discounted significantly in box office coverage, especially when they are such a large percentage of the overall number. Why? Nothing against Transformers or any other film, but Chinese box office grosses return less than half of what other markets return to the distributor.”

    But box office reporting is never about the actual returns the studios get in the first place. Otherwise, most of the numbers here would have to be cut in half, no?

  19. SamLowry says:

    “Every now and then a movie comes along that’s so beyond-the-pale sloppy, so disastrous in both conceit and execution, that it simply defies conventional analysis.”

    Yikes, Orr at The Atlantic says LUCY is worse than THE HAPPENING.

    “As the movie progresses, we will regularly be kept abreast of Lucy’s increasing cerebral capacity (30 percent! 60 percent!). It’s a useful tool, enabling viewers to judge just how much more of the movie they will have to endure before she hits 100 and it’s over.”

    I suspect the only way to stop supposed authority figures from spouting idiotic crap like “We only use 10% of our brains” and “Vaccines are worse than death” is to execute them if they’re proven wrong.

    “The truly crazy part, however, is that after this long, super-creepy monologue, Lucy’s mom doesn’t ask the question that any parent in the world would ask under the circumstances: “Are you on drugs?””

    Heh heh.

  20. SamLowry says:

    (Since a “former nurse” started a riot in Sierra Leone after telling a crowd “Ebola [is] unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals,” I’m starting to think the execution solution might not be a bad idea.)

  21. That Guy says:

    …are people now seriously arguing that Christopher Nolan was reading Uncle Scrooge comics right after Insomnia came out ?

    He and Don Rosa probably just read the same Scientific American article or something.

  22. leahnz says:

    i was 46% serious. i hope so anyway, somehow the idea of nolan reading scrooge mcduck comics is ironically hilarious, because he’s such a dour fucker (not necessarily in a bad way). or someone else could have read it and retained/related it, there are startling (visual) similarities that have nothing to do with scientific american, more like storyboarding american

  23. jesse says:

    Hallick, what was the purported budget for Apes? Like 160 or something like that? Hardly unheard of for a tentpole; I don’t think that indicates an assumption that it would do $350 million domestic. If that budget equals that hope, then most of the big movies released for the past five or six years have been big-time shortfallers.

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