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David Poland

By David Poland

Weekend Estimates by Ouiady

Weenend Estimates 2014-10-26 at 9.14.38 AM

Ouija (probably) squeaks past $20m, the standard for horror genre openings. It’s Universal’s 7th $20m+ opening of the year. When you look at the studio’s output for 2014, it’s a little shocking. It looks more like a conversative-spending Fox output than what we are used to from Universal. Say what you like, Comcast’s hand can be felt there. There’s not a $100m production in site… not even close. And next year, there are a couple, but the only big spending titles are on sequel/franchise titles. Even the CG-heavy Dracula reboot—another attempt to relaunch the Universal monster franchise—cost well under $100m. The studio is clearly happy to hit doubles and occasional triples while shooting outside of the park is only going to be done in the most conservative situations… aka The Anti-Disney.

Lionsgate’s John Wick is the #3 opening of 2014 for the once-aggressive Lionsgate. It’s within a grenade’s throw of the disappointing #2, The Expendables 3. If you want to know why insiders at Lionsgate are giddy at finding a sucker… uh, partner… in Alibaba, it’s because the studio is on cruise control, except for the soon-to-end Hunger Games franchise and the not-that-huge Divergent franchise. Aside from Divergent, the studio hasn’t had a single film open over $16m or gross as much as $40m domestic this year.

If you want to know why the overall domestic gross is down this year, read this… but more instantly, you can just look at the output of these two distributors.

Fury, which is a project that was built for a smaller distributor, but landed at Sony with a bigger budget, held okay. Still, except for Spider-Man, this was also a fairly conservative output from Sony this year.

Fox’s Gone Girl has the best legs of the big studios since Guardians/Turtles. If you look at fall films with long legs in recent years, there is a remarkable similarity in many of them… Ben Affleck. The film will become Fincher’s #1 domestic grosser sometime in the next week and will likely be his #3 international grosser when all is said and done (behind Se7en and Button).

Another Fox film, The Book Of Life, is on life support. Sigh… Is the film a victim of the studio’s relationship with DreamWorks Animation? Maybe. I don’t have any inside information saying so. But this should have been the Rango of this year and instead… real shame.

Nice expansion for St. Vincent, the closest thing the moribund Weinstein Company may have to a hit so far this year. The studio moved Paddington out of 2014 and will focus on awards hopeful’s The Imitation Game and Big Eyes only the rest of the year.

Disney has a nice family hit with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Fucked Up Day. The film will be #4 for the studio – until BH6’s opening weekend – the most successful of the handful of low-budget efforts the studio releases every year at a total cost of less than the worldwide marketing budget of any Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation, or LucasFilm movie.

I don’t know of any studio doing this, but I think that a number of them should build a small, specialized team that doesn’t just split up the films being released, but actually is there to release films that cost under $30 million. It’s not easy to be pushing out a massive franchise film one week and then an intimate comedy the next. I don’t care how smart and skilled you and your team is, it causes whiplash. And the film that always suffers is the smaller one, with the much smaller marketing budget. Remember, many recent heads of marketing have come out of the hugely successful marketing of smaller films. Pushing out the giant movies is a form of art as well. But a $30 million difference in a small film can actually be felt on the bottom line and much less so on the big films.

Let’s not forget foreign either. The Equalizer is at $170 million worldwide. It’s Denzel’s 7th $170m grosser all-time and could well end up in his Top 5, behind only Safe House with him as the clear lead.

On the indie scene, you start with St. Vincent, but then in smaller releases, Birdman expanded its wings to 50 screens for a $28,600 per-screen average and $1.4 million. A mighty doc opening with Citizenfour’s $235k per on 5. And Laggies, from A24, is surprisingly strong with $13.6k per on 6. The charming little Lynn Shelton movie has a great Keira Knightley performance, but got lost at TIFF after premiering at Sundance in January. Still, people are coming. And Magnolia can’t complain about the numbers on Force Majeure with a $11.7k per-screen on 2. It’s notably not a day-‘n’-date VOD film, reminding us that the distribution movement is heading towards more complex ideas of balancing distribution options, not just being theatrical or day-‘n’-date.

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33 Responses to “Weekend Estimates by Ouiady”

  1. Casey says:

    “Even the CG-heavy Dracula reboot – another attempt to relaunch the Universal monster franchise – cost well under $100m.”

    It’s cute that Universal has the entertainment press convinced that Dracula Untold cost under $100 million. Do some digging.

  2. ThriceDamned says:

    Guardians at $750m plus worldwide, heading for $800m and the nr. 2 spot for the year.

    Not yet ready to admit to a MASSIVE anti-Marvel bias David? (not like I’m a fanboy either, it was just so glaring and impossible not to notice).

    Someone with such a long experience of prognosticating, parsing and projecting as you doesn’t accidentally get it so massively wrong week after week as you did it on this one.

    Why not just come out and admit it?

  3. cadavra says:

    My boss once explained to me why he wanted me to handle a small film: “We know how to open a movie on 2000 screens. We don’t know how to open a movie on two screens.”

  4. chris says:

    Probably the trickiest-to-predict Marvel title ever and that’s your evidence, ThriceDamned? Weak.

  5. Hcat says:

    The strategy you mentioned is exactly what Universal should be doing. I can’t believe anyone over there is lamenting that there wasn’t a ripd, battleship or wolfman on the schedule. They could fit the budgets of their entire spring in what they spent on Ronin.

    As far as singles and doubles…..I would agree that 150 domestic might look like a double but on a budget of under 20 it looks more like a homerun.

  6. JS Partisan says:

    Universal and Legendary are in bed for a reason. Their days of spending light, are coming to an end. You can’t make a fucking King Kong movie on a budget. They were supposed to have an F&F movie this year, but that will help boost them next year.

    “Book of Life” never really had a chance, but it’s an amazing movie. Absolutely amazing. Hopefully, it finds people one of these days, because that’s where we are at right now.

    Chris, Thrice has a point, and look at Dave going on about the “Anti-Disney.” He’s been against Marvel since “Iron-Man.” These films rub him raw for some reason, and he will probably underplay Avengers’ box office potential as well. These things just happen, when you follow David Poland.

  7. movieman says:

    “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is one of only three movies that Universal is giving an awards push to this year.

    Since when did studios begin campaigning for Razzies?

  8. movieman says:

    Yes, “Book of Life” is the best-looking cartoon since “Lego Movie.”
    But the script is weak and it does skew awfully young.
    It doesn’t have the hipness quotient or smart script that made “Rango” even more appealing to adults than it was to kids.
    I can’t imagine a scenario where “BOL” could have ever been a theatrical blockbuster.

  9. YancySkancy says:

    I’m not the target audience, and I’m no marketing expert, but when I saw the trailer for BOOK OF LIFE, I just remember thinking the character design didn’t look all that appealing. Don’t know how much of a factor that is for attracting the kiddies, but maybe it’s part of the problem?

  10. Joe Leydon says:

    Yancy: You may be on to something. Along those lines: Has any Japanese anime — even one dubbed by well-known English-speaking actors — ever been a massive commercial hit here in the U.S.?

  11. EtGuild2 says:

    The first couple “Pokemon’s” were pretty big here. $86 million and $44 million doesn’t seem like a lot but that was 15 years ago so it is.

  12. Joe Leydon says:

    Et: True dat. But weren’t they spin-offs from popular TV shows that already had long runs on American television?

  13. ThriceDamned says:

    What’s “weak”, Chris, is your bench press. Admit it, you struggle with 185lbs.

    Nobody’s talking about predicting an opening weekend. What’s being discussed here is when a movie has already opened at a certain level, to great reviews and a high cinemascore and *already* dropped low percentages for 2 weeks in a row….and is very, very obviously heading to well over $300m domestic and $700m plus worldwide and Poland STILL at that point saying “it’s unlikely to hit $300m and unlikely to hit $600m ww” (later revising to “it’ll end up either nr. 5 or nr. 6 for the year” after it was blatantly obvious that it would end up either nr. 2 or nr. 3)

    This, after spending considerable energy talking about how overrated the movie was and the pass it was getting from mainstream media, screams bias whether you admit it or not.

  14. Joshua says:

    @Joe Leydon: The Pokemon TV series was already established on US television before the films came out here, although it wasn’t exactly a long run yet (the TV series debuted in Japan in 1997 and the US in 1998, the first movie came out in 1999).

    If you’re looking for the highest grossing anime in the US not based on a TV series, it looks like that would be “The Secret World of Arrietty,” with a domestic gross of $19.2 million. So, no, none of them have been massive commercial hits unless you count the first Pokemon film.

  15. EtGuild2 says:

    Some of the most shocking worldwide totals for the year continue to roll in overseas.

    ANNABELLE looks likely to hit $250 million worldwide, which gives it the best budget multiple of any film in 2014 most likely.

    MAZE RUNNER could actually make it to $350 million, now way above DIVERGENT and FAULT

    LUCY is still the shocker of the year for me. It’s going to get near $500 million worldwide. For context that’s almost as much as Besson’s entire previous filmography as a director combined. Or as a producer, it’s well over the TRANSPORTER trilogy combined. I liked LUCY, and was sad given the toxic word of mouth here, but damn if it isn’t the international surprise of the year, and truly, the biggest original hit of 2014 until INTERSTELLAR drops.

  16. Joe Leydon says:

    @Joshua I take no pleasure in being correct. But that info does kinda-sorta reinforce what Yancy posted above. Put it another way: I think we tend to forget that, while adults (except for LexG) may admire certain animated films, kids are the primary audience. And if something looks, well, “different” to them — maybe kids won’t be so all-fired eager to see it.

  17. Triple Option says:

    I liked Book of Life but didn’t love it. While it looked great, it seemed rather bland. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe the music. I was surprised they didn’t have bands like Jaguares or Maná, which sure may not have been cheap but groups that a lot of parents of kids that age would know. Unless the film grosses have been skewing heavily from Latinos..? That aside, I thought the film could’ve had better song selections.

    I had forgotten who all was doing voices before I went in. Zoe I remembered and thought she was fine. I just kinda hate how big names get cast in these big budget animation films but their voices are so nondescript.

    As a kid I remember Pat Harrington as the Inspector was great. I got fooled into thinking Jackie Mason was the Aardvark but even if I didn’t know their names Shaggy, Sweet Polly, Yogi, Fred & Barney, Marge, Lisa, you name it, those voices you could pick out with your eyes closed. If someone were to do a Channing Tatum as Joaquin impression would anybody guess it? Not to knock the guy, I just think the experience and film would’ve been better if you get to the point where you can’t imagine anyone else’s voice playing that part. If they’d swapped in Ryan Gossling or Zac Effron without telling would you have known? Indistinguishable voices makes for indistinguishable movie.

  18. LexG says:

    Why would anybody over the age of NINE watch anything animated, ever? Not with a GUN TO MY HEAD would I watch some TOON.

  19. movieman says:

    There’s no current BYOB so I wasn’t quite sure where to mention this, but the series finale of “Boardwalk Empire” was the best, most satisfying hour of television since “Breaking Bad” closed up shop.
    It proved beyond a doubt–if any add’l proof was needed–that Tim Van Patten is one of the finest American directors working today in ANY medium.
    I’d love to see Scorsese and/or Wahlberg reward Van Patten by setting him up w/ a great project (first-rate script/cast/etc.) at a major studio.
    It’s kind of heartbreaking that such a gifted director continues to toil in such relative anonymity/obscurity.
    ***Spoiler alert***
    Making the wonderful Travis Tope the series’ deus ex machine was a stroke of heartbreaking genius.

  20. leahnz says:

    i stll don’t understand why there’s not more gnarly trippy hardout R animated flicks geared towards grown-ups, i know we used to talk about this here years ago, why there aren’t many forays into (mainstream) animation for adults when there’s so much potential to do trippy hardcore stuff and wild stories that might not work live-action – and the tech is so good now (if not creepily so, the unco valley is a bitch). animation’s a technique not a genre, it seems like there’s untapped potential. maybe the gaming market and their adult-oriented animated content has sort of filled this niche so there’s been little push into film – or maybe so much cgi in live-action movies now just makes it feel like you’re watching animation anyway, so why bother

  21. cadavra says:

    Is it possible that BOOK is suffering from the same problem that PRINCESS AND THE FROG had? Namely, White America doesn’t want to take its kids to cartoons with minority characters. Crazy, I know…but is it?

    And speaking of Ghibli–I totaled up the domestic grosses of their last nine pictures, going back 15 years: $57.4 million (2/3 of which were ARRIETTY and PONYO). That’s over $10 million less than the opening weekend of ICE AGE 2.

  22. LexG says:

    I doubt the “minority characters” thing is a real deal, dude — I know NOTHING about TOONS but Lilo and Stitch (Hawaiian-Pacific Islander), Mulan (Chinese), and Pocohontas JUST off the top of my head sure didn’t seem to have problems bringing in “White Americans,” nor did a Pixar foodie movie with a French title about a rat chef, or the ten zillion animated movies with Antonio Banderas doing an overtly Spanish/Latino character, so, go sell Bullshit somewhere else.

  23. Tom says:

    Only one month away from the annual WHAT I’M THNAKFUL FOR post. Can’t wait!

  24. movieman says:

    “Marvel Announces New Wave of Superhero Movies!”

    And the angels wept.

  25. LYT says:

    RE: A Million Ways to Die in the West and awards…

    The theme song does deserve a Best Original Sing nomination.

  26. LYT says:

    Song, d’oh.

    Also I am surprised David hasn’t yet posted something about how Marvel’s announcement today was all meaningless

  27. David Poland says:

    Not worth the effort, Luke.

    It is what it is. A wall will be hit. The strategy will be adjusted. Life will go on. I have nothing against Marvel movies. I get a bit tired of the drooling hype.

  28. cadavra says:

    Simmer down, Lex, it was just a theoretical question. Sheesh…

  29. Geoff says:

    I have been talking smack about Marvel for the past six months but even I have to admit that I might have underestimated them – Kevin Feige just MIGHT have something that the other uber-producers of recent years like Joel Silver (not behind the scenes) or Jerry Bruckheimer have not had: true showmanship. To wit:

    I mean how could you NOT get jazzed watching that??

    They may or may not hit a wall who knows….I actually still have a suspicion that re-launching characters like Blade and Daredevil on Netflix could really help them survive when the excitement dissipates over some of these film properties. I don’t care what any one on this blog says, that last Avengers trailer was a masterstroke.

  30. movieman says:

    LYT- Wasn’t “The Mustache Song” a reworking of a previous song from another movie or stage musical?
    I could have sworn I read that somewhere.

  31. LexG says:

    Cadavra, heh, sorry, man. NO idea why that came off so strident and hostile. Apologies.

  32. Joe Leydon says:

    LexG: Maybe you’ve been hanging out too long on the wrong blogs? LOL.

  33. cadavra says:

    Lex: Thank you, sir.

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