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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Orc-Lover Klady

Friday Estimates 2014-12-20 at 10.36.08 AM

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is pretty much a fait accompli. The only question is, where does it land domestically (between $250 million and $350 million) and where does it land internationally (between $700 million and $800 million)? But we pretty much know it’s going to end up somewhere between $800 million and $1.2 billion. Yes, that’s a lot of wiggle room. But no opening weekend number, much less opening day, will tell the story. That number will be able to be narrowed to within $100 million or so in about 12 days, within $50 million in about 16, and soon thereafter, we will pretty much know the number. But today, it is the first Wednesday opening of a Hobbit movie, though all three Rings films opened on Wednesday. And it is the latest (in the year) launch of any of the three Hobbit films. So…

Night At The Museum: Secret of The Tomb is the third of its trilogy, though it’s no Hobbit (unless you mean it is relatively small and has furry feet). This is not a great start for the film, but we won’t really know how bad it is until tomorrow. This is the odd case of a franchise moving from a successful December pre-Christmas launc to summer and dropping precipitously (28%), but still trying again, moving back to the pre-Christmas slot. Even more ominous, the second film opened much bigger than the first ($54 million to $30 million), but only did about 3x opening domestically while the original did more than 8x opening. So what are we back here? Well, according to published reported, they cut the budget by about $25 million, which is probably the tipping point of where Fox would be comfortable with a similar gross to #2… most of it probably coming out of Ben Stiller taking less up front and the rest from production. But this opening day suggests that getting to the gross of #2 will be a struggle. And foreign may not be coming to the rescue as the international on #2 dropped almost as hard than the domestic (27%). That goes against the franchise trend line of recent years…. thus the move to London.

There are a lot of people screaming about the trend to franchise films right now. I believe much of that is a new layer on top of the rest of the studio product, demanding a lot more spending and not eliminating smaller films (though budgets have been reduced in a big way for non-franchise films). That said, this is one of those examples of Franchise Fever overwhelming logic. Maybe there are DVD numbers that ameliorate the box office numbers suggest a bit, but logically, this is $250 million-plus in Fox money that could have gone somewhere else to better effect. Even the Chipmunk franchise, while trending way down domestically, is a lot cheaper to make and is still holding pretty solid internationally.

And then there was Annie.

Only 19 musicals have ever opened on over 1,000 screens at one time in the history of the movies. To be fair, many came before the era of the wide release. But of those 19, only 4 have hit $100 million domestically. And at the risk of chants of “racism” being raised… there are many countries outside of America where “colorblind” casting just won’t play because of those nations’ prejudices against black people. Sorry, but it’s true. Denzel has made progress in breaking that. Eddie Murphy, no. Jamie Foxx, no. Ride Along did 12% of its hugely profitable $154m worldwide gross outside of the U.S. My point being that domestic numbers on this version of Annie are more critical than on most major releases these days. But back to musicals…

Of the 19 wide-release musicals, only 4 got to $100m domestic; Enchanted, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, and Les Miserables. And the only 1 to open in December was Les Mis.

Doing a black version of Annie was kinda brilliant when it was Will Smith in front of it, with or without his daughter. He has kinda faded since Hancock, making a cheap drama, a very expensive drama in which he was not really the lead, and a sequel no one really wanted. But After Earth still did $183 million internationally. Jamie Foxx’s only films that did as much as $135 million internationally were two animated Rios, Spider-Man, and Django. Foxx can generate some box office, but he’s not close to Will Smith on Will Smith’s weakest day, even now. And Cameron Diaz, who plays well overseas, is still only in the low 100 + change area as the focal point of films internationally. The two of them together don’t equal or come close to a Will Smith draw. Moreover, when you have Will Smith, you can have a Kristin Chenoweth or an Idina Menzel playing Miss Hannigan and giving you a knockout performance that becomes an attraction.

Anyway… I’m thinking it will do better than Rock of Ages ($39m dom/$59m ww) because of the holiday, more along the lines of Muppets Most Wanted ($51m dom/$78m ww), leaning a little more heavily to the domestic. This is not quite a lump of coal in Sony’s stocking, but it’s not sweet.

I was wrong about Exodus: Gods & Kings. I thought the Christian audience would turn out. They have not. Internationally, things are a bit more hopeful… but its in its early days there.

Decent expansion for Wild, now up to 1,061 screens from 116. The film could well be up around the $15 million mark or higher by the end of the holiday.

Top Five is a great comedy and a shock for Paramount, which just hasn’t found a way to get audiences of any color to show up in numbers. Someone out there has more insight into this than I do. From the caucasian perspective, I imagine some see it as “too black,” which is not to say “bad,” but to say “not for them.” Chris Rock may seem too old—shocks me to type that—for the young audience to get excited about this movie, which they would love And adult audiences of color? I don’t know. Is Rock signaling something by doing so much high-end NY press? Does Charlie Rose and the New York Times help or hurt in this case? I am aware there is a lot of race talk in this column today, but I think the Annie stuff is considered and fair. And this… just frustrates the hell out of me, because I don’t imagine that a lot of people wouldn’t enjoy Top Five if they gave it a chance. And for the record, Paramount is only in for $12.5m and marketing, so they may come out of it unharmed. But this should be a $100m comedy easily… and that isn’t happening as of this writing.

Decent start for Mr. Turner on five.

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18 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Orc-Lover Klady”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    The silver lining, if you really search for one, re: “The Interview” has to be that we have three bombs this holiday season that aren’t getting as much attention as they normally would have.

    The “Exodus” drop is brutal. It’s going to be below “Noah’s” debut weekend after two weeks. I realize they’re counting on international, but does anyone think this would have been green-lit with a $70 million (at best) domestic number in mind?

    “Horrible Bosses 2” is looking at a $55 million cap (at best), which means it’s the biggest monetary domestic drop-off for a live-action sequel since “Evan Almighty.” (Happy Feet 2 is tops overall in recent years).

    The real disaster continues to be “Penguins,” however. Even after opening weekend, everyone assumed it still had a chance at $100 million. Now, catching “Turbo’s” $83 million looks unlikely. Overall, domestically and worldwide (it’s out almost everywhere), it looks like the lowest cume since “Flushed Away,” in 2006, and if you exclude Aardman, the lowest since 2003’s “Sinbad.” Or to put it bluntly, the lowest grossing in-house computer animated film in DWA history. That’s really impressive when you realize “Penguins” has raked in $40 million in China.

  2. Kevin says:

    HANCOCK seems like a long time ago and, yep, it kind of is: 2008. So it’s surprising that Will Smith starred in only 3 movies since. And nothing between 2008 and 2012? What happened?

  3. chris says:

    Animated musicals don’t count?

  4. Joe Leydon says:

    Something else to consider about Annie aside from casting: There have been two previous movie versions (one feature, one made for TV) of the Broadway musical, and both remain easily accessible in various platforms. Indeed, the ’82 Annie is airing tonight on a Houston indie TV station. So why would families feel a pressing need to pay first-run ticket prices to see a new version?

  5. John Rieber says:

    “Top Five” has been sold as Chris Rock’s “Annie Hall”, and I’m not sure that resonates with anyone. The trailers suggest it’s the story of a big star who doesn’t like the hassles of being a big star. If it’s much more than that, I’m not getting it from the promos. And honestly, the trailers aren’t funny, they are playing like an “inside the beltway” look at Hollywood…again, there hasn’t been a broad audience for that type of film for anyone.

  6. Vaus says:

    I don’t think your “color” argument will apply to Annie. While African-American dramas and comedies struggle outside USA, I put that down to lack of relatable situations or characters or “funny because it’s true” moments. The Annie story is more easily understood and generic as is the showtune style music.
    In this case, we will know the USA/International numbers in a few months and then we can speculate was it the actors or the story or the music or whatever.

  7. PcChongor says:

    A better analogy for “Top Five” would be that it’s Chris Rock’s “Stardust Memories,” but then even most self-proclaimed Woody Allen fans wouldn’t catch the reference.

  8. Dwill says:

    Your views with respect to Annie among other things lack critical understanding of the strength of its inherent underlying brand – it’s the kind of strength Sony is betting will drown out preconceptions or prejudice.

    They are releasing the film in 76 countries and are eying the foreign comps with respect to the four musical films you mentioned – Hairspray being lowest.

    That aside, and more importantly, Cameron Diaz films ALWAYS DO BETTER overseas than domestic.

  9. jesse says:

    Hold up, Dave — do you really see Annie only getting to about $60 million or less, off of a $16 million pre-Christmas opening? I realize normally a $16 million opening getting past $60 million would mean a pretty strong multiplier. But these types of movies open at Christmas because there are such strong possibilities for legginess with a lot of kids out of school for the next couple of weeks. Last year, the post-Christmas weekend saw a lot of movies either even or going up. We also saw Saving Mr. Banks open under $10 million and get past $80 million.

    I guess there’s a fair amount of family competition with the more fantastic AND Disney-branded Into the Woods coming Christmas Day, but it seems entirely possible that Annie will do another $15 million over the 12/26 weekend, and another $10 million over the 1/2 weekend. With decent weekdays, that puts it close to $60 million by the end of the holiday corridor, meaning it’s pretty possible, even likely, that it’ll get up into the 70-80 range by end of run.

    No horse in this race; I haven’t seen the movie though I was surprised by all the bad reviews because I thought it looked pretty charming (maybe it helps that I have no affection for the 1982 version). And maybe Into the Woods really will kneecap it. But December opening weekends are — as you often point out by mentioning the relatively low bar for records — rarely the whole story.

  10. EtGuild2 says:

    jesse: I normally agree with you, but the internal multiplier on this was a straight up disaster for Sony….no matter how they try to spin it. The idea is that kids bump the weekend Friday estimate….instead, (and this melts my mind to be fair) it looks like fans of “Annie” front-loaded the film.

    “Annie’s” weekend estimate is jaw-droppingly low based on Friday…but hey, so is “Night At the Museum 3!”

  11. cadavra says:

    Unless I’ve lost my math skills, two of the five ANNIE leads are black and three are white. That doesn’t really make it a “black” movie, but a “racially-diverse” one.

  12. jesse says:

    EtGuild, I guess from a kid-movie perspective less than 4x Friday isn’t great, but I’m used to 3x Friday having turned into pretty decent (from what used to be normal). I just wonder if this had more teenage or, as you mention, fan crowds than expected. I’d still be surprised to see that multiplier translate into less than $65 million (and very possibly more), given how almost all non-horror holiday releases have decent multipliers.

  13. Hallick says:

    “Unless I’ve lost my math skills, two of the five ANNIE leads are black and three are white. That doesn’t really make it a ‘black’ movie, but a ‘racially-diverse’ one.”

    Racially-biverse maybe. Not so much diverse.

  14. Chris S. says:

    It seems rather offensive to suggest that Ride Along wasn’t a huge hit overseas because foreigners are racists. Plenty of lily white Hollywood comedies also perform modestly overseas. Humor often just doesn’t translate well across national borders. Nothing to do with race.

    Plus, if you want to turn things around – in 2014 the Asian films The Wind Rises, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, and Snowpiercer were all decent international hits (close to or exceeding $100 million worldwide), but none of them earned more than 5.3% of their box office from the U.S. market. Does that mean Americans are racists?

    Perhaps it is more reasonable to say in the cases of Ride Along and these Asian films that the material was just not that accessible for audiences in other countries.

  15. David Poland says:

    Chris S… this isn’t new history. And I didn’t say foreigners are racists. I said that they don’t go to movies with Black movie stars. I also noted that Denzel has finally made some headway there… as Will Smith had when he was actively the biggest movie star in the world. The observation isn’t biased… it’s just the fact, man.

  16. David Poland says:

    An yes, Chris S., Americans are horrible xenophobic when it comes to film.

  17. EtGuild2 says:

    I still find it ironic that the biggest overseas export in French cinema, “The Intouchables,” is one of the most laughably racist movies in recent history. It makes “The Help” look like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

  18. PcChongor says:

    The real potential paradigm shift with “The Interview” being released on VOD today is going to be if Sony reveals the total gross this weekend. If so, it’d certainly help shine a little light on the now fairly nebulous world of VOD revenues.

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