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David Poland

By David Poland

Weekend Estimates by Scorched Mass Klady

Weekend Estimates 2015-09-20 at 10.28.51 AM

So The Maze Runner series is the mini-me of the Divergent series which was the mini-me of the Twilight series. Well, kinda. The thing about Twilight that keeps studios chasing the dream is that even with a solid base, the series expanded from the first film to the second by 50% domestically and 100% internationally. It settled in and the variations moving forward were minimal, but it did make that leap. Divergent didn’t. And now, Maze Runner hasn’t. And though it is at a much bigger number, neither did Hunger Games. And really, though also at a biggest number, neither did Harry Potter, although there was a sharp uptick for the finale, which was both cumulative excitement and timed to the explosion in international box office (including China).

So, class, with this base of information at our disposal, what should studios assume will happen with book-based series with hardcore audiences? Right. What you see on that first episode is what you are going to get, which some variations from film to film. But with Potter more of a family phenom, Twilight was the first of the tween and cult adult series and its trajectory can be looked back upon as out of the ordinary. If your budget level means that the gross for the first film will suffice to make all of the films in the series profitable or highly profitable, great. If not, don’t be chasing butterflies.

Also in this category of “good luck with that” is the massive leap of the Fast & Furious franchise, which is giving false hope to many executives who are now desperate to believe that they, too, can raise their flagging franchises from their slide. And now, also thanks to Universal, Jurassic. I predict that some studio will have to write off $75 million or more sometime soon trying to make this maneuver work. Personally, I think Jurassic is reasonably explained by a 14-year layoff in the franchise, allowing the dino craze of the first Jurassic generation to fall away and then return as well as for CG to take a giant leap forward since Jurassic launched it, essentially, in 1993. People were ready to LOVE realistic dinosaurs chasing humans again. Jurassic replaced Godzilla as the great tale of human hubris creating a monster that would come kill us. And it continues to own that turf, as comic book movies are really only about supers.

As for why Fast & Furious doubled worldwide box office from #3 to #4, then against (nearly) from #4 to #5, then again from #6 to #7… well, someone serious will have to write that book someday. If I were to guess, I would say that the evolution of the international box office, the Americana feel of the material combined with a diverse ethnic cast, and again, the comic book movies, which make F&F look restrained in comparison (faux real) are the core causes. But mostly, I shrug. Fascinated shrug, but a shrug.

So, four paragraphs later, I guess its time to note that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials was 7% off the first of the series on opening weekend. In other words… the same.

Black Mass‘ $23 million can be parsed in many ways. It’s no Mortdecai, but it is almost exactly Once Upon A Time In Mexico, a Depp-driven film from 2003. It’s no Transcendence, but it didn’t open as well as Public Enemies, which was considered a commercial flop.

Box Office Mojo has no “Mafia” categories under genres, but it does have “Irish.” And there, Black Mass opened right between The Departed and Road To Perdition, both of which cracked $100 million.


Everest did well per-screen, but no avalanche. Universal chose to open the film on just 545 screens, which is profoundly confusing given the downer elements of the film, which may be daring filmmaking, but tends not to be very commercial. If ever there was a “get them in there on opening weekend” film that wasn’t because it is a pure stinker, this was it.

Whatever the screen count, this was Universal’s first single-digit opening since February. One has to wonder about the date.

FUN FACT: This year’s The Visit is the biggest opening for a September release in the entire history of Universal and will soon be the second highest grosser (passing The Rundown & The Kingdom).

Pre-2000, Universal positioned movies in September that were interesting, like Sea of Love, The River Wild, Sneakers, and All of Me. But since then, it has been a place for movies, including some good ones, to die quietly. It’s not a dumping ground. But there just isn’t much upside. That rule can be broken (see: Moneyball, a Sony release), but it is rare. And even Moneyball and Burn After Reading and other smart films that “better than expected” in September don’t break out to huge numbers. The Equalizer cracked $100m last year… but mostly family films thrive with September releases.

Captive escaped from Paramount. There must be a story. I don’t know the story. I don’t care to know the story. See you on EPIX, Captive. (Not really. I don’t get EPIX.)

Sicario opened to an estimated $65k per screen on six. Strong. For some reason, Box Office Mojo doesn’t have American Sniper and Inherent Vice yellow-bolded, apparently causing at least one trade to misreport that the film had the biggest per-screen opening since The Imitation Game. And those two titles show the weird meaninglessness of opening weekend per-screen averages. One did $8m domestic and one did $350m domestic. Sicario will be somewhere in between. And when the “actuals” land, there is a good chance that Sicario will actually be closer to the $59k per-screen of Ex Machina, which did $25m domestic… which is, I would guess, about where Sicario ends up.

Please note… I really like Sicario. I think it is worthy of serious consideration for many awards. Still, box office is made up on numbers, not fantasies and spin.

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8 Responses to “Weekend Estimates by Scorched Mass Klady”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    UNI is getting cocky and still can’t seem to do wrong at the box office. Good platform release. Very good international rollout.

    MINIONS will crack the all-time top 10 worldwide this week (ugh). That means 4 of the 10 biggest films ever globally were released in just the last 6 months.

  2. Tracker Backer says:

    Is the Everest release strategy really that much of a surprise? You do realize that it was IMAX and premium large format only, right?

  3. Heather says:

    With regards to Fast & Furious, one reason for the jump was parts 2 and 3 were, no pun intended, detours. No Vin Diesel, no Paul Walker in 3, so 4 was really getting the band back together for the first time since the original. That 8 year gap created pent up desire to see a new film. Five added the Rock , raised the bar quality for quality and they haven’t looked back.

  4. Brandon says:

    With regard to Jurassic’s runaway success — I say this having seen exactly zero information or analysis of the demographic breakdown of Jurassic’s ticket buyers, but my gut says that a non-trivial portion of its incredible run this summer can be explained thusly: the thirteen-year-old boys who lived their lives for Jurassic Park the original in 1993 are now thirty-five-year-old men who wanted to share a similar experience with their own sons, or nephews, or just their peers. (Plus, Universal expertly built anticipation for the film throughout the year, opening with that brilliant television spot during the Super Bowl, which was more exciting than most MOVIES, let alone most trailers.) Sometimes the simple explanation really is the best one?

  5. EtGuild2 says:

    Surprised there hasn’t been that much written about Blumhouse’s year. This is the year where they seem to have made a “leap,” as they’re delving into TV, relying less on franchise material as they bid adieu to SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and one presumes, INSIDIOUS, at least for the time being, and they broaden their scope a bit. The number of films they’ve had this year is crazy:

    *The Boy Next Door, The Gallows, Unfriended and Lazarus Effect were all decently profitable minor releases in the studio’s normal oevre.

    *THE GIFT, GREEN INFERNO & THE VISIT were more ambitious, as they reached out, in the case of the first two, to non-traditional distributors and stayed committed. We’ll see if it pays off in INFERNO’s case, but it definitely did for GIFT. VISIT was risky for obvious reasons. All three are much better than average B-grade horror/thriller fare IMO.

    *CREEP was a great foray into mumblecore horror, which was an impossible release for theaters. It seems like they really pushed it on Netflix, though we don’t know how well it’s done it, it’s hopefully paid off. I’m hoping they stay on this path as VISIONS and INCARNATE sound promising, and may take the same approach here.

    *JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS certainly seems like a sleeper hit. I’ve heard it brought up a bunch in conversation, though I was totally unfamiliar with it.

    The only real sore sports are SINISTER 2, which it seems like was a throwaway, and the at-LAST dumping of AREA 51, Oren Peli’s follow up to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. While they still have sequels coming next year (PURGE 3, OUIJA 2 ugh, AMITYVILLE reboot), I like that they’ve been so diverse in their releases and that nearly all panned out.

  6. Hcat says:

    I am also surprised that Jem is apparently a well remembered property, I vaguely remember it existing but had no idea kids were into it. I thought it was like go-bots, a cheap cartoon that faded away immediately, but when we saw the preview in front of minions not my wife and my eight year old were sold.

    I agree that Blumhouse is quite an asset to have around, besides universals above average hit ratio they are doing it on budgets all up and down the line and Blum is delivering the doubles that help round out the schedule. Though I wonder how many people accidentally saw Grandma thinking they were buying tickets to the visit.

    And speaking of grandma, after years of taking flack for their cautious release approach SPC has tried some wider expansions with Alice, Diary, and Grandma, but none of these expansions seem to cover the costs of the P and A it would take to go this wide. Is the increased exposure worth the cost in the long run or should the go back to playing it close to the vest?

  7. palmtree says:

    Jem is very well-remembered, but the first trailer indicated it would be a very different story than the original. It felt updated to become a generic rags to riches cautionary tale. But I hope it’s not that.

  8. Hcat says:

    From what I was described there should be a secret identity thing happening? Something about a supercomputer (which looks to be a AI droid in the update)?

    And what are people thinking the over/under on Crimsion Peak is? Figuring the horror audience is in and the period trappings and hoity cast can bring in more descerning movie fans I would think it could do 100 mil with 180 if it really breaks out. What was the last horror film that became a must see for the non horror audience (I’m thinking Signs)?

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