Update, Friday 11:25 PM: If you’re headed to the movies this weekend, you’re likely buying a ticket to one of two films: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or Illumination/Universal’s Sing.
In its second weekend, Rogue One is now on track to make $108.9M over four-days, while Sing could reach a six-day total of $76.3M.
Initially, distributors thought there would be more room for other films to thrive this Christmas, especially with Rogue One playing to 42% less than Force Awakens (at the same point in time through this coming Monday with an estimated running cume of $331.8M).
Breathing space in the presence of a box office titan isn’t unheard of: During the 2009 holiday season when Avatar reigned (its gross between its Dec. 18 opening and Jan. 3 was $352M+ alone), three Christmas releases rallied to huge numbers: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($219M final domestic, A CinemaScore), Sherlock Holmes (final domestic $209M, B) and It’s Complicated ($112.7M, A-).
But for the second year in a row, a Star Wars movie is vacuuming up a huge percent of the cash in the marketplace. It’s not just downright challenging for the competition, it also throws a monkey wrench into the holiday multiples they anticipate so much. Nonetheless, it’s something for other major studios to think about going forward: Is it worth releasing a $100M-plus budgeted holiday tentpole against a Star Wars (or Avatar) movie if it’s going to get steamrolled? Perhaps, it’s better to counterprogram with low cost content.
Younger-skewing titles like Sing are solid means of counterprogramming a five-quad title like Star Wars. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip proved this last year against Force Awakens, yielding a 6x multiple off its $14.3M opening for a final $85.9M. It’s a no brainer why Sing is working. It’s been propelled by so much awards season attention with mini-concerts that Universal has thrown from the Toronto Film Festival to the studio’s holiday party. Sure, we’ve seen singing animals before, but not like this: A zany jukebox of sublimely-performed pop hits by celebs like Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, and Seth MacFarlane. When a studio knows they have something special, they don’t hide it, rather flaunt it, and Uni started the buzz on Sing at April’s CinemaCon when they showed the first 10 minutes of Sing.
But the biggest shocker for the industry is Sony/Village Roadshow’s Passengers which is being suffocated with an estimated six-day take of $26.9M. This is a huge let down. The project took nine years to hit the screen after landing on the Black List and went through various iterations of stars and directors.
Passengers is also an unfortunate blow to Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt’s B.O. drawing power, proving that it’s much harder for them to draw an audience outside of an ironclad franchise. Last Christmas, Joy was sold on Lawrence’s image alone, but like Passengers, didn’t dazzle critics or crowds and the film fell flat with a 3.3x multiple off its $17M opening for a final domestic of $56.4M (not good for a holiday movie). Some even wonder whether Pratt means anything to moviegoers in flyover states. Given Lawrence and Pratt’s pairing, coupled with the groundswell on social (Relish Mix reports that Passengers had a high viral video rate of 17:1 with a very strong social media universe of 230M), analysts projected $55M over six days, and now crash, bang, boom. “Sony, just can’t get a break,” said one producer this weekend.
Sony was truly stoked about this movie. Like Uni, they showed off clips at CinemaCon. I heard that Lawrence was so proud of the film, she went the distance to even do some regional press, which many A-listers typically sidestep. Yes, Passengers is original IP, and it’s a sci-fi movie that’s opening in the shadow of Rogue One which makes for an uphill battle, particularly in December (the top opening for IP in December is Avatar at $77M followed by Daddy’s Home $38.7M — that gives you a sense of the range). But both critics and audiences have turned a cold shoulder toward Passengers, respectively with a 32% Rotten Tomatoes rating and B CinemaScore (last week’s Collateral Beauty with an A- CinemaScore at least appeased its ticket buyers). While CinemaScore only polls on opening night (which was Wednesday), ComScore PostTrak, which surveys moviegoers throughout the weekend doesn’t show anything promising for Passengers with a lackluster 77% total positive. Younger females under 25 liked it a bit more at 83%.
No one was really expecting Passengers to beat Assassin’s Creed by a margin of $4.7M over six days, with the Michael Fassbender-Marion Cotillard reteam fetching $22.2M. The fact that Assassin’s Creed is coming in so low, isn’t so much of a surprise. It’s a videogame adaptation, so it only appeals to a certain genre faction. Like Resident Evil and Warcraft to a certain degree, it’s bound to stoke an overseas audience which will hopefully point it toward a recoup of its $125M production cost. Note the most ever made by a Resident Evil movie stateside was 2010’s Afterlife at $60.1M and that was largely gassed by the 3D craze.
Why Him? with an estimated four-day of $15.2M gets a B+ CinemaScore tonight, which is better than the B earned by Sisters last year, and on par with the B+ posted by Horrible Bosses 2. Sisters had more critics on its side with a 60% fresh Rotten Tomatoes versus Why Him?‘s 41% rotten. With an estimated production cost of $38M, the overhead is much lower for Fox than on Assassin’s Creed.
The only asterisk we can put on Passengers, Assassin’s Creed and Why Him? is that it’s Christmas and there could still be a multiple miracle (though we highly doubt that). There are titles in the past, especially when Christmas fell on a Sunday such in 2005 and 2011, that opened with low 3-days and legged out in the end, i.e. Sony’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ($12.8M FSS, $102.5M domestic, 8x multiple) and Fun With Dick and Jane ($14.4M FSS, $110.3M domestic, 7.7x). Hence, it’s quite conceivable we’ll see meager drops or a slight spike for three titles next weekend. By the first weekend in January, it will be obvious who is a survivor.
But for now, it’s not a great start for this trio.
Solid opening per theaters for Patriots Day over 6 (close to $50K) and Silence over four (close to $42K).
Late night update by Anthony D’Alessandro, Friday AM by Anita Busch. Follow Anthony at @Awardstony and Anita at @DeadlineAnita on Twitter.
Top 11 movies and notables based on industry estimates for the weekend of Dec. 23-26, 2016**:
1.) Rogue One (DIS), 4,157 theaters /$23.1M Fri. (-67%) / 3-day cume: $70.4M (-55%)/4-day:$108.9M /Total: $331.8M/Wk 2
2.) Sing (UNI), 4,022 theaters /$13.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $34M /4-day:$57.6M /Total: $76.3M/Wk 1
3.) Passengers (SONY/VR), 3,478 theaters /$4.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $13M /4-day:$18.6M /Total: $26.9M/Wk 1
4.) Why Him? (FOX), 2,917 theaters /$3.8M Fri. (includes $975K previews) / 3-day cume: $10.1M /4-day:$15.2M /Wk 1
5.) Assassin’s Creed (FOX), 2,970 theaters /$3.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.7M /4-day:$13.6M /Total: $22.2M/Wk 1
6). Moana (DIS), 2,784 Theaters (-803) / $3.1M (+1%) Fri /3-day cume: $7.55M (-41%)/4-day: $11.6M/Total: $184.2M/Wk 5
7.) Office Christmas Party (PAR/DW), 2,679 theaters (-531) /$1.7M Fri. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $4.75M (-45%)/4-day: $7.3M/Total: $44.3M/Wk 3
8.) Collateral Beauty (WB/NL), 3,028 theaters /$1.3M Fri. (-46%) /3-day cume: $3.6M (-49%)/4-day: $5.6M/Total: $16.6M/Wk 2
9).Manchester by the Sea (RSA/AMZ) 1,213 theaters (+7)/$934K (-27%) Fri /3-day: $3.4M (-21%)/4-day: $5.1M/Total: $21.9M/Wk 6
10). Fantastic Beasts… (WB), 1,966 theaters (-1,070) /$980K Fri. (-27%) / 3-day cume: $2.4M (-53%)/4-day: $3.6M/Total: $214.9M/Wk 6
11). Dangal (UTV), 331 theaters /$800K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M /4-day:$2.2m /Total: $3M/Wk 1
Patriot’s Day (CBS/LG), 7 theaters /$53k Fri. / 3-day cume: $164k /3-day PTA: $23,5k/$4-day:$242k /Total: $338k/Wk 1
Silence (PAR), 4 theaters /$40k Fri. / 3-day cume: $114k /3-day PTA: $28,5K/4-day:$167K/ Wk 1
A Monster Calls (FOC), 4 theaters /$7K Fri. / 3-day cume: $22K /3-day PTA: $5,5K/4-day:$33k/Wk 1
**Projections for La La Land and Fences excluded as they are both going wide on Christmas Day, hence both titles could work their way into top 10.
Write-thru, 5:13PM After 1:09 PM Update: Based on estimates early this evening, Disney/LucasFilms’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story may end up taking in about $80M for the three-day weekend with a possible $113M for four days, which means by this end of this weekend, Rogue One could spark to around $335M+ domestically. While most theaters are closed in the U.K. on Christmas Day, many are also closed within Europe and Latin America on Christmas Eve so that will impact the larger picture. Right now, Rogue One is on the verge of crossing $200M internationally.
In the meantime, Illumination and Universal’s Sing could end up taking in about $14M today for a three-day total of $33M and about $50M for the four-days. That means its six-day tally could end up around $70M which would be right in line with estimates. Animated titles usually take a larger hit on Christmas Eve and then get a bump back up on Sunday.
Next up in the pecking order is Sony’s sci-fi Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence starrer Passengers which might take in around $13.3M to $14M for the three day. If that tracks the way it looks like now, that means $20M to $21M for the four-day and $29.5M for six days. Passengers has an estimated $110M production cost before P&A and Sony had predicted…