Box Office Rundown (Long One)!! July 6-July 8: Ant-Man and the Wasp Underwhelms on Opening/Rest of the Box Office Surprisingly Thrives on Independence Day Weekend!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (July 6-July 8): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Based on Sunday Estimates

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp / $76,030,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney
  2. Incredibles 2 / $29,021,000 / -37.5% / Weekend 4 / Disney
  3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom / $28,585,000 / -53.1% / Weekend 3 / Universal
  4. The First Purge / $17,150,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
  5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado / $7,300,000 / -61.6% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
  6. Uncle Drew / $6,625,000 / -56.5% / Weekend 2 / Lionsgate (Summit)
  7. Ocean’s 8 / $5,285,000 / -36.6% / Weekend 5 / Warner Bros.
  8. Tag / $3,105,000 / -47.2% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros. (New Line)
  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor / $2,590,000 / +6.9% / Weekend 5 / Focus
  10. Deadpool 2 / $1,675,000 / -53.1% / Weekend 8 / Fox

Notable Outsiders:

11. Whitney / $1,251,000945 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Roadside Attractions

13. Hereditary / $1,000,000 / -56.3% / Weekend 5 / A24

16. Sorry to Bother You / $717,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Annapurna

17. Three Identical Strangers / $717,302 / +318.1%/ Neon

Ant-Man and the Wasp spent this past weekend tip-toeing the line between good and bad box office. However, now as estimates come in, it’s clear that it could not maintain that balancing act and ended up falling over from bad directly into worse. With an opening weekend gross of approximately $76 million dollars, Ant-Man & Wasp managed to underperform against some already admittedly lower expectations. Now, early tracking for the film actually did predict the opening weekend gross to land around there, but given so many factors surrounding the release of the film, it’s positioning as a follow-up to the juggernaut that was Avengers: Infinity War, the hallowed reputation and cultural cache of the original (“Baskin Robbins always finds out, man”), and even the significance of this being the first ever film in the MCU have a female superhero sharing the title with a man (the honor of being the MCU’s first ever female-led film, aka their Wonder Woman, will be going to Captain Marvel this coming March), you’d be forgiven for thinking that the buzz on this property might carry it into a large opening. Alas, the data shows otherwise.

Though, initially, month-in-advance projections pegged the film with a $75-$77 million, projections did raise to $85-$95 million with Fandango.com’s release of ticket sale tracking, and some trades even began to say that Ant-Man & Wasp could conceivably open north of $95 million. The fact that the film not only failed to match these expectations but even shrank back to the much earlier prediction range is actually quite shocking. In my weekend prediction post, I had originally felt that Ant-Man & Wasp would be able to open at least with $90 million, owing much of that to the strength of Infinity War‘s performance. The last MCU team-up film had whipped the movie-going audience into a frenzy with its seismic shift of a shock ending, and given the intense speculation about the upcoming, yet untitled, Avengers 4 film, I had hypothesized that audiences would be rushing to theaters for this latest Marvel outing in the hopes that any new information regarding the forthcoming film would emerge. Clearly, this was not the case, but the film missing the opening weekend mark by such a large margin is very surprising, at least for a Marvel film, as Ant-Man & Wasp boasts the fifth lowest opening for the Disney Marvel franchise.

So what happened? Comparing the data to other MCU outings, we find that certain patterns emerge. With this latest entry, Disney had produced a total of five direct sequels to MCU solo debuts for its other heroes, those being, chronologically, Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now Ant-Man and the Wasp (while the Guardians of the Galaxy are technically a team in and of themselves, it feels appropriate to treat them as a solo unit given that they were introduced as a team and their storyline runs independently of the Avengers, aside from the team-up movies like Infinity War). In the case of the four former entries on that list, three factors remain constant: 1) The solo sequel outperforms the original’s opening weekend gross. 2) The sequel’s Cinemascore either remains unchanged or improves from the previous entry. 3) The change in daily box office gross from Friday to Saturday (the Friday gross including the Thursday night preview earnings as is typically reported) is no more than about a 10% drop. Change in daily box office over the course of a films opening weekend is a surprisingly strong indication of word-of-mouth, and when paired with a Cinemascore, can be an excellent gauge of audience reaction to a film. Ant-Man & Wasp follows the trends set by its fellow solo sequels in only one of these regards; it managed to outgross the original Ant-Man‘s opening by $19 million (a mixed blessing, however, given that while it did outgross the former, it is the lowest increase from solo debut to solo sequel for any individual MCU franchise, trailing Thor: The Dark World‘s $20 million increase from entry to entry). With regard to the Cinemascore, Ant-Man & Wasp scored an “A-“, a good score, but down from the previous’ “A”. When looking at daily grosses, the evidence becomes even more damning as Ant-Man & Wasp dropped a whopping 30% from a Friday gross of $33 million to a Saturday gross of $23 million.

All the evidence combines to show a major decrease in momentum for the film’s opening weekend. While the strength of the reviews dampens the idea that film has a lot of negative word-of-mouth (the film stands currently with an 89% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and with a Metacritic score of 69, both actually higher than the original), the numbers do point to a rather lukewarm reception from the overall audience. No one may have had terrible things to say about the film, but clearly, people were not rushing to recommend the film to others, giving the impression that it was not essential viewing and need not be seen opening weekend. The result was a deflated Sunday box office gross of $18 million contributing to the final total. Interesting to note, the change from Saturday to Sunday gross was a 21% drop, which is much lower than the average Saturday-Sunday drop from the previously mentioned sequels; Iron Man 2, Winter Soldier, and Dark World dropping about 32% each and Guardians 2 dropping 23%. Of course, this only makes us wonder what the Ant-Man sequel could’ve achieved with a stronger Saturday.

Earlier in the weekend, I made the comparison between the Ant-Man sequel and Doctor Strange as well as Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 1) given the similar tone and style of three films in order to gauge the film’s potential performance. Sadly, Ant-Man & Wasp doesn’t even stack up to those two solo debuts, with both boasting higher opening weekends ($85 million for Strange; $94 million for Guardians), dual “A” Cinemascores, and each with an under 20% drop from Friday to Saturday. Unfortunately, the closest comparison one can make in order to better understand the performance of Ant-Man & Wasp is to that of Thor: The Dark World, considered by many to be the worst installment in the entirety of the MCU. Despite this, the much maligned Thor sequel is still performing better with a $9 million headstart on former. Ant-Man & Wasp would do better not be associated with Dark World, but when one looks closer, the similarities become harder to ignore. While reviews for Ant-Man & Wasp are certainly not bad, many praising the film as light and fun, there is a general consensus forming that it is a step down from the previous installment, citing a narrative bloated with numerous subplots weighing the film down and a lack of freshness which the original had in spades. Looking back at reviews for Dark World, the film still holds its place as the most critically derided of the MCU outings, yet the wording doesn’t change with critics labeling Dark World as lacking in the freshness and levity of the first Thor, and (if you haven’t guessed already) feeling overstuffed, specifically due to an overly complicated story that doesn’t do a good job pulling its disparate pieces together. It’s a rather unfortunate comparison that could put the final nail in the coffin for Ant-Man & Wasp before it can even spread its wings (just look at what happened to Solo after it tripped over itself right out of the gate). On the positive side, Ant-Man & Wasp did overperform overseas, bringing in $85 million and out-doing a $50-$55 million international box office projection for a worldwide total of $161 million. Still, despite outperforming the first installment, the domestic haul could be hobbled in the long run. Only time will tell if the film can catch on just as well as its predecessor.

Outside the Ant-Man & Wasp debacle, this weekend’s slate of films braced themselves for bigger drops given the reputation 4th of July Weekend has as a slow for moviegoing, but many still managed to do a lot with a little. Just outside the number one spot this weekend, Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom continued to compete for the same, more family-centric audience. Incredibles 2 managed to win the number two spot, just barely edging out Fallen Kingdom‘s $28 million gross with $29 million. Holding much better than expected going into the weekend, Incredibles 2 managed only a 37% drop, and crossed the $500 million milestone with its domestic haul. Brad Bird and company have much to be proud of, as the film is now knocking at the door of the top ten highest grossing films domestically, and will likely manage to knockout Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the coming weeks. The film has also managed to dethrone Finding Dory as not only the highest domestic grosser for Pixar, but also the highest grossing animated film in history (stateside) with a domestic haul of $504 million. With its worldwide gross being $772 million, Incredible 2 looks more and more likely to broach $1 billion as it begins to recoup lost ground from having to compete with Fallen Kingdom.

Speaking of Fallen Kingdom, Universal also has reason to give a full-toothed dino-smile. Having passed the $1 billion mark just as the weekend began, the Jurassic World sequel truly has nowhere to go but up. Despite another quite large drop of 53% (not a bad drop, quite healthy and lower than the previous week’s, but still could use improvement) the film grossed about $28 million, pushing its domestic gross to an impressive $333 million and the worldwide total to $1.058 million. Despite it looking as though it’s business as usual for the Universal blockbuster, there is a surprising amount to unpack here, and it’s very positive! Primarily, its the film’s weekly gross. The weekly numbers for the film have been very strong for the past two weeks, the film managing to take the number one spot in terms of weekly gross both times with sequential grosses of $204 million in week #1 and $99.9 million in week #2. Despite noting last week that the critical reception of the film is mixed, the amount of money that it is pulling in domestically speaks to an audience that is clearly taken with the film. With the film dropping under 60% every week in terms of both weekly and weekend grosses (once again, a healthy amount to drop for a major blockbuster), the film seems almost guaranteed to reach $400 million domestically in the next week-and-a-half, if not by next weekend. This would put the film’s domestic gross within almost $200 million of the original’s $600+ million (and that is lower end projection on my part, it could easily climb a little higher). That doesn’t even account for the international box office, which the last few weeks have proven is still going quite strong. Overall, I could see the film managing to reach about $1.2 billion, just $400 million off from the originals approximate $1.6 billion worldwide gross.

Why is this important? More importantly, why am I tossing around $400 million as though it is light change? The fact is that in the grand scheme of billion dollar blockbusters $400 million is small change. Despite mixed reviews, despite Disney eating into its box office with superhero films (first Incredibles, now Ant-Man & Wasp), Universal still has an incredibly strong brand on its hands. The studio launched a rather lackluster ad campaign in the run-up to the film, as though there was no way it could compete with the monolith that is Disney, and yet Fallen Kingdom has still managed to power through. The first Jurassic World set a nearly impossible financial standard to live up to, both breaking the record for the biggest worldwide opening weekend gross at the time, and up until Infinity War, holding the title of fourth highest grossing film of all time (now sitting at fifth; still impressive). And yet, despite all that, Fallen Kingdom, in the grand scheme of the box office, is hot on its tail. For perspective, consider that Jurassic World was the return of the Jurassic Park franchise after a more than a decade-long absence, much like a little franchise called Star Wars being revived with The Force Awakens, which grossed over $2 billion worldwide. Force Awakens‘ sequel The Last Jedi managed to gross a worldwide total of $1.3 billion, a drop off of approximately $700 million, owing heavily to a lack of the novelty factor of its predecessor, yet at the end of its run, Fallen Kingdom (also lacking in that novelty factor) will have a much smaller gap between entries than the previously thought to be impenetrable space franchise. This isn’t a condemnation of Star Wars, but Universal should take this as a sign of audience faith in the franchise, and with a third installment on the way, they should not hold back with the promotion as the financial benefits could be astounding.

On the flipside when it comes to audience and studio faith in a franchise, we find this weekend’s new major release, The First Purge. As I detailed in my “Special Independence Day Box Office Report”, financials of the Purge franchise seem to heavily point toward franchise fatigue, and sure enough, this weekend’s box office proves my claim. Though The First Purge came in just as expected for the 5-day Independence Day Weekend (Wednesday-Sunday) with approximately $31 million, its 3-day weekend (Friday-Sunday) gross resulted in the franchise’s worst opening with $17 million, taking the fourth place spot for the weekend. Universal and Blumhouse Productions clearly recognize the waining box office returns for the franchise and their decision to release the film on the 4th of July (giving it the five-day window to make money and get a head start over the rest of slate for this weekend) was clearly a measure to counter what looks to be growing apathy toward the franchise, confirmed by The First Purge‘s “B-” Cinemascore, a drop off from the “B+” received by the franchise’s previous installment, Election Year. The news of a soon to be released TV series is coming in at just the right time, though Universal can take heart that the film is already profitable, having made $41 million worldwide on a budget of just $13 million. It should make a solid profit before the end of its theatrical run, and serve as a strong primer for the TV series premiering in September.

In fifth place, we find Sicario: Day of the Soldado, sporting a 61% drop, approximately a $7 million weekend gross, and a bit of egg on Sony’s face. When this sequel to the original Sicario, directed by Denis Villenuve, was first announced, it was titled simply Soldado. The title was short, simple, yet atmospheric and reminiscent in tone of the original’s award’s contender pedigree. It seemed to suggest that the follow-up would try to continue the craftsmanship, darkness, and level of sophistication that many believed led the first film to three Oscar nominations. But rumors emerged as production began of changes to the title, with Sicario: Soldado eventually bubbling up, only for the first trailer to confirm Sicario 2: Soldado as the official title, before a final change was made in the final trailer for the film to the even longer, Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Brand recognition is one thing, and trying to remind audiences of the film’s critically acclaimed predecessor was a smart idea. However, the trailers confirmed, with the phrasing “the next chapter in the Sicario saga”, that Sony clearly felt that there was money here, and as all studios tend to do, immediately sought to create a full-blown franchise. One cannot fault them for trying, but with a large drop in its second weekend, and seemingly weak international box office (despite the presence of Benecio del Toro), the film doesn’t look to be connecting strongly with audiences. Despite a promising opening, solid reviews, and even a potential third film reportedly in development (hinting at the return of a now post-A Quiet Place Emily Blunt), the Sicario saga is looking to end up as a duology instead of a trilogy (or more).

Notably, outside the top five, we once again find Ocean’s 8 pulling off another very impressive hold, dropping only 36% in its fifth weekend and placing seventh with a weekend gross of $5.2 million. This brings its domestic haul to $126 million where it has now outperformed Ocean’s 12 as the second highest grossing film in the Ocean’s franchise, stateside. We’ll see just how high its global total (currently $236 million) climbs, but for now, Warner Bros. should be supremely pleased with this venture. Tag, which dropped only 47% this weekend for a total of $3 million should also make Warner Execs smile.

Another major development this weekend was the surprise overperformance of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Mr. Rogers documentary that is absolutely sweeping the nation, as it expanded into 239 more theater venues (bringing its total theater count to 839), grossing about $2.6 million (a 6.9% increase from last week) and leapfrogging over Deadpool 2 into ninth place for the weekend! While the documentary was projected to hold quite well, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that it would be performing like this. For comparison, RBG, this summer’s other major documentary performer, was able to flit in and out of the number ten space for the weekend for several weeks before dropping out of theaters with an impressive over $11 million gross. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? has actually managed to pass that gross with already massive $12 million domestic haul and has actually pushed higher into the top ten than RBG could. Both Won’t You Be Neighbor? and RBG should be able to carry their momentum into a strong awards push from Focus Features and Magnolia Pictures, respectively.

The two also share a surprise connection. Given the apparent popularity of both documentary subjects, one would think that a biopic for each would be in order. Sure enough, both a Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Fred Rogers biopic are coming down the pipeline. The Ginsburg biopic, titled On the Basis of Sex, is being released this December as an awards vehicle for both Oscar-nominee Felicity Jones, who will star as Ginsburg, and director Mimi Leder, who is returning to the film landscape after having spent several years on the television front. The film is her follow-up to her critically acclaimed work as head director for HBO’s widely acclaimed drama series The Leftovers, and should the film garner strong reviews, expect it to be a player in both the acting and directing categories (the film also stars Armie Hammer, fresh off of Call Me By Your Name, as Ginsburg’s husband Marty with Leder having also brought on Leftovers alum Justin Theroux and Kathy Bates to round out the principal cast). On the other hand, Sony’s Tristar Pictures has also announced to development of a Mr. Rogers biopic called You Are My Friend with Tom Hanks set to play the famed Fred Rogers and Marielle Heller, of Diary of a Teenaged Girl fame, slated to direct. Production is set to start this coming September, and the film is slated for an Oscar-friendly release date of October 2019. With the surprisingly strong performance of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? this summer, if the documentary can score itself an Oscar (its chances are looking fantastic at the moment), or even just a nomination, one can expect the Sony/Tristar production to be a major player in the 2019 awards race.

Outside the top 10, Hereditary looks to end its run in the coming few weeks with a domestic haul of likely $43-$44 million. Worldwide the film stands at a total gross of $62 million. Clearly, despite a polarizing overall reaction, the film is an indie horror hit. Distributed by A24, the awards guru studio behind Ex Machina, Amy, Room, Moonlight, and Lady Bird, the people running its awards campaign would do best to throw the majority of their support behind Toni Colette as she cruises toward her second Oscar nomination. Last week’s new documentary release Three Identical Strangers continues to perform quite well. Online reaction for the film is overwhelmingly positive and newbie distributor Neon seems to recognize this, rolling the film into 46 more theaters than the previous week which resulted in a 318.1% jump in its weekend gross to $717,008.

As for new releases in the specialty market, the Whitney Houston documentary Whitney took center stage as the highest grossing of this weekend’s specialty offerings with $1.2 million, tailing Deadpool 2 as it takes the weekend’s eleventh place spot. Annapurna PicturesSorry to Bother You won the weekend in terms of per-theater-average gross with an impressive $44,831 per theater, made even more impressive by the fact that the film debuted in 16 theaters (a relatively large number for a limited release) for a total weekend gross of $717,302. While a smaller number of theaters would have probably made for an even higher per-theater-average, Annapurna is clearly learning and stepping up its game in terms of P&A as this is a massive improvement over their last high profile release Detroit, which debuted in limited release in 20 theaters to a middling $17k average. Keep an eye on Sorry to Bother You for it to potentially be a breakout indie hit. While I originally thought Annapurna may try to parlay the clearly potent buzz surrounding the film into an awards campaign, given its performance this weekend, it may behoove Annapurna to try to go in a more commercial direction with the film to boost their profile as a distributor (especially since they now have a large stake in the Bond franchise). Annapurna should try and keep Sorry to Bother You in limited release for two more weeks, slowly expanding its theater count to drum up more buzz, then just go for a full on wide release. Given the sheer strength of its debut, it seems worth a shot.

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(Box Office data taken from BoxOfficeMojo.com and Deadline.com)

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