Box Office Rundown!! July 20-July 22: The Equalizer 2 Surprises, Winning the Battle of the Sequels/Mamma Mia Performs Admirably/Unfriend: Dark Web Fails to Make a Dent!!!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (July 20-July 22): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Actuals

  1. The Equalizer 2 / $36,011,640 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
  2. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! / $34,952,180 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
  3. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation / $23,765,709 / -46.1% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
  4. Ant-Man and the Wasp / $16,507,156 / -43.3% / Weekend 3 / Disney
  5. Incredibles 2 / $11,895,063 / -26.9% / Weekend 6 / Disney
  6. Skyscraper / $11,360,030 / -54.4% / Weekend 2 / Universal
  7. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom / $11,263,420 / -30.5% / Weekend 5 / Universal
  8. The First Purge / $5,105,305 / -45.2% / Weekend 3 / Universal
  9. Unfriended: Dark Web / $3,653,035 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / BH Tilt
  10. Sorry to Bother You / $2,863,420 / -32% / Weekend 3 / Annapurna

Notable Outsiders:

14. Three Identical Strangers / $1,474,018 / +22.8% / Weekend 4 / Neon

15. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? / $1,359,090 / -30.2% / Weekend 7 / Focus

17. Eighth Grade / $824,173 / +212.4% / Weekend 2 / A24

21. Blindspotting / $336,333 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate (Summit)

 

In a surprise turn of events, the battle of the sequels ended with The Equalizer 2 besting not only Hotel Transylvania 3 but also Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! to take the number one gross for the weekend. Overall, however, the sequels performed quite well with the decided exception of Unfriended: Dark Web which became the most recent victim of BH Tilt’s small-scale releasing practices, while Sorry to Bother You managed a strong hold in the in the specialty market.

It has been said that true movie stars no longer exist. While we can always look to famous actors to attract gossip and make for great clickbait, the general fact of the contemporary movie business seems to be that stars don’t draw people into the theaters so much as the franchises that they are a part of. Even the highest paid actors (just look at Dwayne Johnson, to be discussed) can’t always maintain strong box office track records. That said, there three actors who tend standout and prove that movie stars, in the box office sense, still exist, those being Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and with the overperformance of The Equalizer 2 this past weekend, Denzel Washington.

Going into the weekend, The Equalizer 2 was projected to gross somewhere between $26-$30 million, putting it directly in competition with Hotel Transylvania 3 for the second place spot behind Mamma Mia 2. While it may seem crazy to look at now, the projection made more sense going into the weekend. While the first Equalizer film managed a solid opening and became a surprise hit, the film was released four years ago, so it would make sense to say that some of the audience had eroded. On top of that, the first film didn’t have stellar reviews, and though said reviews were not bad (more so lukewarm), many criticized the story, specifically, for being a bit convoluted. Generally, story issues in the first film do not carry over well to sequels, and sure enough, when reviews dropped for the sequel, critics once again criticized the story, as well as pacing and character development. Overall, reviews for the sequel were much harsher than its predecessor with this outing being considered a diminished return creatively, which would lead to the idea that the film would open on the lower end of the projected range.

Going into the weekend, however, a Thursday night preview gross of $3.1 million (right on the heels of Mamma Mia 2‘s $3.4 million) began to suggest the gross that would be much higher than expected. Then came Friday, with a gross of $13 million, once again nipping at the heels of Mamma Mia 2‘s $14 million. That, combined with an “A” Cinemascore, cemented the fact that The Equalizer 2 would open at $30+ million, but I am sure that no one was expecting the final result. With many pundits pegging the film to open with roughly the same gross of the first installment’s opening weekend, the Washington-led feature managed to pull off an astounding gross of $36 million, surpassing the first installment by $2 million, and landing in first place for the weekend. This is the evidence of a movie star, someone who can actually put butts in seats. Fighting against creative fatigue and mixed reviews, Denzel Washington’s first ever sequel is hot out of the gate and primed to do quite well going forward. Admittedly, the mixed reviews have the potential to impede the film’s ability to hold well in the coming weeks, but as with DiCaprio and Cruise, movie stars nowadays also prove that the box office is a marathon and not a sprint. Denzel Washington clearly has a lot of fan appeal as the film itself was clearly enjoyed by audiences, given the weekend gross and Cinemascore. While Mission Impossible: Fallout is likely to eat up a chunk of the box office in the weeks to come, do not be surprised if The Equalizer 2 manages to, relatively, hold its own.

Taking the second place spot on this sequel list is Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, with a gross of $34 million, which some would admittedly consider a bit of an underperformance, especially given that on Friday, it was leading the weekend with a day gross of $14 million. This caused many to predict, over the course of the weekend, that it would gross upwards of $40 million, but one can only assume that The Equalizer 2 must have taken the wind out of Mamma Mia 2‘s sails. Comparing the daily box office grosses and the change from Friday to Saturday, we see a drop of 23.4% for Mamma Mia 2 versus the astoundingly low drop of only 5% for The Equalizer 2. Now, this is not to say that Mamma Mia 2 has bad word of mouth. In fact, the film’s reviews are actually stronger than its predecessor, while its “A-” Cinemascore matches that of the first Mamma Mia. What this does indicate is that Denzel Washington is a much stronger draw than the Mamma Mia brand itself.

Despite this, Universal has a lot to be happy about with this opening as it is still strong in the grand scheme of the box office. The opening is right within the original range predicted for the film, $30-$36 million, and is a $7 million improvement over the opening weekend gross of the original Mamma Mia (always a good sign for a sequel). This is a much needed reprieve from last weekend with Skyscraper‘s underperformance, despite Dwayne Johnson’s supposed star-power (speaking of true movie stars), and the overall audience reaction is positive (with some people making some absolutely hilarious comparisons on twitter between Mamma Mia and another Universal franchise, dubbing Mamma Mia the “Fast & Furious of musicals”) indicating the potential for strong legs on the film to close out the summer. I’ve said it once, but it cannot be said enough, with the success of The Greatest Showman, it isn’t a smart move to count out the power of a good soundtrack when it comes to box office success, so expect Mamma Mia 2 to have a respectable box office run in the coming weeks. The film is also still rolling out around the world (having made $42 million overseas so far for a worldwide total of $77 million), and has secured a release date in China, so expect its worldwide gross to climb quite high as well, especially given that 76% the original’s $609 million gross came from international box office.

The vast majority of the rest of the box office is filled with summer holdovers, all sequels with the exceptions of Skyscraper and Sorry to Bother You, marking the most sequels in the weekend top ten of all time (eight total). Hotel Transylvania 3 took the third spot (appropriately) with a gross of $23 million, boasting a drop of 46.1%, a bigger drop in its second weekend than any other of the Hotel Transylvania films. However, this nothing to worry about, especially given the fact that it is still a very strong hold, indicating good word-of-mouth and target audience appeal. The film’s domestic gross has reached $91 million, being likely to pass $100 million by the end of the week, while the film already boasts a total of $208 million worldwide. Currently, the film is tracking just ahead of Hotel Transylvania 2, which went on to gross $169 million and $473 million in domestic and worldwide totals, respectively, so Hotel Transylvania 3 is looking to make it to that mark (at least) at this moment. Given that a sequel was set-up at the end of the film, expect the announcement of a Hotel Transylvania 4 within the coming weeks.

Ant-Man and the Wasp takes the fourth place spot, and is interestingly beginning to show signs of performing like that of Solo: A Star Wars Story. With a surprisingly large drop of nearly 62% last weekend after its already disappointing opening, the bleeding seems to certainly be slowing for the Marvel picture. However, also like Solo, it seems that the film is on unstable ground financially. With a budget in the range of $162-$195 million, the break-even point for the film looks to be, roughly, between $424 million and $500 million. Now, the main difference between the two films is definitely the budget. Where Solo was saddled with at least a $250 million budget due to extensive reshoots, making its minimum $600 million break-even point completely insurmountable with an $84 million opening, Ant-Man & Wasp has a much more responsible blockbuster budget, and it is on track to break into the $400 million range soon. The question is just how high the film’s gross looks to go. At the moment, the film has grossed a total of $165 million domestically, making its best comparison as a Marvel solo sequel out to be Thor: The Dark World, which ended its domestic run with a gross of $206 million. However, Dark World had noticeably stronger holds than the ones Ant-Man & Wasp is showing. Maintaining the Solo comparison (in terms of holds), Ant-Man & Wasp looks to end its domestic run with a little over $190 million, an improvement over the first film, but still lagging behind where it should be as a Marvel solo sequel. Taking into account the potential domestic haul as well as the ratio between the domestic and foreign grosses from the other solo sequels as well as the original Ant-ManAnt-Man & Wasp looks to clock in with a worldwide gross of around $543 million, so the final film looks to break even, but this is quite an underperformance for Marvel.

Incredibles 2 and  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom continue to be neck and neck with each other, both turning solid holds and weekend grosses of about $11 million each (Fallen Kingdom looks to reach $1.2 billion potentially by tomorrow). Coming between them, however, is Skyscraper, taking sixth place between Incredibles in fifth and Fallen Kingdom in seventh. Skyscraper fell 54.4% this week, a healthy drop for a blockbuster, but not so great considering that it only made about $25 million when it opened last week. Dwayne Johnson has been making a concentrated effort since the success of San Andres in 2015 to become a movie star (in the old-fashioned, Denzel, Leo, Tom Cruise sort of way), and has had some definite hits, last years Jumanji and even this year’s Rampage being prime examples. However, Skyscraper points to a sense of audience fatigue beginning to brew around Dwayne Johnson as a brand. Skyscraper did not deliver the $30+ million opening that projections had promised, and the drop this weekend to about $11 million seems to indicate that audiences might be getting tired of watching Dwayne Johnson run around through urban areas, trying to muscle his way through mass destruction (it certainly doesn’t help that Skyscraper‘s tone and look are eerily similar to Rampage, which debuted just 3 months ago). This film got a boost from the foreign markets as it did debut in China to a strong $47 million, for an international total of $135 million (worldwide, $182 million), but the film’s performance seems to indicate that the Rock needs to take a bit of a hiatus just so audiences can cleanse their palettes.

In ninth place, we find the weekend’s final new major release, Unfriended: Dark Web, bringing in $3.6 million. On a budget of only $1 million, the film is already profitable, but this is a very small debut for what should otherwise be a bigger picture. A standalone sequel to 2015’s Unfriended, which was about a group of teens being terrorized by the ghost of their classmate who possesses their computers and phones, the film received mixed reviews but was near-universally praised for its execution, which involved filming the movie to look as though it took place completely on a computer screen. The novelty of this execution propelled the film (also budgeted at $1 million) to a $15 million opening, a $32 million domestic haul, and a $64 million worldwide gross, so it is quite surprising to see that the sequel (filmed in the same way as its predecessor) open so low. Of course, that surprise fades away immediately when you discover that Dark Web is distributed not by Universal (like its predecessor), but instead BH Tilt.

Owned by Jason Blum, the owner of Blumhouse Productions, which has produced hits like the Purge and Insidious franchises, Happy Death Day, and Get Out, BH Tilt serves as Blumhouse’s distribution label, an effort to keep more of their productions more fully in-house. However, BH Tilt, as of yet, has proven to be a very weak distributor. Specializing in mirco-budget indies, BH Tilt films do always manage to turn a profit, but their release strategy seems to always result in very small opening weekend grosses for their films, which ultimately turn into low overall grosses. Most recently, BH Tilt released Upgrade, which despite very strong reviews, strong genre pedigree with Leigh Wannell both writing and directing the film, and very strong word-of-mouth, only grossed $11 million total, managing a very small profit, despite the intense interest surrounding the film. As a result, it is a bit of a shame to see Unfriended: Dark Web lose potentially millions of dollars in profit because of a deficiency on the part of BH Tilt. What said deficiency is isn’t certain. More than likely it is the marketing strategy for most BH Tilt titles, being heavily digital, but it cannot be known for certain at the moment.

Rounding out the top ten is Sorry to Bother You, which dropped 32% in its third weekend of release with a gross of $2 million. Annapurna decided to go wide with Sorry to Bother You the week after it was first released in 16 theaters, bumping up to over 800 theaters, further expanding into over 1,000 theaters. Overall, the film is performing quite nicely, having already made over $10 million, and holding well, suggesting a solid profit to be made. However, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if Annapurna had held back slightly. I had originally advised that they delay the fully wide release of Sorry to Bother You for at least a week (max two weeks) given the intense buzz surrounding the film. By holding back and keeping the film in limited release for a little longer, Annapurna could’ve drummed up the buzz even more, resulting in an even bigger opening weekend last weekend, and more money this weekend. Annapurna is still clearly learning how best to distribute their films, but they should take heart in that they are indeed improving from where they started. Given their recent joint-venture agreement with MGM (the two studios will be sharing distribution and marketing costs on their films), perhaps the newbie distributor can learn from the older, more distinguished studio.

In the specialty market, the only release of note was that of Blindspotting, the Daveen Diggs picture from Lionsgate/Summit. Debuting with a per-theater-average of $24,024 in 14 theaters, and boasting a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes (and a 70  on Metacritic), the film has received critical acclaim for its deft balance of comedy and drama, as well as its social commentary on race relations. Its per-theater-average is good but not striking, so it remains to be seen if it becomes an indie hit. Elsewhere, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Three Identical Strangers continue to enjoy strong word-of-mouth despite having dropped out of the top ten, each enjoying an over a million dollar gross as well as continuing to prove this as the “summer of the documentary”. Three Identical Strangers actually grew by 22% this past weekend (overtaking Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), no doubt boosted by the announcement that Film4 and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment are partnering with Raw (the documentary’s original production label) to develop a narrative feature film based on the documentary. I continue to expect a strong push from Neon for Three Identical Strangers in the Oscar race, especially as awards season begins with the announcement of the line-ups for both the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals.

 

equalizer 2dark webblindspotting

mamma mia 2

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

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