Box Office Rundown!! July 27-July 29, Mission Impossible Opens With a Franchise High!! But the Weekend is an Underperformer Across the Board!!

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

  1. Mission Impossible-Fallout / $61,500,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount
  2. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / $15,000,000 / -57.1% / Weekend 2 / Universal
  3. The Equalizer 2 / $14,000,000 / -61.1% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
  4. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation / $12,305,000 / -48.2% / Weekend 3 / Sony (Columbia)
  5. Teen Titans GO! To The Movies / $10,510,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros.
  6. Ant-Man and the Wasp / $8,400,000 / -49.1% / Weekend 4 / Disney
  7. Incredibles 2 / $7,157,000 / -39.8% / Weekend 7 / Disney
  8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom / $6,775,000 / -39.8% / Weekend 6 / Universal
  9. Skyscraper / $5,400,000 / -52.5% / Weekend 3 / Universal
  10. The First Purge / $2,230,000 / -56.3% / Weekend 3 / BH Tilt

Notable Outsiders:

12. Sorry to Bother You / $1,450,000 / -49.4% / Weekend 4 / Annapurna

13. Blindspotting / $1,325,000 / +294% / Weekend 2 / Lionsgate (Summit)

14. Eigth Grade / $1,317,561 / +59.9% / Weekend 3 / A24

25. Puzzle / $63, 364 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony Pictures Classics

Last weekend, we saw (for the first time in history) eight sequels in the box office top ten. For several years now, many moviegoers have lamented the status of the filmmaking industry, seemingly incapable of releasing an original film or at least one that is not based on an existing property. With the advent of high-budget Netflix original streaming programs resulting in cable television networks beefing up the quality of their programming, the mid range-30-$60 million-movie has gone out of fashion due to it becoming more of a financial risk. Unfortunately, this is where many original ideas in film had been able to find a home for so long, and without them, studios have come to believe that films can only make money if they are adaptations of an existing property or the next sequel in a blockbuster franchise. Last week we saw more sequels that we’d ever had before and this week the result is no different. Once again, sequels managed to take up eight places in the box office top ten (nine unoriginal films if you count Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, since it is based on both an existing comic book property as well as a popular TV series). However, while the box office looked quite healthy last weekend, this weekend saw the audience seemingly put its foot down on the matter, as every single movie saw a much bigger drop than expected.

Now, I fully recognize that there are other factors at play when it comes to the box office. Weather always surprises as a factor, and this weekend saw large amounts of rainfall across the east coast may have certainly contributed people not venture out to the multiplex. But looking that the titles here, it is impossible to dismiss so-called “sequel-itis” as a factor. That’s not to say that sequels are bad. Many people thoroughly enjoy them; just look at the MCU (I myself been banging the drum for a Doctor Strange sequel louder than I have for Avengers 4). However, the box office this weekend tells me that audiences are looking for something of a palette cleanser, or perhaps more accurately, a shot of adrenaline to the tongue. Sequels are fun, too much of one thing usually tends to sour that taste. It also doesn’t help that many of the sequels are from franchises that don’t have an all-ages appeal (several of them appealing more toward older moviegoers) given that these sequels didn’t hold nearly as well as more family-oriented, four quadrant affairs.

Our first piece of evidence on this front (some would say, first victim) is Mission Impossible-Fallout. To start with the positives, the franchise has indeed topped itself. Opening to an estimated $61.5 million domestically and $153.5 million globally, Fallout represents the highest grossing opening weekend for the franchise on both fronts, as well as the second-best opening for a Tom Cruise-led film (just under War of the Worlds, whose $64.8 million opening weekend and over $200 million domestic gross suggest a potentially very strong domestic haul for Fallout). With Cruise’s (and Mission Impossible‘s) propensity for having strong box office legs, both domestically and internationally, this is a good start out of the gate for this new entry in the franchise. But is it good enough? Shifting over to the negative side of this headline, we are reminded that going in at the start of the week, the film was tracking toward a potential $65+ million domestic debut. However, as Friday inched closer and closer, several trades began to bring their predictions down a peg, seeing the film opening potentially around $50-$60+ million and suggesting that ticket traffic was not what many had originally thought. My conservative predictions saw it landing on the higher end of a $55-$65 million range, but even I fully expected the film to break out of that, with Thursday preview grosses seemingly validating that assumption.

To reiterate, $61.5 million is not a bad opening. Even aside from being the highest opening gross for the franchise, this debut number not only falls within the predicted range, but is on the higher end of it. The film also got an “A” Cinemascore, the best Cinemascore grade of the franchise, suggesting strong word-of-mouth which is, in turn, is supported by the mere -3.2% drop between the Friday and Saturday grosses. Still, given the expectations that the film would break $65 million, it is hard to look at the movie as not having underperformed in some way. Why is this the case? Its already been noted that “sequel-itis” is afoot, but the last Mission Impossible film was so well-received and did such good business at the box office that is surprising to see the same team (director included) return to the property for a more middling result. However, looking at the demographic breakdown, there is a potential answer to this “why”. In terms of age alone, Fallout played to an opening weekend audience that was only 17% males under the age of 25 and only 9% females in that same age range. In my last post, I noted that Christopher McQuarrie, the first director in the franchise to helm two Mission Impossible movies with both Fallout and Rogue Nation, brought an “Old-Hollywood” ornamentation to the franchise which many critics have adored. However, this “Old Hollywood feel” may speak to a bigger issue with the franchise, a potential refusal to evolve. Whereas the stunts have gotten bigger and more dangerous with every iteration (Cruise having broken his ankle this time around, which reportedly cost the film $70 million in insurance fees on top of an already large $180 million budget), the story, plot mechanics, and types of characters featured in the films has not necessarily changed with the times. The franchise began as a television series from the mid-60’s, and made the jump to the silver in 1996, carrying with it a charming, analog aesthetic that has maintained a constant (if slightly toned down) presence as the films have continued into today. While this may resonate more with older viewers, there is a distinct possibility, given the numbers, that it is simply is not resonating with younger audiences in the same manner, or drawing in newer, younger fans to the franchise (who in today’s age drive the conversation on online and build much of the hype for films). All-in-all, this is not to say that Mission Impossible is a dead franchise. Fallout‘s opening is a solid start to a franchise that has always been a box office marathon runner and the film will likely play quite well given the strong word-of-mouth. However, going forward, Cruise and company will need to find ways to update the franchise so as stave off the staleness of sequel fatigue.

Jumping down from $61.5 million to $15 million, we find Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Having performed admirably during its opening weekend, and being bolstered by its soundtrack and good-hearted and fun nature, I had expected the film to hold its own quite well, potentially sporting a drop of 45% or even less. However, the sequel instead fell quite farther than anyone anticipated with a 57% drop for a gross of $15 million instead of $18 million as I originally predicted. Thankfully for Universal, Mamma Mia 2 is performing very well based on its weekday numbers, having held the top spot for the whole week leading up to this weekend and has already doubled its $75 million budget with a worldwide gross of $167 million. Domestically, the film has pulled in about $70 million and while I had originally thought it would have no problem broaching the $100 million mark, this weekend shows that it might be a bit more difficult. While audiences were definitely interested to see how the franchise would pick back up after a decade, maybe they simply were not impressed with the final result. Having come about smack in the middle of the wave of revivals, both in film and on television, Mamma Mia 2 may be finding itself saddled with some built-in bad sentiment as audiences crave something more original. I’ve made comparisons for Mamma Mia 2 to The Greatest Showman given the musical components of both films, but what I failed to consider was the fact that The Greatest Showman was actually an original musical. Mamma Mia 2 may have an original storyline, but the music has been around for a while. Here is to hoping that Mamma Mia 2 is able to maintain its weekday dominance to push its domestic numbers higher, though its solid international numbers look like they will make for a good box office cushion.

While Mamma Mia 2 has an international cushion, Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer 2 does not. That factor combined with the fact that there the film shares a considerable amount of its audience with Fallout resulted in the weekend’s biggest drop of 61.1% for a gross of $14 million. Domestically, the film has only grossed about $64 million, and while the film was originally tracking about $5 million ahead of the original’s domestic haul, they are now on equal footing which could soon lead to The Equalizer 2 falling behind. Without the international cushion that other films have (Equalizer 2 has only grossed $6.1 million internationally), it looks as though the film’s good fortune from last weekend has changed quite drastically. Meanwhile, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation‘s luck continued as it was the only film in the top ten to not have an abnormally large drop with 48.2% (just 2% more than last weeks drop for the picture). Already having passed $119 million domestically and reached $284 million worldwide, the film is proving to be one of this summer’s best performer as of yet given the consistency of its holds, putting it in a class with Ocean’s 8. The film is rapidly closing in on $300 million worldwide which likely prompted the recent developments with director Genndy Tartakovsky and Sony Animation as the studio has signed him on to direct two new animated features, one being an R-rated comedy called Fixed and the other being an action-adventure animated film called Black Knight which has been described as being in the vein of Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack TV series (fans of the show will likely have a field day with this information). Expect the film to continue to perform well if it can weather this storm.

In fifth place, we find this weekend’s other new release, the seeming slam-dunk that was supposed to be Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. Based on the animated cartoon TV series of the same name which is one of, if not the most popular show on Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. likely was hoping to have a mega-performer that could take advantage of the large family audiences in abundance due to summer vacation and possibly even compete with the kid’s movie juggernaut that is Hotel Transylvania 3. Alas, Teen Titans GO! proved itself to be a non-starter. I had originally thought that it might open around $15-$17 million, leaning more toward $17 million given the strength of the fan base. Imagine my surprise when the film didn’t just open on the lower end of expectations but missed the mark entirely with a weekend gross of $10.5 million. Why? Well, given the daily gross numbers, which showed an 18% drop from Friday to Saturday and a 20% drop from Saturday to Sunday, it seems that the word of mouth was not particularly strong. Audiences seem to have enjoyed the film, giving it a B+” Cinemascore, but it obviously didn’t make the case that it needed to be seen as soon as possible. Perhaps its origins as an animated TV series made it seems as though the film was just an extended episode of the show, and not even the surprise post-credits tease (spoiler alert!) of the return of the original 2003 animated series was enough to draw people in. We’ll see how the film holds in the coming weeks, but from the looks of it now, it seems to be DOA.

The rest of the top ten consists primarily of holdovers. Ant-Man and the Wasp dropped nearly 50% for a gross of $8.4 million. Worldwide the film is up to $395 million will pass the $400 million by the end of the week. Oddly, the film has yet to secure a Chinese release date which, given the gross at the moment, will likely be necessary for the film to break even. I’ve no doubt that the film will be able to secure a Chinese release given the relationship the Walt Disney Company has formed with the Chinese government, but overall Ant-Man and the Wasp seems to be on its last legs. Expect it to drop out of the top ten soon. Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ended up in seventh and eighth place, respectively, and surprisingly, had identicals drops of 39.8%. Fallen Kingdom will be passing $400 million at the domestic box office soon, while Incredibles 2 will be joining the $1 billion club by (likely) tomorrow as it currently stands at a worldwide gross of $999 million. Skyscraper and The First Purge will soon drop out of the top ten given their trajectory, though Skyscraper will be able to hold on for at least one more weekend. The First Purge does give Universal cause to celebrate, however, given that it will be ending its worldwide run with a gross of over $100 million (the third film in the franchise to do so) turning in a solid profit as the franchise begins its transition to the small screen.

In the specialty market, Sorry to Bother You sported a much larger drop than in the previous few weeks, signaling, potentially, that its fifteen minutes of fame are over. Still, it’s good for Annapurna that they were able to shepherd this film the way they did. The fledgling distribution label is certainly growing and learning with every new release and I am eagerly anticipating their release of Jacques Audiard’s western comedy The Sisters Brothers as well as their “Oscar-hopeful” pick for the season, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, the hotly-awaited follow-up to his Best Picture Winner, Moonlight.

Blindspotting and Eight Grade both saw large jumps in terms of weekend to weekend grosses, particularly Blindspotting as it added 509 theaters and saw a +294% jump, showing that it is beginning to catch on with audiences. A24 stayed with their typical release strategy and only upped Eighth Grade‘s theater count by 125 theaters, but they have established themselves as a powerhouse indie distributor by this point, having distributed Moonlight two years ago and won Best Picture, as well as having made surprisingly strong plays Oscar plays with Room, Amy, and Ex Machina three years prior (Taking home Best Actress for Brie Larson in Room, Best Documentary for Amy, and in a shocking upset, stealing Best Visual Effects away from Mad Max: Fury Road with Ex Machina). Given the immense buzz surrounding the film and phenomenal per-theater-average from its debut, expect a very strong play by A24 in the Best Original Screenplay category, and potentially Best Director, for Bo Burnham. Finally, Kelly Macdonald’s Puzzle debuted in 5 theaters but didn’t register as it only managed a $12,243 per-theater-average, effectively halting any chance for Sony Pictures Classics to make a full-on Oscar play Kelly Macdonald in Best Actress. Perhaps she can snag a potential Golden Globe nomination, given that they favor international talent, but only time will tell.

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