Box Office Rundown (Aug 17-Aug 19) Crazy Rich Asians Wins the Weekend with a Strong Debut!!/Asian Rule the Box Office Overall This Weekend!!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Aug 17-Aug 19): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates

  1. Crazy Rich Asians / $25,325,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros.
    1. 5-Day Opening Weekend Total: $34,001,000
  2. The Meg / $21,150,000 / -53.4% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
  3. Mile 22 / $13,620,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / STX Entertainment
  4. Mission Impossible-Fallout / $10,500,000 / -45.7% / Weekend 4 / Paramount
  5. Alpha / $10,500,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Studio 8)
  6. Christopher Robin / $8,862,000 / -31.6% / Weekend 3 / Disney
  7. BlacKKKlansman / $7,000,000 / -35.5% / Weekend 2 / Focus Features
  8. Slender Man / $4,965,000 / -56.3% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Screen Gems)
  9. Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation / $3,675,000 / -29.5% / Weekend 6 / Sony (Columbia)
  10. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / $3,385,000 / -42.3% / Weekend 5 / Universal

Notable Outsiders:

12. Eighth Grade / $740,000 / -53.4% / Weekend 6 / A24

13. The Wife / $111,137 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony Pictures Classics

14. We the Animals / $66,261 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / The Orchard

29. Juliet Naked / $60,922 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Roadside Attractions

After all the promotion, all the magazine spreads, and all the pushing by the media, all eyes were on Crazy Rich Asians to see if it opened well this weekend, marking a great step forward for Asian representation in cinema. Whether or not the cultural effects will take hold remains to be seen, but as for this weekend, Crazy Rich Asians can hold its head high as it managed a strong opening this weekend with $25 million in the 3-day and a $34 million gross in the 5-day (Wednesday-Sunday) window. Now, going into the weekend, I had made comparisons between Crazy Rich Asians and 2017’s breakout comedy Girls Trip given that both films are comedies featuring largely non-white casts and similar levels of pageantry (Girls Trip took place during EssenceFest in New Orleans and featured some pretty glamorous production values while Crazy Rich Asians has glamor written all over it, taking place during a multi-million dollar wedding in Singapore where one in every thirty-four people are millionaires). Given that Girls Trip opened to $31 million during its opening weekend, I had felt that Crazy Rich Asians opening with $30+ million during the 3-day, regular weekend window (no assistance from the extra Wednesday and Thursday) would constitute a definite win for the picture. However, looking at the film in the context of this weekend, I feel that even though the 3-day gross did not exceed $30 million, the film still managed a definitively strong start. It could have been a better 3-day, but with regard to how projections were looking, day-to-day grosses, the actual overall 5-day gross, and the films number one position at the box office, Crazy Rich Asians definitely made waves.

Going into the weekend, I noticed how predictions for the film’s performance were highly varied. This is, in part, due to the fact that Crazy Rich Asians opened on August 15th, a Wednesday, giving it 2 extra days on top of the weekend so that it could make money. This was signal to audiences that Warner Bros. recognized a great risk in producing and releasing this film. It’s no secret that minorities are very underrepresented when it comes to leading roles in Hollywood films but the reason for this is due to Hollywood being risk averse. Maybe it is a comment on the culture we live in, but films that don’t feature white leads have historically made less than films with non-white leads (take that as you will). As it has been astutely pointed out by many, while undercurrents of racism and xenophobia are present, Hollywood executives have proven time and time again that they only truly care about one color: Green. No matter what you look like or where you come from, the film industry will only favor you if you can put butts in seats and produce cash. Studio filmmaking is a business, and in business, there is always a bottom line, so on some level, it is understandable that executives would only greenlight films that feature white leads since that audience drives up profits. The problem with this scenario is that it creates an excuse for those same executives to actively exclude non-white talent from films (and television) instead of trying to experiment with the formula so that more diverse audiences will show up to support said films financially. The result is a major lack of representation for a variety of races and ethnicities, a shame in not just the creative sense (as there are thousands of people across the world with a wide variety of stories to tell), but also financially, as studios are missing out large streams of revenue that come from reaching out to more diverse audiences (ironic given that this whole issue stems from studios wanting to make money in the first place).

Crazy Rich Asians presented a risk to Warner Bros. as it is the first film in 25 years to feature an all-Asian principal cast. The original was The Joy Luck Club in 1993, which turned a modest profit in theaters but did not perform on nearly the same level that Crazy Rich Asians would be expected to in 2018, only grossing $32 million total in theaters (though on a small budget of about $10 million). Because of this, there was really no frame of reference with which to assess whether Crazy Rich Asians would be successful. Combined with the 5-day release window, this contributed to multiple pundits predicting a wide variety of potential weekend grosses, making it hard to get a read on the movie. Early long-range tracking saw the film potentially debuting to $30 million in the 3-day, but as the film’s release date got closer, many began to predict that film would only make it to around $20 million in the 3-day. The final predictions going into the release were pegging the film to gross $22 million max in the 3-day window and $25-$29 million in the 5-day. Box Office Mojo was shown to be the most optimistic with regard to projections, predicting a total $35 million gross over 5-days, and I, in turn, felt that the film could broach at least $30 million in the 5-day, with anywhere between $20-$25 million in the 3-day.

In the end, the film did exceed expectations overall. While $25 million in the 3-day window may come across as a bit middling on paper (especially given the Girls Trip comparison), that is on the higher end of my predictions and slightly higher than what most of the trades were forecasting. However, one could also chalk this up to the trades aiming low in the predictions to make the film look better. With the number articles about the social significance of the film, and big spreads in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly, it is clear that the media and the industry as a whole are heavily pushing Crazy Rich Asians, and it has been proven in the past that the trades are not above skewing the facts to make sure that films they are partial to come off as success (Wrinkle in Time is an example of this where the media continuously pushed the diversity of cast in light of its disappointing box office until the facts could no longer be denied). However, what really cements Crazy Rich Asians as a surprisingly strong performer is its 5-day gross. With $34 million, the film out-performed most projections which saw the film not being able to reach $30 million. This opening even satisfied bolder projections which saw the film debuting between $30-$35 million as it debuted on the higher end of those projections. Overall, the film genuinely surprised many with its performance, even besting Girls Trip‘s opening weekend with its 5-day gross.

This box office performance gets more impressive the deeper one looks into it. Looking into the day-to-day grosses for the film, we see that Warner Bros. decision to open the film early worked two-fold, both adding to the final weekend gross, but also drumming up buzz going into said weekend. We already knew that the film received an “A” Cinemascore, representing very good reception and potential word-of-mouth from general audiences, but what many did not expect was for that word-of-mouth to translate in such a big way. Building in the strength of the Wednesday and Thursday numbers, Friday saw a solid $7.2 million in its day gross (a 94.2% increase from Thursday’s $3.7 million gross), which solidified the idea of a $22 million 3-day gross for many pundits. However, to the surprise of every one, the film actually continued to increase in daily gross from Friday to Saturday. Now, a Friday to Saturday jump is not at all uncommon, especially not for studio films with good reception which can see jumps from 0.5-2%. However, Crazy Rich Asians wowed pundits with a Friday-Saturday gross increase of 41.6%, resulting in a Saturday gross of $10.3 million! Even after inevitably dropping in its Sunday gross, the film still managed to gross $7.6 million, a mere 26.2% drop from Saturday. All this more than proved the film’s strong word-of-mouth, and also speaks to a larger group of people turning out to see the film than normal. Demographic breakdowns showed the film, unsurprisingly, resonating with Asian audiences, marked by Asians representing about 38% of the film’s audience (just under Caucasians with 41%), which the trades were quick to point out as the largest percentage of Asians for a film’s opening weekend in recent memory, with only last year’s The Foreigner at 18%, Warcraft‘s 11%, and Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation‘s 14% even coming close. It also doesn’t hurt that Crazy Rich Asians, despite lavish costumes, ornate production design, and gorgeous locations, was made for merely $30 million. With a much more fiscally responsible budget than most studio pictures (despite a $30 million budget, Crazy Rich Asians looks as though it was made more at least double that) and such as strong an opening as $34 million, the film is bound for a handsome return on investment for Warner Bros. As mentioned above, Hollywood only cares about what can make them money and thanks to not only a strong opening gross but also the percentages to show that the Asian audience actually showed up and contributed to said opening, Hollywood will be more likely to realize that there is money in this space and consequently bring more Asian talent to the forefront of studio filmmaking, a win for diversity overall.

Crazy Rich Asians is also a win on the basis of the fact that it took the number one spot at the weekend box office, which segues beautifully into a discussion of our second place film, The Meg. After debuting to a surprisingly strong $45 million last weekend and exceeding every industry expectation, the Meg saw a surprising drop. With such a strong debut as well as a “B+” Cinemascore, which seemed to indicate a surprising level of enjoyment of film, it seemed like the film would hold well going into its second weekend. I’d made the observation in my predictions that “shark-themed” movies have a tendency to show amazing hold’s from weekend to weekend, the most recent example being 47 Meters Down which managed drops under 40% for its first five weekends. Taking all this into account, as well The Meg‘s end of summer release strategy, the film seemed poised to hold very well, and yet it saw a drop of 53.4% for a gross of $21 million. Now, this isn’t a terrible drop, in fact, it is actually a pretty standard drop for blockbuster films as they tend to be front-loaded. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that The Meg would hold slightly better. The reviews for the film were indeed mixed, so the word-of-mouth likely was not incredibly strong. Combined with the surprise high performance of Crazy Rich Asians, The Meg likely had little chance of doing much better. That said, a drop between 50-60% is completely healthy for this kind of movie, and it did outperform most industry projections that it would fall even more and not be able to broach $20 million in its second weekend. Warner Bros. also has much to smile about as the film is also performing very well overseas, particularly in China. The Meg is a Chinese-American co-production and as a result, boasts an international cast led not only by Jason Statham but also China’s Li BingBing which boosts the film’s Asian appeal. While Crazy Rich Asians is certainly diluting that specific appeal stateside, it has yet to open in China, allowing The Meg to continue to make good money there. With both the number one and two spots in this weekend’s top ten, Warner Bros. is ruling the box office all over the world.

In third place this weekend, we find both our first new release and our first disappointment for the weekend. Yes, the latest outing from Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, Mile 22, looked like it could be a strong performer to close out the summer. Yet, despite a snazzily edited trailer and a bankable star in the lead, the film ended up hobbling by with a $13.6 million opening. Originally, the film was predicted to open in the $14-$19 million range but as the weekend went on, a $5 million Friday gross resulted in the projects being lowered to just around $14 million. Due to a large drop on Sunday, the film couldn’t even pass that threshold and wound up with a rather disappointing debut. This comes after a string of box office flops for the Walhberg-Berg partnership, which began in full force after the release of Lone Survivor which opened strong with $37 million and legged it out to a $154 million gross on a $40 million budget, garnering critical praise and two Oscar nominations along the way. Their next two collaborations, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, garnered arguably stronger acclaim (Patriots Day even being listed by the National Board of Review as one of the best films of 2016) but each failed to recoup their respective budgets. Mile 22 marks the first collaboration between the director and actor to be mostly panned by critics which undoubtedly hampered any potential word-of-mouth buzz that could have pushed the film into a stronger opening weekend. Combined with the fact that this creative partnership between Wahlberg-Berg is clearly running out of steam, a bad opening for Mile 22 seems almost inevitable in retrospect.

All that said, it is worth keeping an eye on Mile 22 going forward. STX Entertainment clearly has a lot invested in this film as it was announced before the actual release that the studio was in the process of developing a film franchise, of which Mile 22 was to be a first installment (STX’s Virtual Reality division, STXsurreal, has also been working a short-form drama series, to be released later this year, that will tie into the film). Films from STX also have a tendency to have a lot more going on beneath the surface than one might expect. Thanks to a multitude of Chinese and American investors, as well as the selling of foreign distribution rights early on, STX frequently is able to engineer film financing deals that result in them having little to no exposure on the films they release, at best only ever being truly on the hook for the film’s advertising budget. Their most recent release prior to Mile 22 was Adrift, which was co-financed in such a fashion that STX only saw 8% exposure on the film’s $35 million budget. Combined with the $25 million spent on P&A, the film looks to have nearly broken even despite only managing to gross $31 million during its theatrical run and will likely officially break even as well as turn a profit via its release in the ancillary market (streaming, on-demand, and DVD rentals and purchases). While this isn’t the greatest long-term financial strategy for a film studio, it has the potential to yield strong results when used effectively. This past January, STX released Den of Thieves, which despite over-performing in its opening weekend, saw a total domestic gross of only $44 million on a $30 million budget. At first glance, this looks like a financial failure given that, generally, only half of a film’s gross goes back to the studio (the other going to the theaters). However, STX announced that they had green-lit a sequel mere months after the film’s release. Further digging showed that STX had smartly sold off the foreign distribution rights to Den of Thieves and recouped about 60% the film’s budget through said sales. Combined with tax-benefits from shooting on location, STX was able to recover a full 70% of the $30 million budget, resulting in a net budget for the film of $9 million. Suddenly, a $44 million domestic gross (nearly 5x the film’s net budget) looks astounding and green-lighting a sequel becomes a no-brainer. Given STX’s track record with film financing deals, it is highly likely that they did something to lower Mile 22‘s net budget, so perhaps the film’s franchise potential is still alive. Keep an eye on how the film holds week to week and whether or not the proposed sequel is kept on the release schedule.

On that note, I want to take the time to recognize just how strong this weekend was in terms of Asian representation. Crazy Rich Asians took the number one spot and overperformed, The Meg (a half-Chinese production) managed a solid second weekend, and posted $300 million worldwide, and even though Mile 22 didn’t have a good showing, reviews praised the performanceof Indonesian actor Iko Uwais as the highlight of the film. The fact is that this weekend saw the top three films at the box office feature Asian actors in not just prominent, but actual lead roles where they were front and center in the story. The Meg and Crazy Rich Asians also both featured Asian talent behind the camera with The Meg‘s Chinese co-financing and director John M. Chu helming Crazy Rich Asians. This is the first time in recent memory that we’ve seen this kind of diversity at the box office, and bodes well for continued growth in representation going forward.

In fourth place, we find Mission Impossible-Fallout sporting a 45.7% hold and a $10.5 million gross. This continues Fallout‘s impressive performance domestically as it has not had a drop of more than 46% for every weekend its been in release, and looks to be passing the $200 million mark within the next two weeks, making it the second highest grossing film in the franchise, domestically. Internationally, the film has grossed over $320 million for a worldwide gross of $501 million. Expect Fallout to hit the $600 million mark worldwide pretty soon (as is typical for Mission Impossible movies) and from there we’ll see just how high it goes.

In fifth place, we find this weekend’s final new release Alpha, which is a bit of a mixed bag. On the positive end, Alpha overperformed. Despite a relative lack of advertising and dismal predictions going into the weekend, Alpha ended up grossing $10.5 million. This could be owed the advertising that Sony did put out being directed at families. While the earliest trailer for the film put more of an emphasis on the adventure aspects, painting a picture of a brutal survival film against an Ice Age backdrop, as the film’s release date got closer the advertising notably shifted to focus on the relationship between the main character (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) and the wolf he befriends (the taglines for posters cutely reading “Man’s First Best Friend). This was likely a play to capitalize on the final weekend of summer when children and families would still be available, and with a boost from surprisingly strong reviews, the film grossed $4 million more than expected. On the negative end, this doesn’t look like it will help Alpha in the long run as its opening weekend gross doesn’t pair well with a budget of $51 million. Despite being a critical darling since his breakthrough with The Road and Let Me In, Kodi Smit-McPhee is not an actor who carries a lot of clout at the box office, and with international numbers looking dismal, the film will need to have immaculate holds from weekend to weekend in order to even have a hope of recouping its budget. Let this be a lesson in marketing to Sony.

Disney’s Christopher Robin found itself in sixth place this weekend, grossing $8.8 million. With its domestic gross now totaling to $66 million (worldwide gross at $89 million), it is looking less and less likely that the film will cross the century mark domestically, an important box office milestone for any film as well as what would have been a definite win for the picture, indicating a strong potential performance in the ancillary market. There was some good news as Christopher Robin only dropped about 31.6% from last weekend, a very strong hold which I believe resulted from the same end of summer boost that Alpha got. With many children beginning school either today or next week, parents likely were looking for one last fun film for the whole family to see this past weekend, and with Disney’s brand recognition, Christopher Robin was likely an obvious choice.

BlacKKKlansman saw a surprisingly strong hold of 35% which landed it in seventh place with a gross of $7 million, a feather in its cap for the coming awards season as it indicates that people are clearly taking well to this newest Spike Lee joint. Slender Man also saw a surprisingly lower hold than expected. Given the “D-” Cinemascore and poor reviews, one would have expected a large drop of at least 65% if not in the 70%‘s, yet the film held well with a pretty average 56.3% drop. Now, for a film with the budget of Slender Man (reportedly to $10-$28 million), a drop in the 50%‘s is not the best, but it’s worth noting that film did hold much better than expected.

To my surprise, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation actually stayed in the top ten. I had predicted the film to fall out of the top ten after last weekend given its number nine position at the box office and the fact that there were three new films being released. Yet, just as Christopher Robin and Alpha saw boosted business thanks to the “family entertainment” angle in their marketing, Hotel Transylvania saw the lowest drop in the top ten with 29.5% and a gross of $3.6 million, thus retaining the number nine spot. The film is up to $426 million worldwide, less than $50 million behind the second installment in the franchise. While it is not likely to overtake the Hotel Transylvania 2 and become the highest grossing in the franchise, the film has done spectacularly well and arguably won the summer. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, on the other hand, looks as though it will not be besting its predecessor either, but can hold its head high as it spent its last weekend in the top ten having reached a worldwide gross of $319 million on a budget of $75 million.

There was little to talk about in the specialty market this weekend. Three new films opened up, The Wife, Juliet, Naked, and We the Animals. The Wife saw the biggest per-theater average of the entire weekend, $27,071, a solid start for an Oscar campaign for Glenn Close, but otherwise, none of the other films made much of a splash. Even mega-indie performer Eighth Grade saw a drop to number eighteen this weekend as it clears the way for Oscar season to begin in full swing at the end of the month with the beginning of the Venice Film Festival.

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