BOX OFFICE RUNDOWN (Aug 24-Aug 26) Is ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ This Year’s ‘The Greatest Showman’?? This Weekend’s Box Office Numbers Make it Seem So!!!/STX Continues to Not Recognize Their Potential…

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 / $25,010,000 / -5.7% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
  2. The Meg / $13,030,000 / -38.4% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
  3. The Happytime Murders / $10,020,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / STX Entertainment
  4. Mission Impossible-Fallout / $8,000,000 / -25.7% / Weekend 5 / Paramount
  5. Christopher Robin / $6,340,000 / -28.5% / Weekend 4 / Disney
  6. Mile 22 / $6,030,000 / -56% / Weekend 2 / STX Entertainment
  7. Alpha / $5,600,000 / -45.9% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Studio 8)
  8. BlacKKKlansman / $5,345,000 / -27.6% / Weekend 3 / Focus Features
  9. A.X.L. / $2,938,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Global Road
  10. Slender Man / $2,785,000 / -42% / Weekend 3 / Sony (Screen Gems)

Notable Outsiders:

14. Ant-Man and the Wasp / $1,804,000 / -31.8% / Weekend 8 / Disney

16. Papillon / $1,150,750 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Bleecker Street

21. Searching / $360,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Screen Gems)

36. The Bookshop / $48,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Greenwich

If there was any doubt last weekend on whether Crazy Rich Asians was a hit, it would have, admittedly, been understandable. The film opened strongly last weekend but was within the range of many predictions. As a result, all eyes were on it this weekend to see just how well it would hold and if it was really connecting with audiences in the way the industry trades were suggesting. That said, no one could have possibly expected the film to connect this well. With a drop under 10% from last weekend to this weekend, Crazy Rich Asians can definitely call itself a bona fide hit; a big win for the film, all involved, Warner Bros., and combined with the very strong performance of Searching in limited release, a real win for Asian representation.

So what exactly were the numbers for Crazy Rich Asians? Going into the weekend, I predicted the film would drop somewhere around 35%, a conservative estimate relative most of the trades, but one that I felt was apt given my comparison of the film to Girls Trip. A drop of only 35% would have been spectacular for the film on its own. Girls Trip managed a similar opening to Crazy Rich Asians and only fell about 31% in its second weekend at the box office, indicating great word of mouth, before going on gross $115 million domestically and becoming the first comedy of 2017 to pass $100 million stateside. For Crazy Rich Asians to only drop around 35% would have signaled a similar amount of audience interest and potential box office down the line. Other industry pundits were bolder in their predictions, many believing that Crazy Rich Asians would hold by at least 30%, if not lower. On such prediction came from Box Office Mojo (always a little bold with their predictions, and with good reason) which saw the film falling closer to 23-25% thus putting it in league with 2011’s The Help, which saw a nearly identical opening weekend gross of $26 million and dropped only 23% in its second weekend before going on to gross nearly $170 million total at the domestic box office. However, The Help was such a radically different film from Crazy Rich Asians-at least in flavor-that I felt that this comparison might have been a bit of a reach.

Fast-forward to this weekend where I am having to bite my tongue. As it turns out, Crazy Rich Asians is looking to The Help for its best possible comparison at the moment; both being comedic films, each released in mid-ish August, and with each being based on a popular novel. However, Crazy Rich Asians is officially in a class of its own, having dropped only a mind-blogging 5.7% from last weekend!!!!!!!! This resulted in a weekend gross of about $25 million (only $1 million less than its opening weekend!!!!!!!) and the film taking the top spot at the box office for the second weekend in a row!!!! 5.7% represents one of the smallest 2nd weekend drops for a film of all time. Now, this ranking is slightly skewed due to the fact that many of the 2nd weekend drops featured on said list are actually not drops at all, instead being jumps showing films actually increasing their grosses in their second weekend, the largest 2nd weekend jump of all time being 2017’s The Greatest Showman with 76% increase in its second weekend (courtesy of both its stellar word-of-mouth as well as its proximity to the Christmas Holiday). Despite this, Crazy Rich Asians can now boast that it is one of only thirty films in history to have dropped less than 10% in its second weekend; and when discounting the nineteen films that saw increases in their 2nd weekend grosses, Crazy Rich Asians becomes the film with the seventh smallest second weekend drop of all time!!!

So how did it happen? According to Deadline, a big reason for the film’s success is its “broadening” appeal. Having seen the film myself, I can attest to the broadness of its appeal given its clever reliance on the romantic comedy formula. Everyone loves a good, old-fashioned romantic comedy that is well made and earnestly acted, and Crazy Rich Asians not only hits every beat of that formula precisely but does so with gusto while also adding a little bit spice to it. We’ve seen this film a thousand times before, but to see it now with an all-Asian principal cast (doing a good job nonetheless), in Singapore (a location that I’d be willing to bet that may people have never visited before), and featuring some culturally specific story touches that we would not expect, Crazy Rich Asians feels incredibly fresh and resonates with audiences in a way that other romantic comedies wouldn’t. An example of this resonance can be seen in the reports that not only are larger-than-usual amounts of Asians are going to see the film, but also that fact that older Asians are making up a surprising amount of that audience. It is said that the average person only goes to the movies once a month, if even that much. As a result, a film has to appeal to even the most casual of moviegoers in order to make a lot of money, and with older audiences flocking to the theaters, clearly Crazy Rich Asians is doing just that. The film is also seeing a widened appeal across multiple demographics outside the Asian community. While percent of Asian moviegoers making up the audience has gone down from 38% last weekend to 27% this weekend (still very large compared the average <10% for most studio films), their has been growth among all the other demographics across the board, notably the Hispanic audience which went up from 10% to 13% (being Hispanic myself, I can tell you that this movie will definitely resonate with a lot of Hispanic moms who worry about their children’s dating habits). All this just speaks to the very broad appeal of the film which, when combined with strong reviews and the industry pushing it to the forefront, is resulting in a phenomenal box office performance that continues to defy expectations at every turn. With The Help as its comparison, industry trades are pegging the film’s domestic gross to top off around $150 million-which would be incredible all on its own given the film’s mere $30 million budget-but if it continues to do even half as well as it did this weekend, Crazy Rich Asians could potentially climb even higher. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Warner Bros. good fortune doesn’t stop with Crazy Rich Asians as its other majorly Asian production, The Meg, is also doing bafo business, dropping only 38% this past weekend and passing the $400 million mark in terms of its worldwide gross. With a gross of $13 million, The Meg took the second place spot at the weekend box office for the second weekend in a row, swimming past the century mark for a $105 million gross domestically, a major benchmark for the success of the film. Based on my own experience tracking box office and reading the trades, my rough estimate of a film’s financial success depends on whether or not a film can gross at least 3x its budget. This isn’t an end-all-be-all measurement as numerous factors go into a film’s success and, for the most part, Hollywood accounting makes it virtually impossible to know exactly how much a movie will make in profits. However, sequels to films (the ultimate indicator a film’s financial success) are typically green-lit when the film’s gross reaches 3x times its budget. By that estimate The Meg has already reached profitability, a major win for Warner Bros. as this comes during the second weekend in which they have been able to hold on to the top two spots at the box office, a pattern which doesn’t look to change for the next two weeks as none of the new releases next weekend look capable of challenging The Meg or Crazy Rich Asians and the very next weekend sees the release of The Nun (also from Warner Bros.) which will likely kill any potential competition thanks to the strength of the The Conjuring franchise’s branding power. Much of The Meg‘s success also comes from its overseas strength, particularly in China which can be owed to the film’s co-financing coming from there was well as the prominence of its Asian cast members in principal roles, and should those number hold, expect the film to potentially reach $500 million worldwide by the end of its theatrical run.

We, once again, find STX Entertainment in third place this weekend and just like last weekend, its with a clunker. With bad reviews and a relative lack of strong marketing, it seemed inevitable that The Happytime Murders would underperform relative to its $12-$13 million projections, but few were expecting it to sink as low as $10 million. This is quite a shame for Melissa McCarthy as she has been on a bit of a down turn as of late. After the commercial underperformance of Life of the Party back in May (opening to only $17 million), The Happytime Murders represents McCarthy’s lowest opening gross at the box office for her entire career, excluding films that opened in limited release. Now, as per usual with STX, the film was shrewdly financed. Thanks to their usual practice of using foreign pre-sales to cover the budget, which is reported to be between $40-$47 million, Deadline reports that their exposure is somewhere in the upper $30 million range, mostly covering publicity and advertising. It is on that note, however, that we have to take a slight detour for a deeper dive into the film’s situation.

Based on the estimates that STX is on the hook for a little under $40 million, an opening in the mid-ish teens actually would have been okay for the film. While certainly not great, the film could have potentially legged it out and covered a solid amount of STX’s exposure on it through its theatrical release, after which it could have easily broken even once it was released in the ancillary market (streaming, VOD, rentals, etc…), perhaps even making a profit if it were to become a cult hit of which it certainly has the makings of. However, it is very hard to get audiences to watch a film when the film isn’t advertised, which begs the question of why the film was not promoted as heavily as it could have been. While I’d mentioned that Melissa McCarthy has been on a bit of a downturn in terms of her fan appeal, she still is a name talent and capable of drawing in an audience. Even Life of the Party, which until now was her lowest opening for a film in which was the star, managed a opening gross of $17 million, which would have been a fantastic opening for The Happytime Murders and, especially given the way that STX can engineer their financing deals, would have guaranteed a profit once the film hit the ancillary market (if not in theaters). So why not showcase McCarthy with a greater amount of advertising? As it turns out, McCarthy was not available, kept from shooting any extra promotional material for the film due to prior shooting commitments for her upcoming film Superintelligence and resulting in STX being forced to use the puppets from the movie to craft some (admittedly quite funny) promotional material that clearly could not bring in audiences.

It is intriguing to see this story in tandem with other recent developments as it really gives you a larger idea of the craft of, not only filmmaking, but also film distribution as a whole. This past week saw the major industry news that Emma Watson had signed on to play the role of Meg March in the upcoming 2019 adaptation of Little Women from director Greta Gerwig (her follow-up to last year’s Lady Bird for which she was Oscar-nominated for Best Director). In doing so, Watson is stepping in for Emma Stone, who was attached to the role but had to drop out due to obligations to promote her newest film-The Favourite from director Yorgos Lanthimos and Fox Searchlight Pictures-as the film makes the rounds on the festival circuit and preps for awards season. This speaks to not just the intensity, but also the importance of promotion in regard to the success of a film. It is completely understandable that McCarthy would not be able to take time off of the shooting of her current film to do more promotional work, but given the financial circumstances surrounding both The Happytime Murders and McCarthy’s box office appeal, it seems that potentially delaying the release of the film so that STX could get McCarthy to do some promotional work (be it commercials or even a press junket featuring her and her puppet co-stars) would have been in STX’s best financial interests; why they would not think so is beyond me. I noted last week that STX’s ability to engineer such incredible financing deals-in which they come away with little to no exposure on the films budget-is superb and when used smartly, can be very effective in turning profit. However, for the most part, it seems as though STX is content to just let their films flounder and hopefully break even later down the road, which is an absolute tragedy given that no business should function like that and also given the talent that STX is currently working with.

While not all of STX Entertainment’s titles have been the most critically successful, a lot of their projects are particularly inspired with regard to the talent they are able to package both in front of and behind the camera, with the final product at least being very compelling if not downright brilliant. The same can be said of their upcoming slate of films, with the Jennifer Garner revenge film, Peppermint, the Jennifer Lopez-starer, Second Act, Thomas Vinterberg’s potential prestige drama, Kursk, and The Upside, an English-language remake of The Intouchables, the highest grossing film of all time in France (starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, and Nicole Kidman to boot), all looking quite strong (Lopez’s Second Act seems particularly compelling, recalling some of her earlier films like that of Maid in Manhattan which, to this day, is fan favorite among many). With a crop of films like this-harkening back to a time in Hollywood where the names on a marquis really meant something-and the smart financing that STX is able to put together, the young distributor should really take the time and care to market their films in the best way they possibly can. The potential for box office rewards is theirs, they need only reach out and take it.

As for the rest of the top ten, there were not major stories of note. To its credit, Mission Impossible-Fallout managed its best hold yet, a spectacular drop of only 25.7%, landing it in fourth place with a gross of $8 million, bumping its domestic gross to $193 million (inching ever closer to $200 million) and its worldwide gross past $538 million. Contrary to my predictions, Christopher Robin saw a surprisingly strong hold of 28.5% for a gross of $6.3 million in fifth place. I had originally predicted it fall in line with last weekend’s new release Alpha, which dropped according to my expectations with 45.9% for a gross of $5.6 million in seventh place. Clearly the back-to-school season is a wildcard factor when it comes to family-friendly films, but it certainly helps that Winnie the Pooh and Disney have brand recognition in their corner. Mile 22 finds itself squished between the two with a drop of 56% and a gross of $6 million in sixth place. Don’t be surprised if you hear that the sequel has been iced.

A.X.L. surprised, but not by much, debuting in ninth place with $2.9 million. To its credit, the Global Road title managed to finally push Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation out of the top ten after seven weeks. No doubt that Slender Man provided an assist with another surprisingly strong hold, dropping only 42% for a gross of $2.7 million in tenth place. Clearly, the Slender Man mythos is quite potent as this film is holding on for dear life to the top ten. Horror films are usually critic-proof, but the fact that the Slender Man has stayed in the top ten for as long as it has is nothing short of a miracle given its critical standing and complete lack of fanfare. I suspect Slender Man will be a bigger earner for Sony Screen Gems when it hits streaming. Don’t cry for Hotel Transylvania in all this, however, as that film has already managed scrounge up $460 million worldwide, just $13 million less than the franchises highest earner, Hotel Transylvania 2 with $473 million, and a full $118 million more that the original Hotel Transylvania. Having recently re-upped their contract with franchise director Genndy Tartakovsky, Sony’s executives are likely grinning ear to ear.

Before we look at the specialty market, I’ve got some exciting news for Marvel fans: Ant-Man and the Wasp was officially broken $500 million at the box office!!! Despite not really doing much more business in the states and looking to top off at about $213 million, the MCU’s most recent flick surged in its Chinese release, earning $68 million and out grossing Black Panther‘s Chinese opening weekend. This is good reprieve for the picture as it had been struggling for quite a while after tripping right out of the gate and underwhelming in its opening weekend. Despite being critically praised, and trading off of the momentum of Infinity War, the Ant-Man sequel as been struggling to actually break even, a point I would roughly estimate around $500 million given its higher end budget estimates to be around $190 million. With the boost from China, the film has reached approximately $544 million, officially entering into a safe zone. With films premiering in China tending to be pretty front-loaded due to the sheer density of their film market as well as the fact the Ant-Man and the Wasp only has a stop in Japan left on its worldwide roll out, I forsee the film ending its domestic run with around $650 million at best. This will turn a nice little profit for Disney so the team behind the film should give themselves a pat on the back. They should also be proud that the film has now official exceeded the worldwide gross of its predecessor, which ended its run with $519 million, as that is always a major benchmark for any sequel. However, Ant-Man and Wasp is still very much an underperformer for Marvel. Should it end its domestic run with $650 million, the film will be only the fourth highest grossing marvel solo sequel, $64 million behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and putting the film in league with Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2, two of the most critically disliked installments of the Disney Marvel franchise. In the grand scheme of the MCU, the film will, once again with a gross of $650 million, will land behind Doctor Strange, taking 13th place overall and being one of the only Marvel sequels to not be in the top ten highest grossers for the franchise, a dubious distinction shared with the aforementioned Dark World and Iron Man 2. Marvel really needs to step back and examine why Ant-Man and Wasp was such a relative underperformer, but given the recent announcement that the production of Guardians of the Galaxy 3 has been put on hold in the aftermath of the James Gunn Twitter Scandal, it might behoove both Marvel and Disney to take a break after Avengers 4, at least to give the audience a breather.

Finally, the specialty market saw a few new releases. But while Bleecker Street’s Papillon remake failed to generate excitement, the real story was Searching, the John Cho-fronted cyber thriller which debuted on the heels of Crazy Rich Asians success at the multiplex last weekend. Many wondered if Searching would make a strong showing given the attention that Asian talent is getting at the moment and the film did not disappoint, posting a fantastic $40,000 per-theater-average. Normally, this per-theater average is considered quite strong for limited release in 4 to 5 theaters, so to see that average in 9 theaters, the number of theaters that Searching debuted in, makes it even more exceptional. This limited release per-theater average is comparable to Sorry to Bother You, which debuted earlier this summer to much fanfare and a strikingly strong per-theater-average of $45,000 in 16 theaters making Searching‘s debut even more impressive. Searching is set to go wide next weekend in about 1,100 theaters, with some pundits suggesting that it could possibly dethrone Crazy Rich Asians and take the number one spot. I personally doubt that, but given the buzz on the film and hype surround the conversation on Asian representation in cinema, I actually believe that Searching could potentially compete with The Meg for second place. We’ll see how it all goes down next weekend.

One thought on “BOX OFFICE RUNDOWN (Aug 24-Aug 26) Is ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ This Year’s ‘The Greatest Showman’?? This Weekend’s Box Office Numbers Make it Seem So!!!/STX Continues to Not Recognize Their Potential…

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