Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Feb 22-Feb 24): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates
- How to Train Your Dragon 3 / $30,046,000 / -45.4% / Weekend 2 / Universal
- Tyler Perry’s A Medea Family Funeral / $27,050,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate
- Alita: Battle Angel / $7,000,000 / -43.3% / Weekend 3 / Fox
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part / $6,615,000 / -31.7% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
- Green Book / $4,711,000 / +121.4% / Weekend 16 / Universal
- Fighting With My Family / $4,691,284 / -40% / Weekend 3 / MGM
- Isn’t it Romantic / $4,645,000 / -34.8% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros. (New Line)
- Greta / $4,585,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Focus Features
- What Men Want / $2,700,000 / -48.6% / Weekend 4 / Paramount
- Happy Death Day 2U / $2,516,000 / -48.5% / Weekend 3 / Universal
11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse / $2,100,000 / +137.5% / Weekend 12 / Sony (Columbia)
13. A Star is Born / $1,885,000 / +208.9% / Weekend 22 / Warner Bros.
14. Apollo 11 / $1,650,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Neon
17. Bohemian Rhapsody / $975,000 / +56.1% / Weekend 18 / Fox
19. The Favourite / $825,000 / +48.1% / Weekend 15 / Fox Searchlight
31. Climax / $121,655 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / A24 ; (Per-Theater-Average: $24,331 in 5 thaters)
Now, this was an exciting weekend! Well, maybe it was exciting; assuming you aren’t a How to Train Your Dragon fan, in which case, this weekend was nerve-racking. However, if you love the business side of movies, then you probably found this weekend extremely exciting thanks to the tight race that both How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and A Medea Family Funeral found themselves in. How to Train Your Dragon 3 would eventually pull ahead as predicted, but no one can deny the strength of Medea‘s final bow in terms of audience pull. Outside of those two, most titles this weekend ended up holding much better than I anticipated while several Oscar winners, particularly (and predictably) Green Book, did indeed see post-Oscar win bumps, even in some cases with foreign markets. The only real flop of the weekend was Greta which failed to find much of an audience, most likely thanks to poor marketing.
In first and second place, we find How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and A Medea Family Funeral, respectively taking in $30 million and $27 million. Overall, these are pretty good grosses for both of these movies. With its $30 million gross, How to Train Your Dragon 3 saw a drop of 45%, which is pretty on par for what was expected this weekend and, more importantly, a better hold than it that of How to Train Your Dragon 2. As noted in my last post, while How to Train Your Dragon 2 was by no means a financial failure of any kind, it is quite notable that, despite its level of acclaim from both critics and audiences, it underperformed against the original domestic gross of the first film by $40 million. How to Train Your Dragon 2 dropped 50% in its second weekend, so it was imperative that How to Train Your Dragon 3 be able to hold better (and certainly not have a worse fall) to show strength, which it did; as a result, its domestic gross now stands at $97.6 million. The film also continues to see great overseas success, becoming the number one movie a the worldwide box office, with $375.3 million, as a result.
Now, all that said, I was actually quite surprised to see How to Train Your Dragon end up with a gross of $30 million as I thought it would have a stronger showing. My original predictions saw it gross dropping just about 35% to a gross of $35 million, which would have put it over $100 million domestically, thereby making it the third film this year to do so. Instead, A Medea Family Funeral seems to have dented How to Train Your Dragon 3‘s showing this weekend thanks to its own surprise might. Coming in second place, A Medea Family Funeral performed significantly well, debuting to the tune of $27 million which is very much on the higher end of expectations. Most pundits will have you believe that this is an over performance, but the earliest predictions had pegged the film to fall somewhere within this range from the start. What makes this opening so surprising is the fact that A Medea Family Funeral posed such a strong challenge to How to Train Your Dragon, even besting the latter in its Friday gross with $9.2 million to $6.4 million. How to Train Your Dragon would beat out Family Funeral in its daily grosses over the next two days, however.
In spite of this, Family Funeral‘s opening is still mighty impressive given that even though $27 million was never out of the range of possibility, I (and many others) expected the film to open more so around $22-$25 million, which would be in line with Tyler Perry’s last two Medea offerings, Boo! A Medea Halloween and Boo 2!, which opened to $25 million and $21 million, respectively. However, there was no denying the potency of the fact that A Medea Family Funeral has been billed at Tyler Perry’s final performance as the iconic character. As mentioned in the last post, Tyler Perry has built an extremely successful career around making films that have a very distinct appeal toward older black audiences, typically skewing female. One might be tempted to think that this would make for a pretty niche film, but Perry’s box office track record begs to differ. Particularly with regard to his Medea films, Perry’s movies always have opened generally well and managed to leg out surprisingly well for a strong profit. The Medea movies, with their comedic tone and family/community-oriented nature, thereby broadening the appeal, have made use of Perry’s formula with the best results, and Family Funeral is proving to be a great send off for the character in this regard.
Where Medea‘s and How to Train Your Dragon intersect is the question of how Family Funeral managed to come within such close range of How to Train Your Dragon 3. I ask this because, given the circumstances, How to Train Your Dragon 3 and A Medea Family Funeral were primed to be like ships passing in the night. The How to Train Your Dragon franchise has always had a strong appeal across all age demographics while Medea movies have generally tended to skew older; not to mention that this third installment of the fantasy-adventure franchise was reported to skew much more white in terms of its racial breakdown while Family Funeral‘s breakdown showed its audience to be 59% African-American while none of the other race demos sported percentages more than 16%. Now, it is possible that How to Train Your Dragon 3 is potentially a bit more front-loaded than expected (not by much, but still). It is a blockbuster, and its marketing as the conclusion of the series does present it as an event film so the possibility exists. There is one area, however, that I didn’t consider in terms of cross over appeal, and that is women. Both series have it in common that each of them tends to appeal to women more so than men. The gap between women and men with regard to this appeal is not as pronounced with How to Train Your Dragon, but it is still there. Medea, on the other hand, skews heavily female with Family Funeral alone have 67% of its audience this weekend made up of women, 59% of that audience being women over the age of 25. It’s likely that this is the part of How to Train Your Dragon‘s audience that was pulled away this weekend, understandably so given the event nature of Medea‘s final bow on film. Still, both movies had pretty health grosses this weekend and I suspected will continue to have such.
Third and fourth place went to Alita: Battle Angel and The Lego Movie 2 with $7 million and $6.6 million, respectively. This was surprising to see as both films held much better than I had anticipated, Alita only dropping 43.3% and The Lego Movie 2 holding on by 31.7%. The Lego Movie 2, while still flopping, is soon to cross $100 million domestic (always a good sign) as it has hauled in $91.6 million as of now. Alita, on the other hand, still is unlikely to make it to the century mark domestically since it is only at $72.2 million. It’s overseas numbers at still strong, being the number two movie internationally and currently the third highest grossing film of 2019 worldwide (under China’s The Wandering Earth in first place and How to Train Your Dragon 3 in second), having grossed $350 million. However, without enough support from the States, its chances of breaking even are still slim. Captain Marvel is debuting next weekend worldwide, so after that, Alita will be treading water.
A big surprise this weekend came in the form of Green Book in fifth place! Of course, it was obvious that Green Book would get some kind of bump following its Best Picture win, but my expectation was more around $3 million. Instead, Green Book ended up bouncing all the way up to a $4.7 million dollar gross this weekend in fifth place, the highest its ever gotten in the top ten. This pushes its domestic gross to $75.9 million, quite good for what was originally supposed to be a niche contender. Given this, and the fact that Green Book has now been playing in theaters for 16 weeks, it is clear that Green Book is actually a pretty popular crowdpleaser, which makes its Best Picture win a bit more understandable. Unlike all other Oscar categories, Best Picture is voted on via a preferential ballot which favors a film that is generally liked by everyone as opposed to a film that is passionately liked by a specific set of people who just happen to be the majority. With as broad an appeal as Green Book clearly has, the win was inevitable.
The real Green Book surprise this weekend, however, was actually the fact that film debuted in China and, shockingly, did quite well! I say shockingly because, generally speaking, films starring black actors have never done particularly well in China. There obviously exceptions like that of Black Panther, but even in that case the film’s distributor (Disney) had a great relationship with the Chinese government and was able to work in tandem with it to hype up the film for Chinese moviegoers (for example, Chadwick Boseman was awarded “Foreign Actor of the Year” by the Chinese film commission the weekend prior to Black Panther‘s Chinese release). However, this isn’t frequently the case, a primary example being how the Chinese film commission had John Boyega removed from posters when advertising Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Chinese moviegoers (both Force Awakens and Last Jedi also struggled in the Chinese film market). As a result, seeing Green Book perform well there this weekend is a very pleasant surprise for a very pleasant movie.
The film reportedly launched with $17.1 million, thereby (hilariously) already making it the second highest grossing Best Picture winner ever in China behind Titanic, and scored an 8.9 (out of ten, I believe) on the Douban (basically, Chinese Rotten Tomatoes). Green Book was able to secure a Chinese release thanks to the relationship between Amblin Partners (who own Participant Media, the company that produced the film) and Alibaba Pictures, a Chinese film company which owns a minority stake in Amblin. Alibaba has been coming up in the news lately as the distributor for several popular US and UK films in China and this opening weekend is certainly a feather in the distributor’s cap. The distributor reportedly played up not only the Best Picture win but also the emotional edge of the film and saw great success with Chinese audiences, this Chinese opening boosting Green Book‘s worldwide haul to $188 million. I’m curious to see if Alibaba can keep up this momentum, but if not, se la vie, Green Book is already a winner in multiple other categories.
As for the rest of the top ten, Fighting with My Family and Isn’t it Romantic took sixth and seventh place with respective holds of 40% and 34.8%. Fighting with My Family doesn’t look to be paying off its investment any time soon, but Isn’t it Romantic may just squeeze out a small profit thanks to its international distribution rights having been sold to Netflix, with money from that sale going back into the budget of the film and lowering the net budget (The romantic romp has grossed $40.2 million domestically). Greta, however, looks to have been the poster child for a bad investment given its sour opening of $4.5 million. This isn’t great given that Focus Features reportedly bought the rights to the film for somewhere between $4-$6 million, which puts the break-even point for the distributor between $8-$12 million. With an opening like this, however, combined with a very unenthused reaction to the film (I found myself talking about it in casual conversation this weekend and the person whom I was speaking with had seen it and told me that they hated it, so…good sign…), Greta looks very unlikely to pay for itself.
Now, I have to bring this up because what I found via my research on the film was hilarious. From what I know about this stalker-psychological-thriller starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz, I think that this film was definitely marketed improperly. Reading on Deadline about Greta‘s performance, I found out that Focus (here’s the hilarious part) was apparently trying to aim for Bravo’s Real Housewives crowd given that they felt that the film’s brand of psychotic behavior and the fact that there is a single scene in the movie where Isabelle Huppert flips over a table in a restaurant would appeal greatly to that specific audience. Focus even when as far as to stage a “table-flip” in public involving two of the “Housewives” from the franchise in order to create a viral clip for youtube as promotional material (yes, you did just read that sentence correctly). Admittedly, that kind of out-of-the-box thinking is pretty brilliant at first glance. However, the fact that this kind of marketing ploy was built around just a single clip from the film shows just how flawed it was from the start as it gives a false impression to moviegoers of the kind of film they are about to watch. In Kate Erbland’s review of the film for Indiewire (see it here), she mentions how she feels that the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival was mishandled, having it be presented in the Special Presentations section alongside potential Oscar contenders instead of the Midnight Madness section given its camp, B-movie kind of appeal. Focus might have been wise to take this into consideration instead of trying to market the film at once as both a high brow horror film in theatrical trailers and a “guilty pleasure” on Bravo. Focus clearly had no idea what to do with Greta when they made this purchase and now they are paying for it.
What Men Want and Happy Death Day 2U each rounded out the top ten with drops of 48% in ninth and tenth place, respectively. Meanwhile, the specialty market was primarily taken up by Oscar winners basking in their post-win glow. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swung back into wide release, adding 1,661 theaters for a +137.5% jump to a gross of $2.1 million in eleventh place, making it the best post-Oscar performer after Green Book which speaks to its resonance with audiences. Speaking of audience resonance, if Lady Gaga has not rocketed to the top of every casting shortlist in Hollywood by now, clearly all studios are crazy. The strength of her appeal and box office pull was on full display this weekend as despite the fact that Bohemian Rhapsody also upped its theater count and had won the most Oscars of the night last weekend (including a more prestigious win for Best Actor), A Star is Born, despite only winning one Oscar for Best Original Song, upped its theater count by 490 and jump up +208.9% to a gross of $1.8 million in 13th place while Bohemian Rhapsody only jumped up +56.1% to a gross of $975,000 in 17th place. Warner Bros. better be working overtime to keep a talent like Gaga in house. Other winners, The Favourite and Free Solo, also expanded but wtih not nearly as strong results.
On the actual specialty circuit, Neon, which has been having some pretty great success with documentaries as of late, released the eponymously titled Apollo 11 documentary to solid success in 14th place with a $13k per-theater-average in a whopping 120 theaters (that’s very strong). However, the real per-theater-average king of the weekend was that of Gaspar Noé’s Climax, starring Kingsman-breakout star Sofia Boutella, which had a respectable $24k per-theater-average in five theaters. Of course, once again a distributor has failed to see the value of going for fewer theaters in limited release; if Climax had debuted in four theaters, it would have had an even better per-theater-average of $30k. I expected better from you, A24.
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, and Box Office Pro)