Box Office Rundown (Apr 12-Apr 14)!! Shazam Continues to Struggle as a Blockbuster!! Little Opens BIG while Hellboy Gets Buried!! After Opens Big Outside the US while Missing Link Fails to Impress!! And Could Molly Shannon be Gunning for an Oscar???

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Apr 12-Apr 14): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates

  1. Shazam! / $25,140,000 / -53% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
  2. Little / $15,499,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
  3. Hellboy / $12,015,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate
  4. Pet Sematary / $10,000,000 / -59.2% / Weekend 2 / Paramount
  5. Dumbo / $9,186,000 / -49.6% / Weekend 3 / Disney
  6. Captain Marvel / $8,626,000 / -30.6% / Weekend 6 / Disney
  7. Us / $6,946,000 / -49.7% / Weekend 4 / Univseral
  8. After / $6,200,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Aviron Pictures
  9. Missing Link / $5,841,434 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / United Artists Releasing (Annapurna)
  10. The Best of Enemies / $2,000,000 / -55% / Weekend 2 / STX Entertainment

Notable Outsiders:

27. Mary Magdalene / $62,436 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / IFC (Per-Theater-Average: $1,007 in 62 theaters

29. Teen Spirit / $44,361 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Bleecker Street (Per-Theater-Average: $11,090 in 4 theaters)

31. Her Smell / $39,058 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Gunpowder & Sky (Per-Theater-Average: $13,019 in 3 theaters)

33. Wild Nights with Emily / $33,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Greenwich (Per-Theater-Average: $11,000 in 3 theaters)

 

So it looks as though a large influx of mid-budget pictures made for a mid-level weekend at the box office. Yes, despite a pretty large range of options this weekend, it seems (based on the numbers) that most audiences opted for the bigger names and brands as it was those films that held the best this weekend. Unfortunately, however, this resulted in some pretty dismal openings, particularly for the would-be franchise reboot, Hellboy, and Laika’s newest offering Missing Link. The biggest question, however, remains as to whether or not Shazam! is a hit as its so-so drop this weekend continues to have the film teeter on the line between underperformer and business as usual. As for the specialty market, it was a surprise entry, not Teen Spirit as I predicted, that took the top per-theater-average this weekend (although the Elle Fanning flick still had an okay showing).

Coming in at number one was DC’s Shazam! which ended up falling 53% in its second weekend for a gross of $25.1 million. This is not terribly far off from what I had predicted with the film potentially dropping 50%. This weekend gross brings the film’s domestic haul to a total of $94.9 million and a worldwide total of about $221 million; not too shabby for the $100 million picture in just two weekends. The drop is also, while not incredible, healthy for a blockbuster as these kinds of films generally fall between 50-60% in their second weekends given the larger amount of anticipation for these kinds of films which makes them more front-loaded. Shazam!‘s drop being on the lower end of that spectrum suggest that it is well received and will have a healthy run in theaters.

Now, if my tone in their paragraph didn’t make it apparent, there is a “but” coming. As healthy as this box office performance is so far, it still isn’t fantastic. The fact remains that Shazam! did not open nearly as well as it could have, and potentially should have. A $60 million opening would’ve been a much better starting point, but instead, Shazam! only pulled in $53 million ($56 million if you count what it made from advanced screenings). This puts the film in a rather intriguing place. As is typical, the measurement of a film’s success is largely determined by how it performs in comparison to other films of similar magnitude. In that regard, Shazam!‘s biggest comparison is to that of Ant-Man from 2015. Both films opened in the $50 millions (Ant-Man opening to $57 million) and both films are notably detours for their respective franchises. They are each smaller in scale, heavier on the comedy, feature leading men known for their comedic turns, and each have a narrative that appears highly separate from the main action of their franchise’s storyline, not to mention that each of these films have been released on the heels of major, billion-dollar success from their parent studios (Age of Ultron for Ant-Man, and Aquaman for Shazam!). With that, Shazam!‘s relation to Ant-Man in terms of their performance is a key to understanding if it is performing well, and even in this area, it’s a mixed bag. Shazam! did not open as big as Ant-Man, however, it did hold better in its second weekend with its 53% drop versus Ant-Man with its 57% drop. That said, Shazam! has been (and still is) trailing Ant-Man at this same point in the release cycle by $12 millionAnt-Man also has the added benefit of having already posted $100 million domestic by this point.

With all that it mind, Shazam!, once again, is still not a failure. A key difference between it and Ant-Man is their budget, Ant-Man costing $30 million more to make, which suggests that if Shazam! can continue to emulate its MCU counterpart (which finished its domestic run with a gross of $180 million) it will see a sizable profit for Warner as Ant-Man ended up posting progressively stronger holds throughout its next seven weeks at the box office. However, Shazam! looks to have more hurdles to overcome, namely a little movie called Avengers: Endgame which is barrelling down the pipeline at just two weeks away. This is particularly concerning to Shazam!, not only given its status as a “smaller” scale film but also given that its audience has been shown to skew much younger than your average superhero film, with nearly a third of its audience being under the age of 12 according to demographic breakdowns. On one hand, that is a pulse as that audience is hard to lure into theaters given their reliance on their parents, so its a vein of revenue that Shazam! can mine quite well; and by the looks of how some other films performed this weekend, it certainly is doing so. However, that audience is undoubtedly going to turn up for Endgame in two weeks and in droves, which means that the bottom is potentially going to fall out from under Shazam! as a result. This means that in the end, Shazam! really only has next weekend to truly make a dent at the box office and rake in as much cash as possible before Endgame sucks the air out of the room; and given that it is only performing moderately now, I doubt that it will be able to rally.

Ant-Man may have made it to $180 million domestic, but Shazam! looks to top out at $150 million at best. It’s a situation that I find really disheartening given the popularity and potency of DC when positioned effectively. Marvel may be the dominant franchise right now, but it is worth noting that by the time Ant-Man had come out, the average MCU movie usually grossed around $290 million at the domestic box office, yet the DCEU film’s up to this point (six movies in, just like with Marvel and Ant-Man), despite being marred with controversy and bad reviews, have grossed $320 million domestically on average which shows just how strong these characters and this brand can be. Warner tried to do its best with Shazam! by holding advanced screenings to engender critical support, but in doing so, they handicapped the film right out of the gate and not even a string of good holds in the coming weeks looks to be able to save it. Hopefully, the studio learns its lesson and tries to protect its properties better going forward.

In second place, we have a happier story, that of Little, which debuted to a bigger than expected opening weekend! While the opening was still within the predicted range, many pundits had pegged the Marsai Maritn feature at a $13-14 million opening as the weekend progressed. I, however, had a feeling that it would be stronger than expected given that it presented a package too good to pass up, and sure enough, Little opened to nearly $15.5 million, a good start for the $20 million budgeted picture. Little benefited from a diversity play in its marketing that not only highlighted the fact that 14-year old star and producer, Martin, is the youngest person to ever produce a movie in Hollywood history, but also that the principal talent in front of and behind the camera was all African-American women. As a result, the demographic breakdown for the movie was 43% African-American, 28% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic, and 4% Asian, with the audience also skewing more female at 65% younger at 56% under 25. There are some negative takeaways, primarily that while the film’s debut is solid, it still represents one of the lower openings for a film from Will Packer (whose production shingle produced the film for Universal), which isn’t a great takeaway in the wake of recent strong performers from Will Packer Productions like Girls Trip and Night School, and the less than stellar reviews. However, given the fact that this was Marsai Martin’s first ever producing venture and that Little didn’t feature any real big names (for example, a Will Packer Productions staple like Kevin Hart), I still believe the film is in good shape. It received a solid “B+” Cinemascore and had the ability to appeal to both younger and older viewers alike, so I predict it will hold well into next weekend before getting swallowed by Endgame (like everything else in that movies warpath) and go on to have a very lucrative future on streaming. Assuming it does hold better than expected next weekend, I will be curious to see how stars, Martin and co-star Issa Rae (whom reviewers have anointed as the film’s standout) follow up this foray into feature work.

One other feather in Little‘s cap is that it did manage to beat out its fellow newcomer, Hellboy, for second place. Finding itself shunted to third, Hellboy is, unfortunately, sitting on the opposing end of the spectrum from Little. Having been dealt a killing blow by reviewers which had the film sitting at an 11% Rotten Tomatoes score going into the weekend, we were left to wait in anticipation of finding out just how far the film would fall. Sure enough, not even curiosity and brand recognition could lure moviegoers into the theater as Hellboy missed the mark entirely with an opening of $12 million for the $50 million picture. This is pretty damn bad, especially given that Guillermo del Toro’s original Hellboy movies, which were not major successes in their own right, each opened significantly bigger when they were released ($23 million for the original, and $34 million for its sequel, The Golden Army). In fact, Guillermo del Toro’s take on the character has been on everyone’s minds this weekend, with much of the social media chatter surrounding the new film being filled with questions as to why we ever needed a reboot? Many of the reviewers noted that they felt del Toro’s films were much more imaginative and stronger from a creative standpoint. I myself was turned off by the trailer which made the film out to be a low rent version of what del Toro did, and these box office results tell me that I was not wrong to believe this. With a “C” Cinemascore weighing down its prospects, Lionsgate and producer Millenium Films should already be writing this one off as a loss. Thank goodness that star David Harbour still has Stranger Things and just signed on to the upcoming Black Widow movie.

Fourth place played host to Pet Sematary this weekend, which had a large drop as expected. To its credit, the Stephen King adaptation did best its comparisons, those being 2013’s Evil Dead reboot and 2015’s Poltergeist remake which each dropped 63% in their second weekends for single-digit grosses. Pet Sematary, on the other hand, grossed $10 million and has pushed itself to $76 million worldwide gross off of a $21 million budget (though its weekend gross could dip slightly when the actuals come in). That said, don’t expect the film to stick around much longer as more audiences are discovering its rather dour ending and steering other moviegoers away (I myself was warned that I shouldn’t see the movie this weekend because the ending is much too disturbing), not to mention the impending threat of Endgame. Rounding out the top five was Dumbo, which managed a nice 49.6% hold, but it still likely to struggle to make it to $100 million domestically, let alone break-even. Fellow Disney flick, Captain Marvel, ended up boasting the best hold in the top ten with a drop of just 30% in sixth place. Interestingly, while the approach of Endgame seems to weaken all other competitors, it only strengths Captain Marvel‘s box office strength as moviegoers succumb to the temptation to be caught up on the latest MCU installment before the Phase 3 “season finale”. Captain Marvel currently stands at $386 million domestic, and $1.064 billion worldwide.

In seventh place, I must take this time to apologize for leaving Us out of my weekend predictions. I had done my typical routine, calculating my predicted drops for holdovers, and had predicted Us to drop around 60%, following the pattern it has established so far of incrementally increasing its drops. The Jordan Peele sophomore feature has so far played like a true blockbuster, opening huge at $71 million three weekends ago, and falling 53% in its second weekend. Its last weekend drop of 58% seemed to signal to me that Us was front loaded and was running out of steam pretty quickly, hence the 60% drop prediction. However, low and behold, Us had its best hold yet at 49.7%  for a gross of $6.9 million in its fourth weekend, pushing its domestic gross to $163 million and its worldwide gross to $235 million, closing in fast on Get Out‘s worldwide total of $255 million. Without a doubt, Jordan Peele has officially established himself as not only an auteur director, but a brand whose very name sells tickets. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Eighth place saw the arrival of newcomer After, based on the popular online novel from Anna Todd. This movie is being labeled as “Fifty Shades of Grey for teens” and its origin certainly doesn’t help the comparison. Originating as a novel on the online reading and social networking app, Wattpad, After was born out of Todd’s love of One Direction, with the male lead character of the book being heavily based off of Harry Styles. Following the exploits of Tessa Young, a college student, as she becomes embroiled in a turbulent romance with the Harry Styles-stand in (named “Hardin Scott”), the dynamics of their relationship reportedly echo that of Fifty Shades of Grey. That, combined with the book’s origin online, caused it to become a viral sensation, with Todd writing nearly a chapter a day and eventually publishing three books in the After series on Wattpad. Simon & Schuster eventually published a print edition of the series which sold well and broadened the series audience, thus a film adaptation, especially in the wake of the success of Fifty Shades, was inevitable.

Originally developed for Paramount Pictures, these plans fell through as the rights were then picked up by fledging distributor Aviron Pictures for North American distribution; a smart move given that Aviron is new on the scene and looking to have a franchise to call their own. On this front, the results are something of a mixed bag. Given Aviron’s lack of a major presence in the box office landscape, projections for the film’s opening were understandably low at $2-$7 million projected for this weekend. After did debut on the higher end of those projections with $6.2 million, however, given the viral nature of the book’s origin and its appeal to a younger, more social media savvy audience, one would’ve expected (and if you were a studio executive, hoped) that the film would overperform. In the end, it doesn’t seem like Aviron had the bandwidth to market the film properly. The first trailer was released to a surprising amount of fanfare, but that didn’t translate here in America. This makes sense given that the YA film adaptation trend has really died out in the past few years, not to mention that Fifty Shades craze died out pretty quickly as well. All that said, America is just one half of the story.

To the surprise of everyone, After ended up seriously overperforming internationally. In this case, the films foreign distribution was not handled by Aviron (like I said, the newbie distributor has too little bandwidth), instead being released by the relatively older, if still small distributor, Voltage Pictures. Outside the US, After boomed with $12.3 million across 28 foreign markets with the most money coming in from Italy and Germany. I said that this came as a surprise, and it does, but the novelty of this does wear off a bit when you consider the fact that these two markets are also markets where the Fifty Shades films performed very well. In fact, that franchise saw every one of its entries perform extremely well across Europe as interest in slightly more erotic fare is higher in that region than here in the US (Fun Fact: The trailer for Fifty Shades Darker was at one point the most watched trailer ever in the first 24 hours of release, surpassing the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens thanks to a large number of views from Europe. It was dethroned by Beauty & the Beast soon after). This definitely provided a boost to After in that region and will likely continue to do as it continues to roll out across Europe, hitting France next weekend. The stars, Josephine Langford (sister of 13 Reasons Why star, Katherine Langford) and Hero Fiennes Tiffin (nephew of Ralph Fiennes), have been touring Europe to promote the film, so expected it to continue to perform nicely and potentially even be able to counterprogram the global juggernaut that is Endgame. My only question is as to what Aviron will do about this situation. The $14 million production is certainly doing well with a $20.5 million global opening, but since Aviron might not be able to handle the film stateside, I would be curious to see if international distributor, Voltage, might make a bid for the US rights and mold After into their own hot franchise.

In the ninth place, we find our last newbie of the weekend, Missing Link, which, sadly, might be putting the final nail in the coffin for not one, but two studios. The first is Laika, the stop-motion animation production studio behind CoralineThe BoxTrollsParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings. I’ve liked most of their work, with their penchant for darker storytelling always managing to catch my eye. The same clearly cannot be said of many as, outside of Coraline, none of their films have been financial successes. Kubo and the Two Strings marked their lowest every opening weekend gross as a studio with $12.6 million for the $60 million production. Clearly, Laika was looking to change things up with a lighter, more family-friendly, and kid-oriented picture in Missing Link, and they succeed in that respect with this film drawing a large audience under the age of 17. However, clearly, this was a bad weekend to release the film as I mentioned above that Shazam! is playing strongly to that same audience. With the bigger superhero flick pulling away viewers, Missing Link, very unfortunately, set a new record for Laika’s lowest opening weekend ever with $5.8 million, way beneath the projected $9-$14 million and spelling doom for the likely $60 million film.

The second party that is looking to suffer from this is Annapurna, the struggling newbie studio that recently went under financial review due to the enormous losses it has faced from its projects bombing at the box office, most recently ViceMissing Link is the first Laika movie to not be released by Focus Features, instead serving as the first release from the newly revived United Artists Releasing banner, a co-venture between United Artists’ parent company, MGM, sister company, Orion Pictures, and Annapurna Pictures, whom all share distribution and marketing overhead for films released under this banner. Originally named Mirror, this venture was born out of Annapurna striking a deal with MGM back in 2017 to share overhead for distribution and marketing costs between the two companies, a deal struck to not only help MGM get back on its feet after years of serving as a mini-major studio but also strategically so that Annapurna could gain some creative access and financial control over the James Bond franchise, which MGM has presided over since its inception. Rumors of Annapurna’s financial problems began to surface soon after but the company continued business as usual, even looping in the newly reviewed Orion Pictures (a subsidiary of MGM) as a partner in the Mirror venture and rebranding it into United Artists Releasing. Clearly, however, this effort to share overhead is not a benevolent attempt on Annapurna’s part to revive formerly heavy hitting distribution labels. Instead, the move now reads as the company trying to cover its own ass. Founder and owner, Megan Ellison, has used the strategy of throwing money at high profile to directors to attract them for years now but without giving them some creative oversight, she has dug a hole for Annapurna that it looks less and less likely to be able to crawl out of. Good job, Ellison.

Rounding out the top ten is The Best of Enemies, which fell 55% for a gross of $2 million, pushing its domestic gross to $8.1 million. The $10 million production likely has a net budget of $5 million thanks to STX’s slick financing prowess, but it remains another example of STX’s bad decision making (and after such a good run with The Upside, come on!!! Don’t do this to me STX!!!) Hopefully, this is just some residual burn off from the distributors less savvy past. As for the specialty market, I was surprised to find the high profile Alex Ross Perry-directed indie, Her Smell, debut this weekend. Starring Elisabeth Moss (a frequent Alex Ross Perry collaborator) as a drug-addled rockstar who is falling into madness, Her Smell made a bit of smash on the festival circuit last year as one of three high profile films at TIFF about female singers, the others being the Natalie Portman vehicle, Vox Lux, and the upcoming Wild Rose from Neon. To its credit, Her Smell took the top spot for per-theater-averages this weekend with $13,019 per-theater in three theaters, but I highly doubt that the film will do any better than that. I am personally not a fan of Alex Ross Perry as a director, having been burned quite badly by his film Queen of Earth (also starring a crazed Elisabeth Moss) which had me marinating in powerfully ominous atmosphere for nearly two and half hours before ending abruptly with absolutely no payoff. From what I know, most of his films are quite meandering and almost anti-commercial so expect this one to disappear soon. Interestingly enough, Her Smell shared the stage with Teen Spirit, the Elle Fanning musical drama from Bleecker Street, which was also showcased at last year at TIFF (but was more low-key in its debut). The film has solid reviews and features covers from various pop stars which makes it much more appealing than Her Smell. To its credit, and Bleecker Street’s, Teen Spirit may have had a lower per-theater-average than Her Smell at $11k per-theater, but was released in four theaters and grossed $44k against Her Smell‘s $39k. I’ll be curious to see how it fares when it goes wide.

Finally, Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara, was buried by IFC as expected, debuting to a per-theater-average of $1,007 per-theater in 62 theaters (yikes!). On the other hand, the Molly Shannon-starrer, Wild Nights with Emily, held its own pretty well in the specialty market, debuting with a per-theater average of $11k and just barely being edged out for second place in that ranking by Teen Spirit. The film is getting some pretty strong reviews with many singling out Molly Shannon’s performance, as the famed poet Emily Dickinson, as well as the film’s comedic tone (apparently inspired by Drunk History, according to director Madeline Olnek) for praise. The film specifically highlights Dickinson’s romantic relationship with Susan Huntington Gilbert and seems like a potential Oscar vehicle for Shannon, who has been stepping into heavier roles in recent years, most notably her role in Other People which won her an Independent Spirit Award and some Oscar buzz three years ago. Now, Wild Nights with Emily did not manage a per-theater-average that is worthy of Oscar contention, nor is Greenwich, its distributor, a studio with a strong Oscar track record. However, the fact that this weaker studio could get Wild Nights with Emily on the board alongside Her Smell and Teen Spirit, each with much higher profile names attached, does speak to some potential strength. Wild Nights with Emily is certainly a title to keep an eye on come next awards season.

(Boc Office data from Box Office Mojo, Box Office Pro, Deadline, and Forbes)

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