Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Apr 19-Apr 21): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates
- The Curse of La Llorona / $26,347,631 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros.
- Shazam! / $16,464,508 / -32.7% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
- Breakthrough / $11,282,333 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Fox (and kinda, sorta Disney)
- Captain Marvel / $9,105,610 / +5.7% / Weekend 7 / Disney (for sure)
- Little / $8,327,435 / -45.9% / Weekend 4 / Universal
- Dumbo / $6,621,260 / -29.6% / Weekend 4 / Disney
- Pet Sematary / $4,863,233 / -50.2% / Weekend 3 / Paramount
- Us / $4,160,050 / -38.9% / Weekend 5 / Universal
- Missing Link / $4,157,285 / -30.1% / Weekend 2 / United Artists Releasing
- Hellboy / $3,951,098 / -67.2% / Weekend 2 / Lionsgate (Summit)
12. Penguins / $2,282,593 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney (Disneynature)
22. Teen Spirit / $241,942 / +454.7% / Weekend 2 / Bleecker Street
27. Little Woods / $57,610 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Neon (Per-Theater-Average: $1,746 in 33 theaters)
31. Under the Silver Lake / $35,270 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / A24 (Per-Theater-Average: $17,635 in 2 theaters)
33. Fast Color / $37,594 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate (Per-Theater-Average: $1,504 in 25 theaters)
I didn’t end up writing a prediction post for this past weekend and I have to be honest, its because there really is little to say. This Easter weekend proved to be rather quiet, with newcomers not making much of an impact and holdovers either doing very well or very badly. Honestly, the past few weeks have been awfully uneventful and I know why. One word: Endgame. The fact is that between all movie news pundits holding their breath until Endgame premieres to shatter every conceivable box office record and all TV news pundits sitting and waiting for this month to be over so network Upfront presentations can begin and we can finally know what pilots are being ordered to series (not to mention as well as get out first look at how the Fox Broadcasting Company will function post-Disney merger…) there have been no substantial headlines and no real big shifts at the box office. Either bowing in respect toward Disney and Endgame or trying to get as far away from them as possible, no studio has released a real competitive title at all this month. There have been some false starts but overall there are seismic shifts occurring within the industry that affected the release schedule. In other words (and I’m sorry to say it), there’s really nothing fun going on, and in few places is that more apparent than with regard to this weekend. So, I’ll try my best to keep it brief (although that’s likely a futile effort) as I give you a rundown of the facts and try to dig up some precious golden nuggets.
In first place, I have to admit that I am quite surprised to say that Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s The Curse of La Llorona not only topped the weekend but also significantly overperformed. Hailing from Atomic Monster Productions, the hallowed house of horror mastermind James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona was shaping up to be the runt of the litter when it comes to Wan’s producing filmography. Wan, known for both creating the “torture-porn” genre with his breakthrough directorial feature, Saw, and for producing/directing some of the most iconic horror film’s of the last decade, like that of the Insidious franchise, truly announced himself as the godfather of modern horror with his directing of the 2013 hit, The Conjuring. Based on the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren (RIP), the film was very much a throwback to vintage horror, making use of practical effects and expertly executed camerawork to craft a horror film whose scares were not only scary but also elegant. The massive success of the film has since expanded into a franchise whose reach could never have been comprehended back when Warner and New Line first commissioned the project as it has birthed not only an equally successful sequel in The Conjuring 2 (as well as a third installment set to begin production next month) but also two successful spinoff franchises in the form of the Annabelle films (with a third to be released this year) and The Nun (whose sequel is currently in development), leading some anoint The Conjuring film franchise as “the first successful post-Marvel cinematic universe”.
With all that information, at first glance, it would be crazy to think that The Curse of La Llorona would ever have trouble finding an audience. However, in the lead up to this weekend, the situation seemed to be just that. Debuting at SXSW Film Festival, La Llorona was hit with bad reviews which have barely improved since then, many of which called the film “unremarkable” and criticized is over-reliance on jump scares. Surely enough, the lack of enthusiasm for the film resulted in severely low projections for its opening weekend, between $17-$19 million. Normally, I try to be optimistic about projections, however, in this case, I had to concur with pundits as I felt that La Llorona was programmed particularly poorly. Now, I am not saying that it is easy to schedule a smaller film around a major blockbuster event like that of Endgame (just look at every movie out right now, aside from Captain Marvel, and you’ll see that every studio is having this problem), but the optics of placing a small horror film, with no overt branding connections to the larger Conjuring film franchise (supposedly this film takes place within that canon), about a folkloric Mexican apparition, for release on Easter weekend is pretty bad. Now, given how Hispanic audiences have historically shown great support for horror films, as evidenced most recently by the massive success of The Nun in Mexico (which powered the film to become the highest grossing film in The Conjuring franchise), creating a film centered around at creature from Mexican folklore is admitted a smart move, at least on paper. But to release said film on Easter weekend seemed to me like a nonsensical idea since demonic creatures would likely be the furthest thing from the public minds over the Holiday.
All that said, I was proven completely wrong. The Curse of La Llorona, despite negative reviews, ended massively overperforming this Easter weekend with a $26.3 million opening. Turns out that despite the bad press for the film, as well as the box office vacuum that Endgame has created (reportedly, pre-sales for the film range from $150-$300 million), Hispanics were highly taken with this film adaptation of their absolute worst nightmare growing up as they were the biggest demographic turnout for the film at 49%. Deadline reported that much of the social media chatter surrounding the film was made up of people sharing stories about how they had first heard this old wives tale about La Llorona, the vengeful spirit of a woman who drowned her children in a river and stalks small towns looking to steal other children for herself. The film played best in the South and Southwest United States (understandable given La Llorona’s Mexican heritage) and grossed $29 million internationally for a total $55.3 million worldwide gross, a great start for the mere $9 million production. Now, this is not a fantastic start for the film, especially when you compare its $26 million opening to the rest of The Conjuring films, none of which have opened below $35 million. It also is not a good look that the film topped what is thought to be the worst Easter weekend at the box office since 2003. However, given the circumstances, it seems fit to allow La Llorona all the wins that it can get; it has likely already turned a profit, and may be able to pull in a few extra dollars before being wiped away completely by Marvel next weekend.
Coming in second place was that of Shazam! which, I am happy to say, may just be breaking away from Ant-Man after all. After a lackluster opening weekend, and a similarly unspectacular second-weekend hold, Shazam! has just managed a fantastic hold with a mere 32.7% drop for a gross of $16.4 million. This is good news as it is a definitively stronger hold than that of Ant-Man, which dropped 47.5% in its third weekend, and suggests that people may be discovering it as the weeks go on. Shazam! likely benefited greatly from Easter weekend given that several schools across the country were out early this week on a count of Good Friday. With such a large influx of children out of school, Good Friday has consistently proven to be a great time for business for family-friendly films and Shazam! has already proven that it has that kind of appeal. Currently, the film stands at a domestic gross of $120.4 million and a healthy worldwide gross of $321.9 million.
Of course, Shazam! is by no means out of the woods just yet; and, sadly, things are only going to get harder from here. With Endgame coming in hot next weekend, the market is about to get saturated on every conceivable front. Being highly frontloaded, a four-quadrant film, family friendly, and a superhero blockbuster, Endgame is going to literally pull the rug out from under every film currently in theaters, especially Shazam!, which also fits every single one of those aforementioned signifiers. Right now, the only way for any film to survive to the atomic bomb that is Endgame is to have enough box office momentum right now to compensate for the amount of ground they are about to lose. Sadly, with the misstep Shazam! had right out of the gate, I really think the film is not going to make it. The best case scenario is that Shazam! will have a very big dent it is box office next weekend (around a 50% drop) but more than likely it’s going to fall further. Plus, with international markets also gearing up for Endgame, Shazam! will not be receiving much help from overseas either. In other words, pray for this film.
As for third place, Disney had its first major releases of a Fox title, the religious film Breakthrough, starring This is Us‘ Chrissy Metz as a mother who rallies her whole town in support of her comatose son. The trailer was an undeniable tearjerker, much like that of 2016’s Miracles from Heaven, another religious film from Sony which also focused on a mother (played by Jennifer Garner) who faith sees her through her child’s illness. Sure enough, Fox (prior to the Disney-merger) seemed to be gearing up to replicate Miracles from Heaven‘s release strategy and (hopefully) success. Having been released on a Wednesday, Miracles from Heaven ended up doing quite well, pulling in nearly $4 million prior to that Friday and resulting in not only a number three spot that weekend but also a total Wednesday to Sunday gross of $18.3 million. Breakthrough definitely had the right idea, opening the Wednesday before Easter to potentially propel it to even higher heights at the box office; the film also took in just about the same amount as Miracles from Heaven prior to Good Friday. However, Breakthrough didn’t surge on Good Friday as one would’ve expected, and went on to deliver $14.7 million total in its 5-day frame. This isn’t bad, the film is lower budget and the opening is completely within predictions which saw it grossing between $14-$18 million over 5-days. However, even I personally predicted that it would do better (besting Shazam!) and many pundits saw it grossing around $17 million. As for why this happened the way it did, I think it might be rooted in the marketing for the film, which was surprisingly light on religion in my opinion, with even the trailer seeming to emphasize the will of the community over faith. Perhaps this is exactly how the film plays out but it doesn’t necessarily present the strongest case for pulling in Christian audiences; not even the title, Breakthrough, seems to suggest much of a faith-based connotation, unlike Miracles from Heaven. As a result, the film didn’t feel like the premier destination for audiences looking for faith-based fare this Easter. It’s certainly not a failure, but its something for future producers and directors of Christian films to take into account going forward.
In fourth place, we find Captain Marvel, which is in the rare position of having had weekend-to-weekend growth its grosses, jumping +5.7% to a gross of $9.1 million this Easter weekend despite losing 322 theaters. Of course, this comes as less of a surprise when considering that Endgame is coming out next weekend. Any and all stragglers who have held out on seeing Captain Marvel were likely in theaters this weekend just to be prepared for this final chapter of Phase 3 for the MCU (or rather, apparently, the penultimate chapter since Kevin Feige came out this weekend to say that Phase 3 official concludes with Spider-Man: Far from Home, which means that film better be damn good). As a result, Captain Marvel has officially made it past $400 million domestically and is now within $12 million of overtaking Wonder Woman‘s domestic total. Congratulations are in order, but more so to Disney and Kevin Feige for structuring the MCU movies so that they are unmissable. Rounding out the top five, we find Little, which held quite nicely at 45% for a gross of $8.3 million, pushing its domestic total to $29.2 million and $34 million worldwide. However, it’s going to have to pull in the rest of its gross from the ancillary market because come Endgame, Little is going to get dusted.
As for the rest of the top ten, Dumbo shocked everyone in fifth place by scoring the lowest weekend-to-weekend drop (outside of Captain Marvel) with just 29% (what!?!). Grossing $6.6 million this weekend, Tim Burton’s latest clearly took advantage of the family audience, managing to push itself past $100 million domestically, something that I thought would be nearly impossible for it to do and for which it should be applauded. Given that it is unlikely to break even, this development for Dumbo does give Disney some hope that it has a potentially rich future on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service. Pet Sematary, on the other hand, was not nearly as successful, dropping 50% to seventh place with a gross of $4.8 million. I continue to receive word-of-mouth for the film which suggests to me that it does not have as much of chance for ancillary revenue. Paramount should be thankful that the film has already taken in $95 million worldwide off its $21 million budget.
In eighth place, Us held beautifully, grossing $4.1 million and pushing past $170 million, now just $6 million away from matching Get Out domestically (and $10 million away from it worldwide for that matter). I’ll be curious to see if Thanos ends up snapping Us out of existence next weekend, though I do suspect that Us will be more likely to put up a bit of a fight as it continues to hold better than I anticipated. Ninth place also saw another strong hold, this time for Missing Link which, true to Laika tradition, held fabulously well in its second weekend with a drop of just 30.1%. However, given its poor opening last weekend, that hold won’t really do much for it has Missing Link is still looking to be quite the financial loss. At least it has the pride of a good hold, unlike our number ten earner, Hellboy, which toppled a whopping 67% in its second weekend, falling from third place to tenth place in the pits of box office hell. Don’t expect neither Hellboy nor Missing Link stick around next weekend.
Outside the top ten, we find the last major wide release of the weekend, Disneynature’s Penguins. Yes, despite the fact that you most likely forgot about this facet of the Disney company, Disney does indeed still make charming little animal documentaries (I personally found Monkey Kingdom to be adorable!). That said, it’s likely not for long as Penguins debuted to the lowest opening weekend gross ever for the Disneynature brand at $2.2 million. Not even its 5-day gross (Penguins opened on Wednesday with Breakthrough) of $3.2 million could match the Monkey Kingdom‘s $4.5 million, the second lowest opening for the brand up to this point. Fellow box office prognosticator and analyst Grace Randolph noted that Disneynature is brand that could potentially move to the Disney+ streaming service sometime soon, and given that Disney now also owns National Geographic, I’m inclined to agree. Maybe Disneynature could become a new NatGeo division.
As for the specialty market, Teen Spirit further proved its financial viability against Her Smell as it grew +454.7% to a gross of $241k (to be fair, Teen Spirit expanded into 692 more theaters as opposed to Her Smell‘s extra 21, but methinks that more theaters would be willing to bet on Teen Spirit‘s financial viability than that of Her Smell). Outside of that, we have another example of bad releasing practices on the part of indie distributors that really makes me mad. Neon (which is quickly elevating to “STX Level” in terms of my love/hate relationship with them) released hot festival title Little Woods starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James. Marking the directorial debut of Nia DaCosta, this crime thriller was a hot commodity on the festival circuit and has received critical acclaim for its atmosphere and dynamic portrayal of women. A property like this should have opened to a high per-theater-average but Neon decided to place the film in 33 theaters. As a result, Little Woods sports a bad per-theater-average of $1,746 for a total opening weekend gross of $57,610. Meanwhile, indie powerhouse A24 released Under the Silver Lake. Helmed by It Follows breakout-director, David Robert Mitchell, this follow-up to his critically acclaimed horror hit from five years ago has had a long and tumultuous road to the silver screen. Starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough, this stylish and quirky LA neo-noir premiered at Cannes in May of last year. Despite the anticipation for the follow-up, Under the Silver Lake was not warmly received by critics, who took to the atmosphere, cinematography, soundtrack, and Garfield’s performance, but found the story and mystery, at best, impenetrable, and at worst, incomprehensible. As a result, A24 pushed the film’s release back to December of last year to allow Mitchell time to re-edit the film in the hopes that it would still qualify for awards consideration, only to then push it back again to this weekend (nearly a full year since its premiere) once all hope of critical support was lost. And yet, despite the film not being in any good critical or financial shape, A24 made the smart move of only releasing it in two theaters, playing off buzz for the film (both negative and positive) to bolster it to a $17,635 per-theater-average. Is that great? No. Is it bad? No. Is it better than Little Woods? Sure is. Rounding out this list of bad indie distribution decisions is Lionsgate with Fast Color, the Gugu Mbatha-Raw low-fi superhero flick that, like Little Woods, also made some waves on the festival circuit last year. Clearly, this movie has something as is reviews are solid and it was strong enough to win its director, Julia Hart, a gig directing a new film for Disney+. However, instead of either capitalizing on the superhero craze we are all experiencing (which would’ve been a great move given that Fast Color is a female-led superhero film and genuinely unique given its more intimate scale) by releasing it at least semi-wide, or releasing it as a prestige picture in no more than four theaters, Lionsgate awkwardly dropped it into 25 theaters for a disappointing $1,504 per-theater-average. When will they learn?
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, Box Office Pro, and Forbes)