Moonfall looks like it will not be another Midways for Lionsgate, Jackass Forever puts the fun back in movie theaters and appropriately reaps the rewards!!
Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Feb 4-6) / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates:
- Jackass Forever / $23.5 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount
- Moonfall / $10 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate
- Spider-Man: No Way Home/ $9.6 million / -13% / Weekend 8 / Sony (Columbia)
- Scream (aka Scream 5) / $4.73 million / -35% / Weekend 4 / Paramount
- Sing 2 / $4.17 million / -11% / Weekend 7 / Universal
- The King’s Man / $1.18 million / -29% / Weekend 7 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
- Redeeming Love / $1.85 million / -43% / Weekend 3 / Universal
- American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story / $800K / -31% / Weekend 7 / Lionsgate
- The 355 / $700K / -47% / Weekend 5 / Universal
- Licorice Pizza / $614K / -2% / Weekend 11 / United Artists (MGM)
11. Ghostbusters: Afterlife / $770K / +18% / Weekend 11 / Sony (Columbia)
16. Nightmare Alley / $534K / +133% / Weekend 7 / Disney (Searchlight)
17. Parallel Mothers / $312K / +87% / Weekend 6 / Sony (Sony Pictures Classics)
16. Belfast / 191K / +60% / Weekend 13 / Focus Features
18. The Worst Person in the World / $135K / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Neon ($33K per-theater-average)
20. Sundown / $104K / +376K / Weekend 2 / Bleecker Street Media
21. Drive My Car / $10K / +3% / Weekend 11 / Janus Films
Well, it seems like my prediction came true, with Jackass Forever topping Moonfall and the box office at large this weekend. What I did not expect was just by how much! Jackass Forever managed to assert the power of this long-running brand by exceeding practically all expectations and grossing $23.5 million this past weekend. Meanwhile, Moonfall really crashed and burned in a way that not even Lionsgate can spin to look good right now. Impressively, however, most other films in the top ten managed to maintain solids holds, perhaps in light of Moonfall failing to deliver, and this has set them up quite nicely to weather the Super Bowl storm next weekend!
So yes, Jackass Forever debuted to a genuinely surprising $23.5 million (on a budget of $10 million I might add, which means it will be profitable by the end of the week)! Now, on paper, that might not seem that impressive. I noted in my prediction post this past week that the Jackass movie brand has actually been a reliably strong box office performer since it debuted in theaters back in 2002. The franchise has regularly posted openings of around $30 million dollars, even hitting $50 million in 2010 with Jackass 3D. In light of this, $23.5 million might look pretty par for the course, or even a bit subpar. However, context always matters when it comes to these box office numbers. The fact is that it has been nine years since the last Jackass movie (eight if you count the bonus rerelease of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa) and, in the intervening years, seismic changes have occurred in the movie distribution landscape that ostensibly should have rendered Jackass theatrically unviable as a movie brand.
Since 2016, the real turning point for all these changes, it can be argued that a certain “middle-class” of films has largely disappeared from cinemas, that being the mid-budget films appealing to older audiences. Outside of a few outliers, most films that have been able to successfully be released in theaters, found an audience, and profited, are either gigantically budgeted, IP-driven films (mostly comic book movies) that appeal to a very broad audience take up nearly all the bandwidth in the marketplace, or noticeably lower-budget affairs (frequently horror films, buzzy awards contenders, or sometimes both in one a la Get Out) that don’t require staggeringly high grosses to break even and profit. I bring this up because Jackass Forever is a slight anomaly. Yes, it is super low-budget and does not need much to attain profitability, but it is kind of an outlier in that it feels like a very “past-it’s-prime” kind of property. Born out of MTV, whose brand has been largely usurped by Youtube (though the network still gets strong cable ratings with Jersey and Florabama Shore, for what it’s worth), Jackass, on paper, should have been more susceptible to a lack of audience interest in that genre, not unlike Moonfall which paid the price for that miscalculation this past weekend. I recognized that brand was still relatively strong but predicted around an $18 million opening given just how long it had been since the last installment, largely assuming the movie’s audience had generally shrunk in the intervening years.
What I did not consider (very foolishly in retrospect) what that while Jackass‘ brand might not have the same level of visibility that it once did, its brand of humor has grown exponentially thanks to emerging social media platforms including Youtube, but perhaps more importantly, Tik Tok. Indeed, you find an overwhelming amount of “FAIL” videos across these platforms where vloggers (many carried over from Vine, RIP) attempt to accomplish wildly over-the-top challenges, be it physical challenges or challenges with certain products, laughing all the way through. While these challenges and tricks have generally moved toward things like “filling a pool with Orbeez” or “doing your make-up with condiments from Chick-fil-a” rather than “getting dragged by your ankles behind horse galloping at full speed while going over a bike ramp”, the spirit in which these tasks are undertaken remains the same. As a result, many people are not only still wildly familiar with this brand of comedy but actually really enjoy it, and this has had the amazing effect of making Jackass‘ brand of humor more cross-generational in appeal. The original audience of Jackass may have grown up (all while remaining children at heart!) but the core demographic actually got younger.
You can see this reflected in the audience breakdown for the film which saw 80% of people who went to see the film being under the age of 35, and 70% specifically between the ages of 18-34. As expected, the audience did skew more male at 68%, but that makes a lot of sense given not only who tends to watch these kinds of videos but also who tends to be in the video performing said stunt. All in all, Jackass Forever was a rousing success, and given just how distinct its appeal is to a specific audience, can I see it legging out nicely between now and the end of its run. It will likely run into some competition the weekend of February 18th with the release of Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg and based on the popular adventure videogame series, which is aimed at the same demographic, but next weekend should be a breeze for it as its only real competition will be that of Jennifer Lopez’s Marry Me, which is aimed squarely at the opposite sex (Liam Neeson’ Blacklight would pose competition if it wasn’t being released by a smaller upstart distributor, while Death on the Nile is completely up in the air and still a bit more female-centric as it’s based on an Agatha Christie novel.). The only question left for Paramount would be whether or not to continue the franchise going forward. That’s a tricky question given that the primary Jackass castmembers are getting much older and may not be able to handle the physical rigors of the franchise going forward (Steve O’s Tik Tok about his tailbone surgery made me shiver). They certainly seem to set up the film as a finale (complete with the nostalgically all lower-case font of the title: jackass forever) but perhaps they’d be open to mentoring an up-and-coming generation of potential “Jackasses” recruited from Youtube. Just a thought.
Jackass Forever, in my humble opinion, is a real win for old-school “movie” movies. It might have a brand name associated with it, but it is a shining testament to meeting the audience where it is and crafting an entertaining product just for them (and of course reaping the rewards). The same cannot be said of Moonfall, which instead crashed and burned with just a $10 million dollar opening. Funnily, this is exactly where Lionsgate pegged the film opening at the beginning of the weekend. Now before that becomes a cause for mild celebration, it should be noted that studios and distributors do tend to low-ball their estimates in order to puff up the actual weekend grosses and make them look like overperformances, and I did say in the last post that a prediction of $10 million for this kind of movie was not necessarily a vote of confidence. Sure enough, that’s exactly where the film landed and it does not look good.
There’s been a lot of discourse around Lionsgate and the film over the weekend, with many lambasting Lionsgate for betting on a space-adventure film in a world where movies like Ad Astra (a genuinely phenomenal movie, by the way), Voyagers (another Lionsgate release), and First Man (sorry, I’ve never seen this one) all tanked. However, I pointed out in my last post, and have been quick to point out elsewhere, that Lionsgate was not betting on a space adventure/disaster movie; they were betting on Roland Emmerich film. I go into it more in-depth here, but the last time Lionsgate partnered with Emmerich was on his WWII movie Midway, which actually did really solid business for the studio as they were only on the hook for distribution and marketing costs. Thanks to a smart release on Veteran’s Day Weekend 2019, Midway overperformed and legged out very nicely for a $56.8 million domestic gross (Lionsgate only had the domestic rights). That’s not a number to write home about all on its own, but that stronger than anticipated gross made Midway a really strong utility performer in a year where Lionsgate released John Wick 3, Knives Out, and A Medea Family Funeral. Alongside Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (another surprising overperformer), Midway was quite the feather in Lionsgate’s cap so it makes total sense that they would be willing to once again invest about $15 million in Roland Emmerich’s next film.
The blame here is squarely on Emmerich. I speculated as to just how the man keeps getting work when every single movie he’s directed since White House Down has flopped. I figured it was because of how the financing is structured, with both Midway and Moonfall being funded largely through foreign distribution sales, making them essentially indie films if you can believe it, but now that he has this result on his hands, I’m thinking Emmerich is going to need to do more than creative accounting to keep his career going. It is not my intention to lambast Emmerich as I know he is capable of doing very good work, like with the thoroughly underrated The Patriot (my personal favorite of his movies). However, it is hard to ignore that Emmerich clearly needs pivot. His bread and butter is the disaster movie, and he’s made really great films in that genre, but audiences are just not as receptive to these kinds of films as they once were; at least no the gonzo, over-the-top ones that Emmerich tends to make. Interestingly enough, while I thought Jackass Forever and Moonfall might be forced to fight over the same audiences, it actually turned out no to be the case. While both’s audiences where over 60% male, Moonfall actually drew in an older crowd with 54% of the audience being over the age of 35 (as well as 31% over 45). To its credit, Moonfall has a more diverse audience (owing to a more diverse cast), but the age factor really explains why Moonfall landed with a thud. The biggest takeaway since theaters opened back up is that older audiences, whom tend to be more casual moviegoers who go to the movies just for the sake of going to the movies (specifically that “middle class” of movie I mentioned above), are much more reluctant to return to theaters, understandably so. Moonfall‘s brand of “disaster-tainment” is much more dated nowadays, and tend to play better to audiences whom saw Emmerich’s earlier films in theaters. It’s an older genre that still caters to an older audience that is simply much less willing to show up in the times we’re living in.
I found it kind of interesting that Emmerich spoke this past weekend to the state of the movie business at large, saying that movies like those from the “Marvel and DC Comics and Star Wars [franchises] have pretty much taken over…” and that “It’s ruining our industry a little bit, because no one does anything original anymore.” I find that a bit ironic since the primary complaint about Moonfall is that it apparently plays like a big rehash of all of Emmerich’s biggest past hits. From the looks of it, he’s really been resting on his past legacy and not necessarily contributing anything original to the moviegoing landscape in his own right. I’ll give him credit where credit is due for stepping out of his comfort zone with Midway, but even that war film still was cozilly wrapped-up in big, disaster-like set pieces that took away from the actual story. Given those kinds of comments, I think it would behoove Emmerich to, on his next film, try something notably different. I’m not exactly sure that he’d be able to command as large a budget as he did on Moonfall for his next go around, but Roland Emmerich’s name does still carry weight and I’m sure he could rustle up a few million dollars via foreign sales to to fund a new project on his name alone. I said before that my personal favorite film of his is The Patriot, which has some bombastic war set pieces that you’d expect from an Emmerich movie, but also is stripped back and uses the action as a backdrop for a greater focus on its compelling Revolutionary War narrative. It’s not unlike, I would argue, the thoroughly enjoyable Harriet Tubman biopic, Harriet, that Kasi Lemmons directed back in 2019, which itself was made on a budget of under $20 million. If Emmerich really believes that originality is missing from the industry, he should put is money where his mouth is a try something like that; not necessarily a biopic like Harriet, but something a bit more stripped back and new.
Outside of the two newbies, we had all the usual suspects from last month. While it is still a shame that three of the top ten grosses were under $1 million, dispite a diversity of product and an over $20 million grosser in the lead, I continue to be impressed with the legs on this bunch. No Way Home saw, essentially, none of its audience taken away by the other two films (like I said, these comic book films have mass appeal) an saw its best hold to date with merely a -13% drop in its eighth weekend! Maybe its because it opened during Christmas, but honestly, who cares? It’s still a big success and with drops like this, will actually be likely to overtake Avatar‘s $760 million domestic gross within the next couple of weekend ans become the third highest grossing film of all-time domestically (it currently sits at $748 million). Worldwide, Spider-Man has grossed $1.775 billion.
The real surprise to me this weekend was that of Scream which held much stronger than I’d anticipated. While well-received and aptly sporting newer, younger cast additions to broaden the appeal of the nearly 20-year old franchise, given that Scream was it in its fourth weekend, likely to lose theaters to Jackass and Moonfall (it lost 291), and that it still skews older to due to its R rating, I thought the best it could hold would be a likely -45%. Low and behold, Scream held on much tighter at just -35% for a gross of $4.73 million this weekend in fourth place, taking it’s domestic total to $68.9 million. That hold may be just as attributable to Moonfall not connecting with audiences as it is to people just wanting to see Scream but no matter the reason, color me impressed! The film got a nice bump this past week as it passed $100 million worldwide, more than quadrupling its budget and reinforcing Paramount and Spyglass Media’s decision to proceed with a sixth film, and this weekend’s gross takes the film to $113 million total worldwide. Kudos all around!
Sing 2 continues to have reliably fantastic holds, this time dropping by only -11% for a gross of $4.17 million in fifith place. Domestically, its stands at $139.5 million, and while I don’t think it will end up matching Secret Life of Pets 2 with $158 million domestic, a $150 million domestic haul is within reach. Worldwide, the film stands at $291.5 million and will likely make it to $300 million by next weekend (3.5x its $85 million budget), all whilst being simulatenously available for at-home $20 rental, incredible! Meanwhile, The King’s Man which has one of its steepest drops with -29%. Right on par with the -30% drop I was predicting, the film grossed $1.18 million in sixth place, owing that largely to the loss of 530 theaters this past weekend. Expect its grosses to have steeper and steeper drops as the weeks go on given that its 45-Day theatrical exclusivity window has officially expired. I expect the film to become available for a $20 rental starting Tuesday (the usual release day for at-home rental) before the film arrives on Hulu and HBO/Max on February 18th. Domestically, The King’s Man stands at $35.8 million while having taken in $120.7 million worldwide.
As for the rest of the top ten, Redeeming Love has a slightly stronger than expected hold of -43%, though still in line with Unplanned‘s -46% hold in its third weekend; amazingly impressive given that I’ve still yet to see a single piece of marketing for this movie. Redeeming Love took in $1 million this weekend in seventh place, taking its domestic totall to $8 million. It will likely top out at $10 million by the end if its run. American Underdog also held reliably well with -31%, taking in $800K in eighth place and pulling its domestic total past $25.8 million. The 355, on the other hand, may finally be seeing its luck run out as it lost 803 theaters and saw the biggest drop in the top ten with -47% for a gross of $700K. This makes sense as the film is already available to rent though, to be fair, that’s still not bad hold. However, The 355 will likely be gone next weekend as it transitions full into its home media release window, where some might argue that it always should’ve been (coming to a RedBox near you, where I actually think it will do great business!). The all-female spy-actioner will be topping out at just under $15 million domestic. Oh well, cest la vie!
Rounding out the top ten, we move from the biggest drop to the smallest as Licorice Pizza held by -2% in its 11th weekend for a gross of $614K. It is currently sitting at $12.7 million domestically in about 786 theaters and I get the sneaking suspicion that it will be going wide next weekend. Oscar nominations will be announced this coming Tuesday morning, and given that Licorice Pizza managed strong showings at the Golden Globes (four nominations), BAFTAs (five nomiations), and picked up notices from the Producers Guild, Writers Guild, and Directors Guild (plus a surprise nomination for Bradley Cooper, in what I believe is a super small role, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards), there’s a distinct possiblity that Licorice Pizza is going to receive a lot of love from the Academy. It’s at least going to pick some kind of nomination for writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, so expect MGM to ramp up the marketing for Licorice Pizza in a very big way as it is pushed fully into the mainstream. I’ve been hard on MGM for a while now about their handling of this movie, but maybe there is truly a method to their madness.
Speaking of Oscars, we have the specialty market where Norway’s The Worst Person in the World was finally released in four theaters (that’s how you do it Neon!) and……………did fine. Taking in a total gross this weekend of $135K, Twitter’s favorite Foreign Film Oscar contender debuted with a very respectable per-theater-average gross of $33K, not far off from the $30K per-theater-average of Neon’s first ever release, Colossal (one of the best and most original movies I’ve every had the pleasure of seeing, if you’ve never seen it, it is on Hulu, watch it immediately!). That said, given just how acclaimed the film is amongst Oscar pundits and arthouse film lovers, you’d think that New York and LA audiences whom had access to the film would’ve gone to see it in much higher numbers (I would’ve expected closer to $45K or even $50K per-theater). It doesn’t totally shut the door on The Worst Person in the World‘s chances at winning Best International Film at the Oscars, but don’t expect it to compete anywhere outside of that category, much to Film Twitter’s chagrin.
Outside of that, other notable grosses included that of Ghostbusters: Afterlife which officially outgrossed the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters reboot, allowing Sony to save some face. Another interesting gross to witness what that of Nightmare Alley which dropped a very large -60% in 705 theaters for a gross of $204K. The reason why this is notable is that Nightmare Alley, a remake directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, and a cavalcade of other fantastic actors, debuted on Hulu and HBO/HBO Max this past weekend; unsurprisingly so given that it was flopping in theaters and it passed its 45-Day theatrical exclusivity end date last weekend. I actually took the time to watch it this wekend and I have to say, it’s genuinely very good. Dripping in atmosphere and classical Hollywood-style, the production values are sumptuous, the dialogue is eerie but sharp, the story is complex but gripping and thematically rich, del Toro directs with ghostly, floating, never static camera movements that amp up the intrigue and haunted mood (very similar to both Alfonso Cuaron in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Alejandro G. Inarritu with Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); utterly fascinating as all three are good friends, Oscar winners in the Best Director category, and are frequently grouped together as “The Three Amigos of Mexican Cinema”), and of course, the cast is uniformly impeccable, with Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett in particular giving two incredble “old Hollywood” style performances that would make Robert Mitchum and Lauren Bacall proud. Perhaps most incredible is that this two and a half hour movie moves so briskly that you’re never bored. It’s surprising and a fantastic return to form for del Toro after The Shape of Water which I will, maybe unpopularly, say was not at all worth a Best Picture win. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised that the film flopped in theaters, but I am surprised that Nightmare Alley is not a bigger awards contender this year because it absolutely can and should be competing in a field like this given that many films in contention for Best Picture this year are considered relatively weak. My guess is that the pandemic is to be blamed as the production began filmming in early 2020 but was forced to shutdown at the onset of lockdowns. Production restarts and what I have to imagine was an intensive post-production period may have ballooned the budget to a degree that Disney (the film’s owner thanks to its acquistion of Fox and Fox Searchlight) was not comfortable sitting on the film for more than a year to wait and release it during the next awards cycle where it would be likely make the most money. As a result, they had to slide it in under the wire the weekend of December 17th, the same weekend as No Way Home‘s release alongside West Side Story and Licorice Pizza, where it was promptly buried. It’s a damn shame because the movie, even outside the awards context, is genuinely worth watching, no matter how or where. Check it out if you’re able.
Otherwise, Belfast upped its theater count by 194 theaters in preparation of its incoming Best Picture nomination (I don’t personally think it’s worth that nomination, but it’s still a good movie and I genuinely think its a contender for Best Director and Supporting actor) and promptly saw a +60% increase in its weekend-to-weekend grosses for a total of $191K and a domestic haul of $7.4 million. Belfast actually officially opened in the UK two weekends ago and in just that short of an amount of time, has grossed $8.1 million across the pond, more than it has grossed in the United States in 13 weeks. That definitely speaks to the film’s resonance with Irish and English viewers given that it concerns “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 60s. Outside of that, Parallel mothers lost 236 theaters and accordingly dropped 30% for a gross of $191K (its domestic total stands at $1.3 million) while Drive My Car continues to manage an impressive showing for a Japanese film from a very tiny distributor, adding just one theater and grossing $100K, up +3% from last week. Finally, last week’s new entry, Sundown with Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg, added 189 theaters and shoot up +376% for a gross fo $104K. Good for them!