This is the first weekend in a loooooong time that there are no top ten entries with less than $1 million and I am so pleased!
Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Feb 18-21) / 3-Day Weekend Gross / 4-Day Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Estimates:
- Uncharted / $44.1 million / $51 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
- Dog / $14.9 million / $18 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / United Artists (MGM)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home / $7.4 million / $9 million / -2% / Weekend 10 / Sony (Columbia)
- Death on the Nile / $6.5 million / $7.47 million / -49% / Weekend 2 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
- Jackass Forever / $5.2 million / $6.1 million / -36% / Weekend 3 / Paramount Pictures
- Marry Me / $3.7 million / $4.3 million / -53% / Weekend 2 / Universal (w/ Peacock)
- Sing 2 / $2.8 million / $3.73 million / -8% / Weekend 9 / Universal
- Scream (aka Scream 5) / $1.96 million / $2.28 million / -34% / Weekend 6 / Paramount
- The Cursed / $1.75 million / $1.99 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / LD Entertainment
- Blacklight / $1.74 million / $1.98 million / -49% / Weekend 2 / Briarcliff Entertainment
11. Moonfall / $2.94 million / -70% / Weekend 2 / Lionsgate
12. Licorice Pizza / $959K / +49% / Weekend 12 / United Artists (MGM)
13. The Worst Person in the World / $500K / +95% / Weekend 3 / Neon ($1,888K per-theater-average, 265 theaters)
14. Encanto / $433K / +221% / Weekend 13 / Disney
15. West Side Story / $319K / +29% / Weekend 11 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
16. Drive My Car / $209K / +11% / Weekend 13 / Janus Films
WOW! This is a really hot weekend! Surprisingly, this weekend very nearly feels like something one would have seen pre-pandemic. To my personal utter delight, this is the first weekend is forever that we’re seeing the entirety of the box office top ten take in grosses of over $1 million. We didn’t even have that when No Way Home first debuted so to see it now absolutely warms my heart! It’s not perfect, we’re definitely still in a pandemic, and who knows, this might all go away next weekend. Still, we have to celebrate the good when it comes, and this weekend truly is a good one!
In even more exciting news, this is the first weekend in forever that we’ve seen an overperformance for both of our new releases. Yes, not only did Uncharted make do on its promise of over-indexing but, perhaps even more excitingly, Dog leapfrogged all expectations to have one of the best openings of the pandemic era for a non-IP based movie. Focusing on Uncharted first, whereas many pundits were seeing the film potentially doing $40 million in the 3-Day and $45 million in the 4-Day earlier in the weekend, the film is actually coming in with an even greater $44 million in the 3-Day and $51 million through President’s Day. Just a few years ago, this would’ve been a massive upset that would’ve had the industry saying that “the ship has finally come in” for video game movie adaptations. However, as I mentioned last post, video game movies have actually been doing relatively well in the past few years this is just further evidence to support that. The biggest example recently would be that of 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog movie which managed to topple all expectations (getting generally solid reviews, opening ahead of projections, and legging out generally well up until the pandemic hit one month later) to take in a worldwide gross of $320 million. As a result, the film essentially set the benchmark, at least for opening weekend, for this kind of film adaptation. Now, Uncharted didn’t match Sonic‘s opening, $58 million in the 3-Day frame (with $70 million in the 4-Day; interestingly enough, also over the President’s Day weekend), but to be fair, that opening weekend was pre-COVID and Sonic did have stronger pre-release buzz. Still, Uncharted‘s $44 million 3-Day would make it the third-highest opening for a video game adaptation (Under Sonic and Detective Pikachu with $54 million), and when you take the 4-Day gross into account, its opening ends up within striking distance of Sonic‘s $58 million in a healthier market.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Uncharted did genuinely great this weekend, there’s just no way around it. The question I have is as to why. Now, there is no simple answer as success at the box office usually comes from a multitude of factors and, of course, some luck, but the obvious explanation for the film’s success is that of Tom Holland, who is riding very high right now off of the success of No Way Home (which I saw for the first time this past weekend and yeah, it’s a ton of fun). That movie, which has officially superseded Avatar has the third highest-grossing film of all time domestically (including re-releases) has been barrelling through every single weekend since its release with no signs of slowing down, and I am inclined to believe that its increased popularity likely rubbed off of Uncharted. I actually read that some drive-in theaters are showing Spider-Man: No Way Home as a double feature with Uncharted, which is a bit of cheating on Sony’s part to boost grosses, but also just goes to show their savvy as a studio and their awareness of just how popular Tom Holland is. To be fair, there is also the fact that Uncharted was also free of competition this weekend, with no new releases that could potentially compete in the same space. This was supposed to be the case last weekend for releases like Death on the Nile and Marry Me, but they ran straight into the Super Bowl which even managed to nullify those films’ potential boost in grosses from Valentine’s Day. With those films K.O.-ed and no major competition, Uncharted essentially had the long weekend to itself, and by presenting audiences a light, fun, action-adventure film based on a property that has never been adapted to film before (thus making it feel “new”), Sony ended up far exceeding expectations and completely winning the weekend in first place. Combined with international grosses (it started its rollout last weekend overseas) totaling $88 million, Uncharted is officially starting out with $139 million worldwide, which, on a budget of about $120 million, is a pretty good start.
Our other miracle this weekend came in second place in the form of Dog, Channing Tatum’s directorial debut which also surpassed even the loftiest of expectations to take in $15 million in the 3-Day (what it was expected to take in through President’s Day) and an amazing $18 million in the 4-Day frame. Honestly, that is incredible. In my last post, I compared Dog‘s likely gross to that of Licorice Pizza, and sure enough, the entire $15.5 million gross of that film in its 13-week run has been completely superseded by Dog in just four days. To be fair, Licorice Pizza skews slightly more arthouse and less commercial given that it is an Oscar contender, but Dog, being an adult-skewing drama film that is not based on an existing IP, has still performed better than the vast majority of other similar films. Throughout the pandemic, even when things are on the upswing, most of these kinds of films have, at best, opened to $8 million; in fact, several of those film have been from MGM including Respect and Wrath of Man. Funnily enough, the best performing film of this ilk to be released during the pandemic has been a fellow MGM release, House of Gucci. While the film did not necessarily turn a profit (though it arguably broke even on its budget), it opened to $14.4 million ($22 million over the 5-Day Thanksgiving weekend), legged out to $53 million, and grossed over $150 million worldwide. Now, Dog doesn’t necessarily have the buzz of House of Gucci (which was both good and bad, but no matter what, Channing Tatum is no Lady Gaga), nor does it have the benefit of Thanksgiving/Christmas legs, but solid reviews and great exit polling from general audiences could result in good legs overall. A healthy x2.7 multiplier would take the film to $40 million so this is a wonderful start, and on a budget of, reportedly, $15 million, that would be a really nice domestic take.
It’s interesting to see this film do well, not only because of its status of an adult-skewing dramedy with no brand to fall back on (outside of people’s love of dogs), but also because we’re getting to see Channing Tatum in a lead role for the first time in a while. He’s been working for sure, though primarily in smaller roles and cameos (including notable performances in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and The Hateful Eight) as well as voice work. Overall, we actually haven’t seen Tatum in a real leading role since 2015 with the much-maligned Jupiter Ascending as well as Magic Mike XXL. Tatum had a hot streak between 2012 and 2014, boosted undeniably by the performance of the G.I. Joe films but also buoyed notably by his well-regarded work in romances and comedies like The Vow, 21 and 22 Jump Street, and, of course, the original Magic Mike. Tatum’s best performing movies are generally those that included comedic elements in some fashion as his strength as an actor lies in his more casual comedic style. This helps explain the appeal of Dog, which leans into the more comedic aspects of the story to make it a “dramedy”. Another, and perhaps even more important aspect of Dog‘s success, is that of Tatum’s appeal to women. His work as a romantic lead in The Vow established a very strong female fanbase for him which was then thoroughly cemented via the Magic Mike franchise (a third installment of which will be heading to HBO Max sometime soon). Sure enough, Tatum’s female appeal was on full display in the audience demographics for Dog, which skewed more female than male at 55%, and older for that matter with 69% of the audience being over the age of 25 and 47% over 35. That’s great news for Tatum as he preps for his next film in just a few weeks, The Lost City with Sandra Bullock, as it shows he can bring in the right demographic that said film is clearly aiming for, but it’s also a testament to MGM’s thoughtful positioning of Dog as counterprogramming this weekend. We talked quite a bit in last weekend’s post about how Hollywood tried, but ultimately failed, to counterprogram what was assumed to be a male-centric and younger-skewing Super Bowl with more female-centric and older-skewing films, but this weekend saw its two highest-performing newcomers each overperform by actively avoiding each other’s target audiences, seeing as while Dog skewed female and older, Uncharted instead brought in a much more male (at 65%) and younger (48% under 25 and 75% under 35) audience that was much more familiar with the game. All in all, it was a well-programmed weekend on the part of the major studios and everyone is reaping the rewards.
When I say everyone, I really do mean everyone. “A rising tide lifts all boats” as a grand influx of moviegoers to the multiplex this weekend also had the effect of boosting the grosses for the vast majority of the rest of the top ten. Unsurprisingly, Spider-Man: No Way Home placed third, given all the hullabaloo about Tom Holland in Uncharted, with a (surprising!) -2% drop for a gross of $7.4 million. As mentioned above, I’d heard that some theaters played Uncharted and No Way Home as a double bill, so no matter what, Spider-Man was going to do very nicely. It now stands at $770 million domestically and $1.831 billion worldwide (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness cannot come soon enough!). Sadly, however, the same could not be said of Death on the Nile, which, in all fairness, had an okay drop of -49%. However, given its lackluster start last weekend, this resulted in a mere $6.5 million gross in fourth place. The star-driven murder mystery adaptation currently stands at $26.2 million domestically and $76.1 million worldwide, and given that it pooped out in China this weekend, we may officially pronounce Death on the Nile, well, dead.
In fifth and sixth place, we find that I was proven wrong with my prediction as Jackass Forever did see a drastic resurgence from its large drop last weekend (likely due to its core audiences being pulled away by the Super Bowl) and bested Marry Me. Dropping only -36% for a gross of $5.2 million and taking its domestic gross to $47.7 million domestically ($58 million worldwide on a $10 million budget), Jackass easily beat out the likes of Marry Me which did not see a resurgence as I’d expected. Instead, the rom-com dropped -53% (the largest drop in the top ten) for a gross of $3.71 million. Currently, Marry Me stands at $17.4 million domestically and $36.5 million worldwide. On a modest budget of $23 million, that’s not horrible for a film two weeks into release, and the film will likely at least break even, but it’s also likely done as best as it’s really going to do and will probably plateau around the mid-$20 millions domestically at best. My real concern here would be the film’s viability in the ancillary market, however, as it is currently available to stream on the premium tier of Peacock at no extra charge, which could easily dent its downstream revenue. Hopefully, Universal was anticipating this. Given that the film opened low and will be topping out soon, I expect about a week more before we see Marry Me become available for third-party PVOD rentals at $20, so we’ll see how it performs.
As for the rest of the top ten, it was all good news for pretty much everyone. Sing 2 held with a reliably amazing -8% drop in seventh place, taking in $2.8 million for a total domestic haul of $148.2 million and a worldwide gross of $332 million, about 4x its $85 million budget, all while being available to rent at home. While I wouldn’t necessarily bet on seeing a third Sing movie any time soon, you can bet that Illumination will probably revisit the characters in shorts and advertisements going forward as they clearly have their fans. Scream also continued its winning streak with a hold of -34% for a gross of $1.96 million in eighth, totaling $77 million domestically. The next benchmark for it would be $80 million domestic, which is feasible, though not a guarantee as The Batman is swooping into theaters in two weeks and will likely take up many of the screens Scream still has (which still quite a lot with 1,907 theaters six weeks in, a testament to it’s continued strong performance). Even still, with $121.4 million worldwide, Scream has already made 5x its budget so it has nothing to worry about.
Coming in ninth place was another surprise overperformance by a newcomer this weekend as The Cursed took in $1.75 million. Now, this isn’t exactly an overperformance in the same way that Uncharted and Dog are in terms of raw box office numbers (in fact, by those numbers, it’s actually a slight underperformance). Instead, it’s an overperformance by virtue of the fact that the Sundance Werewolf-period drama came in ninth place as opposed to tenth, where most pundits (including myself) had pegged it. Instead, tenth place was reserved for Blacklight with a reliably sturdy (for Liam Neeson that is) -50% for a gross of $1.74 million, taking its domestic total to $7.3 million. Clearly, Blacklight will not be legging out the same way the likes of Honest Thief and The Marksman did (especially given that they admittedly benefited from being some of the only new releases during the height of the pandemic and thus had exorbitantly long runs in drive-in theaters). Expect it to quickly disappear from theaters going forward.
As for the specialty market, there was even more good news as Oscar favorites continued to see notable boosts. Licorice Pizza may have dropped -33% for a gross of $643K (We’ll see when it finally tops out, perhaps $17-18 million?), but The Worst Person in the World had a bump pf +92% for a gross of $490K thanks the addition of 216 theaters across the country. With a domestic gross of $1.09 million, Worst Person is actually on track to become the highest-grossing Norwegian film ever released in the US, besting fellow Best International Film nominee Kon Tiki which currently holds the record with $1.5 million. Speaking of $1.5 million, Drive My Car continues to be a sleeper hit on the arthouse circuit, growing +11% with the addition of 86 theaters and taking in $209K for a total domestic haul of $1.53 million. Obviously, that’s not the highest-grossing Japanese film release in the US (especially not when you count anime films) but it’s a big deal for this cerebral picture and such a tiny distributor as Janus Films.
Also notable were the expansions of Encanto and West Side Story, by 1,035 and 505 theaters respectively, which resulted in a gridlock of Oscar movies from 12th-16th place. Encanto re-entered wide release, no doubt to make sure that Oscar voters pay attention to it, as Disney tries to push it past the $100 million mark at the box office (currently, it stands at $95 million). That will not be happening, however, as the film is currently available on Disney+ and no family will likely be venturing away from their couch to go see it, as exemplified by the film’s paltry $433K gross this weekend. There’s been a debate about the film with regard to this move on Disney’s part, with many wondering whether or not the film would have indeed reached $100 million domestic had it not been forced into a 30-Day exclusive theatrical window and dropped on to Disney+ for Christmas. We can’t exactly say whether or not given that the film was already underperforming from early on in its run. That said, Disney was very aggressive in marketing the film as a 30-Day exclusive theatrical release and made sure that everyone on the planet knew that it would be arriving on Disney+ merely a month out from its opening, thus encouraging many to skip out on the film in theaters. Given just how great the word of mouth on the film has been since its Disney+ release, there’s reason to believe that its legs would be stronger if Disney had not pushed for a 30-Day theatrical window, perhaps maybe even just giving it a 45-Day window as is now becoming the industry standard. The film was still had relatively solid grosses in its 5th week of release, with drops from weekend to weekend averaging around -37% (very good!), and only really dove drastically (a -72% drop) once it arrived on Disney+ since over 1,000 theaters dropped it; understandably so as they felt they would be losing money on the picture. Perhaps even just an extra week as a theatrical exclusive would’ve given Encanto the juice it needed to get over the $100 million domestic hump but now there’s no way. Even if it does win the Best Animated Feature Oscar, everyone who wanted to see has already seen it at least three times over.
As for West Side Story, I’ve already covered the whole scenario surrounding that film’s main box office problem (see here for more details), but I will give it credit where credit is due as it had a +30% bump from weekend to weekend with a gross of $321K. Reportedly, it will be jumping back into fully wide release (around 2,000 theaters) next weekend, just in time for the start of Oscar voting where West Side Story will be in the interesting position of being both in wide release as well as available on both HBO/HBO Max and Disney+. The perfect Oscar campaign is all about visibility and there is no way for a movie to be more visible than that. Right now, West Side Story feels like a lock in just one category, Supporting Actress for Ariana DeBose (the same category for which Rita Moreno won her Oscar for the same role in 1961), but maybe this will be the profile boost the film needs. Stay tuned!