The Lost City amazingly manages to open on par with Bullock’s last mainstream studio comedies, further cementing her movie star status!!
Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Mar 25-27th) / 3-Day Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Estimates:
- The Lost City / $31 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount Pictures
- The Batman / $20.5 million / -44% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
- RRR: Rise, Roar, Revolt / $9.5 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sarigama Cinemas
- Uncharted / $5 million / -36% / Weekend 6 / Sony (Columbia)
- Jujutsu Kaisen 0 / $4.57 million / -75% / Weekend 2 / Funimation (Crunchyroll)
- X / $2.23 million / -48% / Weekend 2 / A24
- Dog / $2.1 million / -47% / Weekend 6 / United Artists (MGM)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home / $4.4 million / -24% / Weekend 11 / Sony (Columbia)
- Sing 2 / $1.28 million / -12% / Weekend 14 / Universal
- Infinite Storm / $751K / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Bleecker Street Media
12. The Outfit / $560K / -63% / Weekend 2 / Focus Features
13. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once / $509K / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / A24 ($50K per-theater-average in ten theaters)
19. The Worst Person in the World / $85K / -15% / Weekend 8 / NEON
21. Parallel Mothers / $63K / +115% / Weekend 14 / Sony Pictures Classics
22. Drive My Car / $56K / +9% / Weekend 58 / Janus Films
23. West Side Story / $51K / -4% / Weekend 16 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
26. Nightmare Alley / $18K / -35% / Weekend 15 / Disney (Searchlight Pictures)
Indeed, Sandra Bullock is still a movie star! To be fair, we all knew this already, and there is plenty of background info to prove it, but in this day and age where the idea of the old-school, butts-in-seats “movie star” is very much in question, it’s nice to get an affirmation like this. Yes, The Lost City delivered a wonderful opening this weekend and even managed to topple The Batman in first place (and by a lot too). The Batman‘s situation has a few questions marks attached but clearly, audiences were ready for something new this weekend as most of the top ten saw considerably larger drops than expected, though everyone still looks to be doing relatively well. Elsewhere, we saw an indie film pop into the top ten with Infinite Storm while Everything, Everywhere, All At Once had a strong debut in limited release.
So just how well did The Lost City do? $31 million worth of well, that’s how much! Now, normally, this would be the point at which I would need to stop and explain how this number qualifies as “good”, specifically with regard to the ongoing COVID pandemic and the deflated box office that it has brought about. However, in a wonderful turn of events, there is really no need to justify this number as “good for the circumstances”, largely because under normal circumstances, this would still be a sweet opening and largely on track for a Sandra Bullock film. Looking at her last few big hits (outside of Ocean’s 8 which has slightly different circumstances by being more of an ensemble, though Bullock was the biggest box office draw in that cast) of a similar genre (specifically live-action comedies, so not counting Gravity, The Blindside, or Minions), we find The Proposal and The Heat; both pretty damn big hits with grosses of $314 million in 2009 and $229 million in 2013, respectively. Given that they pulled in such large sums based largely on star power (a rarity these days), one would expect that both had very big opening weekends yet instead, The Proposal (whose audience Paramount admitted to having been aiming at when packaging this film) opening to just $33 million while The Heat opening to a surprising $39 million, both grosses within striking distance of The Lost City’s $31 million. That’s not to say that either gross is meager, but given that both the aforementioned films grossed over $150 million domestically, it is a further testament to Bullock’s appeal as an actress that the film’s managed to leg out from already solid debuts to even more exceptional grosses. That appeal is fully on display here as Bullock managed to open the film on par with her previous comedies in spite of a pandemic that has reportedly been keeping older women (the demo this movie is directly aimed at) away from theaters. That said, clearly, this result shows that the audience is just waiting for a movie worth spending their time on.
Sure enough, The Lost City managed to do what Marry Me could not just a few weeks ago and did indeed bring in the older female crowd with 61% of the audience being women and over 50% over the age of 35. Still, there is more to be said when comparing the two films given that, as opposed to Marry Me, The Lost City also had the benefit of a stronger setup for opening weekend. Perhaps driven (or lacking in drive maybe) by the fact that their agreements with theaters allow Universal to release a film for online rental after just 17 days if it does not perform as well as they would like to in theaters, Marry Me, a similarly fem-focused film that was hoping to bank on the appeal of seeing its star (JLo) in her element (a romantic comedy, with musical elements for good measure), was released rather poorly in retrospect by being saddled with the unfortunate responsibility of counterprogramming Super Bowl Weekend just so it could pair up nicely with Valentine’s Day. A release the previous weekend alongside Jackass Forever might have been a much more ideal counterprogramming venture, but instead Marry Me floundered and quickly faded away, not entirely helped by its simultaneous availability on Peacock.
The Lost City, meanwhile, was positioned brilliants to take advantage of two key factors: 1) The Batman having slowed down by this point in its release window, at least just enough to allow an opening for The Lost City to come bursting through, and 2) Channing Tatum having released Dog six weeks prior. Now, the second factor is a bit debatable given that there was little way of knowing that Dog would be the surprise it that it is (currently resting at $57 million domestic of a $15 million opening, phenomenal), but the positioning of The Lost City after Dog was undoubtedly a win-win scenario no matter how Dog‘s box office turned out. Dog is a small film, and assuming it absolutely tanked, that tanking wouldn’t be a big enough deal to register with audiences (especially given that the film cast Tatum in a slightly more serious and less “sexy” role than he is typically known for) and would do too much hurt to The Lost City PR-wise, especially not six weeks out. On the flip side, if Dog were to be a hit (which it was), that would create a great amount of buzz for Channing Tatum, especially given his absence from major lead roles in films for the past few years (similar to Sandra Bullock), and draw interest for The Lost City in response. As mentioned above, Dog was a hit, particularly with women which allowed it to successfully counterprogram Uncharted, and further bolstered the female appeal of The Lost City, cementing it as a viable counterprogramming option for anyone who didn’t feel like watching The Batman again, and virtually guaranteeing the film at least a decent opening. One SXSW Festival and surprisingly strong reviews later and the results speak for themselves.
The only question that remains now is whether or not The Lost City will continue to deliver and leg out. Numbers-wise, all signs point to yes as Bullocks comedies (and, frankly, the vast majority of her movies) tend to leg out very nicely, and Tatum himself has already had one movie leg out well this year as Dog has posted a fantastic x3.89 multiplier. Still, there’s quite a bit of competition coming down the pipeline in the next few weeks. Just next week, we’ll see the long-delayed release of Morbius from Sony (which promises some multiversal surprises so don’t underestimate it), followed the very next weekend by Michael Bay’s Ambulance (itself banking heavily on an old-school flavor of action filmmaking, not unlike The Lost City) as well as friendly fire from Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog sequel which has the potential be a solid hit. Despite that though, I still have faith that The Lost City will be strong enough to counterprogram, especially with all the publicity it will be getting this weekend from its number one opening. Good reviews and good box office can usually push audiences on the fence to go see a film, so we’ll just need to see how well The Lost City holds next weekend. If it can manage a healthy hold (hopefully somewhere in the -40%s), expect it to do strong business going forward. For now, however, all I can say is bravo! Bravo to Bullock, Tatum, and the rest of the cast for being so game, bravo to the directors, writers, and crew for making such an entertaining film, and bravo to Paramount for earning themselves their third #1 opening weekend debut of this year after Scream and Jackass Forever. The studio that many have felt is on the brink of collapse since 2016 is really doing something right in 2022 and I personally hope the hits keep coming, no matter what size (though particularly for Sonic 2 because the first one was a ton of fun!).
Heading on to the number 2 spot, The Batman saw a sharper than expected drop of -44%. To be clear, that’s not at all a bad hold as domestically, it still took in $20.5 million and is looking at a total stateside haul of about $332 million. Worldwide, the film sits at $631 million, the second highest-grossing film of the year thus far, just underneath China’s The Battle at Lake Changjin II with $633 million; international grosses for the weekend are still rolling in, so it may even be at over $670 million when all is said and done. So why the concern? Well, despite solid holds, The Batman appears to be slowing down internationally, leading many pundits to project the film topping out at around $800-850 million worldwide. This is worrying certain pundits as several in the industry were expecting the film to hit $1 billion by the end of its run. Now, whether or not the film needs to gross $1 billion to be perceived as a success has become the subject of debate lately, with some arguing (understandably) that any gross that is 4x the film’s budget (The Batman has a reported budget of $200 million) is very good, while others argue that it would be an underperformance given how other DC films, specifically Batman-centric films, have grossed over $1 billion in the past (heck, even the Batman-TANGENTIAL Joker was a billion-dollar earner, even if that was heavily rooted in curiosity). In part, this sentiment is also the product of a rivalry between Marvel and DC in the film space, with DC (understandably) looking like the weaker brand if one of its biggest characters struggles to gross $1 billion while Marvel seems to pump out a billion-dollar earner with every other installment in their franchise (though, to be fair, that isn’t going to be happening as often as newer and newer character as introduced and need to gain a proper audience before hitting the billion-dollar mark).
Personally, I’m a bit torn. I can absolutely see where those who feel The Batman is underperforming are coming from, and it doesn’t help that if the film ends its run with $850 million worldwide, it will have a gross on par with Batman vs Superman which has been a thorn in the side of DC on film since its release and not the comparison that The Batman is looking for. That said, I’m inclined to be much more optimistic about the film’s prospects because, at the end of the day, $800+ million is still a great gross for frankly any film. Furthermore, audiences generally seem to like The Batman. Quibbles about its ending aside, the overall response has been quite positive and hungry for more, suggesting that a sequel film with the same creative team will likely make even more money. I have to imagine that part of these box office anxieties surrounding the film’s performance are also stemming from the fact that the film will become available to stream on HBO Max around April 19th, a move that Warner is suddenly getting a lot of pushback forgiven that it is assumed that the streaming release of the film will kneecap its box office after that date. Mind you, few seemed to make the same complaints to Paramount when they did the exact same thing (a 45-Day exclusive theatrical release window) to A Quiet Place Part II, and that film still did excellently at the box office, even after it debuted on streaming (though to be fair, more and more are getting worried for Mission Impossible 7 and whether it will “suffer” the same fate). In my humble opinion, I think the streaming release may actually even help a The Batman sequel do even better down the line. It’s a well-known fact that movies that perform well at the box office tend to play extremely well on streaming platforms, and The Batman has done pretty damn well. Its debut on HBO Max should be seen less as a hindrance to its box office and more so an introduction of the film to a wider audience who may have not been inclined to see it in theaters. The film is bound to get a new wave of admirers from this who will likely be a lot more excited about a sequel, and a lot more willing to show up to theaters to see it, thus boosting its gross. For now, I think the best approach here is to be patient. Let The Batman run its course and see where it lands, and then build from there.
Third place belongs to Indian-Telgu Language feature RRR: Rise, Roar, Revolt, which didn’t perform nearly as well as Hollywood thought it was going to, debuting with $9.5 million as opposed to the $12-15 million its $4.4 million worth of preview grosses would’ve suggested. Still, it’s a big deal whenever an Indian film is able to get into the top ten, and the fact that RRR made it to number three is excellent! What makes this movie even more special is that it’s directed by S. S. Rajamouli who directed both Baahubali films, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion being the highest-grossing Indian film of all time. Acclaimed by critics from pretty much all over the world for their scale, ambition, storytelling, and boldly imaginative action sequences, the Baahubali films hold the record for being some of the best performing Indian films ever at the North American box office, with Baahubali 2 holding the record for the biggest Indian film opening of all time in the States with $10.4 million. With that in mind, it’s all the more impressive that S. S. Rajamouli has come so close to topping his own record in the States with RRR. The appetite for Indian films in the US has always been pretty strong (I won’t repeat my Gainesville story, but it exemplifies my point), but the ongoing pandemic conditions at the box office have forced exhibitors to get more creative in what movies they showcase, resulting in a box office top ten that has regularly been a lot more diverse, not just in with regard to race and ethnicity in casts but the films’ countries of origin, genre, language, medium, and narrative scale and scope, than I’ve ever seen. If nothing else, it makes the weekend box office infinitely more interesting, and I continue to wonder if we will continue to see this kind of variety the more the pandemic winds down.
One interesting thing to note is that, even if it’s just for a weekend, these more “eventized”, “specialized” wide releases are actually taking in more money upon opening than many other American films that aren’t connected to an existing property. It’s no secret that tonight’s Best Picture nominees are massive box office underperformers (outside of Dune, which took in $400 million worldwide, and CODA, Power of the Dog, and Don’t Look Up, which were streaming releases primarily). Of the theatrically released pictures in the line-up, the average domestic gross was about $15.5 million, with that gross generally coming about after an average run of 16-17 weeks. Meanwhile, Jujustsu Kaisen 0 has nearly doubled that in just two weeks while, if RRR performs like Baahubali 2, it would still surpass that average gross in just three weeks. As more and more theaters face considerable pressure from streaming services stealing their business, these specialized releases have allowed them to net some pretty sweet profits in a single weekend, with RRR alone displaying a nearly $8,000 average gross per-theater ($4,000 in profit assuming the revenue sharing agreement with RRR‘s distributor is a 50/50 split). Overall, it would seem wise for theaters to continue to invest in this kind of more worldly content (which they can more easily eventize) post-pandemic, even if just for the financial returns.
Rounding out the top five, we find Uncharted in fourth place with a solid -36% hold, not too badly dinged by the entrance of another treasure hunting adventure movie into the market, and a gross of $5 million which takes it to $133.5 million domestic and $357 million worldwide, nearly 3x is $120 million budget. The above mentioned Jujutsu Kaisen 0 finished in fifth place with an expectedly large drop for an anime feature of -75% for a gross of $4.58 million (though some sites list it as having had a -69% drop despite reflecting the same gross this weekend. Odd…). This puts in right in line with Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train‘s -73% drop in its second weekend, though that film did open higher with $22 million versus Jujutsu Kaisen‘s $18 million so Demon Slayer is still ahead of it by $7 million at this same time in their respective release cycles. No matter though as if Jujutsu Kaisen continues to mirror Demon Slayer, it will end its run with $37.6 million domestic and leapfrog over Dragon Ball Super: Broly to become the fourth highest-grossing anime film of all time in the US.
As for the rest of the top ten, I was surprised by the level of a drop-off seen by several of these titles. X actually held slightly better than expected with a -48% drop and a gross of $2.23 million in sixth place. The little A24 horror film is still not looking to be the next Hereditary or Midsommar but, all things considered, an $8.3 million domestic gross is not half bad for a film like this (plus it will probably blow up on streaming anyway given its pedigree as a Ti West film). Seventh place belonged to Dog which actually saw its steepest drop this weekend with -47% for a gross of $2.1 million. It makes some sense as there was another, bigger, and fresher Channing Tatum movie out this weekend, but I was still surprised after the robustness of its performance these past six weeks. No matter though, as Dog has already grossed nearly 4.5x its $15 million budget; everything from here on out is (and kind of has been) pure profit! Perhaps the most surprising drop, however, was No Way Home with a -36%. That’s perfectly healthy, especially for a film this far into its run, but that is also its lowest drop since the weekend of January 14th. If you needed any more proof that Sandra Bullock is still a big deal movie star, the woman managed to leave a dent in Spider-Man: No Way Home; put that in your pipe and smoke it! The film took in roughly $2 million which officially brought it past $800 million domestically, making it one of three movies in history (alongside Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Endgame) to accomplish such a feat. Ninth place went to perennial success story Sing 2, holding a typically excellent -12% for a gross of $1.28 million.
Rounding out the top ten was a surprise contender in the Naomi Watts-led survival film Infinite Storm. Reportedly based on the true story of a woman who put her own life at risk to save a fellow hiker after happening upon his footprints in the midst of a mountain snowstorm, I’d neglected to mention this film in my predictions given that I didn’t believe it would have that wide of a release. To my surprise, it had a release in 1,525 theaters and managed to snag tenth place with a gross of $751K. Naomi Watts has been in the box office conversation a lot recently, though for much smaller movies than she once was. There’s an instinct to compare to her actors like Bruce Willis, Frank Grillo, and Nicolas Cage, all of whom seem to be starring in a new direct-to-DVD/Streaming film every week, much to the ridicule of many viewers who seem to view them as “sell-out” or “bargain bin actors”. Personally, I think that said notion is incredibly unfair as 1) They’re working and, regardless of the quality, that’s good for them, and 2) You really never know the situation anyone is in or the reason why an actor may decide to take a role (Nicolas Cage revealed in an interview very recently that he “started taking anything offered” for the past few years in large part to pay debts the IRS as well as financially support his mother and keep her from being placed in a mental institution. He states that he’s been able to pay his debts as of now and you know what? Good for him!). Despite that, Watts has that “bad movie stink” on her, which is a real shame because, to her credit, she is going after daring and interesting roles and that should be commended. Perhaps she’ll eventually follow in the pace of a fellow Australian actress, Nicole Kidman, who took a similar route in her career post-Oscar win for The Hours which eventually led her to Big Little Lies which has boosted her profile significantly in the last few years and allowed her to take on tons exciting roles as both an actress and producer. Here’s hoping Naomi Watts can find a similar level of success!
Finally, with regard to the specialty market, several Best Picture contenders, as well as The Worst Person in the World saw their theater counts grow in an effort to capitalize on Oscar weekend but there was little effect. We’ll have to check in next week for any real potential box office gains. The biggest indie release of note was the highly anticipated, Michelle Yeoh-starring, alternative universe dramedy Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. The genre-bending sci-fi adventure film from A24 has definite breakout potential as a quirky indie that is just weird enough for the audience’s curiosity to get the best of them and have them check it out. A24, of course, is going to try to have their cake (box office success) and eat it too (by adding a helping of awards buzz) as reportedly they are planning to launch an Oscar campaign for this one. They already started with a stop at SXSW where the film has received glowing reviews for its buck-wild ambition and Michelle Yeoh’s performance (which is likely where the film has its best chance at Oscar contention given her status as an icon), and now played it smart with a wider-than-usual limited release in 10 theaters where it took in $50K per-theater. That’s a really great per-theater-average (though one wonders what it would’ve been in fewer theaters) and a solid start to its run as it looks to expand slowly to build up hype. I will be extremely curious to see if the film resonates with mainstream audiences, though I am unusually optimistic about its prospects.