Box Office Rundown!! July 15th-17th!! Thor Stumbles but Continues to be Quite Strong, While Where The Crawdads Sing Surprises with a Formidable Debut!!

Box Office Top 10 (July 1st-July 3rd) / 3-Day Weekend Gross / 4-Day Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Actuals:

  1. Thor: Love and Thunder / $46.6 million / -68% / Weekend 2 / Disney (Marvel)
  2. Minions: The Rise of Gru / $26.8 million / -42% / Weekend 3 / Universal (Illumination)
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing / $17.25 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia Pictures)
  4. Top Gun: Maverick / $12.2 million / -21% / Weekend 8 / Paramount Pictures
  5. Elvis / $8 million / -28% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
  6. Paws of Fury / $6.3 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount Pictures
  7. The Black Phone / $5.37 million / -31% / Weekend 4 / Universal (Blumhouse)
  8. Jurassic World: Dominion / $5.1 million / -40% / Weekend 5 / Universal
  9. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris / $1.9 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Focus Features
  10. Lightyear / $1.4 million / -40% / Weekend 4 / Disney (Pixar)

Notable Outsiders:

11. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On / $567K/ +76% / Weekend 4 / A24

18. Fire of Love / $64K / +183% / Weekend 2 / NEON ($4,630 per-theater average in 14 theaters)

As the weeks roll on, the Marvel situations seems to become no clearer with Thor: Love and Thunder dropping a “thunderous” -68% in its second weekend for a comparatively quite meager gross of $46.6 million against its original $144 million opening. That’s an incredible drip for the film, not shocking given that its exit scores were a bit mediocre, but surprisingly nonetheless given just how little competition the MCU flick was facing this past weekend. It was not all doom and gloom though as Where the Crawdads Sing emergered as a surprise, old-fashioned hit of sorts, a major win for the “dying breed” that is “adult dramas” amidst several strong performances in that category throughout the top ten.

Concentrating on Thor: Love and Thunder, it is still wait too early for anyone to be calling the film a flop. I’ve seen that sentiment being through around twitter and several medias pundits are beginning to speculate that the MCU might be falling apart before our very eyes. To be fair, yes, a -68% drop is very bad. I speculated that the film would see a drop in the 60s (around 60-65%) given its B+ Cinemascore (low for the MCU) and the more divise reaction it had upon release. On top of that, being that its a Marvel movie, Love and Thunder was bound to be more frontloaded than other films, and it was more likely to open bigger than expected only then drop heavily in its second weekend as all the die-hard fans rushed out to see it early. However, a nearly -70% drop from week to week is way bigger than I would think anyone could’ve expected, and it really crystallizes the fact that reaction to this movie is highly polarizing as numbers like this suggest that the audience are not only uninterested, but actively turning away from the film to see other fare (like certain female-led, Southern Gothic tales? I’m getting ahead of myself). Not helping the comparison is the fact that this is a drop on par with that of Black Widow, a film that was release while the pandemic was still raging on a full strength, and that was available to rent on Disney+. These conditions created a similar situation in which the film opened decently, but then dropped like a rock upon its second weekend with a matching -68%. The fact that the box office has returned, more or less, to normal and yet we still are seeing Love and Thunder drop-off like this not a great sign and suggests that it will burn-out relatively quickly.

All that said, the film still has one advantage in that it opened huge. As discussed last weekend, an opening gross of $144 million is the highest of any Thor movie, $22 million more than Ragnarok which was a break out hit, and given that height, Love and Thunder still has a longer way to go before it ends up hitting rock bottom. Also working it its favor is the fact that Love and Thunder has opened in the middle of a mostly empty summer and, to a certain degree, kind of plays like the only game in town as there aren’t really any huge movies on the horizon (Maybe Nope?) that are likely to steal its……thunder…. That has certainly contributed to its solid daily grosses throughout the past week which, even with a huge drop, have allowed the film to hit $233.9 million domestic already, 10% ahead of Ragnarok at the same point in its release cycle. Internationally, the film’s drop was much healthier for a blockbuster of this caliber, hold by -59% for an overseas gross of $60.1 million which took it’s international cume to $264 million and its worldwide total to just about $498 million. The fact that Love and Thunder has passed nearly half-a-billion in just two weekends is quite strong and continues to further the case that while the MCU might not be functioning at peak capacity, its still got a lot of momentum. These kinds of numbers suggest to (at least for the moment) that, instead of a complete dud as some pundits will have you believe, we have another Multiverse of Madness on our hands. In just two weekends, Love and Thunder has already broken even on its $250 million budget (not including advertising, but I digress) and it’s second weekend drop is actually not all that far off from Multiverse of Madness‘ second weekend drop of -67% either. The latter film, while also divisive, still had a very robust run in theaters and nearly made it too $1 billion worldwide. Love and Thunder is likely not to get as close to that hallowed benchmark, but at the rate it is going, a gross similar to that of Ragnarok isn’t out of the question. As with Multiverse of Madness, we have another evolving situation that calls the MCU into question without totally branding it as being in freefall. In other words, Love and Thunder, just as with last weekend, its doing “okay.”

Moving on to more compelling box office performances, Minions: Rise of Gru continues to perform exceedingly well by taking the Sing 2 route of being the only “big” kids-movie in the market right now. Holding with a solid -42%, Rise of Gru took in $26.8 million this weekend is performing remarkably in tandem with its predecessor domestically as both films have grossed about $263 million at this same point in their respective release cycles (Rise of Gru is a few thousand dollars ahead). This suggests a likely $330 million endpoint for Rise fo Gru domestically, especially give that we still have another four-ish weeks of summer vacation left for kids. The bigger question for this film is going to be with its international haul, however, given that Illumination is a famously Euro-skewing brand. Reportedly, Rise of Gru is tracking about 13% behind the first Minions movie, but 5% ahead of Despicable Me 3, and give that both films hit the $1 billion mark, there’s no reason to think that Rise of Gru won’t meet that benchmark either. The film has bowed practically everywhere in the world so far and is up to $533 million worldwide (nearly 7x its $80 million budget), though it still has yet to hit the lucrative Korean market, so expected solid international numbers next weekend as well.

Moving on to third place, we find the film that is truly one of the most interesting releases of the year, Where the Crawdads Sing. Earlier this year, I got into a tiff with someone on Twitter when I proclaimed that I personally didn’t see Where the Crawdads Sing doing all that well. This twitter user was quick to point out that book upon which the film was based was a record breaking bestseller, but my cynical box office brain had me underestimating the Reese Witherspoon-produced, Southern drama given just how unkind moviegoers have been to adult dramas in the past few years. Add in the fact that, aside from Reese Witherspoon behind the camera, the film had no name-talent attached (no offense to star Daisy Edgar Jones), nor any marquee director to speak of, and there really seemed to be nothing with which this movie could entice people with while competing with Marvel, Minions, Elvis, and Top Gun. Early tracking seemed to confirm my suspicions as projections were coming in around $9-10 million for the weekend, not helped by the reviews for the film which came in thoroughly mixed at 35% on Rotten Tomatoes within average score of 5.3/10. Needless to say, hopes were not high for a good opening weekend.

The tide began to turn, however, on Friday when Crawdads did something unexpected by pulling in $2.3 million in Thursday night previews, a much bigger gross than any pundit had been anticipating, suggesting that fans of the book may have been rallying for a one-day box office wonder. That one-day would end up extending into three-days as Crawdads then proceeded to pull in a baffo $7.2 million on Friday proper, suggesting a potential $15-16 million opening weekend before finally settling on a $17.2 million total weekend haul. By all accounts, that’s absolutely incredible to behold. Sure, the film is based on an existing book property that sold well, but we’ve seen several attempts to capitalize on popular novels do middling business at best (if not outrightly flop) since the mid-2010s, as franchises have dominated the multiplex and more and more literary adaptations have gone to streaming. The question is, what made Crawdads different?

Having never read the book, I wasn’t sure exactly how to approach categorizing the film, so I was a bit surprised to discover it getting lumped in with many Nicholas Sparks book adaptations. Upon further inspection, the comparison proved to be quite apt, even down to the film being produced by Reese Witherspoon (an avid reader and thoroughly Southern girl) and focusing on a love triangle alongside a gothic crime story. With that in mind, the film’s success has a very clear explanation to me now: its appeal aimed directly at older female audiences. That might seem a bit reductive, but it is keeping with the legacy of success that Nicholas Sparks-like stories have long possessed. While these tales of southern love and loss have never received particularly strong critical notices, usually instead being labeled as trashy and melodramatic, their focus on dialogue, relationship drama, and high emotion have undeniably had a massive appeal for women, particularly older women whom are usually more voracious readers than men. As a result, film adaptations of these stories have historically been able to pull in a great deal of money by tapping directly into this niche and clearly continue to do so in this day and age, setting the stage for Crawdads to rope in a solid audience. Add in the backing of a major film producer like Witherspoon, and the marketing power of a major studio like Sony, and the film was actually very well primed for success.

The other major factor in its success is simply timing. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve only had one truly female-centric film dominate the market: The Lost City. By rooting itself completely int he appeal of Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum as movie stars, The Lost City took the Sing 2 route of solely focusing one specific audience niche and made itself into the only game in town for older women, counterprogramming practically every movie it came up against and reaping serious rewards at the box office by doing so, further proving the viable of such a female-focused movie at the box office post-COVID. Having since disappeared from the box office, however, The Lost City left a hole in the market, a vacuum to be occupied by another female-focused vehicle to takes its place. Thor: Love and Thunder did to a degree last weekend as it did skew slightly more female (women over 25 actually gave the film its best reviews), but its big drop this weekend once again led to a vacuum that Crawdads was able to thoroughly exploit. Slotting itself into place as the sole movie this weekend aimed at women over 25 (a demo that showed up as 55% of the film’s total audience and gave it great notices), Where the Crawdads sing had absolutely no competition these weekend from other bigger films since it appealed to such a specific group of people, and that group powered to have the biggest opening for a female-fronted drama since the start of the pandemic. It’s $17 million opening is way beyond that of recent Nicholas Sparks adaptations like The Choice ($6 million) and The Best of Me ($10 million), firmly ahead of perennial favorites The Notebook ($13 million) and The Last Song ($16 million), and only just under romantic drama Me Before You ($18 million), and on a budget of just $24 million, Where the Crawdads Sing is off to a really strong start.

With regards to its prospects, while I am not expecting the film to perform as well as The Lost City, a very good multiplier and strong summer legs are thoroughly within the realm of possibility. The Lost City, benefited from being the only game in town for older women-a situation Crawdads also finds itself in until at least late August, if not mid-September-and manged a x3.46 multiplier from opening to final domestic haul. Such a multiplier for Crawdads would see it hitting nearly $60 million domestic by the end of its run. In general, these Nicholas Sparks-like stories tend to pull in multipliers of x3-4 so the likely final tally for Crawdads lies somewhere between $50-70 million, and I am personally betting on Crawdads landing on the high end of that projection. We’ll see what the coming weeks hold, but this is a big win for female-focused films, and theatrical dramas in general, further illustrating how the moviegoing market really has roared back to life as of late.

Finishing off the top five were holdovers, Top Gun: Maverick in fourth and Elvis in fifth. Maverick continued its winning streak, pulling a -21% hold for a gross of $12.2 million in its eighth week and pulling itself to $618 million domestic which makes it the 11th highest grossing film of all time in the US. Next weekend, it will undoubtedly bounce past $620 million and knock The Last Jedi out of orbit to become number 10, though, frankly, its not like the film need s to be any more impressive with its worldwide hauld $1.2 billion. Elvis, on the other hand, is actually a slightly more exciting, if only by sheer newness, and managed to delight everyone by pushing past $100 million domestically this weekend thanks to its strongest hold yet; it -28% for a gross of $8 million. At this rate, having drop ped just -32% internationally for an overseas haul of $9.8 million, Elvis will likely pass up Rocketman‘s $196 million worldwide total by next weekend and be ending its run with at least $210 million worldwide; that will firmly cement the film as a box office hit and boost Austin Butler’s Oscar chances even high than they already are.

As for the rest of the top ten, sixth place marked the end of a nearly decade long journey to get a certain animated movie to screen. Originally titled Blazing Samurai back in 2014 when it was first dated, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is a loose, anthropomorphic animal remake of Blazing Saddles that has sat in development hell for the longest time, rivaling even this year’s The King’s Daughter in the length of its journey to the screen. Surviving several company bankruptcies and distributor meltdowns, Paramount finally acquired the distribution rights to the film for about $10 million released it with little ceremony this past weekend, thereby ending their streak of number one openers this year. Still, I don’t think they care all that much as the very fact that Paws of Fury even got a theatrical release is a miracle in and if itself, and I am sure that Paramount will make their small investment back in no time. Paw fo Furty debuted to $6.3 million (not bad, all things considered) and will likely do similar business ot Spirit Untamed before quickly appearing on Paramount+.

Seventh place went to The Black Phone with a drop of -31% and a gross of $5.3 million taking it to $72 million domestic and $114 million worldwide. Fellow Universal release, Jurassic World: Dominion followed with a -40% drop and a gross of $5.15 million. Domestically, it stands at $359 million while its worldwide cume sits at $900 million, firmly guaranteeing that this lastest Jurassic filmwill not hit $1 billion (not that $900 million is anything to pout at). Universal also technically took ninth place as well thanks to its arthouse label, Focus Features, releasing Mrs. Harris Goes to Parris. Starring Lesley Manville as a maid who decides to pursue her dreams and head to Paris to buy a Dior couture dress, Mrs. Harris‘ release makes for a fascinating comparison with Crawdads as both are female-centric films based on book which appeal directly to older women, yet Mrs. Harris proved to be a bit of a dud, debuting with just $1.9 million. To fair, Mrs. Harris is, for intents and purposes, a specialty release which did not have the same level of marketing bandwidth that Crawdads had thanks to its backing by Sony, but this probably speaks to the state of period films these days. Focus’ last period film release was Downton Abbey: A New Age, which performed very modestly at box office, so the prospect of a light period comedy like Mrs. Harris may not have been nearly as appetizing as that of Where the Crawdads Sing with its hippper cast, crime thriller elements, and romantic intrigue. Still, I really hope I can catch Mrs. Harris soon as I think it looks absolutely delightful.

Finishing in dead last was that of Lightyear with a sizable -55% drop in its fifth weekend for a gross of $1.4 million. I’ve already talked extensively about how Lightyear is a dud, so I will say no more. No use beating it while its down. As for the specialty market, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On continues to slowly grow its theater count, boosting up to 153 theaters and jumping +76% to a gross of $567K. Domestically, it totals $1.6 million, though it still maintains one of the higher per-theater averages of the weekend with $3,712 per theater. Intersting enough, its director, Dean Fischer-Camp, was just tapped to direct a live-action Lilo & Stitch film for Disney. It’s a project that has been in the works for a while adn that I have thoroughly mixed feelings about, but given Fischer-Camp’s clear skill in finding humanity non-human creatures, maybe its just the right man for the job.

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