UPDATED Sunday, 7:55 AM: The weekend after Easter proved to be a bust for the five newcomers as they ending up eating Fate of the Furious‘ dust. The eighth installment of the Universal franchise kept its hold as the No. 1 player, albeit dropping about 61% in its sophomore frame for an estimated $38.68M to $37.5M (depending on moviegoing today). That domestic drop is right in line with others in the franchise on its second weekend out.
Its total cume is now an estimated $163.6M which has a worldwide grab over $900M. International box office is where its Fate is at, as the movie continues to perform well in big markets. For more on that, look for our international report.
Of the newbies, it seems that Disneynature’s Born in China and Warner Bros.’ Unforgettable, which marks the directorial debut of producer Denise Di Novi, are fairly close among the debuts. Right now, Born in China will edge over the WBros.’ thriller with $5M vs $4.7M. Another Warner Bros. offering, Going in Style, held strong in its second weekend, dropping only 23%. Born in China performed right in line the the last Disneynature film, Monkey Kingdom which was released in 2015. It received an A- from its core audience. Unforgettable garnered a C CinemaScore which averages out to a 2.5 multiple which means it’s yet another in a long string of box office misses for the studio.
The Promise, which Open Road distributed for Survival Pictures, grossed an estimated $4M on a production budget of $90M to $100M. The Terry George-directed film was well-received by its core audience, 77% of which came for its subject matter — the film is the first, big-budget story with A-list stars (Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac) about the Armenian genocide. This was Survival Pictures’ Kirk Kerkorian and Eric Esralian’s baby and it could have used some coddling. The marketing materials for this epic were strong (and they bought often), but this is a film that would have done well to start slow and gain some buzz in the pocket areas of the country where there is a high concentration of Armenians and then use that buzz to build interest. Also, the time of year for the rollout seemed only due to the sentimental fact that it was commemorating a date when the Armenian genocide began rather than later in the year when Isaac could have earned some critical award kudos and spread its socially conscious word to a wider audience. With an A- minus CinemaScore which averages to a 3.5 multiple (of $14M), it’s over. It opened in the No. 9 position.
In 10 was the expansion of The Lost City of Z, which upped its game by 614 theaters and grossed a respectable $2.1M in three-day estimates. Look for our Specialty report from Brian Brooks later today.
That brings us to two debuts that fell outside the Top Ten. The first was the horror, sci-fi film about alien terror in the U.S. Southwest — Phoenix Forgotten — which had little awareness among its core moviegoing audience prior to its launch. It held no previews on Thursday and garnered a C- minus over all but D’s and even an F from portions of its audience. These producer should leave the genre films to Blumhouse. It chased in only $1.7M on a $3M budget. Game over.
The last newcomer is A24’s Free Fire which had decent reviews but that never transferred over to interest in the film whose message is that gun violence is hip and fun and had more guns on its one-sheet than an NRA convention. No, seriously. The NRA doesn’t allow guns inside its convention. The nation’s youth has spoken about this film and it’s loud and clear. The 90-minute shoot-out film ended up a disastrous No. 18 behind the 9th weekend of Get Out and the third weekend of The Case for Christ and the 4th weekend of The Zookeeper’s Wife. Free Fire is here and gone with only $960K. Its per screen average was a mere $900.
One thing that we’re watching build is the little film Gifted from Fox Searchlight, which has quietly and steadily been expanding and has has a decent per screen average even in its No. 8 slot. The film, which garnered an A+ CinemaScore from its under 25 audience, will have grossed about $10.8M in three weekends. Weekend to weekend, its up 46% to 48% but it’s up 10% in the same theaters from last weekend.
Here is the chart in what was a ho-hum weekend at the nation’s box office. The ranking for a handful of these pictures, as you can see below, depends on today’s performance:
1.) The Fate of the Furious(UNI), 4,329 theaters (+19) / $11.1M Fri. (-75%) / $17.15M Sat. (+55%) / $10.3M Sun. / 3-day cume: $38.68M to $37.5M (-61%) / Total cume: $163.5M / Wk 2
2.) The Boss Baby (20thCentury Fox/DWA), 3,697 theaters (-46) / $3.1M Fri. (-53%) / $5.7M Sat. (+85%) / $3.7M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $12.58M (-21%) / Total: $136.8M / Wk 4
3.) Beauty and the Beast (DIS), 3,315 theaters (-277) / $2.6M Fri. (-47%) / $4.38M Sat. (+67%) / $3M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $9.7M to $10M (-29%) / Total cume: $470.8M / Wk 6
4/5/6/7). Born in China (DIS), 1,508 theaters / $1.65M Fri. / $1.9M Sat. (+23%) / $1.45M Sun. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $5M / Wk 1
Going in Style (WB/VR), 3,038 theaters (-38) / $1.4M Fri. (-34% ) / $2.2M (+57%) / $1.2M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $4.85M (-24%) / Total: $31.6M / Wk 3
Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony), 2,737 theaters (-873) / $1.1M Fri. (-57%) / $2.3M Sat. (+100%) / $1.55M Sun. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $4.8M / Total: $33M+ / Wk 3
Unforgettable (WB), 2,417 theaters / $1.6M Fri. / $1.9M Sat. (+17%) / $1.1M Sun. (-40%)/ 3-day cume: $4.8M / Wk 1
8). Gifted (FSL), 1,986 theaters (+840) / $1.36M Fri. (+27%) / $2M Sat. (47%) / $1.2M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $4.58M (+47%) / Total: $10.8M to $11M / Wk 3
9). The Promise (OR), 2251 theaters / $1.4M (includes $200K previews) Fri. / $1.5M Sat. / $1M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $4.M / Wk 1
10.) The Lost City of Z (BST/AMZ), 614 theaters (+610) / $657K Fri. (+1450%) / $915K Sat. (+39%) / $500K Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $2.15M (+1800%) / Total: $2.28M / Wk 2
Phoenix Forgotten (ENT), 1,592 theaters / $622K Fri./ $715K Sat. (+15%) / $430K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $1.7M / Wk 1
Free Fire (A24), 1,070 theaters / $381K Fri. / $365K Sat. (-4%) / $217K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $960K / Wk 1
Write-thru, Sat. PM: In recent memory, this has happened over the last two years: Following a huge Easter weekend, the box office goes sideways and this year we have five wide releases — Warner Bros.’ Unforgettable ($4.7M), Disneynature’s Born in China ($5M+), Open Road’s The Promise ($4M), Cinelou/Scott Free’s Phoenix Forgotten ($1.7M) and A24’s Free Fire ($900K to $1M)— that are being run over by Universal’s The Fate of the Furious, which will cross the No. 1 finish line in its second go-round with an estimated $38M+, down 63%.
Last year Easter fell at the end of March and none of the major studios had the cajones to program a wide release against the second weekend of Batman v. Superman, especially after 20th Century Fox’s Keeping the Joneses vacated the date.
As such, when it comes to playing in the wake of a big tentpole at this time of year, few studios wants to put their prime goods out there. It’s just a wasted effort, especially with fewer kids out of school (K-12 dropped from 74% off on Good Friday to 12% today) and that’s why we’re seeing so much cheaply-budgeted driftwood this weekend.
And the odds are very good next weekend that Fate of the Furious rides atop the B.O. chart again against STX/EuropaCorp’s The Circle, Pantelion’s How to Be a Latin Lover, and BH/Tilt’s Sleight. Business is on pause until Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, already propped by hot buzz, arrives with a $150M opening, which if that projection is met, would outstrip its first chapter’s 3-day by 59%.
Last night, even though Warner Bros.’ Unforgettable pulled some of the women away from The Promise, it’s still getting buried. Yes, it’s a pulp Lifetime-like female thriller of the week, but the movie marks the feature directorial debut of Denise Di Novi who has been a revered producer for the Burbank lot over the last 25 years. She was responsible for getting Mad Max:Fury Road back on track when that production went over budget and over schedule in Nambia. Unforgettable was greenlit under the Greg Silverman regime, and the studio really tried to keep this as cheap as they could at an estimated $12M negative cost before P&A.
However, a $4.7M opening isn’t going to cut it and it’s the third low-budget clunker that WB has had this winter/spring in the wake of Chips and Fist Fight (Going in Style has some promise given its slow leg appeal among older adults raising to $31.5M by Sunday in its third weekend, holding well with only a 24% drop). We know Warner Bros. can open branded DC and Harry Potter properties, but when your low-budget fare is getting brutally panned by the critics and executives foresee this in advance (at any studio), no one is going to throw good money after bad P&A-wise. Audiences didn’t like Unforgettable with a C CinemaScore.
With an estimated $5M+ weekend gross, Disneynature’s Panda doc Born in China is at the lower end of its doc label’s openings, squeezed between that of 2015’s The Monkey Kingdom ($4.5M) and 2014’s Bears ($4.77M). These nature docs typically end their runs in the mid-to-high teens. Born in China earns an A- CinemaScore tonight on par with Monkey Kingdom. Since opening the division in 2009, the best opening posted by a Disneynature doc belongs to 2012’s Chimpanzee ($10.7M) while the highest grossing one is 2009’s Earth at $32M.
With The Promise, there was an earnest attempt here by the late MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian to make a period film with a David Lean sensibility set against the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century. Following Kerkorian’s death, producers Mike Medavoy, William Horberg and Eric Esrailian have made good on his vision. But even when you have big stars like Christian Bale and Oscar Issac, a period film is automatically challenged at the box office when its doesn’t have critical support, and The Promise is slowed significantly by a 46% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Many critics find the epic to be too sudsy and empty. Those who bought tickets enjoyed The Promise giving it an A- CinemaScore.
The ideal roll out for a film like this is a platform release, so that word of mouth builds among upscale audiences. The movie costs $90M before P&A so grossing only $4M on the opening weekend means a massive write-off.
Why was The Promise dated on this weekend, instead of during an Oscar corridor? That’s because April 24 marks the time when the Armenian genocide took place 102 years ago; when Ottoman authorities rounded, arrested and deported close to 300 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to the region of Ankara, where many met their fate. The genocide is still denied today by the Turkish government.
Open Road, which has a distribution fee on The Promise, targeted adults over 40 with a mainstream campaign, buying spots on older-skewing cable networks like History, Discovery, A&E, Bravo, TLC and NatGeo as well as select network primetime hits like How to Get Away with Murder and The Black List.
Survival Pictures, a company which Kerkorian set up with Esrailian, is donating all proceeds from The Promise to philanthropic organizations, but what proceeds will there be with no gross to speak of? Barbra Streisand, Elton John, George Clooney, Cher, Kim Kardashian and more have gotten behind the #KeepThePromise social impact campaign.
However, the takeaway from The Promise is that it finally got made and released, so as to educate the global public about the genocides of the 20th and 21st century. The opening weekend is an afterthought. The pic is sold in all major territories around the globe.
Phoenix Forgotten: What is and where did this movie come from? It an 85-minute, sci-fi horror film from Cinelou Films that’s produced by Mark Canton, Ridley Scott, Wes Ball, Courtney Solomon, and T.S. Nowlin. The pic is inspired by a 1997 UFO incident in Phoenix, Arizona where three teens went missing and takes place 20 years after revolving around found footage. Apparently the movie cost less than $3M and it will take in only $1.7M for the entire three-day. Distributor Cinelou is hopeful with $2M. We live in an era where if you want your micro-budget horror movie to work, you’ve got to make great for critics and they would like to forget Phoenix Forgotten even happened at 57% rotten. This is the second micro-budget casualty for Scott Free following 20th Century Fox’s Morgan ($8M production cost, $8.8M global B.O.).
Phoenix Forgotten enlisted the help of YouTube celebrity Joey Graceffa, who posted a nine-minute clip for his 7.5M Subscribers. He attended SXSW with a pal of his and shared his little “day trip” to Austin, which included the drone execution to promote the film. Nonetheless, RelishMix reports that the social conversation for this movie “is best described as skeptical. Many fans are comparing the trailer to another documentary horror film, The Blair Witch Project. In fact, a great deal of comments claim this film looks like it, but with aliens instead. Also, moviegoers are using the comments to site Phoenix as another example of Hollywood re-treads.” No surprise, Phoenix Forgotten burns tonight with a C- CinemaScore.
When A24 has the goods with a cult film like Ex Machina or The Witch, they nurture it and let word of mouth spread slow and wide. The fact that they’ve gone wide with Free Fire versus a platform indicates that the movie that advertised with a one-sheet with guns looking as if they are pointed right at you (and yes, it was protested by anti-violence gun groups) doesn’t have the mojo to stoke the hipster specialty crowd. (Hey, at least one group is happy this weekend on the ‘getting-shot-is-funny’ film’s demise). It will take in only $900K to $1M.
Free Fire is shooting blanks despite that it’s the only wide adult wide release with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score of 63%. A24 likely had to make their money back quick on this one, hence the 1,070 theater break. Similar to Yorgos Lantimos’ movie The Lobster, A24 recused Free Fire from the Alchemy fire sale. Brie Larson who has a 1.2M social media reach hasn’t pumped up the word for the gun-violence-porn movie on her channels that much, ditto for Armie Hammer who told the press how really “fantastic” and how all excited he was to go to work every day to get shot at. Really, Mr. Hammer? We had heard about this script being circulated around to agents after the country was in the grips of the gun violence issue after multiple mass shootings, and one of those agents told Deadline (they) were truly sickened by the irresponsibility of it.
So the film that pandered to the NRA nitwits with the tagline “All guns. No control” is further pained per RelishMix by a non-social cast. The one social media stunt that RelishMix found was this ‘Don’t Talk’ PSA for Alamo Drafthouse featuring the chain’s chief Tim League and the Free Fire cast. Otherwise, word of mouth is split on social for this one with naysayers put off by the fact that the movie is one shoot-out over 90 minutes (which is what it was intended to be). — Anthony D’Alessandro posted the late night update and Anita Busch, the Sat. morning write-thru.
Post-Easter weekend April 21-23’s top 10 and notables per Saturday morning industry estimates:
1.) The Fate of the Furious(UNI), 4,329 theaters (+19) / $11.1M Fri. (-75%) / 3-day cume: $38M+ (-63%) / Total cume: $163M+ / Wk 2
2.) The Boss Baby (20thCentury Fox/DWA), 3,697 theaters (-46) / $3.1M Fri. (-53%) / 3-day cume: $13M (-25%) / Total: $137M / Wk 4
3.) Beauty and the Beast (DIS), 3,315 theaters (-277) / $2.6M Fri. (-47%) / 3-day cume: $9.9M (-27%) / Total cume: $471M / Wk 6
4). Born in China (DIS), 1,508 theaters / $1.65M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5M+ / Wk 1
5). Going in Style (WB/VR), 3,038 theaters (-38) / $1.4M Fri. (-34% ) / 3-day cume: $5M (-24%) / Total: $31.7M / Wk 3
6/7/8). Unforgettable (WB), 2,417 theaters / $1.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.7M / Wk 1
Gifted (FSL), 1,986 theaters (+840) / $1.36M Fri. (+27%) / 3-day cume: $4.7M (+47%) / Total: $10.9M / Wk 3
Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony), 2,737 theaters (-873) / $1.1M Fri. (-57%) / 3-day cume: $4.75M (-33% to 40%) / Total: $33M+ / Wk 3
9). The Promise (OR), 2251 theaters / $1.4M (includes $200K previews) Fri. / 3-day cume: $4M / Wk 1
10.) The Lost City of Z (BST/AMZ), 614 theaters (+610) / $657K Fri. (+1450%) / 3-day cume: $2.2M (+1800%) Total: $2.35M / Wk 2
Phoenix Forgotten (ENT), 1,592 theaters / $622K Fri./ 3-day cume: $1.7M / Wk 1
Free Fire (A24), 1,070 theaters / $381K Fri. / 3-day cume: $900K to $1M / Wk 1
UPDATED, Friday 12:20 PM: Early matinee numbers are rolling in for an early peek on the performance of five new films in the marketplace.
In order, before the audiences for R-rated films and the adults start joining the fray, we have Disneynature’s Born in China with what appears to be $2.5M today for a respectable estimate of $6M-$7M for the weekend (it bowed at a midnight screening). Denise Di Novi’s directorial debut, the R-rated Unforgettable, right now looks like it might take $1.75M today, but we expect that number is likely to rise for a three-day tally of anywhere between $4M and $6M. It also opened in midnight screenings. The Armenian genocide movie The Promise is expected to come in with maybe $1.5M as it looks now (night-time audience aside) and still on track for the $4M+ three-day. Open Road has been spending a heck of a lot to try to open this sweeping epic, which clearly could have benefited from a more measured distribution rollout.
The horror film Phoenix Forgotten and the NRA wet dream film Free Fire are shooting blanks, and both will be lucky to come in over $1M.
Meanwhile, Universal’s The Fate of the Furious might crank out around $11M today and perhaps $38M-$39M for the weekend to continue to reign at No. 1 this weekend, albeit down 60% or so to bring its total up to around $163M after the weekend. It has done pretty decent midweek numbers.
The Boss Baby from 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation will diaper up $2M to $3M today for another nice $11M weekend and the No. 2 spot yet again and will have about $134M+ total come Sunday.
These estimates are very early. Even so, for the newcomers it will be like swimming in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket.
PREVIOUSLY, Thursday 8:47 AM: This weekend will see five films going wide in the wake of the second weekend of Universal’s The Fate of the Furious. Two of them — the shoot-’em-up Free Fire (A24) and the epic The Promise (Open Road) — had previews starting at 7 PM last night. The Promise, which will go wide to just about 2,250 theaters today after mixed reviews, waded in with $200,000 in late nights. Free Fire, which will be in just a little more than 1,000 theaters today and has decent reviews but little interest, have not reported grosses and likely won’t as we heard this gun-violence-porn film is tanking and will likely only end up with $1M-plus.
Comps for The Promise are Free State Of Jones which took in $2.65M Friday after a $365K Thursday night preview and ended up with a $7.5M three-day weekend. The Light Between Oceans had a three-day of $4.76M after a $1.4M Friday. So, we expect The Promise to come in around $3M-$4M.
Closest comp for Free Fire is probably American Ultra, which opened to $5.4M for the weekend after a $2.1M Friday and a $425K preview. Hitman: Agent 47 is another comp that has been bounced around; it opened to $8.3M after a $3M Friday and a $600K preview on Thursday. As we said, grosses are so bad that distributor A24 is not sending them out.
Both Disneynature’s Born In China and Warner Bros’ Unforgettable had midnight screenings, while Cinelou and Scott Free’s horror film Phoenix Forgotten had no previews and is hoping the Friday night genre audience will give it a much-needed boost. The former will open the way most Disneynature films do, around $5M, while Phoenix Forgotten, a found-footage thriller about aliens in Arizona, is expected to be all but forgotten.
Of these five new films, perhaps Denise DiNovi’s directorial debut Unforgettable (which will be in about 2,400 theaters) and Born in China will lift itself over the others but, even so, all will be mowed down the second weekend of Universal’s Fate Of The Furious. The only question there is how much Furious will drop as previous installments of the franchise have traditionally dropped about 60%.
The Promise has most interest from males and females over 25, while the violent Free Fire has most interest among testosteroned males (across the board). The Promise, the first big-budgeted mainstream film about the Armenian genocide, is expected to over-index in some areas where there are pockets of Armenians who have been waiting years to see a film of this nature. The Promise‘s big get on social media was in all thanks to the premiere and Cher and the very social Kardashians showing up. Free Fire is both is light in social reach and activity, but strong in convo, according to RelishMix, which tracks these things. Free Fire’s social star is Brie Larson with 1.2M followers — but she’s only shared in a limited capacity.
Overall, it’s expected to be a ho-hum box office weekend and likely down from a year ago, when The Huntsman: Winter’s War opened all to itself and grabbed $19.5M. Last night, Fate Of The Furious made an estimated $4.5M, which may exceed the three-day box office for many of these pictures; it drives into its second weekend with $124.88M already in the tank.