Saturday, September 2, 2017

Summer 2017: How Did the Movies Do?

The summer of 2017 was interesting to say the least. It saw audiences flock to all three superhero films that premiered as well as several sleeper hits. However, it saw more than its fair share of flops, underperformers, and disappointments. The latter group is what contributed to a dismal summer that saw its returns come down 20.7% from last year's, the largest drop recorded on Box Office Mojo's seasonal chart, and even worse than 2014's 16.3% slide from 2013. This drop in revenue is what's making the year overall pacing 6.2% behind 2016. In this post, we will dive deeper into why certain films thrived, and why certain films drowned amidst the competitive marketplace. I will start with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and end with the wide releases that opened on August 25, the last weekend of summer.
Note: Not all of the wide releases/expansions will be analyzed. These would be It Comes at Night ($13.9m), Megan Leavey ($13.2m), The Beguiled ($10.6m), Wish Upon ($14.1m), The Glass Castle ($13.3m), All Saints ($2.2m), Good Time ($1.3m), and Ingrid Goes West ($1.3m).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
Budget: $200 million
Domestic: $389.4 million
Worldwide: $862.9 million

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continued the annual tradition of having an Marvel movie kick off the summer, and it did just that with spectacular fashion. It opened with a better-than-expected $146.5 million, making it the biggest film-to-film increase between original and sequel in the MCU. Though critical reception was a bit less enthusiastic than the first (82% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to the first's 91%), fan reception was nearly identical, allowing Guardians to become the second-leggiest sequel in the entire series, with a 2.66x opening-to-total multiplier. It was the top film of the summer two-and-a-half months before Wonder Woman dethroned it, but it still did very well considering the competition and "sequelitis" effect. This film's performance along with Spider-Man's goes to show that audiences are far from tired of big-budget Marvel films being churned out two to three times a year.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12)
Budget: $175 million
Domestic: $39.2 million
Worldwide: $146.2 million

So many things went wrong for this one. First off, it was plagued by post-production troubles and reshoots, resulting in multiple delays for its release. Second, it went way over-budget, costing as much as a regular superhero film would instead of having a more reasonable price tag for a medieval action film. It also didn't help that it had no surefire stars or decent reviews (28%). It opened to a paltry $15.4 million, and didn't last much longer after that. Even if Guardians or Alien: Covenant (which was a disappointment as well) had opened in different months, King Arthur was still destined to be a huge flop. It's just that no one expected it to be this huge of a flop.

Snatched (May 12)
Budget: $42 million
Domestic: $45.9 million
Worldwide: $60.5 million

Considering that reaction to the trailers were toxic and people are getting tired of Amy Schumer's shtick, it's a bit of a miracle that the film managed to get close to $50 million domestic. Normally, an R-rated comedy featuring the return of Goldie Hawn opening in the month of May should do splendid business. But lackluster reviews, a competitive marketplace, and a general disinterest among audiences kept it from really breaking out. It opened decently ($19.5m) thanks to Mother's Day, but it crashed and burned after that and barely passed its budget domestically.

Alien: Covenant (May 19)
Budget: $97 million
Domestic: $74.3 million
Worldwide: $233.1 million

With Ridley Scott directing another entry in the classic Alien franchise and the anticipation of seeing a follow-up to the very vague Prometheus, Covenant should have done a lot better than this. However, critical reactions didn't really improve upon Prometheus's already mixed reception, and audiences for the most part weren't really impressed with what they saw. It opened to $36.2 million, with some hope that it could somehow have so-so legs in the long run. Instead, it played like a typical gory horror film and barely doubled its opening weekend. Overseas barely saved the day, but even that was a big comedown from its predecessor. Its middling performance at the box office and divided reception is causing 20th Century Fox to reassess the future of the franchise.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (May 19)
Budget: $22 million
Domestic: $20.7 million
Worldwide: $39.9 million

The first three Diary of a Wimpy Kids films made some decent cash, with the lowest gross being $49 million from the third movie. The fourth film's prospects didn't look very appealing from the start, but it should've at least retained a sizable portion of the previous films, right? Wrong. It opened with less than half of its predecessor, and its total gross failed to match the opening weekends of the first two.

Everything, Everything (May 19)
Budget: $10 million
Domestic: $34.1 million
Worldwide: $55.0 million

This micro-budget, lightly marketed YA adaptation was arguably the summer's first true sleeper hit. It was widely expected to open with under $10 million, but ended up with a debut close to $12 million and legged it to a solid $34.1 million total. Not to mention it did decent business overseas as well.

Baywatch (May 25)
Budget: $69 million
Domestic: $58.1 million
Worldwide: $177.7 million

A raunchy R-rated comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron that happens to be based on one of the most popular TV shows from the 90's should have been a qualified hit. And it probably would have been, if it had been any good. Though it had a headstart by opening on a Thursday and the extended Memorial Day weekend, Baywatch still made less in its first five days than what it was expected to make over its three day weekend. Reviews were probably the ultimate culprit, though; it currently boasts a horrible 19% on RT, and it had even worse scores of 13%-15% during opening weekend. The films appeal to overseas audiences thanks to Johnson and the source material allowed it to clear the red, but it was still a huge disappointment all around. After Snatched and Baywatch underperformed, experts started realizing that no matter who stars in what, R-rated comedies are starting to lose their touch with audiences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)
Budget: $230 million
Domestic: $172.1 million
Worldwide: $791.8 million

Pirates was the second ocean-themed star-studded action film opening on Memorial Day weekend to get beached at the box office (domestically). A comedown was expected as it was the fifth film in a decade-old franchise, and after the second film put up huge numbers every installment after that decreased domestically. Just as On Stranger Tides became the first Pirates to not cross $300 million domestic, this film became the first in the franchise to not cross $200 million domestic. Opening to $63 million for the three-day weekend and $78.5 million after the four-day, it managed to have decent legs considering the overly competitive marketplace. However, overseas was a different story. Although it didn't outgross the last three films overseas or worldwide, Pirates still did very well business, opening with a whopping $208.8 million and finishing with $620 million total for a worldwide cume of $792 million, allowing to become the fourth biggest film of the summer worldwide.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Budget: $38 million
Domestic: $73.5 million
Worldwide: $101.1 million

If the film cost the standard $125 million to $150 million DreamWorks films usually cost, this would have been a huge flop. Thankfully, and a bit unexpectedly, it cost just under $40 million to go along with a light marketing effort. Solid reviews likely kept it from falling off significantly after opening with $23.9 million, although it still ended up under many analyst's predictions. It wasn't too hot overseas unfortunately, with less than $30 million total, but post-theatrical revenue should make this into a mild success.

Wonder Woman
Budget: $149 million
Domestic: $407.0 million
Worldwide: $807.0 million

Here is the biggest success story of the summer, if no the entire year (so far). Many were concerned that its nature as a female-directed, female-starring big-budget superhero feature being released in the heart of summer would hold back its potential. It also didn't help that the DCEU that the film is a part of has garnered mixed-to-negative reception from critics, and polarizing reactions from fans. However, this film changed everything. Not only did Wonder Woman become the most acclaimed DC film since The Dark Knight, but it defied conventional wisdom both on opening weekend and in the long run. It beat its projection of $70 million to $85 million with an $103.3 million opening weekend. But how it performed after its debut was what was truly astonishing. It second weekend drop was only 43.3%, and to date it remains its largest weekend-to-weekend drop. It held up very well week after week, especially for a superhero film that didn't open in the middle of the week like Spider-Man 2 or Batman Begins. After overtaking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the summer box office champion, it went on to experience more great holds and eventually crossed the magical $400 million milestone. Its positive reception and terrific box office are good fortune for the upcoming Justice League film in November, and for the sequel debuting in a few years.

The Mummy
Budget: $125 million
Domestic: $80.1 million
Worldwide: $407.8 million

What a disaster. If this film was going to start an entire cinematic universe, it should have at least been of decent quality. The fact that many viewers though it wasn't, though, probably contributed to its underperformance more than anything else. The Mummy also suffered from audiences not wanting a reboot of the Brendan Fraser series, a marketplace that featured the newly released Wonder Woman, and star Tom Cruise's fading starpower. Its status as the first film in Universal's planned Dark Universe franchise felt rushed and came off as a way to give the movie publicity and awareness. Its 16% RT rating is probably what affected it the most, however. This film is only one of various victims of the rating system Rotten Tomatoes operates, and many analysts have pointed out that more and more audiences are more reliant on the aggregator site now than they have been before. This has actually drawn the website criticism, but had The Mummy actually been good, it probably wouldn't have been such a disaster stateside. Overseas saved the day, as it does in a lot of cases, with a solid $327.7 million, more than what any of the other Mummy films have made.

47 Meters Down
Budget: $5.5 million
Domestic: $43.8 million

It seems that shark-themed thrillers are making a bit of a comeback. Just last year, The Shallows opened in late June to an excellent $16.8 million and leveraged good reviews and solid word-of-mouth to leg it to $55.1 million. This year, 47 Meters Down was the shark movie to terrorize audiences in the summer. The astonishingly cheap title was originally titled In the Deep and was supposed to go straight-to-DVD, but Entertainment Studios opted to give it a theatrical release after picking it up. The film didn't enjoy the strong reviews or audience buzz that The Shallows did, but still doubled projections and nearly quadrupled its opening weekend of $11.2 million, which is pretty impressive considering its weak reception and immense competition. Next year sees Meg take a bite out of the box office in August, and should draw in fans of the book and these last two films to churn up decent numbers.

All Eyez on Me
Budget: $40 million
Domestic: $44.9 million

Released on Tupac's birthday and coming off of the roaring success of Straight Outta Compton ($161.2m), the biopic All Eyez on Me was expected to do solid business in the middle of June. And for one weekend, it did. It opened to a much-better-than-expected $26.4 million, with a substantial amount of it coming from Friday (Tupac's birthday). Unfortunately, it lacked great reviews and received mixed word-of-mouth, and ended up becoming one of the most front-loaded wide releases of all time. Never once did it drop less than 66.8% weekend-to-weekend during its time in theaters (save for its last weekend when it added 32 theaters).

Cars 3
Budget: $175 million
Domestic: $149.1 million
Worldwide: $325.4 million

Cars 3 was always going to be one Pixar's lowest-grossing entries. The Cars series is held with the least critical regard, with the lcast film being the first (and only) Pixar film to get a "Rotten" score on RT. It also didn't help that Captain Underpants stole a bit of thunder the week before and Despicable Me 3 would steal away audiences at the end of the month. However, Cars 3 did even more disappointingly than expected. It opened with a so-so $53.7 million, which is the fourth-lowest Pixar opening ever. The competitive marketplace and general lack of interest proved too much though, and ended up with the worst legs ever for a film from the animation powerhouse (36.0%, compared to Cars 2's 34.5%). It's not doing too well overseas as well ($176.2m compared to Cars 2's $370.7m), proving that this franchise has finally run out of gas.

Rough Night
Budget: $20 million
Domestic: $22.1 million
Worldwide: $46.3 million

Though it boasted a solid cast led by Scarlett Johansson, Rough Night couldn't escape the trend of failing R-rated comedies this summer. The film couldn't barely passed $8 million on opening weekend, and didn't post amazing legs (36.2%). There's not much to say here except that as long as your comedy isn't funny, it's not going to do very well (especially in this day and age).

Transformers: The Last Knight
Budget: $217 million
Domestic: $130.2 million
Worldwide: $604.1 million

This is arguably the most disappointing release from the month of June, and is definitely one of the biggest of the summer. The franchise has been in domestic decline ever since the third film, but they at least did solid business stateside and extremely well overseas. Unfortunately, a shorter run time, darker tone, and reiteration of Earth's history wasn't enough to convince audiences why they should waste more money on these low-quality explosion-fests, which tend to be critic-proof. Viewers weren't falling for it anymore, and the film found itself with a five-day opening weekend barely totaling more than the second film's opening day (on a Wednesday, as well). It managed to save some face overseas, but even then it still experienced a big comedown. It totaled $473.9 million, which is way down from the $771.4 million from the third film and the whopping $858.6 million from the fourth. The film was intended to expand the franchise's potential for a cinematic universe, with its first spin-off Bumblebee debuting December of 2018. With a change of director (finally) after Michael Bay helmed all the previous installments, one can only hope that it puts the franchise back on its tracks.

The Big Sick
Budget: $5 million
Domestic: $39.6 million
Worldwide: $47.9 million

The highest-rated film of the summer (98%) on Rotten Tomatoes, The Big Sick not only captured the heart of critics but those of audiences, allowing it to score the biggest per-theater average of the year ($84.3k per theater from 5 theaters). It continued to post excellent PTAs for the next two weeks in which it slowly expanded. It did come in a bit below expectations when it expanded nationwide with $7.6 million ($2.9k PTA from 2,597 theaters), but it managed to hang around for a while and will likely cross $40 million domestically sometime soon, making it only the second Amazon Studios distributed film after 2016's Manchester by the Sea ($47.7m).

Baby Driver
Budget: $34 million
Domestic: $104.1 million
Worldwide: $194.1 million

One of the most successful sleeper hits of the summer is obviously Baby Driver. The music-filled action caper serves as solid proof that original properties can work as long as it's good. And man, was it good. Critics gave it a 94% rating on RT, one of the highest of the summer, and audiences reflected those positive views for the most part. It also helped that director Edgar Wright has a very loyal fanbase and that his four previous films are genre favorites. What resulted was a $20.6 million three-day opening weekend and $29.6 million five-day (it opened on Wednesday), and became one of the leggiest Independence Day openers in recent memory. Hopefully the sequel, planned to be directed by Wright, lives up to the soaring heights of the original.

Despicable Me 3
Budget: $80 million
Domestic: $255.5 million
Worldwide: $975.9 million

Though it came down significantly from Despicable Me 2 and Minions, and will probably sell fewer tickets than the original, the threequel still did excellent business, both domestically and (especially) internationally. With a very competitive July following its release and the looming prospect of franchise fatigue finally settling in on the immensely popular franchise, Despicable Me 3 had a lot to live up to. It received mixed reviews from critics and even more polarized reception from audiences, but it benefited from a lack of animated breakouts and opened to a solid, if not spectacular, $72.4 million. It scored decent legs in the midst of an uber-competitive summer, but overseas is the real story here. Its $720.3 million international total is the best in the main series and is behind only the $823.4 million total of Minions (which was a sort of anomaly). If it sticks in theaters for a little longer, it has a very slight chance at crossing the magical $1 billion mark. Even if it doesn't, it's perfectly fine for the relatively cheap animated sequel.

The House
Budget: $40 million
Domestic: $25.6 million
Worldwide: $33.4 million

Wow. This is pretty embarrassing. There was some hope that Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler could change around the fortune for R-rated comedies this summer, and it had a decent premise. Unfortunately, scathing reviews (below 20% on RT) severely limited its potential, and it ended up making back only 64% of its budget domestically.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Budget: $175 million
Domestic: $320.4 million
Worldwide: $738.5 million

There were worries that the film's nature as the fifth film in a constantly rebooted franchise and a competitive July release slate would hold back its potential. Some even projected an opening under $100 million. Its connection to the MCU and overwhelmingly positive reception made it end up debuting with an, ahem, amazing $117 million domestic and $256.5 million worldwide. Many analysts' hopes that it would cross $300 million total were shattered, however, when it took a 62.2% nosedive in its second weekend (the worst for an MCU film). It stabilized very nicely afterwards, though, never dropping 50% since as one of top second-choice films for the rest of the summer. It now looks as if it could top $330 million total, possibly making a run for the $333.4 million total of 2014's surprise smash Guardians of the Galaxy. Worldwide it's slightly lagging behind several past installments in the Spider-Man series, but will soon pass The Amazing Spider-Man ($757.9m) without even opening in China. When it does open in the Middle Kingdom, however, expect it to come close to, if not over, $850 million worldwide (which would put it behind only Spider-Man 3's $890.9m).

War for the Planet of the Apes
Budget: $150 million
Domestic: $143.1 million
Worldwide: $359.5 million

Unfortunately, it wasn't always the bad movies that underperformed. Despite several weeks of growing buzz due to massive critical acclaim, the third and final film in the rebooted Planet of the Apes trilogy failed to leverage the goodwill of the last film and turned out to be a huge disappointment domestically. Its $56.3 million opening was barely past the $54.8 million the first film made in 2011. Its good reviews and strong word-of-mouth did little to help its legs afterward, and will likely fail to pass up its $150 million budget stateside. Fortunately, overseas grosses allowed it to barely skate by, with a decent $216.3 million so far. Still, that's less than half of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes's $502.1 million ($710.6m global). Maybe it's a good thing this trilogy is over, as it doesn't look like it could survive much longer after this.

Budget: $100 million
Domestic: $174.6 million
Worldwide: $414.7 million

The last time a WWII movie was this successful was when the critically-trashed, Michael Bay directed Pearl Harbor opened with $59.1 million and finished with $198.5 million, making it the second highest-grossing film based on the war behind Saving Private Ryan ($216.5m). Now, it looks as if the Christopher Nolan directed Dunkirk will pass the former with a $200m+ domestic haul, and if it gets serious awards buzz and a big re-release during awards season, it has a slight chance of passing up the latter as well. It doesn't only reinforce the notion that Nolan is one of the best and most consistently successful directors today, but it proves that the genre still resonates with audiences today. It scored a great 93% score from critics and was hailed as one of the best (if not the best) war films of all time, and that along with Nolan's loyal fanbase propelled Dunkirk to $50.5 million on opening weekend. It wasn't done there however, as it used its strong buzz and amazing word-of-mouth to become one of the leggiest films of the summer. Worldwide, it has yet to cross $500 million and will likely end up as Nolan's second lowest grossing blockbuster (ahead of Batman Begins), but for an adult-oriented WWII film in the midst of an extremely competitive summer, it did fantastic business.

Girls Trip
Budget: $19 million
Domestic: $109.3 million
Worldwide: $121.4 million

What a relief it is. The only well-reviewed comedy this summer was also the only one to do huge business (and actually break even). Starring a solid cast with Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, and Regina Hall, it appealed primarily to African-American women (a very underserved demographic) and found great success. It boasts a strong 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and received a very positive reaction from audiences. Its solid reception as well as a lack of comedy breakouts all added up to an overperforming hit. It opened with $31.2 million, more than Bad Moms last year, and though it will have much weaker legs it is still looking at an amazing $115m+ total.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Budget: $180 million
Domestic: $39.8 million
Worldwide: $172.8 million

Aside from King Arthur, this would be the biggest flop of the summer. Its prospects didn't look great to begin with, as it didn't have an all-star cast, it was adapted from a foreign property, and there generally wasn't much hype outside fans of the French comic series. Living up to its title as the most expensive French production ever made, the film was directed by Luc Besson (Lucy, The Fifth Element). Its marketing wasn't really clear on what the story was about other than a whimsical sci-fi adventure along the lines of Star Wars or Star Trek. Unfortunately, it ended up becoming a huge dud with less than $40 million total, much worse than sci-fi mega-bombs Battleship and John Carter. Overseas ticket sales won't save this one like they did for so many other films, as it has grossed an unimpressive $133 million internationally so far.

Atomic Blonde
Budget: $30 million
Domestic: $49.5 million
Worldwide: $81.4 million

After the roaring success of Wonder Woman at the beginning of June, many thought that Atomic Blonde would follow suit as a hugely successful female-led action pic. The trailers promised a stylish and action-packed thriller in vain of the John Wick films, in which the second one did big business earlier this year. It ended up debuting with $18.3 million, which was a bit below expectations, but thanks to its low production budget it was still a hit. It surpassed the first Wick domestically and will soon pass it worldwide, although hopes for a franchise might have been diminished.

The Emoji Movie
Budget: $50 million
Domestic: $77.9 million
Worldwide: $145.8 million

The trailers were viciously mocked and achieved face-palming levels of cringe. It has an atrocious 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. There was virtually no (positive) buzz for the film. So how did it end up becoming a moneymaker? There really aren't any good answers to this question except that Despicable Me 3 was starting to fade away and the horribleness of the premise and the film itself made a sort of must-see film. It opened with a decent $24.5 million and had good legs, tripling its opening weekend. It doesn't have much life anymore, but at least Sony can add another hit (this time undeserved) to their 2017 release slate.

Budget: $34 million
Domestic: $16.3 million

The film received good reviews before release, and was from the director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. It enjoyed a good-not-great $350.2k limited debut ($17.5k PTA), but it collapsed in its expansion ($7.1m for $2.4k PTA). The grim subject matter, lack of awards buzz, and overall competition probably took a huge toll on the film's performance, and won't even match The Hurt Locker despite having a bigger opening.

The Dark Tower
Budget: $60 million
Domestic: $45.8 million
Worldwide: $89.3 million

Just like The Mummy, The Dark Tower was meant to kick start a whole cinematic universe, including a TV show. Unfortunately, just like The Mummy, it was DOA on opening weekend. It grossed an underwhelming $19.2 million, and with scathing reviews it wasn't likely it would have good legs. It isn't catching fire overseas either, and now even the TV show's prospects are looking dire.

Budget: $21 million
Domestic: $27.7 million

This was a nice little surprise at the beginning of what would become a terrible August. The Halle Berry thriller was expected to open in the single-digits but eked out $10 million, and held up decently throughout the month. It's definitely no Taken or even The Call, but it did just fine nonetheless.

Annabelle: Creation
Budget: $15 million
Domestic: $81.7 million
Worldwide: $220.3 million

Due to its nature as a prequel to an already negatively-reviewed prequel to an acclaimed period horror whose 2016 sequel experienced a bit of a comedown, Annabelle: Creation was a bit of a wildcard, especially given how most sequels perform nowadays. Instead, it beat expectations by improving significantly in quality from its predecessor and debuted to $35 million, a little less than the first Annabelle. It's been experiencing so-so holds for a horror movie, and has a very outside chance of totaling $100 million domestically. It's doing splendid overseas as well, with nearly $140 million so far, proving that overseas audiences have yet to tire of the horror franchise.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
Budget: $40 million
Domestic: $23.8 million
Worldwide: $26.7 million

One of the films to blame for a terrible August is definitely The Nut Job 2. Not only did it have the worst opening for a film debuting in over 4,000 theaters ($8.3m), but it didn't even match the first's opening weekend until 23 days into release. This is another miss for distributor Open Road Films, who is in dire need of a hit right about now.

The Hitman's Bodyguard
Budget: $30 million
Domestic: $58 million (Prediction)

The month of August wasn't all bad though (hard to believe, but it's true). It just happened that an R-rated action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson trumped negative reviews to become another success for distributor Lionsgate, who's having a stellar year so far (apart from Power Rangers and The Glass Castle). It will be the first film to three-peat at number one since The Fate of the Furious back in April, as it is taking advantage of a dire late summer. Expect this one to finish above/below $60 million total.

Logan Lucky
Budget: $29 million
Domestic: $24 million (Prediction)
Worldwide: $20.2 million

Unfortunately, it seems that Steven Soderbergh's return from retirement didn't go off with a bang like it should have. Its unique marketing strategy was 100% in Soderbergh's control, a move that has never been done before. It didn't help much though, as it failed to hit $8 million on opening weekend and isn't having very spectacular holds. Hopefully the director's next venture is more successful.

Birth of the Dragon
Domestic: $5.3 million (Prediction)

These last two releases opened with a whimper, so not much time will be spent on them. Honestly, this film didn't have much going for it anyway, with a minimal marketing campaign, no stars, and controversy over making a Bruce Lee story centered around a fictional white character. What resulted was a sub-$3 million opening and a total that will likely fail to make much more than $5 million.

Budget: $30 million
Domestic: $18 million (Prediction)
Worldwide: $89.6 million

Its domestic prospects were always in doubt, as it was delayed multiple times and came across as a cheap animated cash grab. It opened with less than $5 million, and even with Labor Day $20 million may be a stretch at this point.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' Break Out, 'Valerian' Implodes, and 'Wonder Woman' Becomes Summer Box Office Champion

     With Dunkirk opening very strongly and Wonder Woman once again posting excellent holds, distributor Warner Bros. has officially crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for this year, following Disney and Universal. Speaking of Universal, their R-rated comedy Girls Trip opened well above expectations and broke the streak of R-rated comedy failures that started this summer. Meanwhile, STX's sci-fi extravaganza Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is shaping up to be one of the biggest bombs of the year, at least in North America.
     In first place, Christopher Nolan's WWII action thriller Dunkirk, which cost around $100 million to make, opened to $50.5 million, well above the $35 million to $40 million it was projected to make. This is a very strong start considering it opened in a very crowded marketplace, and that adult-targeting dramas in the summer typically don't do very well. It opened above Nolan's last film, 2014's Interstellar ($47.5m), although the latter narrowly beats it adjusted for inflation. It started 19.6% below Inception's $62.8 million start back in 2010, but that film had more star power and sci-fi thrills than Dunkirk. It made approximately $11.7 million in IMAX alone from 402 sites, making for a sturdy average of $29k. Among World War II themed films, it has the third highest opening behind only Captain America: The First Avenger ($65.1m) and Pearl Harbor ($59.1m). It more than tripled the recent opening of Hacksaw Ridge ($15.2m) and more than doubled the openings of Fury ($23.7m), The Monuments Men ($22m), and Valkyrie ($21m). With strong reviews (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and solid word-of-mouth (84% on Flixter), it should be able to hold its own against a slew of competition in the coming weeks, which will feature the likes of Atomic Blonde, The Dark Tower, and Annabelle: Creation, to name a few. If it plays like Interstellar, it gets to $200 million domestic. If it plays like any of Nolan's Batman films, it finishes anywhere from $140 million to $215 million. A multiple like Fury or The Monuments Men translates to around $180 million total. Any of those numbers would be rock solid, but it's most likely to finish with at least $175 million when all is said and done.Image result for dunkirk
     Second place belongs to the $19-million R-rated comedy Girls Trip, which brought in a surprising $30.4 million from 2,591 locations. Not only is it director Malcolm D. Lee's biggest opener, but it broke the recent losing streak of R-rated comedies this year. It began in the middle of May when Snatched opened with a decent $19.5 million but collapsed in the following weeks, topping out at just $45.8 million. The next underperformer was the Memorial Day release Baywatch, whose awful reviews overcame a powerful cast and ultimately made it open to $18.5 million and finish with only $58 million total. June releases Rough Night and The House both failed to open over $10 million, and the latter will likely barely pass $25 million total. However, Girls Trip triumphed over all of them simply because of two things: a relatable premise and good reviews. First off, one factor important to a comedy's success is its ability to be relatable to the audience. Moviegoers likely haven't been kidnapped in South America or accidentally killed a male stripper or build an illegal casino under their house, but they probably have went on or at least seen others take part in a crazy week of antics and bad behavior, which is exactly what happens in Girls Trip. It also helped that this film has an outstanding score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, while none of the others could top 50%.
     Its opening weekend is obviously a success, but the real question now is if it can hold up any better than the previous comedies. If it scores similar multiples as those, it will finish anywhere from $70 million to $95 million. If it plays like some of the director's previous films, it has a range of $68 million to $81 million. Either way, this is a win for all involved and gives hope to R-rated comedies that are of actual quality.
     Third and fourth belonged to two former weekend champions. Spider-Man: Homecoming slightly softened last weekend's hard blow with a $22 million third weekend, down 50.2% from last weekend's harsh 60%+ drop. Its total now stands at $251.7 million, and should pass The Amazing Spider-Man ($262m) some time next week. Expect a final total of around $275 million, although if holds up well in subsequent weeks it could make a run for $300 million, however unlikely.
     Following was last weekend's winner, War for the Planet of the Apes. Unfortunately, it suffered the same fate as Spider-Man, dropping a whopping 63.7% for a mild $20.4 million second weekend. Despite ecstatic reviews and solid word-of-mouth, it seems that the trilogy capper just isn't connecting with audiences, and so far has grossed an underwhelming $97.8 million for a possible final cume of under $150 million. Apparently not even the best of the franchises can survive fatigue this summer.
     Rounding out the Top 5, is the weekend's last new nationwide opener, the $209-million Luc Besson directed sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which bombed hard with only $17.02 million. It's way behind the $43.9 million start of Lucy, and is just a hair behind the director's The Fifth Element ($17.03m). However, the latter opened all the way back in 1997, so attendance for this film was significantly behind that one. It started in between big-budget 2017 duds King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ($15.4m) and The Great Wall ($18.5m), and was well behind 2012's John Carter ($30.2m) and Battleship ($25.5m). Blame the middling reviews (54% on RT), overstuffed marketplace, and general uninterest and unfamiliarity among audiences. Its source material is French, and although it should do massive business there, it just didn't click here. Expect a total of less than $45 million, which would be very disappointing.
     From spots 6 to 9, none of the films dropped below 35%. In sixth was Despicable Me 3, which dropped 34.3% and added $12.7 million for a $213.3 million total. $250 million should be in reach, which would make it the lowest-grossing film in the franchise but still a success due to its low production cost. In seventh place was the summer's breakout hit, Baby Driver, which continued to hold its own as it slipped 31.1% to gross $6 million. Its total now is $84.2 million, and could very well be on its way for a $100m+ finish. Eighth place was occupied by another breakout, The Big Sick, which took advantage of glowing reviews and word-of-mouth and dropped 33.9% from its nationwide expansion for a $5 million weekend and a $24.5 million total. Expect $35 million or more for the rom-com.
     Finally, in ninth place is the summer's new box office champion, Wonder Woman. The $149-million period action film starring Gal Gadot dropped just 31.9% in its eighth weekend for $4.6 million. It has now grossed $389 million total, putting it ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($387.2m) as the biggest film of the summer. After opening with a stunning $103.3 million, it surprised even more by experiencing especially strong holds, which is rare for a superhero film. Never dropping more than 50%, the female-directed superhero film rode a wave of hot buzz and strong reviews to change the game for the DC Extended Universe, and is now on pace to become the biggest origin story film ever in the superhero genre, possibly passing up Spider-Man ($403.7m in 2002). $400 million is essentially a guarantee at this point, which is outstanding and groundbreaking for the genre.
     The Top 12 grossed $174.2 million total this weekend, up 10.2% from last week and a solid 12.1% from the same weekend last year when The Secret Life of Pets continued its reign against the unpopular reboot of Ghostbusters.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

     The much talked-about superhero smackdown 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' just made it into home media a short while ago. After watching it, I found that the film was a lot less entertaining than its premise would suggest.
     First off, the character development was very thin in this film. Character development is an important aspect to pretty much every movie's script, even if it is a sequel to a film that has already established the characters. Depending on the way it is written, it can come across as solid and help the viewer understand the motives and backstory of the character, or it can be thin and unsubstantial that fails to show audiences why they should care for the character. Unfortunately, 'BvS''s character development falls more in line with the latter version. For example, the motives for the film's baddie Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) are muddled and unclear, and his overall demeanor come across as cartoonish and cringeworthy. His entire plan is confusing and nonsensical, which makes watching all the more frustrating. Even Wonder Woman's  (Gal Gadot) presence was a bit underwhelming. Lesser newcomers such as Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) and Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) also fail to spark interest as they seem to be there just to provide exposition or motivation or advance the plot. Because of these missteps, most of the new characters are uninteresting and unlikable (save for Wonder Woman, of course). Bruce Wayne / Batman (Bruce Wayne) was developed decently, and while it could have been better it honestly could have been worse. However, the ones that were already introduced in 2013's 'Man of Steel' were just disappointingly plain and one-dimensional, and there just wasn't any chemistry between Supes and his girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Except for Bruce, Alfred, and Wonder Woman, all the characters seem to behave like a five-year-old. Overall, the screenwriters had a lot of potential with the characters they worked with but wasted it on poorly developed characters.
     Along with unimpressive character development, there are more than a few problems with the plot. It is littered from left to right with plot conveniences, ex machinas, that-guy-should-have-died-from-that-thing, you name it. For example, after the first bizarre dream sequences Bruce is seen high-tailing it to Metropolis to try to...oh wait, the film doesn't explain why he even thought of coming there in the first place. I mean, yeah, his building was right there in the line of fire, but Bruce did call of his employees to tell him and everyone else to get out of the building (which presents another problem: why hasn't everyone evacuated yet when there's a giant spaceship wrecking the city?), so he could have just called him from his mansion or somewhere actually safe. However, if he did have a good reason to go there he still should have got killed when that fighter jet crashed and burned on the street inches away from his car. Even more confusing is when he pulls up into he a huge crowd of people standing in the street and watching the destruction instead of, oh, I don't know, running for their lives! They eventually do, but only after a huge death cloud that came from the destroyed Wayne Enterprises building races towards them. And then, after walking through the smoke, walking by a horse (?), and saving a little girl from falling debris, he begins to grow hate for Superman after he killed countless civilians. All those problems were from just the opening scene (or at least part of it). Just to name a few more so you don't have to listen to any more of my rambling (at least for this section), some other questionable moments (and believe me, there are many) include Superman flying at Doomsday with a Kryptonite spear after it weakened him when he was retrieving it from water (no need to explain that one), a jar full of Luthor's pee that wasn't confiscated before the Senator discovered it at her podium right when the room blew up and all but Superman died, the piece of Kryptonite found somewhere in the Indian Ocean that somehow wasn't chased down by the U.S. government, General Zod's body that Luthor somehow got his hands on without government permission before he asks for permission from a government official, and people suddenly caring about Superman after he died after they were all worried about him destroying the planet. Ex machinas include Wonder Woman suddenly joining the climactic fight, Superman showing up when Lois Lane is taken hostage by an African warlord, and Lois Lane preventing Batman from killing Superman even though she had no idea where they were (or was it that the two superheroes' mothers happen to share the same first name that saved the day?). To sum it all up, 'BvS' has a script that doesn't do a lot of justice to its source material, with overused plot devices, ex machinas, and cliches. It isn't the worst script out there, but it definitely isn't the best.
     The acting in the film is probably one of the only upsides to watching it. 'BvS' stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman, Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. I'd say that Affleck, Gadot, and Irons were the strongest performers in the entire film (even though Gadot had very little screen time). Affleck delivered the expected seriousness to the Batman character while still making it fun to watch after various actors took the mantle. Gadot showed a lot of promise in her role as Wonder Woman, and with a full-time role in her own solo film next March she will definitely have the chance to break out even further. Irons, as small as a role he had, continued the respectable and likable line of portrayals of the famous butler and servant to the Caped Crusader. Irons successfully portrayed the wise, helpful man and his performance alone is enough to give the film a bit of respect. Cavill was still decent as Superman; he didn't get better from 'Man of Steel' but he certainly didn't get worse from it. Same for Adams, who didn't deliver anything particularly special to the film but also didn't really make the character unlikable (the screenwriters did that). Hunter was actually pretty good in her role as a senator, though unfortunately we won't be seeing her in any future films. Eisenberg's performance is what really bugged me. The actual actor is pretty good in other films, but he just didn't fit this role. Lex Luthor is supposed to be a smart, cunning, unpredictable man who imposes an intimidating image. Eisenberg's version is smart and arguably unpredictable, but he lacks the kind of impact and intimidation the character should have. It also didn't help that this Lex Luthor acted more like a weird, cartoon-like Joker than the actual businessman/scientist Lex is in the comics. The acting in 'BvS' is one of the film's strongest attributes, even if some of the actors fail to impress with their roles.
     Finally, I'm going to talk about the visuals and action sequences: what this movie is mostly about (except for setting up the 'Justice League' film). Some of the special effects look pretty cool, but most of the time the CGI coupled with the messy sound mixing/editing make the action scenes loud, noisy, and pointless. I have to admit that the Batmobile chase scene and the Batman-takes-down-Luthor's-thugs scene are pretty awesome to watch, though Batman actually killed several guys (what's up with that, Zack Snyder?). The other action scenes, however, are tasteless and confusing: the punches sound like someone's hitting a cardboard box, the CGI either looks obviously animated or that it came from a video game, and the sequences have no impact at all. The climactic battle was a huge mess filled with unimpressive visuals and noisy fighting. It's hard to tell what is happening throughout the whole sequence as it all just looks like a bunch of characters fighting each other in a giant landscape of special effects. Up until Doomsday is killed (which itself was a hugely confusing finale), it's just a big mess of superheroes and a big bad living rock trying to kill everyone. But that isn't even the worst of it. The most disappointing fight scene was when the titular heroes duked it out...for a pretty short amount of time. The fight that got everyone so hyped about ended up being a huge letdown, with boring kicks and punches and jumping and charges. The two throw each other through walls and smash heads with a sink. And then, as previously mentioned, just when Batman is about to kill Superman the latter says "Save Martha" since Luthor and his thugs are holding her hostage, and Bruce yells, Lois Lane somehow finds them, Bruce yells some more, Lois explains Martha is Superman's mother's name, Bruce finds a connection (whatever it is), and they suddenly become besties because their mothers have the same name. One of the most hyped fights in cinematic history, and it all ends because the opponents' mothers' names are the same. I don't need to say anymore. So yeah, the action and special effects were definitely disappointing, and if the fights were better choreographed and visualized they wouldn't have been so boring and pointless.
     Well, that's it. My official review of one of the most hyped films of the decade, but also one of the most disappointing (though there's a difference between being a disappointment and being one of the worst films ever made). With a strong premise and talented, hard-working cast, 'BvS' should have done much better, but instead fell victim to a rushed, forced script, thinly written character development, and stale action scenes paired with messy visuals.

Character Development: C
Plot: C-
Acting: A-
Action: C-
Visuals: C+

Overall Rating: C+


Monday, July 25, 2016

Weekend Report: 'Star Trek Beyond' Warps into Top Spot, 'Lights Out' Chills Out and 'Ice Age' Freezes Up

     The reign of animated blockbusters is over, thanks to the big-budget franchise tentpole 'Star Trek Beyond', which easily took the top spot from 'The Secret Life of Pets', though it did come in quite a bit below its predecessors. Also opening were the micro-budget thriller 'Lights Out', which exceeded expectations, and the big-budget animated flick 'Ice Age: Collision Course', which delivered a more-than-underwhelming performance.
      In first place, the $185-million sci-fi action/adventure 'Star Trek Beyond' beamed up $59.3 million for a $15.1k per-theater average, which is right in line with pre-release expectations ($45m-$65m). It is the third best debut of the franchise, behind the 2009 reboot ($75.2m) and its sequel ($70.2m), continuing the downward trend of the franchise. Among 2016 releases, it is the second best opening for a non-animated or non-comic-adapted film behind April's 'The Jungle Book'. For the summer, it is the third best live-action opening behind only 'Captain America: Civil War' ($179.1m) and 'X-Men: Apocalypse' ($65.8m), which were both comic book movies sequels. Overall, this is a pretty solid debut, as the lukewarm reception to the first trailer, the absence of the beloved J. J. Abrams in the director's chair and presence of Justin Lin, and declining grosses between installments were working against the film's favor.
     Starting out with $22.3 million on Friday (including $5.5m from Thursday), 'Beyond' dipped a light 7.2% for $20.7 million on Saturday and declined a further 20.9% on Sunday for $16.3 million for a weekend-to-Friday ratio of 2.66-to-1, which falls below the 2.8-to-1 ratio of 'Star Trek' and 3.25-to-1 ratio of 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (though the latter opened on Thursday instead of the traditional Friday). This suggests that the film will fail to hold up as well as those films. However, with strong reviews (84% on RT) and word-of-mouth (86% Flixter rating and 'A-' CinemaScore), it's hard to think that the three-quel will fail to hold up as well as 'Into Darkness' (3.26x). That result gets it to a strong $193.3 million total. The previous 'Star Trek' films were able to hold their own amidst brutal competition throughout the summer, and with the only major films challenging its holding power in the coming weeks being 'Jason Bourne' next weekend and 'Suicide Squad' the following weekend, a $190 million gross or higher seems plausible.
      Last weekend's champion 'The Secret Life of Pets' continued its impressive run in theaters, dropping a solid 41.8% to gross $29.6 million for a grand total of $261 million through three weeks of play. That is a better third weekend hold than 'Despicable Me 2' (-43.3%) and 'Minions' (-53.5%). With no major family competition until 'Pete's Dragon' on August 12, 'Pets' should continue to hold up well throughout the month of July. A $320 million total is still possible for the $75-million toon.
     In a very strong third place, Warner Bros.' $4.9-million horror flick 'Lights Out' scared up a much-better-expected $21.7 million for a robust $7.7k PTA. It represents the fourth straight success of a horror film this summer, following 'The Conjuring 2' ($40.4m), 'The Shallows' ($16.8m), and 'The Purge: Election Year' ($31.5m). Strong reviews and solid word-of-mouth easily helped 'Lights Out' overcome expectations, and with a solid premise that is superior to most horror offerings audiences were clearly convinced to check out this PG-13 thriller.
     The horror film opened to $9.2 million on Friday (including $1.8m from Thursday), fell 22.1% on Saturday for $7.1 million, and dropped 24.1% on Sunday to gross $5.4 million. The weekend-to-Friday ratio here is 2.36-to-1, typical for a horror film regardless of reviews. Word-of-mouth is currently at 74% on Flixter coinciding with the 77% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that 'Lights Out' could possibly hold up better than your average horror film. In that case, a cume above $55 million is very likely.
     In a very disappointing fourth, Fox's $105-million animated sequel 'Ice Age: Collision Course' opened to just $21.4 million. That's way less than half of the previous outing in the long-running franchise, 'Continental Drift' ($46.6m) and is less than a third of 'The Meltdown''s debut ($68m). With the strongly-reviewed (not to mention highly-anticipated) 'Finding Dory' and 'Secret Life of Pets' already tearing up the marketplace, it was unlikely many were going to care for another 'Ice Age' film, which received very poor reviews that likely fended off casual moviegoers. Apparently the franchise just grew one film too long.
      The toon opened to a measly $7.9 million on Friday (including $850k from Thursday), fell 3.2% on Saturday to gross $7.7 million, and fell another 24.5% on Sunday to gross $5.8 million. The ratio here is a so-so 2.71-to-1, which is quite front-loaded for an animated offering (except for a highly-anticipated monster opener). With a 13% RT rating and 46% Flixter score, it doesn't look likely to beat the multiplier of 'Ice Age: The Meltdown' (2.87x). In that case, a $60 million total is most likely out of reach, which would signify a loss of over $100 million compared to the previous installment. However, it is doing exceptionally well overseas, where it just passed the $200 million global mark.
     'Ghostbusters' dropped quite a bit this weekend, falling 54.3% for $21 million in its sophomore frame. The $144-million franchise starter has now grossed $86.3 million, and though a possible $140 million final cume isn't anything to be sorry about Sony will have to hope for strong international returns if they want to keep making 'Ghostbusters' films.
     In seventh and eighth, Warner Bros.' $180-million adventure 'The Legend of Tarzan' and Fox's $33-million R-rated comedy 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' both had identical drops. The former dipped 42.5% for $6.6 million and a $116 million cume. The film has surprisingly not fell more than 50% in any of its weekends yet, and will likely end its run with around $130 million. The latter eased 42.7% for $4.4 million and a $40.3 million gross in three weeks of play. A $50 million may be doable.
     'Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party' claimed ninth place and grossed $3.96 million, up 5,199.3% due to its 1,213 extra theaters. The political documentary is generating positive word-of-mouth among Republicans and with $4.1 million in the bank, a $15 million grand total is likely.
     'The Infiltrator' held up well in its second weekend, grossing $3.3 million (-37.2%). Though it is impressive considering its muted grosses last weekend and mixed reviews and word-of-mouth, its $12.3 million cume is still a big loss for Broad Green Pictures. Unfortunately, the Bryan Cranston drug thriller looks to fail to top $20 million.
     'Central Intelligence' and 'The Purge: Election Year' rounded out the Top 12. The former made $2.8 million (-37.2%) for a $123.1 million total. $130 million still seems possible. The latter plummeted 61.5% for $2.4 million and has now grossed $76.6 million. Though $90 million is out of reach at this point, $85 million could be a lock.
     The Top 12 grossed $183.6 million, up 18.2% from last weekend and up 29.5% from last year when 'Ant-Man' repeated atop of 'Pixels'.
     Next weekend sees the release of another long-awaited sequel in the form of 'Jason Bourne', which is expected to return the film series to its original box office glory. Meanwhile, 'Bad Moms' will try to be the first R-rated comedy breakout of the summer following a couple of duds and the thriller 'Nerve' will open this Wednesday, though it isn't expected to make much.