The failure last month of THE DARK TOWER left industry observers wondering whether there was still a market for Stephen King adaptations. However, all of those doubts are long gone thanks to the record-breaking opening of Warner/New Line’s IT, which brought in an astonishing $123 million dollars. That is more than double the previous September record and by far, the best R-rated horror opening ever. This comes as a welcome relief to Hollywood following several of the lowest grossing weeks in memory. IT is yet another horror performer this year, and though it’s $35 million budget is very low by Hollywood standards, it is not as economical as the single digit costs of GET OUT and SPLIT.

The rest of the pack is more in line with what we saw in August. HOME AGAIN was $114 million behind in second place, with its $9 million total representing a weak opening for this Reese Witherspoon vehicle and another disappointment for struggling Open Road Films. THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD finished its three-week reign on the top of the charts, slipping to third place with $4.9 million. Another Warner/New Line horror effort, ANNABELLE: CREATION notched fourth place with $4 million and should soon cross the $100 million mark. WIND RIVER ended up in fifth, with $3.3 million and a solid $25 million to date for the $11 million production.

Competition has been pretty weak these past few weeks, but that is changing with the arrival of higher profile titles with more obvious potential. IT will likely repeat on top next weekend, but should face tougher competition from the new Jennifer Lawrence horror thriller MOTHER! and the actioner AMERICAN ASSASSIN. Open Road is countering with ALL I SEE IS YOU, which seems like another also ran for them.

The controversial 9/11, starring Charlie Sheen and Gina Gershon, was a total non-starter, finishing 31st with a dismal $121,000.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

IT. Courtesy Warner/New Line.

This was the lowest grossing Labor Day weekend in 17 years, offering no new contenders of note. However, the films that were out there essentially remained steady.THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD came #1 for the third week in a row, increasing 2.6% for $10.5 million. ANNABELLE: CREATION nabbed second, dropping only 2.4% for a total of $7.5 million in week 4. WIND RIVER benefited from an additional 507 screens, grossing $6.2 million for third, an increase of 36%. LEAP! (aka BALLERINA) landed in 4th with $4.9 million, an increase of 2.5%. LOGAN LUCKY rounded out the top 5 with an increase of 5.1% and an additional $4.5 million.

Sony’s 40th anniversary re-issue of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND did much better than the 3D encore of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, which suffered the frame’s largest drop by far, declining 70% from an already disappointing start. While CE3K’s $1.8 million total was only good for 13th place, it was still eleven spots higher than the Weinstein Company’s TULIP FEVER, the weekend’s only other wide release, which crashed and burned with $1.2 million. Disney took advantage of the lack of new titles to get CARS 3 back into an additional 2200 screens. The result was another $1.7 million and a 14th place showing. Lionsgate also expanded its indie hit THE BIG SICK into a further 560 screens, which added $1.4 million and a 20th place finish.

There has been much speculation on just what went wrong with August. The studio’s only attempt at a big tentpole title, THE DARK TOWER, bombed, and they were otherwise largely content to just leave the field to the smaller studios. One wonders how big titles that underperformed, such as WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, might have fared if their respective companies had held off their openings for a few weeks.

The doldrums will no doubt end next weekend with the debut of Stephen King’s IT, which has generated plenty of buzz.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER. Courtesy the Weinstein Company.

 

We were on vacation last week, but frankly, there was not much to miss at the movies then or this past weekend. Summit’s action/comedy THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD came in first again, grossing a limp $10 million, followed by Warner’s horror sequel ANNABELLE: CREATION in second with $7.4 million. Known as BALLERINA when it opened here in Canada six months ago, the animated feature LEAP! finished third with a disappointing $5 million, followed by WIND RIVER, which expanded its theatre count and earned a modest $4.4 million. Steven Soderbergh’s underperforming caper comedy LOGAN LUCKY earned that same amount for fifth place.

BH Tilt’s new feature BIRTH OF THE DRAGON was a complete non-starter with only $2.5 million. Given the film’s martial arts fight premise, it was a strange plan to release it last weekend given Saturday’s Mayweather and McGregor fight. Sure enough, BIRTH’s total dropped almost 30% from Friday to Saturday. Another bust was the 3D re-issue of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, which brought in $582,000 on 386 screens. Expectations were modest, but this low total remains a big disappointment given the success of the 3D TITANIC and demonstrates that Lionsgate was right to pass on handling this release. Another DOA was A24’s GOOD TIME, which added more screens but struggled to find anyone to patronize them.

With the dearth of viable new product, BABY DRIVER and WONDER WOMAN reappeared on more than 1000+ screens apiece, adding $1.2 million and $1.7 million respectively to their totals.

All in all, this was one of the worst weekends in five years. Previous Augusts have benefitted from a big franchise title like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or SUICIDE SQUAD, but the only one with such potential, THE DARK TOWER, fizzled quickly leaving a void that remains open. Next weekend will be no better as there are no wide releases scheduled at all.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. Courtesy Summit.

ANNABELLE: CREATION topped the box office by a long shot this weekend, grossing $35 million or more than double its production costs. While not every horror film hits a home run (e.g. WISH UPON), they are so comparatively economical to produce, not every one has to be a smash the size of GET OUT or SPLIT. This must a comfort to the studios, which need relief from the string of big-budget flops that have plagued them this summer.

DUNKIRK finished second, adding another $11.4 million, while NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE flopped, its $8.9 million gross being the lowest opening ever for a film on more than 4000 screens. It represents yet another swing and a miss for Open Road, which was sold last week to the Chinese company Tang Media. THE DARK TOWER dropped from first to fourth, making Sony’s planned movie series seem increasingly unlikely. The company’s THE EMOJI MOVIE has not been making waves either, its three week gross behind what one would expect from a major studio animated feature during the summer.

GIRLS TRIP continues to be on of the bright spots of the summer, and another small budget picture that will deliver out-sized profits. It should pass $100 million later this week. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and KIDNAP followed, with Lionsgate’s THE GLASS CASTLE making a weak debut in 9th with $4.9 million. ATOMIC BLONDE grabbed the #10 spot, while DETROIT slipped from 8th last week to a disappointing 13th place.

On the specialty front, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER is not having the same impact as its forerunner, with only $2.3 million to date in its third week. WOLF WARRIOR II is now China’s highest grosser ever, with over $700 million and climbing in that territory alone. Well Go’s limited US release has brought in an OK $1.9 million to date after climbing to 52 screens this weekend.

Data courtesy Box Office Mojo.

ANNABELLE: CREATION. Courtesy New Line/Warner.

 

August has traditionally been the slowest month of the summer movie season, though that has changed in recent years. Big hits like the original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and SUICIDE SQUAD aimed to make the latter half of summer just as competitive as June and July. That was clearly what Sony was hoping for with their long-in-coming adaptation of Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER. Unfortunately, reports of bad test screenings and re-shoots, coupled with mostly negative reviews, turned this would-be multi-platform franchise into an under performer. It was such a limp weekend that the film still managed to earn the #1 spot with a measly $19.2 million. This frame is the weakest of the summer to date and the slate of pictures to come suggests that August will continue to be a down month for the industry.

DUNKIRK dropped into second place after two #1 showings, managing another $17.1 million and a decline of only 36%. In the wake of catastrophic reviews, THE EMOJI MOVIE still declined only 51% for second place. GIRLS TRIP continued to do strong business, landing in third with $11.4 million. KIDNAP, the premiere release from Aviron, did $10 million for fourth, while Annapurna’s distribution debut, DETROIT, failed to display the promise it showed in limited release, landing in eight place with $7.7 million. ATOMIC BLONDE also didn’t show much traction, declining 55% for $8.2 million and a #7 showing. BABY DRIVER continued inching its way toward the $100 million mark, while WONDER WOMAN should finally pass $400 million later this week.

The horror sequel ANNABELLE: CREATION will almost certainly dominate next weekend, unless families turn out en masse for THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE. August’s most promising title, the action/comedy THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, hits screens the following weekend.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Idris Elba in THE DARK TOWER. Courtesy Sony.

Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate review site, has been around for years, but it has been in the press quite a bit these past few months. The major studios have been increasingly vocal with their feeling that bad reviews are severely impacting box office. While a bad review from one critic is usually nothing to get upset about, Rotten Tomatoes allows people to see many reviews at a time. They also average those reviews out; if less than 60% of a film’s reviews are positive, then it is stamped Rotten.

Some of the more high profile failures this year have received very low scores on RT and the subject is fresh once again, thanks to this weekend’s release of Sony’s THE DARK TOWER. Plagued by stories of re-shoots and post-production strife, the movie was held back from critics until two days before opening. Reviews are still coming in, but the majority have been quite negative. The film is currently projected to gross $20-30 million this weekend; it will be interesting to see if it falls below that estimate.

Things used to be different when it came to reviews. Outside of Siskel & Ebert on TV, the only movie review most people saw was the critic in their local paper. Now in this age of constant rushing, many people are not taking the time to read reviews and are just glancing at RT’s all-or-nothing scale of Rotten vs Fresh. Studios feel that is shortchanging the movies because it discourages people from giving them a chance.

However, holding films back from critics does not seem to be the solution. Last weekend’s THE EMOJI MOVIE (also from Sony) got extremely negative reviews, but managed to hit its projection, but earlier in the summer, Warner Brothers did not screen THE HOUSE for critics at all and it still bombed. It all just leaves one thinking that the easiest solution would be to just make better movies.

Idris Elba in THE DARK TOWER. Courtesy Sony.

Christopher Nolan’s technically magnificent WWII feature DUNKIRK held on to the top spot for a second weekend, one of the lightest in memory in terms of attendance. The Warner Brothers release added another $28.1 million, which was enough to best Sony Animation’s THE EMOJI MOVIE. Burdened with some of the most vehemently negative reviews in recent memory, EMOJI took second with $25.7 million. The raunchy comedy GIRLS TRIP dropped only 36% to add another $20.1 million to its excellent run for the #3 position.

The other big newcomer this week, the Charlize Theron actioner ATOMIC BLONDE, somewhat underperformed with $18.6 million. The movie will likely make a profit given it’s small $30 million budget, but after a pretty substantial ad spend, Universal must be feeling a bit let down by those numbers.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS declined an additional 60% in weekend 2, officially making its domestic release a flop. Underdog BABY DRIVER declined only 33% and should be able to top $100 million, while the ever powerful WONDER WOMAN remained in the top 10 with a drop of only 23% and a new U.S. total of $395 million. That is the best of the summer and second only to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on the year end chart.

On the specialty market, DETROIT, the maiden release of Annapurna Pictures, scored an impressive $365,000 on only 20 screens; it will expand nationwide on Friday. The big release next weekend, however, is the Stephen King adaptation THE DARK TOWER. While King movies used to flood both multiplexes and television, they have become relatively scarce in recent years and are not the sure thing they once were. However, Sony seems confident in THE DARK TOWER’s prospects and have been advertising it fairly aggressively. It will be one of the bigger releases in what looks to be a rather quiet finish to the summer movie season.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Charlize Theron in ATOMIC BLONDE. Courtesy Focus/Universal.

While Christopher Nolan has a solid track record of hits, that was no guarantee that DUNKIRK would also score. Based on an event far more celebrated in England than America, and offering no marquee stars, the $150 million production could have turned out to be an expensive bust. However, the film scored a solid $50.5 million opening, plus another $55 million overseas with several major territories to go. Nolan’s films tend to have low declines from week to week, so this will likely remain in theatres until Labor Day.

Finishing a strong second was the R-rated comedy GIRLS TRIP with $30.4 million. Costing only $19 million, the movie will be solidly profitable for Universal, even if its foreign prospects are limited. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES took the third and fourth positions, the latter dropping 64%, which comes as a disappointment for Fox.

Luc Besson’s sci-fi spectacle VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS was always expected to do more overseas, but its fifth place finish here is still a disappointment. Costing about $209 million, the movie will have to do blockbuster numbers in Europe and Asia to make it out of the black. The film grossed $17.1 million domestically for STX Entertainment, which is merely distributing for EuropaCorp, which picked up the print and advertising costs.

DESPICABLE ME 3, BABY DRIVER, THE BIG SICK, WONDER WOMAN, and WISH UPON rounded out the Top Ten. WONDER WOMAN’s to-date gross of $389 million now has it in the lead for the highest domestic grossing movie of the summer thus far.

As is usually the case with the summer season, things will be a bit quieter going forward. THE EMOJI MOVIE and ATOMIC BLONDE are the big titles next frame, with Sony’s Stephen King adaptation THE DARK TOWER the likely favorite on August 4th.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Tom Hardy in DUNKIRK. Courtesy Warner.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, the latest saga in Fox’s rebooted Apes franchise, finished first this weekend with $56 million. That certainly does not sound like a bad start, however, it is down about $16 million from the previous installment. Internationally, the film added another $46 million and still has several major markets to go. The picture benefited from highly positive reviews, so Fox is hopefully that it will continue to play through the next few weeks as the competition is not quite as fierce going forward.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING finished second and has a domestic cume of $208 million to date. On the downside, the second weekend gross was down 61%. That’s not as bad as say, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, but it also suggests that word-of-mouth is not as positive as Sony would like. Speaking of holds, WONDER WOMAN continues to play and play and play. It added another $6.9 million for 6th place and a drop of only 30%. It has now passed the domestic box office of both BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and SUICIDE SQUAD. BABY DRIVER also lost a mere 33% in weekend #3, adding another $8.8 million.

Third place went to DESPICABLE ME 3 with $19 million. It should break the $200 million barrier later this week. Lionsgate’s small budget comedy THE BIG SICK is doing well as an alternative to all of the giant summer pictures, with $16 million to date in its first weekend of wide release.

The slasher film WISH UPON was a non-starter for Broad Green with $5.6 million. With 8th and 9th place finishes respectively, CARS 3 and TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT will soon be in the junkyard. Finishing at the very bottom of the Top 10 is THE HOUSE, which has rolled snake eyes for Warner/New Line and will have to perform much better on VOD and disc to get back into the black.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. Courtesy Fox.

As I have mentioned in past posts, Hollywood is increasingly relying on the foreign market to make up the short fall in domestic totals. In the past couple of years, it seems like film after film that has had middling or even downright poor results here has managed to make a profit, thanks to overseas.

The juggernaut there is China, without question. A typical example is WARCRAFT, a major flop on this side of the pond with a domestic gross of less than a third of its $160 million costs (that’s not even factoring in advertising). However, the movie pulled in a mammoth $386 million overseas, including $213.5 million from China alone. That adds up to a worldwide showing of almost $434 million or almost ten times what the film did in America and Canada.

However, there are definite drawbacks to relying so much on overseas audiences. Producers end up crafting movies that will appeal to as many countries as possible, which means simplified plots, less creative daring, and even self-censorship. Also, while China sounds like a gold rush, only a selected number of foreign movies can play there each year and distributors only get 25% of the take, a figure much lower than anywhere else.

On top of that, Chinese audiences are starting to demonstrate that they, too, are getting sick of sequels. The most recent example is TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, which under-performed domestically, but did $120 million on its opening weekend in China. However, the film then dropped 74% in weekend 2 and another 75% in weekend 3. Opening weekends are key with many of these big films, but they do need at least some positive word of mouth to sustain themselves (WONDER WOMAN being a great recent example). That is happening increasingly less, which should be giving executives pause.

That said, superhero movies are still performing more often than not, so there will likely be plenty of those still to come.

Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

WARCRAFT. Courtesy Universal.