Many distributors bemoan Super Bowl weekend as a deathly time at the box office, specifically when Sunday business can see a downturn of 65%-70% compared with Saturday. Last year alone, a historic 114.5M watched Super Bowl XLIX. However, the truth is that most audiences head to the cinema on Friday or Saturday during the Big Game weekend, with the No. 1 title typically clearing $20M or more. That’s what we’re seeing this weekend as DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox’s Kung Fu Panda 3 is planning to make $22M-$24M in its second go-round. In sum, there are worse weekends on the calendar such as the post-Thanksgiving and Labor Day frames.
As a family title, KFP3 also has the benefit of seeing a better hold on Sunday of -50% versus other titles. Under-25 fare is typically the best form of counterprogramming during a Super Bowl (the reigning opening B.O. champ for the weekend remains 2008’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour at $31.1M), and this Friday we have largely younger female/male titles with Screen Gems’ Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Lionsgate’s The Choice and Universal’s Coen brothers comedy Hail, Caesar!
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies has the greater edge among the three entries, with a possible shot at No. 2 with $12M per industry estimates at 2,930 theaters (Sony thinks it’s much lower — in the single digits). Young females are the sweet spot, but there’s a decent male component here as well. Screenings for the genre hybrid have generated enthusiastic results. Cross Creek financed the $28M Burr Steers movie which stars Lily James, Jack Huston, Sam Riley and Bella Heathcote. Previews start Thursday at 7 PM at about 2,250 sites.
Hail, Caesar! marks the return of the Coens after 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s a light comedic, yesteryear Hollywood romp, and the hybrid of The Hudsucker Proxy with a touch of Barton Fink is expected to bring in around $10M from 2,231. In its one-sheets, Hail, Caesar! has been sold off its all-star cast of George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill and Josh Brolin, though Facebook has been showing Tatum’s (the real B.O. pull here) sailor musical clip on a loop. Working Title co-produced. Hail, Caesar! will start previews on Thursday at 7 PM. It’s not common for a Coens title to go wide in its first weekend — their biggest FSS debut belongs to December 201o’s True Grit, which made $24.8M — but among titles that went wide during the first quarter of the year, their March 2004 entry The Ladykillers opened to $12.6M.
Lionsgate is looking to lure the ladies to Nicholas Sparks’ latest feature adaptation The Choice in 2,600 venues. Once upon a time Sparks used to fly at the B.O.: Dear John had a leg up over the Super Bowl in 2010 when it opened to $30.5M and legged out $80M for its run. That film was further bolstered by Tatum’s star power, but he belongs to the Coens this time around. Lionsgate acquired The Choice for about $10M. Industry figures have this in the high single digits up to $9M. The last Sparks movie, The Longest Ride, opened last April to $13M and stopped galloping at $37.4M. Thursday previews start at 7 PM.
Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox/New Regency’s The Revenant looks to make $7M in its seventh frame. Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens is looking at between $7M-$8M, while the studio’s period Coast Guard rescue pic The Finest Hours is looking at a second weekend of $5M per industry estimates.