5TH UPDATE, Sunday AM: What happened this weekend at the box office to completely deep-six three wide releases? The casualties: Blair Witch (Lionsgate, est. $9.65M, $5M production cost, mid-to-high $20M), Bridget Jones’s Baby (Universal/Working Title/Miramax/StudioCanal, est. $8.2M, $35M production cost) and  Snowden (Open Road, est. $8M, production cost $50M).

Peg it to a maelstrom of awful tracking, dusty properties and too many titles catering to the female demo. At $89M, this weekend charted the lowest amount of tickets sales so far in 2016. In fact we made 28% more at the box office during the weekend of January 22-24 ($113.6M), and that’s when a slew of multiplexes closed in the Northeast due to a huge snowstorm! Prior to this weekend, Feb. 5-7 was the lowest B.O. weekend of the year with $95M.

Blair Witch was hoped to go toe-to-toe with Sully for the No. 1 spot. Forecasts were in the $15M-$20M-plus range, while Bridget Jones’s Baby was expected to post the best opening of its franchise with $13M-$17M.

Said one distribution executive this morning, “I think sometimes tracking throws off false indicators. With Blair Witch projected near $20M, it was clear that the people who saw it didn’t like it and told their friends in big numbers, and there’s no way to come back from that.”

The last time audiences saw a Blair Witch movie was 16 years ago, and the last Bridget Jones was 12 years ago. And by the look of their weekend ticket sales, no one was begging for the return of either franchise.

Sully

In addition, all of these wide entries were clamoring for female audiences’ attention, a demographic that Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Sully continued to own with 55% women/82% over 25 (per ComScore’s PostTrak) in a second weekend that grossed $22M, -37% for a 10-day total of $70.5M. PostTrak showed Baby skewing toward older women at 79% females/84% 25+. CinemaScore also showed Snowden attracting older females at 53%/77% over 25. Prior to Friday, Blair Witch was tracking as the first choice among young females and per PostTrak pulled in 50% of them, 51% under 25.

Trackers also bet high on Blair Witch because the genre rallies in the fall, and there was a lot of wattage coming from Lionsgate’s innovative marketing campaign.

BLAIR WITCH

From the outside looking in, it would seem that the microbudget horror business is an easy feat. But just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean a sizable crowd automatically shows up and a distributor profits. Blair Witch is bound to lose a few million.

Bu what’s really upsetting here is that from the moment Lionsgate pulled off its clever marketing moment at Comic-Con (revealing that The Woods was actually Blair Witch), there seemed to be a reinvigorated interest in the property. The first round of horror reviews coming out of Comic-Con gave Blair Witch a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score before the critical status quo drove it down to 37% Rotten. Coming away with a D+ CinemaScore this weekend, Blair Witch seemed just an excuse among moviegoers to sit and eat candy in the dark.

Even though Lionsgate broke ground by utilizing the virtual reality format in Blair Witch‘s campaign with mobile ads and the first 360-degree virtual reality website using Google Cardboard (which drew 2M), Relish Mix reports that the film’s social “was challenged by both an unknown, non-social cast and mixed conversation. Some horror fans ranked Blair Witch as one of the best films ever in the genre and were rabid to see it. But others felt exactly the opposite and were not fazed by the positive reviews and the initial secrecy surrounding this movie.” In the end no amount of clever tricks could put a spell on moviegoers to see Blair Witch. Coming off of one of the best summers for the genre, this audience responds to genre auteurs like James Wangreat and high concepts like blind men in basements who aren’t really so blind (Screen Gems’ Don’t Breathe stole $5.6M worth of business away from Blair Witch and is officially Screen Gems’ highest grossing horror movie ever with $75.3M).

Edward Snowden Trailer

Despite Snowden‘s misfire at the B.O., Open Road stands by the movie as a potential awards contender. Said the label’s president of marketing Jonathan Helfgot this morning, “Snowden is a smart and provocative thriller that connected strongly with audiences. While we’d like to have seen a slightly bigger number for the opening weekend, we are very encouraged by Snowden‘s ‘A’ Cinemascore and exit polls and we expect the movie to thrive for several more weeks.”

It’s no surprise to see Snowden tank. Controversial subjects onscreen always come at a higher-than-indie budget for director Oliver Stone, and we’ve seen this repeatedly throughout his career with Alexander, W., The Doors, Nixon, etc. It’s not that they’re bad movies, it’s just the nature of doing business with an auteur Stone. And that can be said about other directors like Terrence Malick and Woody Allen. Financiers who put their necks on the line need to realize that it’s about being in business with these guys, not about making money. Art is the ultimate end game here.

Adult audiences take their time to get to the box office, and reviews are important. With a choice between Sully and Snowden, they put their money toward the better reviewed Sully (82% fresh) over Snowden (58% rotten). In addition, Sully has the platinum appeal of being an American hero, while red state audiences might be put off by Edward Snowden’s rebellious maneuvers with the U.S. government.

Bridget Jones's Baby

While Open Road takes confidence in its A CinemaScore, Uni is doing the same with its B+ CinemaScore and good reviews (78% fresh) for Bridget Jones’s Baby. But even though it’s the only true, wholehearted female choice out there until the studio’s DreamWorks title The Girl on a Train arrives on Oct. 7, it’s obvious there wasn’t enough support out there 12 years after Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason ($8.68M opening/$40.2M domestic). Nor were U.S./Canada crowds interested in seeing Renee Zellweger’s comeback after six years away from the big screen. Still, the reason this title was resurrected was its foreign appeal, and this weekend Baby counts close to $30M.

Top 13 films per studio-reported figures for the weekend of Sept. 16-18:

1). Sully  (WB), 3,525 theaters / $6.6M Fri. / $9.6M Sat./ $5.8M Sun. / 3-day cume: $22M (-37%)/Total: $70.5M / Wk 2

2). Blair Witch  (LG), 3,121 theaters / $4M Fri. / $3.6M Sat. / $1.9M Sun. / 3-day cume: $9.65M / Wk 1

3). Bridget Jones’s Baby  (UNI), 2,927 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3.25M Sat. / $1.95M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8.24M / Wk 1

4). Snowden  (OR), 2,443 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3M Sat. / $1.97M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8M / Wk 1

5). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,208 theaters (-176) / $1.6M  Fri. / $2.5M Sat. / $1.3M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.6M (-32%)/ Total  cume: $75.3M / Wk 4

6). When the Bough Breaks  (SONY), 2,246 theaters /$1.6M  Fri. / $2.6M Sat. / $1.2M  Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.5M (-61%)/Total: $22.7M Wk 2

7). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,740 theaters (-363) / $1.1M Fri. / $2.2M Sat./ $1.25M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $4.7M (-18%) / Total cume: $313.8M / Wk 7

8). The Wild Life  (LG), 2,493 theaters / $530K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. / $797k Sun.  / 3-day cume: $2.65M (-21%)/Total:$6.7M/ Wk 1

9). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,757 theaters (-578) / $521K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. / $783M Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-24%) / Total cume: $44.2M / Wk 5

10). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 1,948 theaters (-737) / $459K Fri. / $1M Sat. / $520K Sun.  / 3-day cume: $2M (-34%) / Total cume: $72.8M / Wk 6

11). Hell or High Water (CBS/Lionsgate), 1,505theaters (+60) / $589K Fri. / $885K Sat. / $451K Sun.  / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-22%)/ Total cume: $22.7M / Wk 6

12). Bad Moms (STX), 1,486 theaters (-402) / $566K Fri.  / $815K Sat. / $408K Sun / 3-day cume: $1.78M (-31%) / Total cume: $110M / Wk 8

13). Hillsong (Pure), 816 theaters (+60) / $628K Fri. / $406K Sat. / $266K Sun.  / 3-day cume: $1.3M / Wk 1

Notables:

Beatles: Eight Days a Week  (ABR), 90 theaters / $205k Fri. /$211K Sat/ $199K Sun/$ 3-day cume: $615k /Total: $772K Wk 1

Mr. Church  (FREE/Cinelou), 354 theaters / $107k Fri. /$140K Sat./ $160K Sun./3-day cume: $407k /Wk 1

The Disappointments Room  (REL), 1,554 theaters / $115K Fri. / $175K Sat. / $110K Sun. / 3-day cume: $400K (-71%) /Total B.O.: $2.2M/ Wk 2

 

4th Write-thru Saturday AM: With an estimated opening of $9.4M projected from East Coast late nights, Lionsgate’s Blair Witch is dying. But so is Universal/Miramax/Working Title/StudioCanal’s Bridget Jones’s Baby (third place estimated $8.7M) and Open Road’s Snowden (fourth place $8.5M) as Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Sully flies the friendly skies with moviegoers to a second estimated No. 1 of $21.8M and a 10-day gross by Sunday of $70.3M. 

As we pointed out last month, with 33 wide releases in the marketplace before Thanksgiving week, it’s the survival of the fittest with anywhere from three-to-five wide entries a weekend. Few will thrive, and casualties will abound. This is only the beginning. A motif for the weekend? In the case of Bridget Jones and Blair Witch, they’re dusty franchises abandoned by their target audiences. Snowden‘s problem? He’s the rebel to Sully‘s hero (see below). Overall, distributors’ B.O. projection systems broke down this week: Some were showing Blair Witch with a $20M opening and a shot at upsetting Sully for the top spot.

BLAIR WITCH

Well, so much for a reboot. Blair Witch‘s current projected 3-day is lower than the $13.2M that the 2000 sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 opened to, and fans hated that one! Blair Witch arrives at the end of a summer that’s been a heyday for horror with Conjuring 2, The Purge: Election Year, Don’t Breathe and Lights Out grossing a combined $323M stateside. And after horror fans have feasted on these (mostly) critically acclaimed titles as though munching on pate, why would they crave chopped meat with a threequel that’s been panned by critics with a 38% Rotten Tomatoes score? Lionsgate was expecting to open Blair Witch to a gross in the mid-teens, which economically would have been fine for a pic that cost $5M along with a mid-to-high $20M P&A. At this level, it’s clear: Ding-dong, the Witch franchise is dead. Lionsgate had to know this was a downer, and it’s no coincidence that yesterday – of all days – they announce that their franchise-meister Rob Friedman is stepping down as the studio’s co-chair.

blair witch changeover

Blair Witch’s failure to deliver has to do with the property itself, and less with Lionsgate’s marketing. Let’s face it, that surprise screening at Comic-Con where attendees thought they were going to see The Woods was pretty clever and began generating buzz (apparently not enough). But this horror franchise was never screaming for sequels. 1999’s The Blair Witch Project was a huge success at $140.5M because the masses initially believed it was real, that it was some paranormal snuff film. Boosting the film’s profile further was a Blair Witch documentary – Curse of the Blair Witch – that Artisan aired on the Syfy network back in the day. Everyone thought three students actually went missing in a Maryland forest. With the latest installment, Lionsgate built a story around the younger brother of the girl who disappeared in the 1999 film. Along with a group of friends, he ventures back to the woods. But moviegoers really don’t care, and slapped Blair Witch with a D+ CinemaScore tonight. That’s just a little better than the D they gave Relativity’s horror film The Disappointments Room last week. That piece of bankruptcy collateral damage fell a horrendous 74% (close to Morgan‘s -76% second weekend drop off) with sophomore FSS of $367K.

Unlike certain franchise tentpoles that appeal across several generations, there’s a big gap between The Blair Witch Project and Blair Witch. Criticized one rival Gen Y studio development executive about the Blair Witch reboot, “My generation was super into the first title, but the second film destroyed it for us. So why would we be interested in this sequel? Then for the younger generation, they’ve already seen a slew of found footage movies like this one.”

Blair Witch‘s audience make-up consisted of 56% males/44% females who respectively gave it a D and D+. Over 25, who graded it a D, showed up at 61%. Seventy-six percent of the crowd came out because it was a horror movie, while 28% bought tickets because they were Blair Witch fans.

The power of Sony/Screen Gems/Studio 6’s Don’t Breathe among horror fans can’t be denied with a $5.56M projected weekend, down a modest -33%, and by Sunday it will topple 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose as Screen Gems’ highest grossing horror title at the domestic box office. That’s $5.56M less that Blair Witch isn’t making this weekend.

snowden

In regards to Snowden, the movie with middling (56%) Rotten Tomatoes reviews is following in the shadow of the beloved Sully, which owns the majority of the 25+ crowd. But Sully vs. Snowden is more about the sterling American Hero vs. the controversial government whistleblower. Critics are severe because Edward Snowden is a multi-faceted guy, and each tweed has his or her own idea on how this complex life should be portrayed (i.e., mini-series). And the masses can embrace a guy like Sully, who saved lives, while the U.S. government has painted Edward Snowden as a traitor who threatened the nation’s security. Hard to get the red states inside theaters on this one. Stone’s highest grossing movies i.e. Platoon ($138.5M), JFK ($70.4M) and Born on the Fourth of July ($70M) have benefited from being year-end holiday releases and awards season crossovers. Snowden gets an A CinemaScore tonight which indicates that the former CIA contractor’s supporters showed up – but clearly not in bulk. Estimated production cost on Snowden, mostly carried by foreign sales, is $50M before P&A.

Very interesting audience breakdown here for Snowden shows that it, like Sully, cut into Bridget Jones’s Baby business: Majority of ticket buyers were older females at 53% women/77% over 25. Seventy-four percent of the CinemaScore moviegoers last night identified themselves as Edward Snowden aficionados.

Bridget Jones's Baby

Talk about tracking being way off: Bridget Jones’s Baby was supposed to post in the mid-teens, the series’ highest opening. Now it is poised to be the second highest, not that far from Edge of Reason‘s $8.68M, which was considered to be a stateside misfire with an end cume of $40.2M, next to Bridget Jones’s Diary‘s final domestic of $71.5M. Again, blame Sully. He’s popular with the older women (drew 56% females last week, with 90% over 25) who were supposed to show up with their friends at Bridget Jones. But then again, the tracking on this threequel seemed too good to be true for a franchise that’s over the hill, and a leading star – Renee Zellweger – who has been absent from the big screen for the last six years. The only saving grace for this Universal/Miramax/StudioCanal/Working Title femme film is overseas where in 39 territories it racked up $13M on Friday for a projected $29.4M weekend. So by Sunday, this $35M-budgeted film will count worldwide about $38.1M.

No shocker here: 78% females bought tickets to Baby with 88% over 25. Middle-age folks at 14% 25-34 and 25% 35-49 gave Baby an A-. Zellweger will be glad to hear this: 44% came to Baby because of her.

PureFlix’s faith-based documentary about the musical Australian church, Hillsong -Let Hope Rise is in need of more collections at 816 theaters and an estimated $1.87M FSS. In regards to docs alone, we’ve seen them make this much money on half the number of screens. And for a low-budget faith-based movie, we’ve seen better. No surprise to hear that this film earned an A CinemaScore as most faith-based films do along with a 90% positive score on PostTrak.

The top 10 films for the weekend of Sept. 16-18 per Saturday AM industry estimates:

1). Sully  (WB), 3,525 theaters / $6.5M Fri. (-47%) / 3-day cume: $21.76M (-38%)/Total cume: $70.3M/Wk 2

2). Blair Witch  (LG), 3,121 theaters / $4M Fri. (includes $765K previews) / 3-day cume: $9.4M /Wk 1

3). Bridget Jones’s Baby  (UNI), 2,927 theaters / $3.04M Fri. (includes $364K previews) / 3-day cume: $8.7M / Wk 1

4). Snowden  (OR), 2,443 theaters / $3.02M Fri. (includes $390K) / 3-day cume: $8.5M /Wk 1

5). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,208 theaters (-176) / $1.64M (-33%) Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.56M (-41%) / Total  cume: $75.3M / Wk 4

6). When the Bough Breaks  (SONY), 2,246 theaters / $1.64M Fri. (-69%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-63%) /Total cume: $22.4M/ Wk 2

7). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,740 theaters (-363) / $1.2M Fri. (-19%) / 3-day cume: $4.55M (-20%) / Total cume: $313.6M / Wk 7

8). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,757 theaters (-578) / $519K Fri. (-23%) / 3-day cume: $2.6M (-21%) / Total cume: $44.3M / Wk 5

9). The Wild Life  (LG), 2,493 theaters / $517K (-30%) Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-24%)/ Total: $6.5M/Wk 2

10). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 1,948 theaters (-737) / $459K Fri. (-33%) / 3-day cume: $2.08M (-33%) / Total cume: $72.8M / Wk 6

11). Hell or High Water (CBS/Lionsgate), 1,505 theaters (+60) / $592K Fri. (-19%) / 3-day cume: $1.99M (-19%)  / Total cume: $22.8M  / Wk 6

12). Hillsong  (PUR), 816 theaters / $628k Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.87M /Wk 1

 

NOTABLES:

Beatles: Eight Days a Week  (ABR), 90 theaters / $203k Fri. / 3-day cume: $631k /Wk 1

Mr. Church  (FREE), 354 theaters / $107k Fri. / 3-day cume: $521k /Wk 1

The Disappointments Room  (REL), 1,554 theaters / $113K (-76%) Fri.  / 3-day cume: $367K (-74%)/Total: $2.2M/Wk 2

12NOON Update: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Sully will remain at a high No. 1 altitude this weekend according to matinees with an estimated $21.3M weekend, down a decent 40%, for a 10-day take that’s just under $70M. Lionsgate’s Blair Witch is bound to take Friday away from the Tom Hanks film, $7M to $6.5M.

It will be interesting to see how front-loaded Blair Witch is as it heads toward an estimated $17.2M in second place, which for a $5M horror film is still pretty solid. Given the momentum of horror films lately at the B.O., tracking was drunk on a $20M-plus projection, particularly give the brand here.  Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which was a disaster in the wake of the huge success of 1999’s Blair Witch Project  ($140M), cost an estimated $15M and opened to $13.2M (finaled at $26.4M). A different economy of scale is in place here by Lionsgate, who spent an estimated mid-to-high $20M in P&A on this third pic.

Universal/Working Title/Miramax/StudioCanal’s Bridget Jones’s Baby is currently projected to come in toward the lower end of its projections with a $4.7M Friday and $13M weekend; still the best debut this series has seen stateside next to its previous chapters, 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary ($10.7M) and 2004’s Edge of Reason ($10.7M). Numbers could spike on Saturday when the ladies hit the plex. Baby only cost an estimated $35M before P&A, and the fortune to be reaped here is abroad where a Bridget Jones movie can rack up $200M-plus.

Open Road’s Snowden is also flying low with a $2.7M Friday and projected $7.3M weekend. PureFlix’s faith-based documentary Hillsong – Let Hope Rise is crashing at 816 venues with $750K today and a $1.9M FSS.

1st UPDATE, Lionsgate’s Blair Witch pulled in $765K last night at 2,300 locations. Heading into the weekend, it was expected that Blair Witch and Sully could be in a draw for No. 1 with about $20M, however, now the Clint Eastwood-directed drama could have the edge over the Black Hills Forest posse with the latter bound to draw in the mid-to-high teens at 3,121 theaters today.

Even though Blair Witch‘s Thursday night is 60% less than the preview night of Sony/Screen Gem’s R-rated Don’t Breathewhich grossed $1.875M ($10M Friday, $26.4M weekend), one has to consider the fact that more kids were off from school at that point during the summer (roughly 40% schools and colleges were still on summer break on Aug. 25). Still the Fede Alvarez movie stole a decent chunk of business away from Blair Witch last night making $590K at 3,384 locations. Through three weeks, Don’t Breathe has accumulated $69.7M and will come close to becoming Screen Gems’ highest-grossing horror film, which remains The Exorcism of Emily Rose at $75.1M. Blair Witch has a 43% Rotten Tomatoes score. Again, horror films aren’t known for awesome reviews, however, this past summer was an exception with Don’t Breathe (87% fresh), The Conjuring 2 (80% fresh) and Lights Out (76% fresh).

In its first week, Clint Eastwood’s Sully has clocked $48.5M, which is 35% ahead of Hanks’ previous Oscar contender Captain Phillips which ended its run at $107.1M.

At one point during the week, Fandango noticed that Universal/Miramax/StudioCanal/Working Title’s Bridget Jones’s Baby advance tickets sales were quite strong, then Blair Witch pulled ahead, outstripping pre-sales for such horror pics like Lights Out ($21.7M) and Insidious: Chapter 3 ($22.7M).

Open Road’s Oliver Stone film Snowden actually beat Universal/Miramax/StudioCanal’s Bridget Jones’ Baby last night, $390K to $364K. The Edward Snowden biopic is expected to pull in $8M-$10M. On the high end, that will be close to the $10.5M that Stone’s George W. Bush biopic W. opened to back in October 2008, $10.5M. Snowden has a middling 58% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Renee Zellweger’s return to the big screen in 6 years is expected to post the biggest opening for the Bridget Jones franchise with a mid-teens debut. Baby played at 2,208 theaters last night from shows starting at 7PM.  The threequel reunites Zellweger with the femme franchise’s first director Sharon Maguire. Given the older female appeal for Baby, that demo plans their trips to the movies in advance and typically attend in packs. So, Baby is bound to see more visitors as the weekend goes on. Per Thursday night comps for other older female films, Baby is above Warner Bros.’ September 2014 Tina Fey dramedy This Is Where I Leave You which made $150K ($3.9M Friday, $11.6M opening) and below last September’s The Intern which made $650K ($6.2M Friday, $17.7M opening). Baby has the best reviews of the weekend at 75% fresh.