Writethru, 4th update: Sunday final: While it’s normal for moviegoers to ease their spending the weekend before a huge tentpole opens, in this case Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which is projected to make $150M, this weekend’s problem at the box office isn’t the late April date, but the sheer lack of mass-appealing product. Overall, weekend ticket sales were the lowest to date in 2017 with $96M according to ComScore, down 12% from the same period a year ago and off 11% from last weekend.

Universal

Yes, Universal’s The Fate of the Furious is easily winning this weekend with $19.4M (-50%, better than what we saw Friday night) but for too many, it’s old hat and of course it’s not resonating in the way that Disney’s The Jungle Book did a year ago. True, that was a very different movie for a family crowd, but consider the fact that the live-action version of the Disney animated classic was pulling in $43.7M in its third weekend a year ago before Captain America: Civil War started summer. In fact, Universal’s Fast Five still ranks as the highest opening for the last weekend of April with $86.1M in 2011, a three-day which beat Thor ($65.7M), summer’s opener that year. All of this just speaks to the amount of money being left on the table when studios play it safe. The bigger story for F8 was worldwide where it became the 30th title ever to cross $1 billion, the second for a Furious title and the fifth ever for Universal. Nancy Tartaglione has more on that here. In the U.S., F8 has logged $192.7M and should cross the two century mark by next Sunday.

Given the lull this weekend, distributors targeted a variety of demos with lower-budget fare and notched varying results.

Pantelion

Pantelion/Lionsgate’s How to Be a Latin Lover is teed up to be counter-programming to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after collecting $12M at 1,118 venues in second and an A CinemaScore; the best opening ever for Lionsgate’s Hispanic label Pantelion and widest too. Pic will expand in the coming week even wider to capitalize on its crossover to Caucasian crowds (pic drew 89% Hispanic audiences this weekend), and plans to be a fixture during Mother’s Day given its maternal themes in the pic.

Pic’s opening easily beats the $7.8M opening charted by Eugenio Derbez’s previous PG-13 movie Instructions Not Included which played during Labor Day weekend 2013 at 348 sites. Derbez has a strong fanbase among Hispanic audiences here in the States, and his films play beyond metropolitan areas into suburbia, read here in L.A. Santa Clarita, Van Nuys and Southgate.

“The genius of Derbez is that his movies have a lot of heart, but they also bring out the comedy,” says Pantelion CEO Paul Presburger about how the Mexican star balances both adult and family elements in his movies. Instructions Not Included is the highest grossing Spanish-language film in the U.S. with $44.4M while in Mexico, it’s the biggest grossing local film at $48M. All in, Instructions made close to $100M worldwide. Latin Lover hits its homeland of Mexico next weekend where Pantelion/Televisa are releasing it.

In the marketing and cast of this movie (Rob Lowe, Michael Cera, Kristen Bell), there was an effort to expand Derbez’s audience beyond his Hispanic core. Pantelion released both English and Spanish-language prints, the latter which repped 20% of the B.O.  A big turnout out here was second through fourth generation Hispanic audiences stateside.

The digital/social campaign was a fully bilingual campaign across Facebook, Instagram, and You Tube. Fans also got their hands on yellow speedos which they posted pictures of online. Derbez, known for his grassroots efforts with his core audience completed a 12 city promotional tour that included appearances-photo ops- and included both general media and Hispanic outlets. He paired up with Salma Hayek too on Good Morning America, on the cover of People en Espanol, Univision’s Despierta and even at CinemaCon last month before exhibitors. Overall, campaign blanketed the U.S.with Spanish and English TV (network and cable) including shows like the Billboard Latin Music Awards on Telemundo; LMX soccer and NBA playoffs. There was a big Valentine’s Day push to put the campaign into gear and “spread the love” with a teaser trailer/one sheet targeting the core audience over that holiday frame. Ther were also promo spoofs —50 Shades Grayer and LA LA Land to dial up awareness digitally and in select markets.

Derbez aggressively promoted the movie to his 26.4M social media fans across Twitter, Instragram and Facebook. Her appearance on The Tonight Show drew close to 1.8M views on YouTube thanks to her salsa rendition of “All By Myself”. The late night stunt was in the spirit of her character in the movie who can turn any sad song into a salsa. Fifty five percent of the crowd was female, 50% over 35.

Sunday’s business isn’t expected to be off that much from Saturday’s (currently estimated to be -10%, but it could go higher) since most of Derbez’s fanbase head to the movies after church. Overall, Hispanic movies have great holds on Sunday.

A complete surprise this weekend is Great India Films’ Baahubali 2: The Conclusion which galloped over STX/EuropaCorp’s The Circle for a  $10.1M opening at 405 theaters in third, arguably a record debut for an Indian film stateside beating 2013’s Dhoom 3 ($8M) and the third-highest debut for a foreign language title after Hero ($18M) and Jet Li’s Fearless ($10.6M). In India, we hear it’s the biggest opening ever with $50M-$60M. In India at Prasad’s Imax theater Khairatabad there was a 3 KM line to get into the movie on Thursday.

Providing fire to The Conclusion’s grosses were 45 Imax screens accounting for $1.8m of its global $2.34M cume. Worldwide and stateside, it was the the biggest launch ever for an Indian film in Imax and foreign language.  Domestic per Imax screen average reached a huge $40K over the weekend, with five Imax locations setting new three-day weekend records. During the off-tentpole moments of the year such as the beginning of December, Halloween weekend, Super Bowl and this weekend when fanboy fare isn’t available, the large format exhibitor programs alternative titles  so that it has compelling content all year round, read Fifty Shades of GreyAmerican Sniper and Aamir Khan’s Bollywood title Dhoom 3. The top five top-grossing Imax hubs included AMC New Brunswick NJ (a big market for Bollywood movies), AMC Livonia MI, Cinemark Bellevue WA, Cinemark 17 Dallas TX, and Telus Edmonton Alberta. Families showed up to see Baahubali 2 with fans wearing shirts from the film. Overall, a big theater average here of $24K.

What is Baahubali 2? It’s a sequel to the massive 2015 Telugu title Baahubali: The Beginning directed by S.S. Rajamouli, a film which had a Lord of the Rings franchise appeal in India, spawning comics, merchandise and a VR experience. Pic’s positive reactions in the far East have sent great shockwaves to the U.S.  where fans organically created word of mouth on social. RelishMix spotted that 89% of the posts were coming from India, with 5% from the U.S. Viewcounts for the top two trailers on YouTube have generated 53M and 49M “with conversation ranging from adornment to political debate over how the world will view the domestic conflicts over many generations” says RelishMix. Hashtags for #Bahubali, #Bahubali2, #baahubalitheconclusion and #BahubaliMovie on Twitter dribbled in the hundreds per day until Wednesday when it moved to 4.3K then popped to 12.2K on Thursday and then on Friday exploded to 17K a day.

Essentially, The Beginning left behind an emotionally gripping cliffhanger a la The Empire Strikes Back with its lead mythical warrior protagonist stabbed by his trusted comrade. This fueled fans with a “Who Killed J.R.?” like sensation following the film aka “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?” Conclusion picks up with hero Shivudu (actor Prabhas who also plays Baahubali) who is on a quest to answer why Kattappa went off the rails in this tale about warring royal cousins.

The first movie made close to $100M worldwide and ranks as the third-highest grossing movie in India with an estimated $77m.  Both pics were shot at the same time for an estimated production cost of $40M. In the states, Baahubali: The Beginning opened to $3.57M on 236 sites and finaled at $6.7M. Baahubali 2 is being released on 6,500 screens in India, repping over 80% of the country’s theater count with a grand total of 9K screens worldwide.

EuropaCorp

STX’s release of EuropaCorp’s The Circle was a complete bust in regards to costs vs. ticket sales, and further proof that stars mean nothing when they’re attached to driftwood. Currently, the pic is looking to open below its low teen estimates with $9.3M in fourth over three-days and gets –gulp- a D+ CinemaScore. Now when was the last time that happened? Relativity’s The Disappointments Room landed a D back in September. Here’s some good news: Moviegoers enjoyed The Circle better than Paramount’s The Devil’s Inside which received an ‘F’ five years ago.

A lot of things went wrong here, Tom Hanks playing the villain for one, and I hear that EuropaCorp will be hurt the most with this transaction given the fact that they acquired the James Ponsoldt-directed title for $7M-$8M and are on the hook for at least a $22M domestic P&A spend. Presumably tax credits plus foreign sales covered the $18M estimated production cost of this Tom Hanks-Emma Watson thriller which was financed completely by Image Nation Abu Dhabi. STX walks away with a distribution fee thanks to their new EuropaCorp distribution deal.

Sources tell us that Circle was bought during the Christophe Lambert regime at EuropaCorp. Our sources felt the pic’s concept about a big brother-like Google company doing massive amounts of wrong on social media is five years too late. Social media monitor RelishMix also confirms our sources’ observations in the chatter they’re evaluating.

Word is that Ponsoldt sold the film to EuropaCorp based on the late Lambert and former marketing whiz Tommy Gargotta’s passionate pitch on promoting the pic across all aspects of print, digital and PR. EuropaCorp wanted to sell the movie around its social media aspects (“Join the Circle”), playing on the dangers of transparency. The marketing connected with The Circle’s release went in another direction, with many rivals griping about its convoluted trailers. Originally, test scores for The Circle were low. A reshoot was ordered four months ago and the ending changed, putting a positive light on Watson’s protagonist in the end. Test scores fell even further.

The Circle made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival two days before its release, and while that might sound like a plus in regards to raising the film’s profile, it’s a PR plan that’s fraught with all kinds of peril, putting the movie under immense critical scrutiny (16% on Rotten Tomatoes) especially when it doesn’t have the goods to play at a major film festival. Tracking showed The Circle hitting 17-34 year olds, but what’s interesting is that there was a near even split between those under and over 50 per CinemaScore. Mostly females at 56% bought tickets with the under 25 crowd repping 23%. Both females and males gave Circle a D+.

Better to encourage the Emma Watson fanbase to join The Circle, which is what the Beauty and the Beast actress is trying to do by pushing the movie to her 93M social media followers. While Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt aren’t promoting the movie on their social channels, the cast gathered for a live fireside chat on Twitter earlier this week.

Amazon Studios

Amazon/Bleecker Street’s The Lost City of Z widen from 614 to 866 sites earning $1.7M and taking its total through it third weekend to close to $5M. “With a strong Saturday increase (up 69% from Friday), James Gray’s epic continues to generate powerful word-of-mouth,” said Bob Berney, Head of Marketing and Distribution for Amazon Studios. “The sense of adventure and the mystery of Percy Fawcett is appealing to millennials as well as more traditional art house audiences.”

“The film has performed really well outside of the NY and LA area including San Diego, Orange Co., Salt Lake City, Austin and the northern California area. Audiences that love to experience the outdoors and adventure are really responding well to the film” added Berney.

 

Studio reported estimates for April 28-30:

1.) The Fate of the Furious (UNI), 4,077 theaters (-252) / $5.1M Fri. / $8.9M Sat/$5.4M Sun/3-day cume: $19.4M (-50%) / Total cume: $192.7m / Wk 3

2). How to Be a Latin Lover (PANT/LG), 1,118 theaters / $3.9M Fri. (includes $450K previews)/ $4.2M Sat/$3.9M Sun/3-day cume: $12M / Wk 1

3.) Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (GINF) 405 theaters / $4.5M Fri.  (includes $2.5M previews)/$3.5M Sat/$2.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $10.1M / Wk 1

4). The Circle (STX/EUR), 3,163 theaters / $3.2M Fri. (includes $430k previews)/$3.7M Sat/$2.4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $9.3M / Wk 1

5.) The Boss Baby (20thCentury Fox/DWA), 3,739 theaters (+42) / $2M Fri. (-38%) /$4.4M Sat/$2.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $9M (-29%) / Total: $148.5M / Wk 5

6.) Beauty and the Beast (DIS), 3,155 theaters (-160) / $1.68M Fri. / $3.1M Sat/$1.6M Sun/3-day cume: $6.4M (-34%) / Total cume: $480M / Wk 7

7). Going in Style (WB/VR), 2,761 theaters (-277) / $950K Fri. / $1.6M Sat/$985k Sun/3-day cume: $3.58M  (-27%) / Total: $37.3M / Wk 4

8.) Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony), 2,554 theaters (-183) / $654K Fri. / $1.6M Sat/$1.06M Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.315M (-32%) / Total: $37.7M / Wk 4

9.) Gifted (FSL), 2,215 theaters (+229) / $900K Fri.  /$1.5M Sat/$900k Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.3M (-28%) / Total: $15.8M Wk 4

10). Unforgettable (WB), 2,417 theaters / $705K Fri.  / $1M Sat/$615K Sun/3-day cume: $2.3M (-51%)/Total:$8.88M/ Wk 2

11). Born in China (DIS), 1,508 theaters / $694K Fri.  /$964K Sat/$585K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.2M (-53%)/ Total: $8.67M/Wk 2

12.) The Lost City of Z (AMZ/BST) 866 theaters (+252)/$472K Fri/$801K Sat/$480K Sun/ 3-day: $1.7M (-17%)/Total: $4.8M/Wk 3

NOTABLES:

Sleight (BHT), 565 theaters / $581K Fri./$672K Sat/$437K Sun / 3-day cume: $1.69M / Wk 1

The Promise (OR), 2251 theaters / $414K Fri. /$604K Sat/$393K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.4M (-65%)/ Total:$7M/Wk 2

Phoenix Forgotten  (ENT), 1,424 theaters (-202) / $220K Fri./$324K Sat/ $225K Sun/ 3-day cume: $769K (-58%)/Total:$3.1M/ Wk 2

Free Fire  (A24), 817 theaters (-253) / $74K Fri. /$110K Sat/$103K Sun/Sun 3-day cume: $287K (-71%)/Total:$1.7M/ Wk 2

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For the weekend of April 28-30 based on Saturday AM industry estimates:

1.) The Fate of the Furious (UNI), 4,077 theaters (-252) / $5.1M Fri. (-54%) / 3-day cume: $18.5M (-52%) / Total cume: $191.8m / Wk 3

2). How to Be a Latin Lover (PANT/LG), 1,118 theaters / $4M Fri. (includes $450K previews)/ 3-day cume: $11.8M / Wk 1

3). The Circle (STX/EUR), 3,163 theaters / $3.2M Fri. (includes $430k previews)/ 3-day cume: $9.1M / Wk 1

4). Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (GINF) 405 theaters / $4.5M Fri.  (includes $2.5M previews)/ 3-day cume: $8.6M / Wk 1

5.) The Boss Baby (20thCentury Fox/DWA), 3,739 theaters (+42) / $2M Fri. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $8.1M (-36%) / Total: $147.5M / Wk 5

6.) Beauty and the Beast (DIS), 3,155 theaters (-160) / $1.6M Fri. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $6.3M (-35%) / Total cume: $480M / Wk 7

7). Going in Style (WB/VR), 2,761 theaters (-277) / $951K Fri. (-33% ) / 3-day cume: $3.4M  (-30%) Total: $37.1M / Wk 4

8.) Gifted (FSL), 2,215 theaters (+229) / $898K Fri. (-34%) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-32%) / Total: $15.6M Wk 4

9.) Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony), 2,554 theaters (-183) / $666K Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $3M (-39%) / Total: $37.4M / Wk 4

10). Born in China (DIS), 1,508 theaters / $694K Fri. (-56%) / 3-day cume: $2.3M (-54%)/ Total: $8.7M/Wk 2

11). Unforgettable (WB), 2,417 theaters / $702K Fri. (-58%) / 3-day cume: $2.26M (-53%)/Total:$8.8M/ Wk 2

NOTABLES:

Sleight (BHT), 565 theaters / $583K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.6M / Wk 1

The Promise (OR), 2251 theaters / $408K (-72%) Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.4M (-65%)/ Total:$7M/Wk 2

Phoenix Forgotten  (ENT), 1,424 theaters (-202) / $232K Fri. (-63%)/ 3-day cume: $770K (-58%)/Total:$3.1M/ Wk 2

Free Fire  (A24), 817 theaters (-253) / $77K Fri. (-80%) / 3-day cume: $249K (-75%)/Total:$1.66M/ Wk 2

2nd Update, 12:16PM: Early matinee figures, and again, we could be looking at a different story by tonight. Universal’s The Fate of the Furious is looking at  an estimated $6M today and $20M for the weekend in first place.  By comparison, Furious 7 made $29M in its third weekend, down 51%. Right now, F8 is a little less steep at -48% from weekend 2. By Sunday, F8 is looking at $193M. Industry projections believe this installment runs out of gas at $230M stateside ultimately. Pic crosses the $1 billion finish line tomorrow around the world.

STX/EuropaCorp’s The Circle isn’t looking so hot with $3.75M today and $10.3M for the weekend. “It’s never good when Tom Hanks plays bad,” said one rival distrib honcho about the actor playing against his good-guy persona. Pantelion/Lionsgate’s How to Be a Latin Lover is eyeing an estimated $2.5M today and $7.5M for the weekend, $300K shy of the opening for Eugenio Derbez’s Instructions Not Included ($7.8M).

Great India Films

The big surprise this weekend belongs to Great India Films’ Baahubali 2: The Conclusion which after scoring an estimated $2.5M in Thursday previews at 330 locations is on its way to $4M today and a $7.2M opening. The first installment reportedly made $100M worldwide and left off with a cliffhanger whereby the lead warrior character Baahubali is stabbed in the back by a trusted protector Kattappa, leaving audiences with that Empire Strikes Back kind of feeling.  Stateside the pic has the help of 40 Imax screens.

1st Update, 7:44AM: Pantelion/Lionsgate’s How to be a Latin Lover beat STX/EuropaCorp’s The Circle in Thursday night previews, $450K to $430K.

Neither film is expected to unseat Universal’s reigning No. 1 box office champ The Fate of the Furious which is looking to rake in $24M-$25M in its third weekend for a running cume that will be close to $200M by Sunday.

How to Be a Latin Lover played in 925 theaters last night and expands to 1,118 locations today. Pantelion handled Eugenio Derbez previous 2013 comedy stateside, Instructions Not Included, minting $7.8M at 348 theaters for a notable $22K per theater. Latin Lover is expected to make between $7M-$8M, but could likely overperform.

STX/Europa

Directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, The Circle is expected to make $11M-$12M at 3,163 locations according to industry tracking. The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night. The Circle raked in 46% less in its Thursday than Tom Hanks’ previous thriller, October’s Inferno which made $800K and opened to $5.6M in its first Friday and made $14.8M over three days.

The Fate of the Furious led all films yesterday with $1.95M at 4,329 locations taking its two tally to $173.3M. Given how Easter fell two years ago, Furious 7 was able to have a four-weekend run at No. 1, a feat no other Fast and Furious ever accomplished. With the first weekend of summer in close proximity to Easter, Fate of the Furious will only have a three-weekend run at No. 1.