Saturday 8AM writethru after 3rd Update 1:50 AM: 

For Sunday update on the box office click here

After the first weekend of August delivered two record openings over the last three years with Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad ($133.7M) and Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3M), the majors decided against scheduling any full-bodied, four-quad franchise titles that could carry us into summer’s last chapter.

This left a hole on the calendar for Sony/Media Rights Capital to deliver a risky adaptation of Stephen King’s Byzantine novel The Dark Tower which is looking at a low first place take of $19.5M as of Sunday morning. Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk is $2.2M behind with a third weekend second place haul of $17.6M, -34% for a 17-day total of $133.6M.

The Dark Tower
Sony Pictures

After a ten-year battle to crack the code of King’s complex novel for the big screen with various director/writer teams (J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof initially then Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman, with Universal and Warner Bros. making a go at it before Sony went 50/50 with MRC on a $60M budget), the question asked is at what price adaptation? Dark Tower is the third major studio long-labored misfire of the summer next to Universal’s The Mummy and Warner Bros.’ King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. 

Despite being as fiscally conservative as possible, film financiers assert that even if Dark Tower makes $90M worldwide, both Sony and MRC will lose an estimated combined 25% of their production cost (around $15M), which is low next to other disasters this summer.

Was the journey worth it? More on Dark Tower further down.

The Weinstein Company

In addition there’s two new labels launching their distribution ops with Aviron awakening the former Relativity Halle Berry thriller Kidnap at $10.2M in fifth and Annapurna’s Kathryn Bigelow Civil Rights thriller Detroit with $7.25M in 8th place. Lotus Entertainment originally acquired Kidnap, attached Berry, arranged financing and handled international sales. In addition we have Weinstein Co./Voltage’s Wind Riverthe directorial debut of Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan which is in play at four New York and Los Angeles venues with a fantastic estimated $38,7K per theater or $155KWind River premiered at Sundance, was then edited down by six minutes with Elizabeth Olsen’s character tweaked for the Cannes Film Festival sidebar Un Certain Regard where it won best director for Sheridan. The film follows an out-of-town FBI agent who works with a local game tracker to hunt down a murderer after a Native American girl is found dead in Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation. Fox Searchlight also has their doc Step which is about the girls at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, their step dance team and life in the inner city of Baltimore. The film by Broadway producer Amanda Lipitz is also looking at a three-day of $156K at 29 sites for a per theater of $5,3K.

Annapurna

On the bright side this weekend, as Hollywood has called for more diversity in film and TV particularly post #OscarsSoWhite, here are three wide entries that star black actors in leading roles. While The Dark Tower is making a playing for King fans and genre moviegoers, there was concern among some trackers that Kidnap and Detroit might be vying for the same audience. Indeed there is some significant overlap with both titles’ majorities being females over 25: Detroit is pulling in 44% and Kidnap 42% according to ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. Originally, Kidnap moved on to this date to grab the female 18-25 demo with Detroit expected to lure upscale arthouse demos and African Americans. Currently percent-wise, Detroit is pulling in the greater amount of African Americans at 40% (its leading demo) to Kidnap‘s 25% and Dark Tower‘s 23%.

Aviron

While there will be plenty of noise this weekend about how Kidnap, a popcorn indie that was literally in a coma, outpegged the bigger budgeted Detroit ($35M-$40M production cost), the trick for the latter in the next month will be holding onto prime screens as awards season heats up. The exit polls for Detroit are through the roof, and its adult audience will take its time to get to the theater. Detroit has the highest CinemaScore of this weekend’s wide entries with an A-, versus Kidnap‘s B+ and Dark Tower‘s B. On PostTrak, Detroit scored an overall 86% positive with a strong 63% definite recommend versus Kidnap (74%, 53% in the same respective categories) and Dark Tower‘s awful 69%, 43%. African Americans love Detroit at 92% and Kidnap at 81% while Caucasian audiences graded both titles respectively with 81% overall positive and a 66%. Once people get into Detroit, they love it. Perhaps we’ll see some more momentum today.

Financially Kidnap is in a better position than Detroit, and definitely Dark Tower: Sources inform Deadline that Aviron acquired the film for a reported $3M with a P&A spend of $16M-$18M  $13M to date, topping off at $15M. Kidnap‘s B+ CinemaScore is the same as Berry’s 2013 crime thriller The Call and that grossed a 3x multiple off its $17.1M opening for $51.9M.  Berry’s 2007 suspense title Perfect Stranger saddled with a C+ did a 2x multiple, going from $11.2M opening to a $23.9M final. Kidnap is off to a great start and its economics indicate it will be in the black after all ancillaries. The pic should reach a 2x multiple stateside.

Detroit sought to grab a commercial audience, that’s why it went wide. Given its critical acclaim, Detroit should have been platformed to fuel further buzz or better yet, should have launched with the fall’s triad of film festivals (Telluride, Venice, TIFF). Either would have assisted in propelling the title past any hesitation that some moviegoers might have toward the controversial subject matter. Whenever a smart movie like this, which should be platformed, goes wide, it’s typically because the pic’s budget needs to be recouped quickly. Duly note, low B.O. didn’t hurt the awards chances for Bigelow’s Hurt Locker ($17M final domestic), which was a late June release eight years ago that ultimately scored six Oscar wins (best film and director) out of nine nominations.

The Dark Tower
REX/Shutterstock

There’s a saying that’s heard in the improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater: “If it feels easy, that’s because it is”. That same adage could be applied to studios when they try to adapt source material to either the screen or TV. How? If it’s not so easy to adapt a piece of material, then either shelve it or perhaps it’s better suited for TV or online. When more than one studio continually returns to the drawing board over the course of the decade, trying to stuff a piece of complex literature like Dark Tower into 90-120 minute structure, maybe it’s time to move on.

When more than one studio continually returns to the drawing board over the course of the decade, trying to stuff a piece of complex literature like Dark Tower into 90-120 minute structure, maybe it’s time to move on. Dark Tower, unlike Harry Potter, apparently is not easy to adapt one book at a time to screen so Sony/MRC’s version pulled bits from all eight novels in the series. Lindelof even said in a 2009 USA Today interview that he loved the Dark Tower books and King so much, he was “terrified of screwing it up” and after Lost couldn’t devote another seven years to a property of that magnitude.

Dark Tower is the third huge rock to be rolled uphill this summer along with King Arthur and The Mummy by the majors, only to watch them all come rolling down at the B.O. Quite often when a production problem arises on these films, there’s a rush to solve them by committee natch and I hear that director Nikolaj Arcel (in his Hollywood directorial debut here following the foreign film nomination for his film A Royal Affair) received a heavy dose of notes from both Sony and MRC executives, not to mention there’s a heavy guard of producers here in Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Akiva Goldsman (who wrote various drafts) and of course there’s King (who has been very supportive of the film, rallying fans online to see it on Twitter and bringing NY press and fans to see it in Bangor Maine).

One east coast producer/director who is also a die-hard Dark Tower fan criticized, “They crammed too much into the trailer, as well as too much in the film while oddly leaving key characters out. Also, the studio and the filmmakers are trying to appeal to people who know nothing about the book rather than the hardcore fans who will see it, and spread the gospel of how amazing this series is.”

AMC/Sony TV

Given the slew of cracks taken at the Dark Tower script, it brings to mind another property: the Vertigo comic book Preacher which went through a lengthy development hell and at various points had such directors as Kevin Smith and Sam Mendes attached. The property was bought by Columbia Pictures in 2008 after HBO bailed on making a series. Ultimately on the Culver City lot, it was soon realized that the zaniness of Preacher would be properly contained in an episodic structure (vs. film) with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin bringing the comic to realization for Sony TV and AMC.

Originally, Dark Tower was intended by Goldsman’s Weed Road and Howard/Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment to be three films with a TV series bridging the first two titles. That became too ambitious and both Uni and Warner Bros. put the project into turnaround after realizing that the budget was too unwieldy. That’s when Sony/MRC stepped in.

If there’s one thing Sony and MRC can be commended for, it’s realizing that when it comes to mounting audacious and risky projects, to do them at a low cost, never at Valerian $180M levels. While the chances for a Dark Tower sequel are slim, Sony/MRC will make sure that fans aren’t left unsatisfied: There’s a TV series already in the works with former Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara. While the series will be separate from the film and focus on a younger Gunslinger, the Dark Tower show is set to feature appearances by the pic’s stars Elba, Dennis Haysbert and Tom Taylor. The series is also based on the fourth novel The Wizard and Glass. 

On the flip side, sometimes there’s a payoff whenever a major studio painstakingly develops a project over several years: Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman went through various starts and stops in film and TV before it finally came to light as a feature; beloved by females who made the DC female superhero pic the highest grossing film of the summer, and second best of the year with close to $400M. No regrets there.

For Sunday analysis of the box office click here. 

The top 10 based on Sunday AM studio-reported estimates for the weekend of Aug. 4-6:

1.). The Dark Tower (SONY/MRC), 3,451 theaters / $7.7M Fri. (includes $1.8M  previews) /$6.75M Sat/ $5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $19.5M /Wk 1

2.) Dunkirk (WB), 4,014 theaters (+266)/ $5M Fri.  /$7.3M Sat/$5.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $17.6M (-34%)/Total: $133.6M/Wk 3

3.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 4,075 theaters (0) / $3.9M Fri.  /$4.9M Sat/$3.6M Sun 3-day cume: $12.35M (-50%) /Total: $49.45M/Wk 2

4). Girls Trip (UNI), 2,582 theaters (-66) / $3.6M Fri.  /$4.7M Sat/$3.1M  Sun/ 3-day cume: $11.4M (-42%)/Total: $85.4M/Wk 3

5.). Kidnap (AVR), 2,378 theaters / $3.7M Fri. (includes $500K previews) /$3.6M Sat/ $2.9M Sun/ 3-day cume: $10.2M /Wk 1

6). Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 3,116 theaters (-509)/ $2.6M Fri. /$3.6M Sat/$2.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8.8M (-34%)/Total: $294.9M/Wk 5

7). Atomic Blonde (FOC), 3,326 theaters (+22)/ $2.4M Fri. /$3.4M Sat/ $2.4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8.2M (-55%) /Total $34.1M/Wk 2

8). Detroit (ANPA), 3007 theaters (+2987) / $2.6M Fri./$2.6M Sat/$2M Sun/n 3-day cume: $7.25M (+1971%)/Total: $7.8M/Wk 2

9.) War for the Planet of the Apes (FOX), 2,704 theaters (-670) / $1.7M Fri. /$2.5M Sat/$1.8M Sun/ 3-day cume: $6M (-43%) /Total: $130.3M/Wk 4

10). Despicable Me 3 (UNI/ILL), 2,445 theaters (-585) / $1.7M Fri. /$2.2M Sat/ Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.3M (-30%) /Total: $240.8M/ Wk 6

 

Notables:

Step (FSL), 29 theaters / $54k Fri. /$54K Sat/$37K Sun/PTA:$5k/ 3-day cume: $145k /Wk 1

Wind River (TWC), 4 theaters / $52k Fri. /$64K Sat/ $48K Sun/PTA:$41k/ 3-day cume: $164k /Wk 1

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (PAR), 180 theaters (+176) / $350k Fri. /$342K Sat/$208K  Sun/ 3-day cume: $900K (+621%) /Total: $1.05M/Wk 2

 

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The top 10 based on Saturday AM industry estimates for the weekend of Aug. 4-6:

1.). The Dark Tower (SONY/MRC), 3,451 theaters / $7.7M Fri. (includes $1.8M  previews) / 3-day cume: $19.6M /Wk 1

2.) Dunkirk (WB), 4,014 theaters (+266)/ $5M Fri. (-37%) / 3-day cume: $17.4M (-36%)/Total: $133.3M/Wk 3

3.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 4,075 theaters (0) / $3.8M Fri. (-62%) / 3-day cume: $12.6M (-49%) /Total: $49.7M/Wk 2

4). Girls Trip (UNI), 2,582 theaters (-66) / $3.6M Fri. (-41%) / 3-day cume: $11.5M (-41%)/Total: $85.5M/Wk 3

5.). Kidnap (AVR), 2,378 theaters / $3.7M Fri. (includes $500K previews) / 3-day cume: $10.1M /Wk 1

6). Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 3,116 theaters (-509)/ $2.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8.9M (-38%)/Total: $295M/Wk 5

7). Atomic Blonde (FOC), 3,326 theaters (+22)/ $2.4M Fri. (-66%) / 3-day cume: $8M (-56%) /Total $33.9M/Wk 2

8). Detroit (ANPA), 3007 theaters (+2987) / $2.6M Fri./ 3-day cume: $7.3M (+1986%)/Total: $7.7M/Wk 2

9.) War for the Planet of the Apes (FOX), 2,704 theaters (-670) / $1.7M Fri. (-43%)/ 3-day cume: $5.9M (-43%) /Total: $130.1M/Wk 4

10). Despicable Me 3 (UNI/ILL), 2,445 theaters (-585) / $1.7M Fri. (-30%)/ 3-day cume: $5.5M (-28%) /Total: $241M/ Wk 6

Paramount

Notables:

Step (FSL), 29 theaters / $52k Fri. /PTA:$5,3k/ 3-day cume: $156k /Wk 1

Wind River (TWC), 4 theaters / $52k Fri. /PTA:$38,7k/ 3-day cume: $155k /Wk 1

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (PAR), 180 theaters (+176) / $339k Fri. (+455%)/ 3-day cume: $939K (+651%) /Total: $1.1M/Wk 2

Friday, 2nd Update, 1:38PM: There goes exhibitors’ share prices. We knew this month would be bad at the box office, but this is like last-weekend-of-August low. You mean to tell us there weren’t any major studio tentpoles available here to start the month? It’s not like there was a DC or Marvel or Mission: Impossible title slotted, scaring everyone away.

The Dark Tower despite being pummeled by critics, is currently looking to lead the box office for the weekend off of noon estimates with an opening day between $6M-$7M and a three-day between $17M-$19M, not a very good start for this mid-budget sized movie. The last time a major studio film placed No. 1 with a 3-day in the teen range for the first full-bodied weekend of August was 1992 with Warner Bros.’ Unforgiven ($15M) — different time and marketplace all together.

WB

Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk is currently at $4M-$5M today with a weekend three of $14.5M to $16.5M. This film still has its Imax auditoriums in its control, and again, no surprise here if it overtakes Dark Tower depending on the audience reaction to Dark Tower. On the high-end, Dunkirk’s grasp will be $132.45M.

Sony’s The Emoji Movie is at $4M today for a $10M second weekend, -59% and running cume of on the high end of $47M, but Universal’s Girls Trip should beat it with $11M in weekend three. By Sunday Girls Trip will count $85M. It is easily the highest grossing comedy of the summer stateside and Malcolm D. Lee’s career.

Detroit from Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow is looking at around $3M today for a wide debut that’s within an estimated $7M-$10M.  

Aviron Pictures’ Kidnap according to industry estimates is at $3.3M today for a $9M-$10M opening.

Focus Features/Sierra Affinity’s Atomic Blonde is eyeing $2.5M in its second Friday for a second three-day that’s between $7.5M-$9.5M, -53% for a 10-day of $35.3M.

20th Century Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes is at $1.5M in its fourth Friday, and $5.2M over three, -51% with a running total of $129.4M.

Friday, 1st Update 7:09AM: Sony/Media Rights Capital’s feature adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower grossed $1.8M last night at 2,770 theaters off showtimes starting at 7:19 PM. Why that weird time? It’s keeping with the 19:19 lore from the book.

Tracking initially showed The Dark Tower opening at No. 1 in the low $20M range, but the film, which is not a faithful adaptation of the book not to mention a patchwork of genres, has been blasted by critics with a 20% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sony, much like with Emoji Movie last week, held the review embargo date until the latest possible time on this film.

Reviews could easily sink Dark Tower into the high teens over three days giving Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk a third weekend No. 1 win in the vicinity of $16M. To date, the World War II British movie has amassed $116M through two weeks. The Dark Tower was financed 50/50 by MRC and Sony at a reported $60M. Sony is hoping that King fans and African American and Hispanic audiences will take this title to a higher level at the B.O. Dark Tower follows the last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. In the King series, there are also Easter eggs and homages to the author’s previous classics such as The Shining, Pet Sematary and more.

Sony

While Dark Tower was rallying as a top ticket seller earlier in the week, its sales slowed the minute reviews hit – the woe studios face in this Rotten Tomatoes era. Last night’s money for the film directed by Nikolaj Arcel was notable, higher than Focus Features’ Atomic Blonde ($1.52M) last Thursday (which posted a $7.1M Friday and $18.3M opening), and on par with Ghost in the Shell ($7.7M Friday, $18.7M weekend).

The Dark Tower sets off a fall season that’s a King renaissance across film and TV due to the hot embrace of low-budget genre at the B.O., plus the fact that the current generation of filmmakers and TV creators grew up on King’s novels. On Sept. 8, New Line/Warner Bros. has a feature adaptation of  his classic horror novel It, while AT&T Networks has the series Mr. Mercedes premiering on Aug. 9. 

Aviron

Dark Tower competes against two other wide releases this weekend by labels which are entering the film distribution game: Annapurna’s Detroitwhich expands to 3,007 theaters with an eye on $13M, and Aviron’s release of Halle Berry thriller Kidnap at 2,378 venues, tracking at $8M. Kidnap was shot three years ago and was acquired by Relativity out of TIFF. Kidnap wound up being a casualty of Relativity’s financial woes, but the pic’s producers sought to ensure life for the film, which tested highly among African American audiences, and shopped it around. David Dinerstein’s new film label Aviron saved the movie, believing that it was a great title to start Aviron. Detroit took in $525K in previews last night while Kidnap posted $500K at 1,900 locations.

Annapurna

Kidnap will unfortunately be impacted by a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score, while Detroit‘s wide expansion from 20 screens in 10 cities off a certified fresh 89% RT score is the one to watch. Detroit goes wide at a time in August when adults start to embrace early awards season titles. The pic, budgeted at a reported $35M, follows the events that went down at the Algiers Hotel on July 25, 1967 when the Detroit police murdered three black civilians and tortured seven other black men and two white women, after a gunshot rang out from the address. The Kathryn Bigelow directed-Mark Boal scripted movie is gripping, a potboiler that truly speaks to our times post-Ferguson. The Los Angeles premiere last night at the DGA left 600-plus attendees breathless, and you could see that in their faces as they exited the theater last night. John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Will Poulter, Ben O’Toole and John Krasinski star. While both Kidnap and Detroit will vie for African American audiences, the latter has the potential to cross over in its play toward the specialty cinema older adult crowd. Not to mention, it will be interesting to watch word of mouth kick in, as Detroit is that mesmerizing.

As far as holdovers go this weekend, it’s expected that Sony’s The Emoji Movie will decline at least 55% in its second weekend for $11M raising its cume by Sunday to $48M while Focus Features/Sierra Affinity’s Atomic Blonde is expected to decline 50%-55% for $8M-$9M for a running 10-day total that could reach $35M.