4th Update, Sunday AM: Sci-fi/fantasy movies with heavy VFX  (no, we’re not talking superhero titles, Star Wars, Hobbit or Harry Potter) which no longer work stateside continue to be pumped out by studios as they seek to capitalize on such fare’s appeal in burgeoning overseas markets.

Legendary has delivered many of these titles in recent years, i.e. Warcraft, The Great Wall, Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, and in certain instances, such as the latter two, sometimes these movies do alright financially.

But even when studios and financiers know when such B-grade fare is going to pale stateside, they plan for that, brace for that, and bet that foreign will bail them out. Duh. We know every tentpole depends on foreign to reach profit. But with these titles, there’s even more of  a dependence, plus they don’t want to neglect the interests of the largest set of moviegoers in the world –China– even if the studio is collecting a 25%-27% rental on the film.

So at an estimated $155M production cost before P&A, and a $28M domestic opening, and a $150.5M global start, at what point does Pacific Rim: Uprising reach break even?

We had our film finance sources who assisted with our blockbuster tournament weigh-in, and they figure that at around a $350M global B.O., with China only delivering 43% of that number, that’s about when Pacific Rim: Uprising will trigger downstream ancillaries that will churn a break-even in under two years of about $10.7M. Now, that’s off the insider figure of $155M budget. Some contend that Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s production cost is higher at $176M, and if that’s the case, the movie will need to make another $10M across all ancillaries to hit break-even.

So let’s break these projections down: Pacific Rim:Uprising off a $350M box office would yield $135.5M in global rentals (China counts $37.5M of that due to its 25% rental off a projected $150M projected B.O.). Global home entertainment would then be an estimated $75M including digital, with global TV at $125M net. All-in revenues on Pacific Rim:Uprising would total $335.5M. Put this against costs of $155M+$140M P&A+Uni’s estimated 10% distribution fee of $29.8M, and we’re looking at a total worldwide spend of $324.8M. This gets us to a $10.7M profit before residuals and participations.  

Uni is hopeful about Pacific Rim:Uprising, since domestic is slightly higher at $28M than its low-to-mid $20M tracking after a $10.7M Saturday that was +3% over Friday’s $10.4M. It’s quite conceivable that with the lucrative Easter weekend ahead, that Pacific Rim:Uprising has a better second decline than its 2013 chapter’s -57% drop. Women 25+, who turned up at 22%, gave the sequel its best grades on Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak at 88%, which some believe is because of the guy wattage of John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Men over and under 25 showed up equally at 31%. Overall PostTrak positive score was 78% to CinemaScore’s Friday night grade of a B. Imax drew $3.8M stateside for Pacific Rim: Uprising at 408 hubs. Overseas, the Steven S. DeKnight-directed sequel earned an estimated $122.5M, with 53% of that coming from China.

Here’s what the studio-reported top 10 looks like:

thumb rank film studio screens (chg) fri sat sun 3day (%) total weekend no.
1 Pacific Rim Uprising Uni/Leg 3,708 $10.4M $10.7M $6.9M $28M 1
2 Black Panther Dis 3,370 (-464) $4.4M $7.6M $4.6M $16.7M (-37%) $630.9M 6
3 I Can Only Imagine RSA 2,253 (+624) $3.8M $5.5M $4.5M $13.8M (-19%) $38.3M 2
4 Sherlock Gnomes PAR/MGM 3,662 $2.8M $4.6M  $3.2M $10.6M 1
5 Tomb Raider WB/MGM 3,854 $2.9M $4.4M $3.1M $10.4M (-56%) $41.7M 2
6 A Wrinkle in Time Dis 3,423 (-557) $2.1M $3.6M  $2.3M $8M (-51%) $73.9M 3
7 Love, Simon Fox 2,434 (+32) $2.3M $3.1M  $2.4M $7.8M (-34%) $23.7M 2
8 Paul, Apostle of Christ Sony 1,473 $1.66M $1.88M $1.46M $5M 1
9 Game Night NL/WB 1,866 (-820) $1.2M $1.8M $1.1M $4.16M (-26%) $60.8M 5
10 Midnight Sun GR 2,173 $1.4M $1.55M $1.1M $4.12M 1
11 Unsane BST 2,023 $1.3M $1.45M $1.05M $3.8M 1

Disney’s Black Panther, with a $16.7M sixth weekend and running total of $630.9M, is the best-ever for Marvel at the domestic B.O., besting Avengers ($623M), and the fifth highest-grossing movie of all-time after Force Awakens ($936.6M), Avatar ($760.5M), Titanic ($659.3M), and Jurassic World ($652.2M).

And then as we deep-dived in the prior update, all other wide entries went to the dogs (except Isle of Dogs), with Paramount/MGM’s Sherlock Gnomes not dazzling with an estimated $10.6M start, and three indie pics just coming up short: Sony Affirm’s Paul, Apostle of Christ ($5M); Global Road’s Midnight Sun $4.1M); and Bleecker Street/Fingerprint’s Steven Soderbergh horror title Unsane at $3.8M.

In an era when it’s debated by industry insiders what types of movies should be released theatrically and what types of movies should go straight to streaming, such results only makes the case for OTT acquiring indie pics stronger (note many pics’ deals are tied to a theatrical release, which then kick-in certain ancillary revenues). It’s a true head-scratcher for filmmakers and distributors of low-budget fare on what will resonate. Blumhouse has a keen sense of this (they saw their latest Amityville Horror jettison to OTT, and know when a Happy Death Day or even a Get Out can perform on screen), and Paramount protected their bottom line on The Cloverfield Paradox by distributing it through Netflix.

While certain indie fare is falling apart, you’ve got titles like Roadside Attractions’ I Can Only Imagine (second weekend of $13.8M) burying Sony Affirm’s Paul, and both had budgets that were quite close to each other, with I Can Only Imagine made for $7M before P&A and Paul for $5M.

Fox Searchlight 

Then there’s Fox Searchlight proving what type of indie fare works on screen, with Isle of Dogs pulling in the highest opening screen average of 2018 to date with $58K for a massive $1.57M at 27 locations. Filmmaker Wes Anderson can claim that’s his best domestic opening weekend of all-time (his titles always start off in limited release). This is a slightly different platform than Anderson’s previous 2014 hit Grand Budapest Hotel, which posted a massive $202K theater average in its opening weekend. But that was booked at four New York and Los Angeles locations (for an $811K opening weekend). Searchlight will add 22 markets on Wednesday for the Holy Week stretch for a 150 to 175 theater count. In private CinemaScore polling, the pic receives a solid A, with 60% of the crowd being under the age of 30.

20th Century Fox

Shoutout this morning to Fox’s The Greatest Showman, which is no clown at the B.O. with a $170.9M total. The Hugh Jackman pic passes Chicago this weekend ($170.6M) to become the third highest-grossing musical at the box office after Beauty and the Beast ($504M) and Grease ($188.7M). Also, Love, Simon relishes a 32% dip.

3rd Update, Saturday AM: Much like Warner Bros./MGM’ Tomb Raider reboot last weekend, no one is jumping up and down in the U.S. or Canada for Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel to 2013’s Pacific Rim. 

Legendary/Universal

Similar to that Lara Croft movie, the Legendary/Universal title’s $26.2M domestic opening is so low next to its estimated $155M net production cost, the studios have no choice but to depend on foreign to bail them out. In addition, moviegoers had the same reaction to both movies with a B CinemaScore. We’ve seen this crash, bang, boom before, but in two different movies. They were titled Transformers and Godzilla.

Aside from Black Panther becoming the highest grossing Marvel movie ever at the domestic box office with $630.9M, this weekend has turned into a dumping ground for new entries at the box office, and publicists, don’t try to tell us otherwise. Seriously. The irony is that the openings for the other four wide releases are so bad, it just makes Pacific Rim Uprising’s three-day look glamorous.

But if there’s a motif running through the commercial ho-hums (Pacific Rim Uprising) and disasters (Sherlock Gnomes, Midnight Sun), it’s that they were largely shepherded from previous administrations at their respective studios, and they all just happen to be coming out this weekend.

Here’s our top films per industry estimates as of Saturday morning:

thumb rank film studio screens (chg) friday 3-day (%) total weekend no.
1 Pacific Rim Uprising Uni/Leg 3,708 $10.4M $26.2M 1
2 Black Panther Dis 3,370 (-464) $4.4M $16.6M (-38%) $630.9M 6
3 I Can Only Imagine RSA 2,253 (+624) $3.7M $13.7M (-20%) $38.1m 2
4 Sherlock Gnomes PAR/MGM 3,662 $2.8M $10.3M  1
5 Tomb Raider WB/MGM 3,854 $2.8M $10M (-58%) $41.3M 2
6 A Wrinkle in Time Dis 3,423 (-557) $2.1M $8.1M (-50%) $73.9M 3
7 Love, Simon Fox 2,434 (+32) $2.3M $7.9M (-32%) $23.7M 2
8 Paul, Apostle of Christ Sony 1,473 $1.6M $4.95M 1
9 Midnight Sun GR 2,173 $1.48M $4.2M 1
10 Game Night WB/NL 1,866 (-820) $1.2M $4.1M (-27%) $60.8M 5
11 Unsane BST 2,023 $1.3M $3.8M 1

Let’s go through the casualties:

Paramount

Poor Sherlock Gnomes is falling apart with a $10.3M fifth place opening, disastrous for an animated film that was supposedly made on the cheap with a net $59M budget before P&A. Paramount ran production on this and moved forward with the project during the Brad Grey-Rob Moore era. MGM only co-financed a third and kept international TV rights which are always valuable. In sum, Sherlock Gnomes just isn’t as charming as the first film with critics blasting that it’s boring, lacks less Elton John music then the first plus those ceramic stiff jokes. Our Pete Hammond calls it “lazy”.  CinemaScore audiences were more forgiving with a B+, with 54% kids under 18 giving it an A-, but the ones who are actually driving kids to the theaters, adults over 25 at 42%, aren’t thrilled with a B CinemaScore. At 19% Rotten, a score that just registered today, critics can’t solve the mystery as to why Sherlock Gnomes was made.

Sony Affirm

Paul, Apostle of Christ is opening to a spiritless $4.95M in 8th, and Sony Affirm don’t tell us that’s wonderful just because it was made for a net $5M. When you make a movie for microbudget prices, you open the film at 3-4 times that amount, and currently a movie starring Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel is being beat by a Christian Rock picture in wide release, Roadside Attractions’ I Can Only Imagine with $13.7M, which dipped 20% in weekend 2 for a third place spot. Just like the overall moviegoing population has gotten smarter about what they’ll spend their money on, so have faith-based crowds. Affirm has opened other titles higher in the past (Risen, though 4x more expensive than Paul, opened to $11M). Frankly, after Ben-Hur, sword and sandal films have run their course. CinemaScore in private polling is an A-, but that says less than the fact that the faithful didn’t show up in buses, which are parked near the multiplexes playing I Can Only Imagine.

Global Road

Most creators and studios are still drunk over the success of the teenage weepy in the wake of The Fault in our Stars ($124.8M), and have tried to catch a wave on such thrifty-priced titles. Sometimes studios can make the math work: Fox made Paper Towns for an estimated $12M and grossed $85.5M worldwide before ancillaries. Midnight Sun’s $4.2M ninth place opening is another in a line of clunky indie teen romance pics that just didn’t warm hearts in a big way, read Before I Fall ($12.2M), and Every Day ($6.1M). Females 13-17 were targeted in the digital and social media marketing campaign.  Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger are trying to stoke hearts online and by stopping in markets that typically over-index with young moviegoers including Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis. Combined they have close to a 36M reach on social media. Says Relish Mix, “Many have expressed that they’ve seen this movie many times before and that they can tell it is predictable. The biggest topic is that it is almost the exact same plot as last year’s Everything, Everything, which featured a protagonist challenged by the natural world.  Other moviegoers have pointed out similarities with The Fault in our Stars, Walk to Remember,  and The Space between Us. Midnight Sun did get the best CinemaScore this weekend with an A-, but its low start means it’s not rising to greater skies. Females showed up at 82% (A-) with 66% under 25 (A-). Thorne pulled in her fans at 33% (A-).

Bleecker Street

And then there’s Fingerprint Releasing’s Unsane which is billed as Steven Soderbergh’s first horror title about a young woman who involuntarily is committed to an insane asylum. Not only is it that, it’s arguably the first theatrical release shot on an iPhone 7 and the question asked is whether that type of quality is keeping a majority of moviegoers away; the pic is set to open to $3.8M.

RelishMix says that answer is ‘yes’: “The iPhone video-style appears to be the source of all the negative chatter.  What was meant to be a cool cinematography effect appears to make this film look cheap.  Fans have also mentioned that the ratio it was filmed in (vertically) gets irritating.  And, there are plenty of others saying the film looks basically like Shutter Island tweaked slightly.”

We hear the type of financial structure for the Bleecker Street-distributed Unsane is very similar to Logan Lucky, however, it reportedly is cheaper than that $29M Nascar movie (though those connected to the film are shy to disclose the exact figure, hmmm). Foreign sales covered the production cost, Universal took home entertainment, Bleecker is making a distribution fee, and Soderbergh called the shots on the marketing campaign. Now, Rotten Tomatoes is biased toward auteurs and that’s largely why we’re seeing the second best reviews among this weekend’s wide entries for this Soderbergh title at 79% Certified Fresh. CinemaScore is a B-. One might argue that there’s a missed opportunity here, that a ball was dropped in getting a film with great reviews like this to a greater commercial start. After all, critically acclaimed genre titles are box office gold in this day and age. However, the big reason why Unsane isn’t taking off is due to a disconnect between critics and audiences. Males showed up at 53% (B-) and the under-25 set at 25% were the most kind giving Unsane a B.

Fox Searchlight

The one bright spot on the specialty scene this weekend is Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs from Fox Searchlight which currently owns the best opening theater average of the year with $62,9K outstripping Black Panther’s $50K. The stop motion animated title earned $555K on Friday and is on track for a $1.7M opening at 27 theaters.

*********

Legendary

When Pacific Rim was released during the summer of 2013, there was a lot of hay over the fact that its domestic results of $101M paled greatly in comparison to its estimated $190M production cost.

Even though Pacific Rim Uprising is cheaper by $35M, it’s déjà vu all over again. The reason why the sequel was made are for the same reasons why Transformers: The Last Knight got greenlit: It plays well in burgeoning Asian markets. South Korea, China and Japan repped close to 50% of Pacific Rim’s $309.2M overseas B.O.

As RelishMix notices from the social chatter, “The fans who have abandoned this sequel are just as loud as the fans –particularly those from overseas– who are excited to see this Rim sequel in theaters.”

Already, we’re hearing that China is off to a good start with an estimated $65M, which is good, but not fantastic. Remember, only 25% of that cash gets returned to Legendary and Universal (the latter owning a 10% stake), and there aren’t any ancillary downstream revenues from the Middle Kingdom. The notion of keeping this franchise going (Uprising tries to differentiate itself with the addition of Star Wars’ John Boyega) stems from potentially capitalizing on Pacific Rim in Asia through other spinoffs (TV series, etc). All in, Pacific Rim Uprising is debuting in 62 offshore markets including France, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Mexico and UK/Ireland with overseas totaling $120.5M, 83% of the global weekend.

After activations at fan conventions in San Diego and Tokyo, Pacific Rim Uprising‘s campaign took off at New York Comic-Con last October with the launch of the film’s first trailer, which has since generated more than 140 million global views.  A second trailer, which launched in January, brought in more than 76 million views. Outside of that, RelishMix doesn’t observe any other notable social media materials for the pic which counts a social media universe of 207M (across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube) which is OK and slightly under the reach of similar sci-fi pics which averaged a 258M reach.  Boyega (2.8M) and Scott Eastwood (3.6M) are working it on social.

Uni ran media during the NFL playoffs with multiple hits during the Winter Olympics, NBA, WWE, “March Madness”, and the season premieres of The Walking Dead and The Voice.  Additionally, Uni launched a program with Xbox to sponsor their Halo tournament and instated an online “Jaeger Academy,” allowing fans to immerse themselves in the world of Pacific Rim.

2nd Update: Legendary/Universal’s Pacific Rim Uprising is pushing out Marvel’s winter kingpin Black Panther with a current 3-day of $23.1M to $17M.

Black Panther
Disney

As many expected this is not a dazzling start for this $155M-plus budgeted sci-fi pic, but it was made to hopefully win in the Far East. Pacific Rim Uprising will win today with $9M (including last night’s $2.35M previews), while Black Panther is looking at $4.5M. The sixth three-day for the Ryan Coogler-directed movie dips 36% and heads for a total by Sunday of $631.2M, besting the highest grossing title of 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi which finaled at $619.8M. But that’s not all: Black Panther by Sunday will be the highest grossing Marvel movie stateside, outstripping Avengers $623M.

MGM/Paramount’s Sherlock Gnomes is not looking good at this point with a $12.2M estimated third place opening off 25% Rotten reviews. It’s from the previous pre-Jim Gianopulos regime at the Melrose lot. MGM is in this $59M production for a third, and its third ugh domestic result for MGM following Death Wish and Tomb Raider‘s openings.

Roadside Attractions I Can Only Imagine is stoking the faith based in its expanded release with $10M, -39%, for a fourth place rank and 10-day take of $34.4M. It out-sings Sony’s Paul, Apostle of Christ Bible tale which is falling outside the top 5 with a $5.8M-$6M take at 1,473.

MGM/Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider falls to fifth from second place last weekend with $9.75M, a 59% decline and running total by Monday of $41M.

Open Road

Global Road’s teenage romance Midnight Sun isn’t rising with a $4.2M start at 2,173 while no one is going to crazy for Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane which is looking at $3.5M at 2,023; both titles outside the top 5.  

1st Update: Legendary/Universal’s bots versus beasts sequel Pacific Rim Uprising made a solid $2.35M last night at 2,850 locations from showtimes starting at 7PM.

That figure is above last weekend’s $2.1M previews for Tomb Raider which went on to an $8.98M Friday and $23.6M opening, and it’s just under the $3.1M Thursday previews that Legendary’s Warcraft made before turning in a $10.7M Friday and $24.1M opening in June 2016.  

At an estimated net production cost between $155M-$176M, this sequel was made squarely for the Asian territories the first installment succeeded in earning $309.2M overseas to its $101.8M domestic. No one is expecting it to pop stateside, and the sequel’s fate will be squarely determined by its global haul. Ironically, Pacific Rim Uprising is expected to finally unseat Black Panther at the box office with a take that’s in the low $20M range at 3,708 venues to the Marvel title’s sixth weekend of $18M-$19M, but a lot of that has to do with T’Challa going gray: He’s had a rare five-weekend reign at No. 1 for a February release, the last of which hit that was 1991’s Silence of the Lambs and 1992’s Wayne’s World.

Pac Rim 2 opens day and date with China. It isn’t a Chinese co-production similar to Legendary’s Great Wall, so it will only receive the 25-27% rental back from the Middle Kingdom. If it was a co-prod, it would reap a much higher take home around 37%. Legendary is carrying the bulk of the budget’s weight at an estimated 90% while Uni is reportedly covering 10%. Critics didn’t have the patience for this Transformers-like vs. Godzilla beasts sequel punching it with a 46% Rotten versus the 2013 title’s 71% fresh.

Similar to last weekend with roughly four wide entries, today is crowded with new entrants Sherlock Gnomes from Paramount/MGM, Sony’s Paul, Apostle of Christ, Global Road’s Midnight Sun, and Bleecker Street/Steven Soderbergh’s horror pic Unsane. Also in limited release is Fox Searchlight’s stop-motion title Isle of Dogs from Wes Anderson.

Paramount Pictures/MGM

Paramount’s Sherlock Gnomesthe sequel to 2011 sleeper Gnomeo and Juliet (near $100M stateside and $94M abroad) from Disney-Miramax was made for an estimated $59M with MGM covering a third of that. Analysts believe it’s got a shot to beat its mid-teen tracking with a $20M start. The pic hasn’t registered a Rotten Tomatoes score yet. No previews for this pic last night as kids are still in school.

Roadside Attractions Christian rock surprise I Can Only Imagine is jumping from 1,627 theaters to 2,253 locations in weekend 2. It will likely bury its competition, Paul, Apostle of Christ, which is hoping for a miracle with only a $5m-$7M opening. That’s not good, even the pic cost $5M. Sony is hoping for legs heading into Holy week next week. The story follows Paul going from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to Jesus Christ’s most influential apostle. Directed by Andrew Hyatt, Paul stars James Faulkner in the title role and Passion of the Christ‘s Jim Caviezel as Luke.

MGM/Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider in its second weekend is expected to ease 45% for a take between $12M-$13M. In its first week the Alicia Vikander reboot has grossed $31.2M.

Teen romance Midnight Sun is a holdover from the previous Open Road regime. The pic was acquired for a low MG and is targeting teen females 13-17. Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger in this story about a girl with a condition that prevents her from being in the sunlight. Tracking suggests $4M-$6M.

Soderbergh horror film Unsane has the second best reviews heading into the weekend with 80% certified, but it’s expected to make the least with a $3M-$4M start in about 2,000 venues including Canada. The pic drew $300K in previews last night. Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah star.

Isle of Dogs has the best reviews this weekend with 92% certified and the last time we saw Anderson, he set the independent box office on fire with 2014’s Grand Budapest Hotel posting record ticket sales for his career at $59M stateside, $174.8M global. That pic earned a mind-boggling $202K per theater at four New York and LA sites and Searchlight is going a little wider with this all-star stop motion comedy about dogs in Japan with 27 sites in six markets: Austin, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Toronto.