Don’t Blame Hurricane Harvey & Showtime Fight For Weekend’s Lousy Box Office: Distribs Served Up Lackluster Titles

6th Writethru, Monday final: Distributors can whine and blame Hurricane Harvey, Saturday night’s Mayweather-McGregor fight, or the fact that it’s the dead of August. But truth be told, the reason why the box office is atrocious this weekend is simply because none of the studios served up any solid openings that would win anyone over.

Why head to the multiplex and shell out $15 or more when the marquee looks like a Netflix menu of low budget fare? It only gets worse from here, because none of the studios are even attempting to open any wide releases next weekend over the Labor Day stretch. No wonder why exhibition stocks are dropping: Distributors on a mass level aren’t feeding the marketplace.

Total ticket sales amounted to $69M according to ComScore, easily the worst weekend this year so far. Duly note, that this weekend’s B.O. was not the slowest in 16 years, as some trades are reporting this morning, rather it’s three years, according to ComScore. The last time we hit a rock-bottom like this was September 5-7, 2014, which totaled $66M. That’s when Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy led all titles with $10.36M in its sixth weekend.

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Screen Gems

We could hastily say that the penultimate weekend of the summer is one of the worst in any given year, refuting the distribution theory that movie-going is a 52-week business. However, that’s not true. A year ago, we had Sony/Screen Gems’ critically-acclaimed horror film, Don’t Breathe, which opened to $26.4M, arguably the second best opening for the August weekend prior to the Labor Day stretch after 2009’s Final Destination ($27.4M). The Fede Alvarez movie even became Screen Gems’ highest grossing genre title with $89.2M stateside. But wait, schools are in session, so that means kids don’t go to the movies, right? If it’s great, they’ll make room in their schedule for it. Don’t Breathe last year drew 73% under 35, and 42% alone of the 18-24 age group. So, even though there were 42% K-12 schools off on Friday with another 51% colleges, if distributors don’t book it, then audiences won’t come.

This leaves us with Lionsgate’s buddy action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard taking No. 1 again in weekend 2. Lionsgate is calling it at $10.26M. Rivals feel it will come in around $9.7M, however, older females and males found the film outside of the fight on Friday and Sunday respectively at 38% and 35%.  Saturday was +23% over Friday with $3.89M, which proves that the fight didn’t entirely steal away business, nor was Hurricane Harvey a complete obstacle.


In regards to Mayweather-McGregor: History has shown that people will still go to the movies (if there’s something great to see) whenever there’s a big boxing match; read the Saturday night when Mayweather-Pacquiao fought in May, 2015. It was on the same weekend when Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron posted the then-second best opening of all time with $191.3M. While some distributors will try and argue that this weekend’s overall ticket sales will be dinged by an additional 5% from multiplex closings in East Texas, some chiefs argue the slowdown may not be that bad. If you want to know how Mayweather-McGregor did at the box office last night at 532 sites, ComScore is reporting $2.6M — which is more than what Birth of a Dragon made this weekend.

In regards to those theater closures in East Texas, we hear that they’ll open later in the week once damage is assessed.

Weinstein Co.

In addition, we have a French-Canadian independent animated acquisition from Weinstein Co., Leap!which is truly the widest opening of the weekend at 2,575 theaters with a $4.7M start in 3rd. Not a jaw-dropping opening, but distributors like TWC and Lionsgate have a bread-and-butter business in thrifty animation pick-ups. Pic was acquired by TWC from Gaumont for a single-digit MG with a P&A spend in the teens, and the outlook is that they’ll make a few bucks after home entertainment. TWC aimed to stoke young girls by marketing the film off the Carly Rae Jepsen song “Cut to the Feeling,” as well as Sia dancer Maddie Ziegler. Both provide voice-overs in the film. Leap! drew 76% females, 42% under the age of 18, and 47% under the age of 25, according to CinemaScore. The upside is that Leap! scored a solid A CinemaScore, but its low start when factored in with the grade’s 3.6x average multiple means Leap! will only limp to $15M stateside, potentially more since there aren’t any other fresh animated films in the marketplace. The Gaumont production has been released in majority of overseas territories and counts a foreign B.O. of $58.1M to date. Saturday’s business was up from from Friday, $1.8M to $1.6M.

Acacia Entertainment

Leap! is one notch ahead of TWC’s Taylor Sheridan thriller, Wind River, which is currently minting $4.6M in its fourth weekend off its wide break of 2,095 theaters. That’s both higher than what we saw Sunday and higher than the fourth weekend take of Sheridan’s scripted Hell or High Water last year ($4.4M). However, it was on fewer screens at 1,303 and put up a better theater average ($3,4K to Wind River‘s estimated $2,2K this weekend). Saturday was +28% with $1.79M. Nonetheless, rival distributors comment that the gross for Wind River is pretty good, with a current running total of $9.8M. The Acacia Entertainment-financed production, which Voltage handled foreign sales on, was also a single-digit buy for TWC per sources. TWC went very wide this weekend with the movie to take advantage of the hole in the schedule: They saw that there weren’t any other big movies out there, so they attempted to cross the pic over to mainstream audiences from the pic’s sophisticated art house ticket buyers. If there was a time to go wide, it was now, before the fall onslaught of festival titles. Wind River, in all fairness, isn’t lackluster at all, and is being aimed to be an awards season contender, especially with an 85% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. TWC is hoping to lure specialty crowds next weekend and taken advantage of the screens out there by moving its period piece Tulip Fever into 600-700 locations.

BH Tilt

Then there’s Blumhouse’s microbudget distributor BH Tilt with Birth of the Dragonbut it’s not so wide at 1,618 venues, thus yielding a small take of $2.7M. Saturday was -28% from Friday $787K. The whole m.o. of the label is to zero-in on certain niche audience segments and maximize revenue; that’s why this Bruce Lee fantasy pic isn’t uber-wide. The distributor traditionally claims that there’s a single digit P&A, heavily weighted on digital, and that’s obvious because this film simply didn’t open (Universal isn’t involved with BH Tilt product). Marketing included a screening and community relationship program in high-performing Asian-American markets, as well as special events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, with an appearance from Kung-fu master Wong Jack Man. WWE Studios, who co-acquired the title with BH Tilt, leveraged Monday Night Raw and digital, social media, and WWE Network, to push the film. Titles which have popped for BH Tilt to date include last summer’s Kevin Bacon/Matt Walsh horror title, The Darkness, and March’s The Belko Experiment, both of which made $10M+. Birth of the Dragon gets a B CinemaScore with 69% males in attendance, 72% 25+. The over-50 set, who grew up with Lee, repped 24% of all ticket-buyers per CinemaScore, and they graded the martial arts movie a B-.

And Sony Affirm, rather than go wide with their faith-based John Corbett release, All Saintskept it limited at 846 locations for a very low $1.5M weekend. We’ve seen Sony Affirm product do much better. Two years ago, they took over the summer-end box office with their surprise hit War Room ($3M production cost, $67.8M domestic B.O.), which literally stoked Christian audiences and had them passionately yelling out praises during screenings. All Saints cost $2M, but still, that’s not a win, because these pics are built at a low level so that the studio can take home heaps of cash. ComScore/Screen Engine shows an 85% overall positive score for All Saints, and it hooked the standard faith-based crowd of older women with 61% females, 87% over 25. Sony Affirm knows their audience so well, it’s baffling that they didn’t go wider on this, but it’s obvious something is up. The film follows the real-life story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), who’s hired to shut down the All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tenn. but winds up getting Karen refugees from Burma as new parishioners. The notion is that the film didn’t hit the religion hard enough in its marketing, coupled with the fact that a story about refugees doesn’t work in the American Sniper red states.

New Line

Even with kids already in school, genre historically works during the penultimate weekend of summer. As we mentioned previously, the biggest opening for this period was New Line’s 2009 reboot of Final Destination, with $27.4M. Typically, it’s best for a distributor to spread horror titles out by at least month, and taking a chance with one here would sandwich it between the third weekend of  New Line/Warner Bros.’ Annabelle: Creation (est. $7.68M, -53%) and their projected $60M-opening It on Sept. 8.  Perhaps that’s why no one programmed one. But still, flooding the market with horror at this time of year never hurt anyone: Dimension had the bravado to play Halloween II against Final Destination in 2009 and posted $16.3M. Both were R-rated movies. Final Destination ended up doing double the amount of business, $66.4M to Halloween II‘s $33.4M. Other respectable launches during this late period of August? 2010’s crime thriller Takers from Sony/Screen Gems and The Last Exorcism from Lionsgate; each drew $20M a piece. Just don’t say late August sucks.

Given the lack of great competition, Warner Bros. and Sony respectively re-expanded Wonder Woman and Baby Driver to add some fuel to the weekend.

As ComScore Sr. Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian wisely points out, “You know it’s a rough summer when the top hits of June are resurrected in August in order to reinvigorate a sleepy movie marketplace.”

Studio-reported final figures as of Monday for Aug. 25-27:

1.). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 3,377 theaters (0) / $3.16M Fri. /$3.89M Sat/$3.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $10.26M (-52%) / Total cume: $39.8M / Wk 2

2.). Annabelle: Creation (NL/WB), 3,565 theaters (+23) / $2.5M Fri. / $2.8M Sat/ $2.3M Sun/3-day cume: $7.68M (-53%) / Total: $78.2M / Wk 3

3.). Leap! (TWC), 2,575 theaters / $1.6M Fri. (includes $210K previews) /$1.8M Sat/$1.28M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.7M / Wk 1

4.) Wind River (TWC), 2,095 theaters (+1401) / $1.4M Fri. / $1.79M Sat/ $1.37M Sun/3-day cume: $4.6M (+55%) / Total: $10M / Wk 4

5.) Logan Lucky (BST), 3,031 theaters / $1.35M Fri. /$1.68M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.2M (-44%) / Total cume: $14.9M /Wk 2

6.) Dunkirk (WB), 2,774 theaters (-497) / $1.1M Fri. /$1.6M Sat/$1.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.9M (-40%) / Total: $172.4M / Wk 6

7). Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 2,122 theaters (-219) / $808K Fri. / $1.1M Sat/$833K Sun/3-day cume: $2.8M (-34%) / Total: $318.9M / Wk 8

8.) Birth of the Dragon (BHT), 1,618 theaters / $1.1M Fri. (includes $200K previews) / $787K Sat/$803K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.7M / Wk 1

9.). Mayweather-McGregor Fight (FATH), 532 theaters  / Saturday & 3-day cume: $2.62M

10.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 2,374 theaters (-417) / $623K Fri. / $1M Sat / $824K Sun/3-day cume: $2.5M (-44%) / Total: $76.6M / Wk 5


Wonder Woman (WB), 2,210 theaters (+1,407) / $487K Fri. /$728K Sat/$461K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.67M (+53%) / Total: $406.1M / Wk 13

All Saints (SONY), 846 theaters / $575K Fri. (includes $70K previews) / $553K Sat/ $385K Sun/3-day cume: $1.5M / Wk 1

Baby Driver (SONY), 1,757 theaters (+1,074) / $390K Fri. /$478K Sat/$339K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.2M (+47%) / Total: $103.3M / Wk 13

Industry estimates as of early, early Saturday for weekend of Aug. 25-27:

1.). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 3,377 theaters (0) / $3.17M Fri. (-61%) / 3-day cume: $10.4M (-53% to -56%) / Total cume: $39M to $40M / Wk 2

2.). Annabelle: Creation (NL/WB), 3,565 theaters (+23) / $2.5M Fri. (-49%) / 3-day cume: $7.7M (-51%) / Total: $78M / Wk 3

3.). Leap! (TWC), 2,575 theaters / $1.6M Fri. (includes $210K previews) / 3-day cume: $4.8M / Wk 1

4./5) Wind River (TWC), 2,095 theaters (+1401) / $1.38M Fri. (+36%) / 3-day cume: $3.9M to $4.1M (+30%) / Total: $9.2M to $9.5M / Wk 4

Logan Lucky (BST), 3,031 theaters / $1.25M Fri. (-53%) / 3-day cume: $3.8M to $4.2M (-45%) / Total cume: $14.6M /Wk 2

6.) Dunkirk (WB), 2,774 theaters (-497) / $1.17M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.7M (-44%) / Total: $172.2M / Wk 6

7.) Birth of the Dragon (BHT), 1,618 theaters / $1M Fri. (includes $200K previews) / 3-day cume: $2.7M / Wk 1

8). Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 2,122 theaters (-219) / $780K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-40%) / Total: $318.6M / Wk 8

9). Girls Trip (UNI), 1,777 theaters (-233) / $760K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.3M (-41%) / Total: $108.2M / Wk 6

10.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 2,374 theaters (-417) / $615K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-57%) / Total: $76M+ / Wk 5


All Saints (SONY), 846 theaters / $575K Fri. (includes $70K previews) / 3-day cume: $1.5M / Wk 1

Wonder Woman (WB), 2,210 theaters (+1,407) / $446K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.4M (+32%) / Total: $405.9M / Wk 13

2ND UPDATE, Friday: As East Texas runs for cover from Hurricane Harvey and America plans its Saturday evening around Mayweather-McGregor, Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be lucky to crack $10 million for No. 1 at the box office. Currently it’s looking at $8M-$9.5M off midday estimates, with a second Friday of $2.6M-$3M.

The Weinstein Company’s Leap! is the best of the new product, which isn’t saying much, with $1.7M today and $4.8M for the weekend. BH Tilt’s Birth of the Dragon looks to clear $1M today and then $2.75M over three. Sony Affirm’s All Saints is looking at $1M-$2M for the weekend at 846 sites. These figures could fluctuate wildly depending on the severity of Harvey.

UPDATED, Friday 10:36 AM after 7 AM post: The Weinstein Company’s animated ballerina title Leap! made $210,000 at approximately 1,500 theaters last night, while BH Tilt’s George Nolfi Bruce Lee movie Birth Of The Dragon grossed $200K at 1,350 locations.

Leap! started showtimes at 5 PM and moves to 2,575 venues today, while Birth Of The Dragon will swell to about 1,500. Leap! is currently eyeing between $4M-$5M. The French Canadian animated pic originally titled Ballerina was acquired by TWC in the low single digits. The distributor added Saturday Night Live performer Kate McKinnon for several voices as well as Mel Brooks and The Fault In Our Stars actor Nat Wolff in the key role of Victor (he takes over for Dane DeHaan, whose voice was tapped for the international release).

Two of the biggest promoters for the movie both on social, TV and music is Carly Rae Jepsen (who voices Odette) and Sia dancer Maddie Ziegler (Camille), both who connect with the young femme crowd. Combined, both have north of 37M followers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Jepsen dropped the end credits song for the movie, “Cut to the Feeling,” back in May, which has been used in all the pic’s promotions. Ziegler meanwhile appeared to promote the movie on So You Think You Can Dance. Leap! has a 37% Rotten Tomatoes score.

BH Tilt

Birth Of The Dragon premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and was snapped up by Blumhouse’s BH Tilt micro label and WWE Studios. Tracking has the movie opening in the $3M range and it’s aiming at guys 13-54. Pic, which stars Philip Ng as Lee, is set in 1960s San Francisco and takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and Kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to Lee’s legend. Birth Of The Dragon has a 33% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Affirm Films and Provident Films’ All Saints took in $70K in Thursday preview showings starting at 7 PM from 773 locations. The theater count will increase to 846 today and tracking had the pic making $3M-$4M.

Lionsgate’s action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard was the top movie yesterday with an estimated $1.6M at 3,377, taking its first week to $29.6M. The pic, starring Deadpool‘s Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, is expected to top the box office again in its second weekend with $10M.

TWC is also taking advantage of the lack of competition by going wide with Taylor Sheridan’s drama thriller Wind River, from 694 sites to 2,095, with an eye at grabbing more sophisticated adult crowds. The hope here is that it stays about even with last weekend’s near $3M take. Yesterday, Wind River made $325K and currently counts $5.4M at the domestic B.O.

On Saturday night, most older men in America will be watching Floyd Mayweather Jr. take on MMA UFC champ Conor McGregor in Las Vegas. The PPV event run by Showtime is expected to clear an estimated $500M stateside, and $700M worldwide. Many distribution heads believe the fight, even on an excellent weekend, won’t ding Saturday’s business that much, and history bears that out: the Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio fight made $460M on the first Saturday night in May 2015, on the same weekend Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron rang up a then second-best domestic weekend opening ever with $191.3M. What could impact some business is Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, with several counties already issuing evacuation orders.

Currently, summer 2017 box office for the period of May 5-August 20 is down 13% to $3.59 billion, versus $4.1B at the same point a year ago. Each of the past five down weekends per ComScore has contributed to the annual B.O. being 1% behind 2016. The 2017 B.O. for the span of Jan. 1-August 20 counts $7.35B, off 5%. Many believe the fall/holiday months will more than make up for summer’s difference with Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, Warner Bros/DC’s Justice League and Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Warner Bros/New Line will reinvigorate theatrical business September 8 with the feature adaptation of Stephen King’s It, which is tracking to north of $60M.