6th Update, Sunday AM: With chart In a box office defeat that no one anticipated, Denzel Washington’s first sequel ever, Equalizer 2, stole most of the No. 1 money away from Universal’s Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, $35.8M to $34.4M. Even more for Sony to relish is that Equalizer 2 beat its first chapter’s $34.1M opening plus it’s the second back-to-back No. 1 opening for Sony this summer after last weekend’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. Mamma Mia 2 also improved upon its first installment’s $27.7M start by 24%. For director Antoinie Fuqua, Equalizer 2 reps the highest opening of his career besting The Magnificent Seven ($34.7M). For Washington, the sequel is his third best domestic start after American Gangster ($43.5M) and Safe House ($40.1M). While Mamma Mia 2 came in toward the high end of its tracking, Equalizer 2 wildly outperformed its mid $20Ms expectations.
“This definitely points to the star power of Denzel Washington and his character of Robert McCall. People really loved the first movie and Denzel appeals both to male and female audiences. He is a bankable star” said Sony domestic distribution boss Adrian Smith about the success of Equalizer 2 this weekend.
What happened? Essentially, Equalizer 2 had a bigger Saturday night at $12.8M, -5% from Friday, versus Mamma Mia 2 which posted $11M, -23%. Pic’s final demos on PostTrak were 58% male, 42% female with men over 25 repping 40% of all moviegoers and women over 25 turning out at 28%. Leading demos were Caucasians at 38%, African Americans at 31%, and Hispanic at 22%.
And though Equalizer 2 is the winner who takes it all, realize Mamma Mia 2 is no loser standing small, as many expect this pic to outperform the former both in domestic and its overseas multiple. Equalizer 2 will hit a slowdown next weekend as Paramount’s Tom Cruise sixthquel Mission: Impossible – Fallout dominates the box office with an estimated $53M start, the third highest for the series.
And there’s no sour grapes from the Universal camp: “This is a terrific opening and we’re poised for a very healthy domestic run,” said Universal domestic distribution chief Jim Orr. More than that, Mamma Mia 2 pushed Universal over the $1 billion mark stateside for the eighth year in a row making it the second studio to pass that mark this year after Disney’s $2.5B+.
One rival studio executive attributes Mamma Mia 2‘s slowdown to the fact that its core audience discovered that one of the franchise’s prime characters is deceased in the movie, and that might have dinged word of mouth a bit. There’s also the box office notion that female skewing pics on their opening weekend are front loaded on their opening day Fridays (which include Thursday previews) and typically see a decline on Saturday, i.e. Pitch Perfect 2 (-12%), Fifty Shades Free (-31%) and even Ocean’s 8 (-4%). Final demos on Mamma Mia 2 were 83% women and 64% over 25. That’s a broader audience than other female pics such as Ocean’s 8 which skewed 73% over 25. The young kids rushed out and the older audience are slower to come out as is the nature of their demo.
Both Equalizer 2 and Mamma Mia 2 were propped by Imax runs with the Fuqua-directed pic earning $2.1M at 174 runs and the ABBA sequel doing $1.4M from 225.
Big plays toward older guys here with a ton of sports promotion for Equalizer 2. Washington launched the trailer during TNT’s Inside the NBA. During the NBA finals, Sony partnered with ESPN and the NBA to create a massive campaign launch. Based on the premise that Washington doesn’t “do sequels,” a series of custom vignettes chronicled eight NBA/WNBA players as they audition for the iconic role of Robert McCall before Fuqua. Of course, after endless unsuccessful attempts, it is clear that there is only one Equalizer in Washington. This content series was a full 360-program, amplified via linear, digital, social, and influencers to create a massive splash in the marketplace. Here’s one with Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George:
Other media highlights include custom promotional alignments such as a 360 feature sponsorship during the PPV UFC 226 Worldwide Heavyweight Championship Fight on 7/7 (Miocic v Cormier), sneak peeks on BET, TVONE, USA WWE, and a highly stylized custom vignette on Bravo, featuring the ladies of the Real Housewives of Potomac talking about how much they love The Equalizer 2 and Washington.
Also performing well in the top 10 is Annapurna’s Sorry to Bother You in its third weekend expansion from 805 to 1,050 runs with a three-day of $2.8M, -33% for a running total of $10.2M. That total is currently pacing 65% ahead of Ryan Coogler’s July 2013 breakout movie Fruitvale Station in its third weekend, which finaled at $16.1M. Saturday was +41% over Friday with $1.1M. Top markets for the Boots Riley movie include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, DC, Denver, Portland, Ore; Raleigh, Baltimore, San Diego, Nashville and Austin. Grosses are strong in the northeast and western regions.
Lionsgate’s Blindspotting, another Sundance acquisition like Sorry to Bother You, took in $332,5K this week at 14 locations in NY, LA, DC, San Fran and Oakland, CA for a $23,7K theater average. Know that Sorry to Bother You in its opening weekend at 16 locations grossed more than Blindspotting with $727K. Both pics are targeted toward African Americans and arthouse audiences and coming off great reviews, Sorry at a 95% RT certified fresh and Blindspotting at 91% certified fresh.
Studio-reported weekend figures as of Sunday AM:
5th Update, Early Saturday AM: With chart It’s still a great weekend at the box office here, with both Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Sony’s Equalizer 2 both over-performing besting their tracking, especially the latter.
The Ol Parker-directed original ABBA musical is looking at an estimated No. 1 win, with $37.3M while the Denzel Washington sequel scored $13.4M yesterday (including Thursday’s $3.1M), with an amazing $33.7M three-day.
One of the reasons why we’re seeing Mamma Mia 2 lower than the $40M+ figure we were spotting yesterday is because sometimes it’s hard for box office analysts to project off advance ticket sales, which in this pic’s case is fueled by the female demo. When are they exactly going to the movies? One thing is for sure, and that’s that this bubble gum musical will have long legs this summer into the fall. The 2008 movie posted a 5.2 multiple off its $27.7M opening for a $144.1m domestic result, and it will come as no surprise if this one does the same. Female audiences+musicals=big business. Remember how well The Greatest Showman did during the cutthroat holiday environment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Jumanji 2? That Hugh Jackman tuner ended its run at $174.3M stateside after being squashed by a ton of competition during its opening weekend, with a four-day of $14.4M. We’ll see what tonight brings for Here We Go Again; but as of right now, the forecast is that the pic will be off 5% today from its $14.3M Friday which includes $3.4M previews.
CinemaScore for Mamma Mia 2 is the same as its previous chapter, an A-. ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak shows an overall 83% positive (they continually poll throughout the weekend) with women making up 83% of the crowd with 48% females over 25 and 36% females over 25.
Beams social media monitor RelishMix about the positive word of mouth for Mamma Mia 2: ” For a summer that’s light on musicals and fun comedy romps, this sequel has found its audience. Fans of the original film love that there’s a part two. They’re calling out their favorite characters – which is a diverse and evenly spread list – and the fact that pop icon Cher is added to the mix. Fans are also calling out the exotic and vacation-esque locale, the songs, and even (YouTube stars) the Merrell Twins as reason they’ve seen the clips and plan to go see it in theaters.”
Much like Universal did for Pitch Perfect 3 with YouTube personality Todrick Hall and his individual a cappella performance the week before that pic’s opening, here we have the Twins sharing a clip with their fans, which is a cover of one of the beloved songs. It’s earned over 200K views a day since its posting three days ago. Convo confirms that this tactic of offering one last fun bit of social fun the week of opening really works, as many fans, per RelishMix claim they watched the final trailer because of this particular clip:
Ever since the 2008 film grossed $609.8M WW off a $52M production, Universal was always kicking the tires at a sequel. The trick? Allowing part two to take its own sweet time in development and not rush it. While the breezy project looks feasible to put together, the creators always thought twice before attaching any ABBA song to a scene, so that the end result didn’t come off looking like a jukebox of hits crowbar-ed together on screen. Judy Craymer, the pic’s producer and creator of the London West End and Broadway musical, huddled with the rock group’s songmeisters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, as well as the musical and movie’s scribe Catherine Johnson, plus Love Actually screenwriter Richard Curtis. Meryl Streep had already made her mark in the first chapter, and her limited involvement in the sequel here opened a door for the creators to mount a prequel centered around the younger self of her character Donna, portrayed here by Baby Driver‘s Lily James. Adding in Cher as Donna’s mother boosted the prequel’s volume to another level. Uni announced the project a little over a year ago in May 2017, with the original cast returning and a whole set of ABBA hits not previously used in the first film.
Uni debuted the first trailer online on December 20 and clocked 64M views, with the trailer being a worldwide trending topic on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In addition, the trailer was attached to such pics as The Greatest Showman, Pitch Perfect 3, Fifty Shades Freed, and I Feel Pretty. Spots ran during such femme-demo series as the This Is Us finale, CW’s Riverdale, and targeted Broadway and music lovers during NBC’s Easter telecast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live and CBS’ Elton John: I’m Still Standing. The trailer also ran during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (74 Runs), and there was a custom spot on NBC during The Royal Wedding, further pumped by the first ever sing-along broadcast of Mamma Mia! (NBC July 14, E! July 19).
Advance tickets went on sale around Mother’s Day, and during the week leading up, Uni banged the drum with a number of stunts to spread the word, specifically a blitz of non-stop Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again hits. This tactic proved successful with media that delivered over 290M impressions and a social conversation that reached 420M global users. Highlights included sing-along screenings on Mother’s Day of the 2008 film in the top 25 markets, big theater chains’ advanced ticket loyalty programs sending out messages from the cast, and the second trailer debuting on Today on May 8 as part of its Mother’s Day festivities (69M+ views). There was also the debut of the “When I Kissed the Teacher” lyric video, which brought in more than 3.5M global views, with the track being offered as a bonus gift with Fandango advance ticket purchases.
Promo partners included Sunbasket, with a themed Mediterranean box; Pinkberry with a custom flavor of “Mamma Mia Mango”; and 1-800-Flowers, which included two themed bouquets with a movie ticket offer.
Should Equalizer 2‘s numbers remain intact, it will only be $400K shy from the first installment’s opening, which is remarkable. Audiences already love part 2 better than the first one, A to A-. Many, including Sony, weren’t expecting this sequel to break the $30M mark, especially off of a ho-hum Rotten Tomatoes score of 49%. Sony reports that the production cost of Equalizer 2 is $62M. However, we hear even after Massachusetts state tax credits, that the net is in the high $70Ms. Still, film finance sources are impressed with the weekend results here for Equalizer 2, and think it could squeeze out a bit of a profit, with a domestic of $85M-$90M and foreign repping 45% of global. Forty-seven percent of the first Equalizer‘s $192.3M global B.O. came from foreign or $90.8M.
While it’s been over-written that stars can no longer be relied upon to open movies, in many ways the success here with Equalizer 2 can be pegged to Denzel Washington, who, with a solid entertaining picture, can reach a $30M-$40M opening. The sequel, Washington’s first, is bound to rank in the 2x Oscar winner’s top five of all-time. Equalizer 2 reps Washington’s fourth movie with filmmaker Antoine Fuqua (including Equalizer 1, Magnificent 7, and Training Day, which delivered Washington a best actor win). African Americans are currently the leading demo on PostTrak at 36%, followed by Caucasians at 34%, Hispanic audiences at 17% and Asian at 9%. Eighty-six overall positive here on PostTrak with men over 25 at 49% leading the way, followed by women over 25 at 33%. Also, definite recommend here is 69%.
Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 3 is taking third as of this minute, with an estimated $22.2M, -50% and a 10-day total of $90.1M. Friday earned $6.9M for the Genndy Tartakovsky-directed animated threequel.
Family franchise weight from Disney/Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp ($15.6M in weekend 3 and $164.1M) and Pixar Studios Incredibles 2 ($11.1M, -31% in weekend 6 for a total of $556.9M) continues to crush Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper from Universal/Legendary, which is estimated to descend 58% for $10.4M and a 10-day of $46.2M. “It’s dying really bad,” cries one rival business affairs executive. That said, Universal can relish that they’re arguably dominating all ticket sales this weekend, $63M combined from Mamma Mia 2, Skyscraper, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and The First Purge.
Outside the top five, BH Tilt’s micro genre opener Unfriended: Dark Web is expected to bring in $3.2M at 1,546 theaters after a $1.4M Friday, which includes $350K in Thursday previews. Know that this film cost under $1M, just like its first installment, which was released by Uni. Unfriended grossed $64M WW, and after all downstream revenues posted a $17M profit. Blumhouse walked this sequel into SXSW last spring as an ‘untitled’ movie directed by US Grudge franchise scribe Stephen Susco, with the festival catalog logline reading, “A 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop and is thrust into the deep waters of the dark web. From the makers of Unfriended, this thriller unravels in real-time, entirely on a computer screen. A warning for the digital age.” Jason Blum then surprised SXSW crowds by revealing the pic’s title before its SXSW screening. BH Tilt movies always target a specific genre crowd with a minimal digital P&A. Unfriended: Dark Web is the label’s tenth movie, and it opens on the heels of BH Tilt’s most successful title to date, Upgrade ($11.9M domestic). CinemaScore is a C, a typical low grade for the average horror pic. Overall positive is a low 59% on PostTrak with a 51/49% male-to-female split and the under 25 set sitting in most of the seats at 64%.
Lionsgate has their Sundance acquisition Blindspotting in 14 theaters in five markets this weekend (New York, Los Angeles, DC, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as Oakland, Calif., where the pic’s story was filmed and takes place). Pic is coming in right now with a $25,6K theater average or $359K weekend.
Industry estimates as of early Saturday AM are as follows:
1st Update, Friday 7:31AM: Thursday night audiences took a chance on Universal/Legendary Entertainment’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, shelling out $3.4 million at showtimes that started at 7 PM. The original feature sequel to the 2008 movie that was based on the hit ABBA stage musical is tracking for a mid-$30M start, though many believe, especially off advance ticket sales, this Ol Parker-directed movie could definitely over-index.
Advance ticket sales are high as older females always plan their visits to the movie theater with friends, and Here We Go Again comes at a time when the demo hasn’t had anything since Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s Ocean’s 8. But younger females are equally stoked by Here We Go Again as well, as the first installment drew all women ages 8-80.
According to Fandango, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was outstripping the advance ticket sales of Universal’s Pitch Perfect 2 at the same point in time. That movie went on to surprise and open at $69M. While advance ticket sales can indicate whether a pic will over-index at the box office, there’s no direct correlation to whether they’ll emulate the same exact trajectory as their comp. Today, Here We Go Again expands to 3,200 theaters.
Some comps for Here We Go Again include Pitch Perfect 2, which posted a $4.6M Thursday night at 2,652 theaters. Disney’s adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods grossed $1.1M in previews, but that figure comes with an asterisk because the movie screened on Christmas Eve, historically one of the year’s lowest-grossing box office days.
Sony’s Equalizer 2, which reps Denzel Washington’s first sequel, is directed by the original’s director Antoine Fuqua and also previewed yesterday with showtimes starting at 4 PM. It grossed $3.1M at 2,934 theaters (studio will report its figures soon). Tracking expects the pic to open in the mid- to high-$20Ms.
The 2014 original opened to No. 1 in late September to $34.1M. Thursday previews then were $1.45M at 2,693 theaters and started at 7 PM. Other comps: Washington’s 2 Guns grossed $1.27M at 8 PM screenings and wound up with a $27M opening.
Whether Equalizer 2 comes in No. 2 depends on how strong Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation holds. Industry expectations had Weekend 2 of the Sony Animation feature between $24M-$26M, down 43%. The threequel ended its week with an estimated $66.6M ($67.9M including Amazon Prime sneaks), which is 16% higher than the first week’s take of Hotel Transylvania 2.