4th Update expanded writethru, Saturday AM: Warner Bros.’ Chinese co-production The Meg keeps getting larger, swelling from the $15M Friday and $36M three-day we saw yesterday to a first day of $16.5M and FSS $40M projection this morning. The Meg received a B+ from CinemaScore audiences, which is the same grade earned by Warner Bros./Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island, another title which also smashed its initial forecasts (mid $40M) for a final $61M opening. Right now, some are expecting the shark movie to perform like a front-loaded genre title, easing 20% today. We’ll see. As one studio distribution executive beamed this morning, “It’s the best opening ever for a live-action shark movie!”
Below are your top 10 pics per industry estimates for the weekend of Aug. 10-12:
RelishMix reports that the word-of-mouth on social media shows that audiences “are having a very seasonal, popcorn/air-conditioned feeling of fun. Fans of ‘Shark Week,’ the original Jaws, horror films, thrillers, Jason Statham action pics, all things Ruby Rose – they’re all showing up for The Meg. This movie gives the sense it’s almost a thinking fan’s Sharknado. The movie knows it’s ludicrous, but it has genuinely funny lines in its clips – and a superb cast everyone can root for. Moviegoers who are going to see it cite their fear of sharks, ‘Dwight from The Office,’ the 3D offering, and more as reasons they’ll be going this weekend.”
Should The Meg ultimately become a global colossal beached whale for Warner Bros, stateside exhibitors won’t feel the sting: There’s a wonderful halo effect occurring right now with the movie’s over-performance, specifically this weekend’s estimated B.O., which should hit around $141M, +21% from the second weekend of August a year ago. That’s great news for popcorn sales. Warners cut some hysterical, fierce trailers for The Meg, selling the fun and differentiating this prehistoric underwater beast from every other shark film in Hollywood’s evolution chain. And well, tip of the hat to marketing– it’s showing at the turnstiles.
Meg‘s biggest problem though is itself: At an estimated cost of $178M per several finance sources with knowledge of the top sheet (Warners swears it’s $130M net) before P&A, this shark movie is more expensive than Sony’s thrifty The Shallows ($17M cost, $119M global B.O.) and even Warner’s own Deep Blue Sea from 1999 ($60M production cost, $19.1M opening, $73.6M domestic, $164.6M global). Worldwide P&A for Meg is estimated around $140M. Why isn’t Meg cheap? Some sources attribute it to the freewheeling spending that goes on with Hollywood pictures built for Asian markets; read Warcraft, The Great Wall, etc. Others peg it to Warner’s track record for spending lavishly on its tentpoles (“At any other studio, they would have spent $120M, no more than $135M on this film,” cried one packager today).
That said, let’s give Warners a bit of credit for laying off risk in signing a multi-picture Sino-Foreign pact with China Media Capital (CMC), of which Meg was the first movie (The Chinese company getting credit on Meg is China Gravity, which is a division of Flagship, which is a division of CMC). Finance sources tell me that the production budget split between U.S. and China on a pic like Meg is really 49% studio to 51% Chinese partners. The upside here? Warner Bros. collects 43% of the China box office and also a percent of the pic’s Middle Kingdom ancillary revenues, as the title falls outside the mandated China quote of Hollywood pics. CMC also covers The Meg‘s P&A in the PRC. Typically, a studio only receives 25%-27% from a pic’s China B.O. There’s another upside here with The Meg, and that’s because it’s a Sino-Foreign production — it can play in Chinese theaters longer than a regular US title. While US titles are typically relegated to approximately three weeks, Meg could potentially last 7-9 weeks. That said, PRC moviegoers flock largely to new titles on the marquee versus holdovers. Earlier, I was hearing that if The Meg gets to around $400M worldwide, it could potentially break-even, and that’s because of the pic’s favorable structure with regards to the China box office. A $50M+ stateside opening would be truly sweet for Meg; essentially, the bigger the opening, the greater the legs. China is expected to be around $40M, which is fine, I’m informed.
Currently, Meg is beating the openings of Pacific Rim ($37.2M), and its sequel, Uprising ($28.1M) as well as Skyscraper‘s $24.9M — studio pics built for booming Asian cinema markets. The Meg is also ahead of the first weekend of New Line/Warner Bros.’ Rampage ($35.7M). Exit polls to date from Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak show 30% males over 25, 26% females over 25, 22% females under 25, and 21% males under 25. Overall score is three stars, with the ethnic breakdown being 53% Caucasian, 18% Hispanic (a number of Latinx markets are over-indexing, including San Antonio and Corpus Cristi), 13% African American, and 10% Asian.
Meg arrives in cinemas at a critical juncture, as President Donald Trump is waging a trade war with China, putting a recent 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports and threatening to slap $500 billion more. China retaliated with plans to put a 25% tax on US goods worth $16B. Some in Hollywood are concerned that Trump’s trade tirade will impact the movie business, which looks for its 25%-27% rental from titles in the $8.6B Chinese theatrical market. “It hasn’t hit intellectual property, but some are worried it could,” one film finance executive told us today about Hollywood becoming collateral damage in Trump’s fight with China. Quota talks to increase the number of Hollywood film imports and rental shares have stalled. China has already pulled back on splashy Hollywood investments, including the Wanda Group, which spent $3.5B for Legendary Entertainment and $2.6B for AMC Theaters. However, money is still available for co-productions. Let’s hope that doesn’t change. Should Meg over-perform around the world, it will shine a light that these Sino co-productions are worth it for both sides. God knows, they’ve gone sideways (Great Wall lost close to $75M in the end) to date. Note, Universal/Legendary’s $125M budgeted misfire Skyscraper was not a Sino-co-production, but considered to be part of the Hollywood quota to the PRC.
The shark isn’t eating up all of the weekend’s business: Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is looking at a third weekend of $18.9M in 2nd place, -46%, for a running total by Sunday of $160.8M. Disney’s Christopher Robin is eyeing a second weekend in 3rd place between $12.3M, -50%, for a 10-day on the high-end of $49.9M.
Screen Gems’ Slender Man is arriving in fourth place with a $11.8M opening after $4.8M yesterday at 2,358 theaters. We heard from a reliable source (not a rival) that the pic’s cost was around $28M after rebates before P&A; Sony contends that it’s around $10M, which is where Don’t Breathe was. Variety‘s Brent Lang wrote a great piece about how the pic’s producers, led by William Sherak and James Vanderbilt, disagreed with Sony’s distribution and marketing plans, and shopped the title around. However, Sony’s head of Screen Gems Steve Bersch was reportedly a big fan of the film and wanted to keep it. Deadline sources inform us that the pic tested poorly (that said, a studio will never throw good money after bad), with one prolific producer not related to the project telling us, “The movie is just so bad!” That’s why the pic never sold, and that’s essentially what is hurting business, evident in the pic’s 15% Rotten Tomatoes score and awful exits of a D- CinemaScore and 38% overall PostTrak positive. Some may point to the movie being too close to the Slender Man stabbing in Wisconsin, which occurred four years ago: two 12-year old girls lured their friend, Payton Leutner, into the woods and knifed her 19 times in an effort to impress the urban legend. However, in a statement this morning, Screen Gems says, “The Slender Man film is based on an original fictional character that became a viral internet sensation. The film is in no way a dramatization of any real-life individuals or events.”
Critics are in sync with audiences on this one, calling Slender Man “boring” and “derivative,” with the New York Times’ Glenn Kenny slamming it as “the most perfunctory horror picture I’ve seen in some time.” Sony shielded Slender Man from critics.
RelishMix saw the poor word-of-mouth on social: “The majority’s feeling toward this film is negative. For more conservative moviegoers, they take particular exception to Slender Man because it’s based on a real tragedy, which was covered in the news and even an HBO documentary. For horror fans, they’re asking, ‘Where was this five or six years ago when I was really into these videos?’ And for others loyal to the genre, they feel Slender Man might go one step too far in offering a story that has not only been covered, but also can’t capture the fright they already experienced in finding Slender Man online years ago. In fact, Marcus Theaters, in the hometown of the Wisconsin tragedy, released a statement saying they won’t screen the film. Only Marcus is blocking the film. Cinemark is, in fact, playing Slender Man in Milwaukee.
BlacKkKlansman from Focus Features made $3.6M yesterday, including $670K Thursday previews, moving toward an opening in 5th place of $9.4M, which is OK for a feature that has a net production cost of $15M. I’m told it could leg out to $35M. The Spike Lee movie earned an A- CinemaScore on Friday, the same grade as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit a year ago, with an overall four-and-a-half stars and 85% positive from PostTrak. Men turned at 56% to females’ 44%, with the over-25 demo repping 77% of the crowd. African-Americans repped 30% of all moviegoers after 47% Caucasian. The pic’s release date is timed to the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, VA violent riots. BlacKkKlansman bests the $7M opening of The Birth of a Nation, which was playing on more screens (2,105), and Marshall, which made $3M on 821.
LD Entertainment’s Ken Marino-directed feature Dog Days looks like $770k on its third day of release, Friday, for a three-day of $2.5M and five-day of $3.5M. No bow wow. We hear it cost around $10M before P&A.
Another big thing this weekend: Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is cracking past the $100M mark in its 23rd day of release (not 22nd), meaning, on Saturday. It’s pacing 2% ahead of its first chapter at the same point in time, which finaled at $144M domestic.
Disney’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is flying past $200M this weekend as well. Remember last year at this time? Who said movies couldn’t play during the summer?
1st Update, Friday 7:20AM: Warner Bros’ big shark movie The Meg starring Jason Statham swallowed a surprising $4 million last night at showtimes that started 7 PM. That’s a figure on par with the Thursday nights of 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which went on to do $55.5M, and Warner Bros/Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island which boomed a $3.7M preview before overindexing to an unexpected $61M.
Tracking has The Meg bound for No. 1 with a low- to mid-$20M take at 4,118 theaters (the second widest release ever for August after Suicide Squad‘s 4,255), but there’s a good chance based on last night’s previews plus presales that the movie will blow away forecasts and that middling 51% Rotten Tomatoes score since it’s the only fresh glitzy Hollywood wide release on the marquee this weekend.
The Meg’s Thursday blows away the Thursday night previews of other Hollywood co-productions built primarily for growing Asian cinema markets, read Skyscraper ($1.95M, $24.9M opening) and Pacific Rim Uprising ($2.35M, $28M opening). The Meg also eats up the last shark pic that hit the big screen, Sony’s The Shallows from two summers ago, which did a $1.3M Thursday and $16.8M weekend; already on Fandango, The Meg is tearing past the advance ticket sales of Pacific Rim Uprising and The Shallows. This is not the first shark movie for Warner Bros. Remember Renny Harlin’s 1999 Deep Blue Sea? That opened to $19.1M, finaled at $73.6M stateside, and $164.6M global off a $60M production cost that was 54% cheaper than Meg‘s.
Meg, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is largely financed by China Gravity, which is releasing the pic in the Middle Kingdom. Warner Bros has a 40% exposure on the production that reportedly costs a net of $130M.
Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is expected to file a third weekend in the low $20Ms. The movie was the top pic on Thursday among regular releases with an estimated $3.3M and a two-week running total of $142M. Disney’s family title Christoper Robin, after an estimated first week of $37.5M, is expected to ease 45% in Weekend 2 with $13.5M.
Also opening this weekend in roughly 1,500 theaters is Focus Features’ Spike Lee comedy-drama BlacKkKlansman, about a black Colorado Springs cop who together with a fellow white cop infiltrated the local KKK chapter in 1979, even duping the white supremacist org’s leader David Duke. Tracking has been in the $9M-$10M range. Critics love the 2-hour, 15-minute-running-time title at 98% certified fresh. The pic’s release date was timed to the one-year anniversary of the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. The pic made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
Sony’s Screen Gems has the horror pic Slender Man, which took in $1M off previews that started at 7 PM in 2,109 locations. The horror pic about a small group of friends in Massachusetts who set out to prove that the legendary boogeyman doesn’t exist, until one of them goes missing, is expected to file in the high single digits. Critics, who can be a horror film’s best friend sending genre titles to lofty B.O. openings off high RT scores, weren’t friends with Slender Man at 11% Rotten.
LD Entertainment has the Ken Marino-directed PG rated comedy Dog Days about a group of Angelinos whose lives intertwine due to their dogs. It opened Wednesday making $635K with another $405K yesterday for a two-day take of $1M at 2,255 theaters. Pic earned an A- CinemaScore and drew 58% females, 42% males, with 62% over 25. Of those moviegoers who turned up, 54% said they went because it’s a movie about dogs. Pic stars Thomas Lennon, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Vanessa Hudgens and Rob Corddry among many others.
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