SUNDAY AM FINAL w/chart: After a $9 million Saturday that was up 58% over Friday, DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio’s Abominable is looking at a $20.85M opening and $30M worldwide. As we mentioned before, that’s the seventh No. 1 opening for Universal in 2019 — eight if you count last weekend’s Downton Abbey — and it’s the most No. 1s for any major studio this year to date, more even than Disney. Abominable also reps the the 22nd No. 1 opening for DWA as it celebrate its 25th anniversary next month.
“DreamWorks Animation is known for creating quality family entertainment with global appeal and Abominable is a perfect addition to their impressive library. Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, is a standout as the newest beloved character in the DreamWorks family, adding to their long list of unapologetic, courageous heroines,” Universal domestic distribution chief Jim Orr said this morning.
Abroad, the pic opened in 27 markets including Mexico, Germany and Brazil. Abominable led in 10 offshore markets. It’s also the third No. 1 opening for an original movie at the domestic box office, and that streak is also owned by Uni with Us and Good Boys preceding Abominable. Overall, a huge win for a female-directed movie, and a film that’s rich in diversity in its Chinese tale. Hispanic, African American and Asian audiences drove ticket sales here, repping all together 56% of all moviegoers compared with Caucasians’ 44%. Females were dominant here at 56%, with moms at 53%, kids under 10 at 17% and kids between 10-12 also at 17%.
While Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 2 ($48.4M) and its Hotel Transylvania ($42.5M) remain the top two openings for animated pics in September, Abominable‘s start is respectable for the genre. Last year’s Smallfoot, another Yeti movie, from Warner Bros, opened to $23M and ended with a 3.6x multiple at $83M+ off an A- CinemaScore and 76% Rotten Tomatoes fresh score (Abominable earned 80% fresh), so it wouldn’t be surprising if we see the same stateside trajectory here with the DWA movie.
Notice that with Warner Bros’ Joker expected to swallow up the market next weekend with a record $80M+ October start, none of the majors went with any adult counter-programming this weekend (or even next). It was more prudent to counter-program an R-rated superhero villain movie with a kids’ film, and there hasn’t been something for families since Sony’s The Angry Birds Movie 2.
Abominable was in development going back to when DWA had their distribution deal at Fox. There were fits and starts for this $75M production, the delay largely due to the Comcast purchase of DWA. Former DWA boss Chris DeFaria resuscitated Abominable and tapped director Jill Culton. Culton, we hear, had a very strong personal connection to Abominable‘s story, a great, articulated take on the character of Yi that crossed cultural bridges, and saw the movie through an intimate lens. The pic was originally set to be co-produced via DWA’s co-partnership Oriental Dreamworks. Given how Universal has a strong footing in the Middle Kindgom, they opted to divest from Oriental Dreamworks, which was purchased by China Media Group and re-branded Pearl Studio. They co-financed around 60% of Abominable and are handling distribution in China, but Uni will co-share in the 43% film rental there. Uni also gets a distribution fee. Global P&A is estimated at $75M. At $200M global B.O., Uni is in the black, past breakeven.
Universal’s Focus Features can claim the second spot as well this weekend as Downton Abbey landed $14.5M, off 53%, for a 10-day total of $58.5M. Understand that decline is actually softer if you back out the pic’s $4.3M previews from its $31M opening (more like a -46% hold for Downton, which is great).
STX’s Hustlers is third with a fantastic -32% hold in Weekend 3 with $11.5M and an $80.6M running total.
Roadside Attractions’ Renee Zellweger-as-Judy Garland movie Judy, had a solid start with $3M at 461 locations, playing strong on the coasts and in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, DC, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, San Diego and Toronto. Judy received an A- Cinemascore in private polling, attracting 60% female and 40% male, with 79% of the audience 35+. Saturday was +35% over Friday indicating terrific word-of-mouth (+50% when Thursday previews are backed out from Friday).
RelishMix saw promising buzz off the 16:1 viral video rate for Judy video materials, which were well ahead of an indie drama’s average 14:1 rate. “Thanks to the 1 million-plus viewed Ellen interview with Renee Zellweger, who is not activated on social media, and other engaging clips, the average daily YouTube views for top clips are coming in at 17,5K – ahead of the drama genre standard 11,1K,” reports the social media org.
Adds RelishMix about the online chatter for Judy, “Ever since the teaser in May, Garland fanatics have been rallying and sharing materials made available to tell their friends. Many commented early on how much Zellweger nailed Garland’s likeness and idiosyncrasies. These feelings were only expanded upon once the film debuted at Telluride and TIFF earlier this month. For those who have seen Judy, they absolutely love it.”
Studio reported estimates as of Sunday AM:
WEEKEND B.O. FOR sEPT. 27-29
SATURDAY AM UPDATE w/chart DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio’s yeti film Abominable is looking at a $20.2M opening weekend after a $5.7M Friday. Today should be up 50%, thanks to matinees and great audience response, with an A CinemaScore and 4 Stars on Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak. With Abominable, Universal will have seven films that hit No. 1 at the domestic box office (eight, if you count last weekend’s Downton Abbey from Focus), surpassing Disney for the most No. 1’s of any studio this year.
While Universal covered their exposure on this movie with Pearl (formerly Oriental Dreamworks) taking as much as a 60% equity stake, this is a solid opening for an animated pic in the fall season. Had this movie come in at the low end of its projections in the high teens, optically that doesn’t look so good for DWA, and you have to go back to 1998’s Prince of Egypt ($14.5M) and 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron ($17.7M) in regards to the last time the studio opened a film in that range. This is the first time that DWA has opened a movie in the September corridor.
As many call for diversity on the big screen, Abominable is a beautiful Chinese generational family story, with great animation directed by a female director, Jill Culton. Pic follows teenager Yi, who encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building. Yi and her friends, Jin and Peng, name him “Everest” and embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth.
DWA and Pearl aimed to be true to the material in casting a largely Asian voiceover cast versus the standard DWA movie star one. Abominable had an appropriate worldwide premiere at TIFF, not just because it’s an audience appeasing title, but it could very well have a spot this awards season alongside the Glendale, CA studio’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Close to 100% of pic was made at the Glendale DWA campus. PostTrak exits show Asian audiences repping 13% of the audience yesterday compared to 40% Caucasian, 30% Hispanic and 12% African American. Families repped 58% of all business yesterday to 42% general audiences. Abominable played best in the West and South-West. All audience demos showed a turnout by females under 25 (33%), females over 25 (24%), males under 25 (24%) and males over 25 (19%). Girls and boys under 12 were nearly even at 51% to 49%, with 48% of the audience being between 7-9, and the 10-12 segment repping 39% of the audience.
Only four movies a year in the Universal portfolio get the Comcast Symphony marketing push, whereby movies are promoted throughout the media conglom’s arms, and this year those are DWA’s How to Train Your Dragon 3, Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and the upcoming Working Title musical Cats.
Uni made a push with multi-cultural moviegoers on Abominable. They partnered with Gold House to engage key Asian-American press, celebrities, and community leaders to ultimately drive theater buy-outs on #GOLDOPEN family day today, during which theaters in top markets will pack out. Uni created a targeted campaign around the second-most celebrated Chinese holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival, which included a custom digital video greeting featuring the cast, a branded mailer containing a traditional mooncake that was distributed to press and influencers, and a presence at large scale grassroots Mid-Autumn events in LA and NY. Universal teamed with TheaterEars to offer Chinese-speaking moviegoers and their families the chance to experience Abominable in Mandarin via their app during the theatrical run. The partnership marks the first time that a nationally released Hollywood movie has offered a Chinese audio option.
In hooking Hispanic audiences, Uni created an immersive branded experience on Telemundo’s highly-rated program Exatlon, consisting of a customized course introduction delivered by show host Arasmo Provenza, with “parkour” course branding seen throughout the episode and a :60 special look of the film. Univision’s Reina de la Cancion integrated a custom Abominable segment into the show’s premiere, leveraging show host Alejandra Espinoza and the show judge, reggaetón star Natti Natasha, in a vital moment that interwove themes of female empowerment with the film’s young heroine.
The Abominable campaign kicked off in February, when Everest made his debut on pettable fuzzy one-sheets in theaters. The trailer debut in May clocked close to 80M global views.
Custom content and digital programs included a Buzzfeed Tasty video featuring a Grandma and her Granddaughter making Chinese bao, and a series of Tik Tok “air violin” challenges. Additionally, Bebe Rexha released a lyric video of her new single from the film, “A Beautiful Life,” to her nearly 10M followers. Digital outreach included Twitter emojis, an interactive map on the official Abominable Instagram page, and a Snapchat world lens where users could liven up their surroundings by placing Yi and Everest in background photos and videos.
TV spots for Abominable ran during premiere episodes of such female and mom-skewing shows as Grey’s Anatomy, This Is Us, The Voice, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the finales of Beverly Hills 90210 and The Hills: New Beginnings, as well as other high traffic events like the 71st Emmy Awards.
Overall social media universe on Abominable was low, with 92M across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube views, Facebook likes and views, while the average animated family pic counts 338M. However, that largely speaks to how Uni was targeted in their approach to this film. Social media stars on Abominable are lead voice Chloe Bennet and Sarah Paulson, who together count over 7.1M on all their handles. Social media monitor RelishMix points to DWA/Universal’s promotional effort with East West Bank as getting a nice bump on social media with a commercial that earned 1.2M views.
While Abominable is the only wide entry this weekend before Warner Bros. Joker laughs all the way to the bank with an expected record October start of $80M+ starting Thursday, Roadside Attractions had their awards season blue chip pic Judy, with Renee Zellweger in the title role of Judy Garland. At 461 theaters and a top 10 crack, Judy‘s $2.75M is a pretty solid start. She played best on the coast and in big cities, with solid numbers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, DC, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and Toronto. Heading into awards season, if Zellweger continues to get the accolades she deserves for this performance, analysts figure that Judy sings all the way to $12M at the domestic box office. The pic follows Garland in the last act of her life when she was performing in a posh dinner theater in London, demons and all.
While 2017 remains the best September ever with over $700M at the domestic B.O., per Comscore, we could be looking at the second-best September ever beating last September’s second-best record of $666.4M. Holdover business remains quite strong for Downton Abbey and Hustlers.
BOX OFFICE FOR SEPT. 27-29
UPDATED, 12:33 PM: DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio’s yeti film Abominable is looking at an opening day of $5.4 million and an $18M-$20M opening this weekend. How high that goes, of course, boils down to word of mouth kicking in for Saturday matinees. Parents gave the movie 4 stars on PostTrak last night, with kids under 12 grading it 3 1/2 stars.
Turnout was 50% general-50% families with moms at 64% leading the way. There was also an even split between girls and boys under 12, with the latter enjoying the movie more at 83% positive. General demos saw females under 25 at a 31% turnout, females over 25 at 27%, males under 25 at 22%, and males over 25 at 20%. Diversity demos showed 46% Caucasian, 28% Hispanic, 13% African American and 11% Asian.
The pic, released by Universal, cost $75M before P&A, with Pearl funding around 60%. The movie has a 78% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score.
Focus Features’ second weekend of Downton Abbey is currently seeing $13.2M, off 57%, from a second Friday of $4M, -71%. Remember, that steep decline is due to the fact that last weekend’s opening included $4.3M worth of previews. Wouldn’t be surprised given the repeat business for the period pic if grosses go higher. Running total by Sunday looks to be $57.2M.
Next, STX’s Hustlers is beating last weekend’s openers Ad Astra and Rambo: Last Blood in their second periods with $10.3M, -39%, for a running 17-day total of $79.4M. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu are also beating New Line’s It Chapter 2, which is seeing $9.1M in Weekend 4, -46%, with a running total of $192.6M. Fox/Disney’s Ad Astra is posting a second weekend of $8.9M, -53%, for a running total of $34.2M, while Millennium/Lionsgate’s Rambo: Last Blood is grossing $8M, -57%, for a 10-day total of $32.5M.
Roadside Attractions’ Renee Zellweger movie Judy at 461 locations has a current raw gross of $303,000.
PREVIOUSLY, 7:36 PM: DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s Abominable rolled up $650,000 from early Thursday night previews that began at 6 PM in 2,950 theaters. That figure is $200K shy of the $850K made a year ago by another Yeti movie, Warner Bros’ Smallfoot, which went on to have a $6.4M Friday and $23M opening. Abominable is the only big studio wide entry this weekend.
Comscore reports that there’s 5% K-12 schools on break today, and because school is in session, you can’t expect much from animated feature previews at this time of year. Abominable‘s might will be truly realized tomorrow from matinees. DWA’s Home back in March 2015 did $650K off 7 PM screenings via 20th Century Fox before chalking up a $15.7M first day and $52M opening.
The hope is that Abominable will bust $20M this weekend, though tracking has the Universal released title as low as $17M. Family animation has always been a fixture during the millennium at the late September box office, with Hotel Transylvania 2 being the record opener with $48.4M in 2015, and its 2012 first installment Hotel Transylvania at $42.5M being the best start for an original feature toon.
Estimated cost for Abominable per one source is $75M, with Pearl Studio (formerly Oriental Dreamworks, now owned by China Media Capital) funding the majority of that at around 60%. Most of the movie though was made at the DWA Glendale campus. Because Abominable is a Sino foreign co-production, Uni and Pearl will share 43% of the pic’s China box office versus the standard 25%. The production companies also share in ancillary markets whereas in a standard studio import, no Chinese ancillary revenue is shared.
Pearl Studio is of course releasing the movie in China on October 1, therefore the 18% distribution fee usually paid to China Film Group will not be taken off the top.
If Abominable falls to second, it will be because of Uni’s sister label Focus Features and the power of their senior femme-skewing pic Downton Abbey, which could see $17M, off 45%, in its second weekend. The movie has been kicking ascot in its weekdays, with fans already seeing the pic two or three times. First week’s cume is at an estimated $44M.
Originally, Universal and Blumhouse were to release the Blue State vs. Red State thriller The Hunt this weekend before pulling the pic off the release calendar due to late summer’s string of mass shootings.
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