Sunday AM Writethru: Two major studios this weekend took a bold swing and decided to go after the challenged older female demo over Valentine’s Day weekend in a continued pandemic. While the results were in line with projections, they wouldn’t be anything to brag about in a pre-pandemic marketplace.
There’s also an argument that the Super Bowl today slows Sunday business. However, both these titles were aimed at women, who are more apt than guys to make their way to cinemas on the Big Game day.
Disney’s Covid-delayed release of Kenneth Branagh’s $90M adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, starring Gal Gadot, is seeing a $5.1M Friday and a $12.8M opening, while Universal’s $23M Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy Marry Me, which is also available on the studio’s sister streaming service Peacock on the premium tier, is landing in 3rd with $3M on Friday and $3.6M on Saturday for a $8M opening at 3,642. Box office analytics corp EntTelligence shows that Death on the Nile drew 1M admission over the weekend, with 42% coming out between the primetime hours of 6-9PM. Jackass Forever tallied 700K admissions, while Marry Me had 670K admissions with less than 20% attending after 8PM for the date movie.
“We are incredibly proud of Marry Me, the filmmakers, and the cast led by the incomparable Jennifer Lopez,” said Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr. “Audience reaction scores are rightly enthusiastic for this modern love story, pointing to a sustained run at the domestic box office and on Peacock as the feel-good romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day and beyond.”
Again, both are hoping for more love from the Valentine’s Day box office, and that’s unpredictable how big a boom or bust the holiday will be. Odds are there is an uptick in the daily box office between Super Bowl Sunday and Monday. But I believe we won’t know if older women are truly ready to come out to the movies again until it happens. It will take some sort of Sex and the City or Bridesmaids phenomenon to put us back there, and I don’t think we’ll be able to see it coming, It will take sheer guts and will on behalf of a major studio in terms of greenlighting a movie toward females, as studios try to make sense of what works at cinemas in an era where streaming is appetizing. Many content creators continue to worry if the same types of movies they used to make are ripe for theatrical in a truly have-and-have not marketplace, or if such genres have completely been absorbed by streaming — a place where movies live forever.
Not from a P&L perspective, but from sheer pandemic box office optics, Death on the Nile‘s opening here isn’t that far below House of Gucci‘s 3-day start of $14.4M, just -13%, which says something about the number of adults who’ll brave the cinema now with a glitzy package like this. Branagh’s previous Christie ensemble, Murder on the Orient Express, did truly surprise, crushing its projections and soaring to a $28.6M opening and legging to a $102.8M by the end of the holidays.
Murder was casted up quite a bit with Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr and Michelle Pfeiffer. There was a star for everyone in that movie, whereas, with Death on the Nile, the marketing campaign seems to be anchored on a socially media quiet Gadot, who was more active during Red Notice. The movie was developed and Gadot and Hammer attached in the fall of 2018, before Disney and Fox officially came together in the spring of 2019. But the movie rolled cameras in October that year after the merger.
Disney didn’t abandon the movie: They truly spent to promote it. iSpot shows that Disney was outspending last weekend’s movies, Moonfall and Jackass Forever, before they even opened, now with a current TV spot expense just under $18M (vs. Uni’s near $15M spend on TV spots for Marry Me). ISpot shows Disney shelled out for spots during the NFL (15%), Winter Olympics (8%), Good Morning America (4%), 1,000 Lb Sisters (2%), Today (2%), This Is Us (2%) and Jeopardy! National College Championship (1.4%), and on networks such as NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and Discovery. RelishMix shows a social media reach of 217.9M, “at social norms for a campaign that began 18 months ago in August 2020 and wrestled with Covid re-dates and other headline news, such as Armie Hammer.” Gadot has a social media reach of 95.1M, but she hasn’t been tub-thumping the film.
Death on the Nile gets a B CinemaScore, the same grade as Murder on the Orient Express. Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak audience exits show 77% positive, 57% definite recommend. Disney reports male leading at 51%, 49% females. Overall audiences that 77% over 25, 47% over 35 and 28% over 45. I’m told that this is a similar make-up to the older skewing Murder on the Orient Express. Diversity demos were 57% Caucasian, 15% Hispanic and Latino, 13% Black, and 15% Asian and other. Imax, PLFs and some 70MM drove 35% of the business. Death on the Nile played best in the West and Southeast with all top 10 runs coming out of those sectors (Eight of the top ten being Imax).
With Peacock paid subscribers so low at 9M, it remains to be seen whether the service is truly siphoning moviegoers from Marry Me. I’ve heard anecdotally that subscriptions have spiked greatly from the Olympics being on a paid tier, and Marry Me is in a position to possibly be watched. Comcast is about synergy, and there’s a big confluence of marketing forces at play here for Peacock between Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and JLo this weekend.
RelishMix observed that social media momentum ran strong for Marry Me with a huge reach of 546.5M before the weekend, pumped by Lopez’s fanbase of 313.3M. “The film was clearly promoted on the day/date multi-platform release on a very crowded Olympics, Super Bowl, Peacock channel and in theaters as a Valentine’s weekend counter program to Super Bowl, with all stars aligned for NBCU,” observed RelishMix, “The content stack was well fed into Universal channels with 45 Facebook videos at 9.2M views and 11 YouTube videos at 68.4M views into the Jennifer Lopez Vevo YouTube channel with 15.1M subs.”
“Even without the JLo social factor, which is 233M, Marry Me tracks in-line with other social musicals, including West Side Story at 211.8M, The Greatest Showman at 313.2M, and Bohemian Rhapsody at 242.1M,” adds the social media analytics firm in their latest report.
CinemaScore moviegoers didn’t turn their backs on Marry Me with a B+. PostTrak exits are slightly better than Death on the Nile at 80% positive, 66% recommend. Female draw here is at 67%. Core moviegoers of 18-34 repped 47% of ticket buyers, with 46% over 35. Over 25 came in at 72%, with 26% over 45. Diversity demos were 53% Caucasian, 30% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Black, and 5% Asian. Hispanic and Latino markets in the West and the Southwest overindexed; that’s where nine of the top ten theaters were.
Unlike Hustlers, which was a welcomed genre departure for Lopez, Marry Me marks a return to the romantic comedies that have populated her resume, i.e. Shall We Dance, Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner, etc. Her last romantic comedy, Second Act, which opened over the 2018 year-end holidays, debuted to $6.4M and had a 6x leg-out factor to $39M stateside.
Again, it was released over the holidays, so it’s questionable if we’ll see that same-type of trajectory here. To Universal’s benefit, the movie was made at a very low cost and isn’t in any financial peril, especially as they augment the way they account for a movie’s profitability moving forward with Peacock in the mix. Success for the studio will be determined in a bifurcated manner. Meanwhile, Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions has a multi-year first-look deal at Netflix spanning feature films, TV series, and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers, and filmmakers.
Even though a majority of movies which were delayed because of the pandemic won’t profit as audiences return inconsistently, some financiers argue to me that some movies were expensive even by pre-pandemic standards and should never have been greenlighted, even at their productions costs. The point being that every type of movie can be made, it just needs to be at a reasonable cost. It’s arguable that Death on the Nile is far more expensive than it should be, even by pre-pandemic models. But a movie like Marry Me at $23M is not.
In regards to our dinging Lionsgate/Centropolis’ Moonfall last weekend (which wound up opening to $9.8M, not $10M, and is seeing a 71% drop in weekend 2 with an estimated $2.85M, steeper than -57% weather by Dean Devlin’s Geostorm), know that the disaster movie was excruciatingly more pricey than pre-pandemic costs and audience tastes at $140M (Universal, I heard, even thumbed their noses at making the movie at a $200M price). But again, it was made for a pre-Covid overseas crowd. Nonetheless, moving forward, everyone needs content.
Paramount’s Jackass Forever saw a second Friday of $2.8M and a second Saturday of $3.97M, translating into a 3-day of $8M, -65%, for a running total of $37.6M. Jackass 3D back in 2010 saw a steep fall during its second weekend with -58%. It’s just that type of film, like a horror movie, where the fans all show up on opening weekend, and then they’re largely done.
Briarcliff Entertainment’s Liam Neeson action movie Blacklight saw $1.2M on Friday, $1.6M on Saturday $3.6M opening at 2,772 locations. That’s not that far from what previous Neeson pandemic titles, Honest Thief ($4.1M) and The Marksman ($3.1M), opened to — and that’s when a majority of movie theaters, including NY and LA, were closed down. Critics have had enough of the actor with a gun at 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, while PostTrak was dismal at 58% and a 39% recommend. Guys at 64% attended with 83% over 25, 58% over 35, and 35% over 45. Diversity demos were 53% Caucasian, 14% Latino and Hispanic, 15% Black, and 18% Asian/other. Best markets were in the Midwest and the South, with four of the top ten runs coming out of those areas.
And Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home is destined to pass up Avatar‘s $760.5M in the next week, becoming the third-highest-grossing movie ever at the domestic box office, with just $1.5M left to go. The movie, in its 9th weekend, will raise its stateside tally to $759M by Sunday after what is expected to be a $7.15M 3-day. We’ve said there’s no middle meat to the pandemic box office. But Spider-Man is truly it. The endgame here for Spider-Man: No Way Home is looking at around $785M.
Chart is updating with full weekend numbers
1.) Death on the Nile (Dis/20th) 3,280 theaters, Fri $5.1M/Sat $5.8M/Sun $1.9M/3-day $12.8M/Wk 1
2.)Jackass Forever(Par) 3,653 theaters (+8), Fri $2.87M (-70%)/Sat $3.97M/Sun $1.2M/3-day $8.05M (-65%)/Total: $37.4M/Wk 2
3.) Marry Me (Uni) 3,642, Fri $3M/Sat $3.6M/Sun $1.4M/3-day $8M/Wk 1
4.) Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony) 3,300 (-300) theaters, Fri $1.9M (-11%)/Sat $3.8M/Sun $1.38M/3-day $7.15M (-25%)/Total $759M/Wk 9
5.) Blacklight (Briar) 2,772 theaters Fri $1.22M/Sat $1.63M/Sun $745K/ 3-day $3.6M/Wk 1
6.) Sing 2 (Uni/Ill) 2,831 (-435) theaters, Fri $670K (-18%)/Sat $1.6M/Sun $650K/ 3-day $2.95M (-30%)/Total: $143.3M/Wk 8
7.) Moonfall (LG) 3,446 theaters Fri $824K /Sat $1.55M/Sun $476K/3-day $2.85M (-71%)/Total: $15.1M/Wk 2
8.) Scream (Par) 2,619 (-651) theaters Fri $820K (-32%)/Sat $1.55M/Sun $465K/3-day $2.835M (-40%), Total: $73.1M/Wk 5
9.) Licorice Pizza (UAR) 1,977 (+1,191) theaters, Fri $298K (+79%)/Sat $463K/ Sun $162K/3-day $923K (+43%), Total $13.99M/Wk 12
10.) The King’s Man (Dis/20th) 900 (-1010) theaters Fri $123K/Sat $224K/Sun $86K/3-day $433K (-65%)/Total $36.7M/Wk 8
11.) Beatles Get Back: Rooftop Concert (Dis) 181 theaters Fri $157K/Sat $173K/Sun $82K/3-day $412K, Total $853K/Wk 3
Best Picture Nominees:
Licorice Pizza (UAR) 1,977 (+1,191) theaters, Fri $298K (+79%)/Sat $463K/ Sun $162K/3-day $923K (+43%), Total $13.99/Wk 12
Belfast (Foc) 928 (+538) theaters, Fri $87K (+99%)/Sat $140K/Sun $58K/ 3-day $285K (+42%), Total $7.9M/Wk 14
West Side Story (Dis/20th) 450 (-350) theaters, Fri $71K (-24%)/Sat $121K/Sun $43K/ 3-day $235K (-44%)/Total $37.2M//Wk 10
That big expansion we wrote about for the Steven Spielberg Oscar nominated movie is happening on Feb. 25. The pic goes to Disney+ and HBO Max on March 2.
Drive My Car (Janus) 127 (+40 theaters) Fri $52K, Sat $88K/Sun $53K/ 3-day $192,9K (+92%)/Total $1.22M/Wk 12
Dune (WB/Legendary) 678 (+592) theaters, Fri $42K (+419%), 3-day $144K (+377%), Total $107.8M/Wk 17
Nightmare Alley (Sea) 405 (-300) theaters Fri $30K (-44%)/Sat $40K/Sun $15K/3 day $85K (-60%)/Total $11M/Wk 9
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.