SUNDAY AM Writethru: After Saturday AM update As the pandemic eases and the town questions what works on the big screen, the answers are largely family films, even if they are dated three weekends in a row. We’re talking about Universal/Dreamworks Animation’s overperformance of its $69M production The Bad Guys, which is notching a solid debut of $24M and a great A CinemaScore. Per EntTelligence, the Pierre Perifel-directed animated movie drew 2.1M admissions. Paramount’s third weekend of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is even coming up strong in second place with -48% hold, a $15.2M weekend, and tally of $145.8M by EOD Sunday.
“The very positive critical and audience reaction to The Bad Guys echoes the overperformance of our title at the domestic box office this weekend and deservedly so as this is a broad, action-packed, charming film with clever comedy for the entire family,” said a celebrating Uni domestic theatrical distribution Boss Jim Orr this morning.
And when it comes to counter-programming working at the box office, please pull up a chair while we explain. There’s a lot of pacing back-and-forth in studio offices as to whether mid-sized and low-budget movies are meant for in-home consumption or the big screen. Seriously, it’s not so much of a Sophie’s Choice, because at the end of the day, it comes back to good old-fashioned movie industry economics. Really.
At a time when Netflix is losing 200K subscribers, waking up to the fact that we’ve been sharing passwords with our cousins, and not even in the running for NFL’s Sunday ticket (which Apple looks to hook with a $2.5 billion bid) because they’ve been overspending on big-screen movies (Red Notice) and arthouse movie campaigns (Power of the Dog) for the sake of viewership algorithms and churn, releasing a movie through a theatrical window system is better off for a piece of movie IP than not. The brilliance of the windows system is that Hollywood created a business formula whereby a consumer buys the same piece of content two to three times. Ain’t that smart? Outside of a buzzed, binge series on a streamer, the consumer retention, and the future revenue of your average movie on an OTT service, is quite short.
So if it’s hard to wrap your head around the openings of Focus Features/New Regency’s net $70M production, The Northman, at $12M (940K admissions per EntTelligence), and Lionsgate’s Nicolas Cage satire The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent at an estimated $7.1M (580K admissions), their legacy in the consumer’s mind will last longer than if they took the straight-to-home, streaming route. Again, exhibition needs product, so having both of these movies on the marquee hits a non-family quadrant, and is filler leading into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. After the success of Everything Everywhere All at Once, which looks to hit close to $27M by the end of the weekend, arthouses are likely savoring The Northman.
The irony here between both The Northman, which received a lower audience scores of B CinemaScore, 3 1/2 stars and 75% positive/56% recommend on PostTrak, and Unbearable Weight, which was graded higher at a B+ and 82% positive/66% recommend, is that the latter is the more crowd-appealing movie. Both titles’ openings, no doubt, should be scrutinized. Not just at SXSW, but Unbearable Weight, when screened to audiences, played to a rapturous response.
So, why isn’t it winning against Robert Eggers’ bloody, auteurish 2 hour and 15 minute running epic? Is it because it looks like a title we’d see on a streaming menu? No. Back to moviegoing economics: both titles are aimed at guys 18-34 and Northman pulled in 61% of the age demo, 68% male (with PLFs driving 22% of ticket sales) and Unbearable Weight attracted 57% of the age group and 59% male. There’s a cannibalization of the demo going on here, and it’s best if one of these movies stayed away from the other.
Northman is coming in at the high-end of its projections, which is a good thing. The Eggers’ movie opening is even higher than 2011’s The Eagle ($8.6M), another Focus Features’ star-studded historical epic. As tracking always indicated, Focus was out-spending Lionsgate by two-to-three times in TV spots, hence the reason why the Vikings are squashing Nic Cage here.
However, many will wonder who spends $70M on an arthouse historical epic? There is a price-point at which every movie can be greenlit for P&L purposes. Even by pre-pandemic standards, which is when this Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke movie came together, Northman‘s cost is still considered silly expensive. However, gambling on originality and auteur’s vision comes at a price, and if the dice isn’t rolled, then we will truly be living in a world that’s dominated by Marvel and DC fare. Risk was mitigated here 50/50, I hear, on the budget between Focus and New Regency, and it comes as no surprise that the latter is involved; that studio having bankrolled Alejandro Inarritu’s $135M western The Revenant, which went on to rack up Oscar wins.
You can at least see where the mindset is for New Regency investing in Northman, even though the movie isn’t in the Oscar corridor and lacks the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Given the cost here, Focus couldn’t platform, or release in a crowded Q4 marketplace, so they went wide, and fast (17-day window) so they could make as much money as possible.
Northman played in the West and the South, where seven of its top ten runs were. The pic’s best markets were LA, NYC, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington DC, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, and San Diego. Diversity demos were 56% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic and Latino, 10% Black, and 13% Asian/other.
Unbearable Weight is coming in at the top end of its projections with $7M. But still, that stinks. On the upside, the movie cost less than half of what Northman‘s bill was at net $30M. Rivals tell me that Unbearable Weight could find some word-of-mouth and potentially have a good hold in weekend 2. That said, Lionsgate, you could have done better.
While Everything Everywhere All at Once is a title that’s ripe for an arthouse audience, Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent screams nothing that it’s a Nicolas Cage satire, nor that it’s for a broader audience. While I’m told that Lionsgate did pony up some P&A in the end, it clearly didn’t make a dent on tracking.
One exhibitor griped to me this week, “Northman comes on with an awareness of a 7, and Unbearable comes on with an awareness of a 2. How is that?”. The same circuit boss told me that had been pushing this movie to their customers on social and in theaters. However, the movie wasn’t registering with any of their customers, since Lionsgate wasn’t dominating with its nationwide marketing campaign.
Marketing wise, it doesn’t help that Cage doesn’t participate on social media, as noted by RelishMix. Think of the extra wattage that would have provided. That opposed to Taylor-Joy on The Northman, who RelishMix noticed is stoked her fans with postings about the Viking movie, garnering 1M to 2M clicks per post on Instagram; and catapulting the pic’s social media reach to 143M.
Rival studio sources have sniped that Unbearable Weight was always a big city play, not a joke that the flyover states would necessarily get in its skewed view of celebrity. They’re largely correct, as the pic’s best performance was in the metro areas and the West. Top markets for Unbearable Weight are in LA, NYC, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC, Salt Lake City, Boston, Denver, San Diego, and Austin. Still, had Lionsgate dumped this movie to a streamer or sent it straight to PVOD, it would be just another Cage film. By taking the risk and going theatrical with Unbearable Weight, no doubt it raises the profile of this Cage movie, for potential to be a cult classic in years to come.
The 16th weekend of 2022 looks to be grossing around $93M per industry sources. While 2019 during this time at Avengers: Endgame, 2018 had the third weekend of a A Quiet Place leading the box office. This weekend next to 2018’s weekend 16 is off 26%, while versus 2017’s 16th weekend is off 14%.
Bad Guys Breaking Though
Despite tracking showing this original animated film at a $15M, we should have seen the success of this pic coming. It was promoted through NBCUniversal’s Symphony program, and only a handful of movies get that big marketing push throughout the conglom’s ancillary tentacles from a co-branded Xfinity campaign which included several TV and digital ad spots to support across Uni’s theme global theme parks.
All of this amounted to a turnout by moms, with 56% of Bad Guys‘ audience being females. On PostTrak, 62% were surveyed as moms. Overall, 4 stars on PostTrak with females over 25 repping 27% of the crowd, under 25 also 27% and guys over 25 at 22% and under 25 at 23%, who gave the movie its best grade at 90%. Diversity demos were 40% Caucasian, 25% Latino and Hispanic, 20% African American and 9% Asian.
Bad Guys played fairly evenly across North America with the family-friendly Mountain region of Salt Lake City significantly overperforming its 52-week norm (50% over). Also over-indexing in the Midwest, Northeast and most of Canada. Top ten markets were LA, NY, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Houston, Boston, Phoenix and Toronto.
Bad Guys‘ campaign launched last December with a global trailer drop, accompanied by a first look photo, a cast table read, and theatrical placement of the trailer during Sing 2. In February, Bad Guy‘s second trailer racked up nearly a quarter of a billion global views to-date. RelishMix measured Bad Guys‘ social media reach at 220M before opening “approaching family animated norms”. In Bad Guys‘ tank was a Super Bowl pre-game spot, which clocked 8.5M on YouTube and a Facebook video view bump which culminated in 14 videos on YouTube pulling in 110.1M views. “The very robust child friendly Dreamworks/Peacock Kids YouTube channel has a subscriber count of 9.3M at 37% more than subscribers of Universal Pictures at 5.9M, demonstrating the value of YouTube for little kids.” By comparison, two weeks ago, with a wider/older family videogamer target, Sonic 2’s social media universe was at 445M before opening.
Bad Guys had a March Madness in-show and online integration with the NCAA tournament with a virtual bracket for the film’s characters on the NCAA website and ad slots in both pre and post games coverage on TNT and TBS.
Some of the stunts on social to hook younger viewers included the character Mr. Wolf debuting a Snapchat AR lens on Valentine’s Day, and TikTok, users posting videos showcasing themselves as part of the Bad Guys crew, all while using branded effects and audio set to Billie Eilish’s “bad guy” with the #TheBadGuysChallenge.
Uni capitalized on April Fool’s Day, which was when tickets went on sale. Activations included a Snap AR lens that showcased The Bad Guys safe cracking a number of global landmarks including LA’s Chinese Theater, Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Germany’s Brandenburg Gate and London’s Natural History Museum, among others. Top influencers joined in, with Mr Beast and Michael Le having their videos stolen by The Bad Guys (see below). The stunt yielded over 21.5 million views and over 1.8 million likes on TikTok.
–Pantelion had the Mexican comedy Y Come Es El? at 325 theaters in 65 markets. The Ariel Winograd directed movie follows Tomás, who is a meek man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Despite his situation, he decides to fake a work trip to go to Vallarta to confront Jero, a taxi driver who is sleeping with his wife. Overall a $630K opening with OK numbers in LA, Dallas, San Francisco, Sacramento and Las Vegas.
–Yash Raj’s Hindi language Jersey from director Gowtam Tinnanuri posted an estimated $233K at 373 theaters, fueled by Toronto. The movie follows a cricketer who quits cricket and decides to revive his career at the age of 36 for his sons dream and prove his ability.
–NEON had the Céline Sciamma movie, Petite Maman, booked at LA’s the Landmark and AMC Grove and NYC’s Angelika, & Lincoln Center and saw an estimated $45,8K opening for an OK $11,4K per theater. The French movie, which reps NEON’s reteam with the award-winning Portrait of a Lady on Fire filmmaker, notched 97% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. got a 97% RT rating. The drama stars sisters Joséphine Sanz and Gabrielle Sanz, with Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne and Margot Abascal. In Pete Maman, 8-year-old Nelly has just lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods where her mom, Marion, used to play and built the treehouse she’s heard so much about. One day her mother abruptly leaves. That’s when Nelly meets a girl her own age in the woods building a treehouse. Her name is Marion.
–Sony Pictures Classics’ The Duke starring Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, and directed by the late Roger Michell grossed $28,7K from three locations in NY (Cinema 1, Lincoln Square and the Angelika) and the Landmark in LA. Per theater was $7,1K for the 96% certified fresh title on Rotten Tomatoes. As we observe the uptick at arthouses with Indian titles, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and The Northman, the continued quandary is when we see the older 55+ demo back in full force at the the cinema.
Top 10 this weekend, we’re updating the chart….:
1.) The Bad Guys (Uni) 4,009 Theaters, Fri $8M, Sat $9.3M, Sun $6.6M, 3-day $24M/Wk 1
2.) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Par) 3,809 (-449) theaters, Fri $4M (-63%), Sat $6.8M, Sun $4.4M, 3-day $15.2M (-48%)/Total $145.8M/Wk 3
3.) Fantastic Beasts…Dumbledore(WB), 4,245 (+37) theaters, Fri $4.1M (-79%), Sat $6M, Sun $3.9M, 3-day $14M (-67%)/Total $67.1M/Wk 2
Yes, families spent over $42M to see it last weekend, but nobody likes it, and that’s showing in the severe drop. While that’s the worst second weekend drop for a Fantastic Beasts movie, it’s also the second-worst for a J.K. Rowling pic after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which dropped 72% off a massive $169M+ opening.
4.) The Northman (Foc) 3,234 theaters, Fri $5M, Sat $4.2M, Sun $2.7M, 3-day $12M/Wk 1
5.) Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (LG) 3,036 theaters, Fri $2.9M, Sat $2.5M, Sun $1.76M, 3-day $7.1M/Wk 1
6.) Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) 2,133 (-87) theaters, Fri $1.55M (-18%)/Sat $2.1M/Sun $1.7M/ 3-day $5.4M (-11%)/Total $26.9M/Wk 5
7.) The Lost City (Par) 2,828 (-602) theaters Fri. $1.3M (-35%), Sat $1.9M, Sun $1.17M, 3-day $4.375M (-30%)/Total $85.4M/ Wk 5
8.) Father Stu (Sony) 2,705 theaters, Fri $1M (-40%), Sat $1.3M, Sun $960K, 3-day $3.3M (-39%), Total $13.9M/Wk 2
9.) Morbius (Sony) 2,306 (-1,156) theaters, Fri $635K, Sat $1M, Sun $615K, 3-day $2.25M (-53%), Total $69.1M/Wk 4
10.) Ambulance (Uni) 1,966 (-1,446) theaters, Fri $530K (-59%), Sat $770K, Sun $500K, 3-day $1.8M (-55%), Total $19.2M/Wk 3
Friday early afternoon update: Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys is looking to win the weekend with $21.5M, while the studio’s sister label Focus Features’ The Northman is coming in at the top of projections with $12.4M in fourth place. Bad Guys is eyeing close to $7M today at 4,008, while Northman is spotting $5M at 3,231.
There’s a fight for second between two holdovers — Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with $15M-$16M for the weekend. Dumbledore is in Weekend 2 and could seeing its running total rise to north of $69M at 4,245 sites, while Sonic is headed for north of $145M in Weekend 3 at 3,809 venues.
Lionsgate’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive is looking to coming in ahead of its $5M-$7M projection with at least $3M today and $8M-$9M for the weekend. Again, these figures could fluctuate by tomorrow AM, but that’s how it’s looking right now.
FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Universal had the most to boast about at the box office Thursday night, hitting the 18-34 arthouse demo with Robert Eggers’ Focus Features Viking epic, The Northman, which drew $1.35M in previews, and families with DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys, which made $1.15M.
Lionsgate’s Nicolas Cage satire The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent made $835K in pre-opening grosses. That number includes paid screenings from last weekend as well as previews which started at 6PM last night. All three movies have solid reviews and are certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes: Northman (89%), Bad Guys (86%) and Unbearable (89%). That should be convincing enough to spur non-frequent moviegoers to go to one of these three movies, however, Unbearable might come up short.
Despite the onslaught of wide release fare, it’s expected that either Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in its second weekend or Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in its third weekend take No. 1 with $18M-$20M a piece. It wouldn’t be shocking to see The Bad Guys muscle its way in there despite the fact that pre-release tracking has the animated pic at $15M; the movie booked at 4,000 locations. Last night’s previews for The Bad Guys began at 5PM in 3,000 locations.
Dumbledore took 2nd place to Sonic 2 on Monday and Wednesday. The lackluster audience response is believed to be impacting Dumbledore‘s traction. Last night the Warner Bros. sequel made an estimated $1.93M to Sonic 2‘s $1.9M. Fantastic Beasts 3 ends the week with an estimated $53.1M at 4,208 to Sonic 2‘s $41M at 4,258. The latter’s running total is $130.6M, which is 16% ahead of the two-week cume of Sonic the Hedgehog back in 2020.
Northman, which was co-financed by New Regency, is expected to make $8M-$12M at 3,223 theaters, which is low for a movie that cost $70M net. Focus has been supporting the movie extensively with TV spots. Northman‘s Thursday is ahead of the Tuesday night previews of MGM/UAR’s House of Gucci ($1.3M), another adult skewing wide release, and next to pre-pandemic titles, specifically male-leaning, the Eggers movie is ahead of Warner Bros.’ action comedy War Dogs which did $1.25M and opened to $14.6M in late August 2016.
Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent hopes to find an audience. Tracking has this one in the $5M-$7M range, which is a sad start for a movie that played like gangbusters out of its SXSW world premiere. The pic cost $30M before P&A, and Lionsgate held this one for theatrical rather than sell it off during the pandemic. The comedy is playing at 3,036 theaters and opens abroad in 40 territories including France, Australia, Benelux and the UK. Pre-opening money is higher than UAR’s Wrath of Man which did $500K and an $8.3M opening, and Lionsgate’s previous Moonfall which did $700K and a $9.8M opening.
Elsewhere on Thursday night: A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once made an estimated $873K in third at 2,220 taking its four-week running total to $21.4M. The movie, as we told you yesterday, is bound to become the fourth highest for the New York-based indie studio with an ultimate stateside end around $28M.
Paramount’s The Lost City at 3,430 theaters posted an estimated $550K for a fourth week near $9M and a running total of $81M.
In fifth place was Sony’s Father Stu at 2,705 venues, which grossed $542K yesterday for a first week of $8.2M and running total of $10.5M.
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