4th Update Sunday AM Writethru Sunday AM: Counterprogramming continues to be a casualty in a tentpole-dominant summer, making many in the industry wonder: Should we have just designated these films to streaming?
Like we said last weekend in our mid-summer report, when smaller films like Paramount’s Crawl (now estimated at $12M opening in 3rd after a $4.2M Saturday, -3% from Friday) and Fox’s Stuber (still $8M after $2.9M Saturday, -6% from Friday) fail to pop, much of that has to do with (1) what they are inherently as product, or (2) a distribution/marketing fumble. And, yes, you still have behemoths like a Sony/Marvel movie Spider-Man: Far From Home and Disney’s Toy Story 4 vacuuming up most of the dollars in a given weekend, respectively making $45.3M and $20.7M. We’ll get into Crawl and Stuber‘s shortcomings further down, but there’s chatter out there that exhibition should break out of their old ways and start experimenting with prices for lower-budgeted movies. In no way are audiences in an Avengers: Endgame $851M-plus marketplace going to spend the same amount of money ($15-$20 a ticket) to see smaller films like Midsommar, Crawl, Stuber, Long Shot, the list goes on. Such mid-budgeted and lower-budgeted fare should be designated at cinemas with lower prices. In order to pull this plan off, exhibition and distribution have to be in accord, the latter having a lot of say on film rental terms.
If you want to see a clear example of how audiences come out to smaller movies at lower ticket prices, just glance at Tuesday’s box office, when theaters around the country host bargain or $5 Tuesdays. Last week, Universal/Working Title’s Yesterday saw a 55% gain over Monday’s sales, Rocketman a near 40% daily jump, and Annabelle Comes Home a 41% surge.
All of this said, if you had a piece of counter-programming, this was the weekend to release it, given the breathing room in between Far From Home and the upcoming Lion King. But Paramount and Disney/Fox didn’t take full of advantage of that opportunity. Read on.
Paramount’s Crawl, which played best in the South delivering an estimated 44% of its gross despite Tropical Storm Barry in the Louisiana Gulf, had an awesome trailer out of CinemaCon. It’s literally a never-before-seen (at least for younger audiences) Jaws-type movie with a great high stakes premise: alligators infesting an underwater house during a Hurricane 5. Exhibitors and social media influencer screenings loved the movie. So why isn’t this The Meg? Something doesn’t seem right here and the movie feels like a missed opportunity: There was only one trailer released online (RelishMix says it had a high viral rate at 67:1, but that’s only because there was one trailer). Paramount included the trailer on such pics as Dark Phoenix in theaters. Overall, it felt like Paramount really didn’t eventize this movie like they did with Rocketman or even A Quiet Place. In fact, you could argue that A24’s Midsommar had more of a digital presence; each time you logged onto Facebook over the last two weeks, a trailer played. Digital Crawl ads seemed to appear just last week, read an IMDB page takeover.
RelishMix says that the social media universe of the Sam Raimi production at 57M is behind the horror average of 82M. Crawl earned about 300 new Facebook Fans on average daily, far shy of the genre’s usual 1.7K. Also, the movie’s 13K average daily YouTube views are also behind the benchmark of 28K. There were no advance critics screenings (they’re typically not fans of creature features), this despite the fact that the 56 film reviewers who ran out to see the croc exploitation film enjoyed it at 88% certified fresh. Audiences were so-so, with a B CinemaScore (Meg had a B+) and PostTrak lower at 2 1/2 stars and a 46% definite recommend.
Again, why isn’t this Meg? First, there was some concern that alligators aren’t sharks when it comes to box office potential. Meg was a very expensive movie that Warner Bros. really needed to work and shelled out the P&A to make it an August must-see, plus the movie had a star in it, Jason Statham — all incentives for a studio to get an animal monster water movie to work. That’s not the case here, with Paramount and Crawl, which cost $13.5M before marketing and distribution expenses. Paramount instead opted for a thrifty 6-second digital spots in lieu of a $25M TV budget. That type of TV spend in this summer marketplace could have been inefficient against Crawl‘s audience. Hence, Paramount kept it targeted.
Leading demos on Crawl were Men over 25 (33%), Women over 25 (30%), Males under 25 (21%) and Females under 25 (17%). Females over 25 loved it the most at 74%. Majority of the audience at 75% was between 18-44. Diversity breakdown shows 42% Caucasian, 20% Hispanic, 20% African American and 18% Asian. Also unusual is that both coasts under-indexed which is not typical for a major studio-release. The B.O. comparison now here for Crawl is 47 Meters Down which opened to $11.2M and ended its domestic run at $44.3M.
Now, Stuber is another Fox orphan in the Disney gobble-up. R-rated action comedies aren’t Disney’s forte, so they let what was left of the Fox marketing department handle the heavy lifting here (Don’t expect this to become a trend with Fox movies. We hear Disney loves Ford v. Ferrari, and they’re aiming to make that work during awards season. Also, Ad Astra is a New Regency and Brad Pitt movie. Those two have a lot on the line with that sci-fi pic, and they’re going to see that pic works).
The creative campaign for Stuber, like Dark Phoenix, was uninspiring and mailed-in, with the initial one-sheets showing a close-up shot of stars Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. Also, a big factor missing: What the hell does Stuber mean? The campaign never really transmitted that: Nanjiani is a guy named Stu, who drives an Uber. It would help to incorporate that. There was a premiere of Stuber at SXSW days before the Disney-Fox merger in mid-March, but, no, this movie wasn’t Baby Driver. Stuber was one of the few Fox trailers included in Disney’s CinemaCon presentation along with Ford v. Ferrari and Dark Phoenix.
Noted RelishMix about the social chatter for Stuber: “Moviegoers just aren’t getting the joke, particularly with big man Bautista as the star instead of the more Drax/sidekick role. This contingent gives the impression that other comedies have let them down recently, or that this mix of ‘one wild ride’ with the ride share premise just doesn’t do it for them.”
One could argue that Bautista and Nanjiani aren’t leading stars, that they’re just supporting players, but in all fairness, this was their opportunity to graduate to leading-man status. It just stinks that Stuber is in a situation where the film has been taken over and left to wither by another studio. Many are dinging STX over moving Bautista’s next movie My Spy out of the August marketplace due to their money problems. But if you were a distributor, and you had My Spy, and saw that Stuber wasn’t going to work, wouldn’t you also move My Spy? (Yes, some will answer, My Spy shouldn’t have been there in August in the first place).
RelishMix says that key social metrics on Stuber were mixed heading into the weekend, with a low viral rate of 5:1, which is short of the standard 19:1, and that’s off 15 official spots from Fox. The movie only added a couple hundred new Facebook fans on average daily, far short of the action comedy benchmark. Also, the average daily YouTube views for Stuber are about 50.4K, outpacing the usual 14.4K (important to note that this level is thanks to a couple of recently placed and ad-supported spots from the studio).
Interesting, but sad: Stuber had more social media leverage with its cast of Bautista, Nanjiani and Guardian of the Galaxy/Jumanji star Karen Gillan collectively counting close to 21M followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, yet Crawl beats them and they only had star Kaya Scodelario with 2.5M. Even she wondered why Crawl wasn’t screened for critics.
CinemaScore crowds gave Stuber a B, and PostTrak was better at 3.5 stars and 51% definite recommend. Similar demos to Crawl here which makes one wonder if the alligators cannibalized the Uber driver: Males over 25 led at 36%, females over 25 followed at 27%, then males under 25 at 19% and females under 25 at 18%. Diversity demos were 47% Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, 18% African American and 13% Asian. Stuber‘s best markets were in the West and South-West, but even there it wasn’t that strong. After all of this, what could have Stuber been? Think Fox’s 2014 August sleeper Let’s Be Cops which opened to $17.8M and legged out to $82.3M. That was the thinking here with the $16M movie before P&A.
The grand result of this weekend for all titles? $124.6M per ComScore, -25% from a year ago. This year at $6.2 billion still lags behind the same period of Jan. 1-July 14 last year by 9%. Lion King, save us!
On the specialty side:
Lulu Wang’s The Farewell which A24 acquired out of Sundance for an estimated $6M-$7M, and the flimmaker passed up a Netflix offer for more than half of that, played at 4 theaters for an awesome $87,8K theater average or $351,3K opening. That’s the best opening theater average to date this year, higher than Avengers: Endgame ($76,6K) and Late Night‘s $61,5K. Even more impressive? A blackout on the west side of Manhattan that forced the AMC Lincoln Square to close its doors Saturday night couldn’t stop this movie. Pic expands to the top markets this weekend, and a wide expansion on Aug. 2.
Vikas Bahl’s Bollywood title from Reliance, Super 30, about the life of mathematician Anand Kumar who runs the famed Super 30 program for IIT aspirants in Patna, India drew $924K at 317 locations.
Bleecker Street’s Jesse Eisenberg sports comedy The Art of Self Defense opened to a $17,2K screen average for a $121K 3-day at 7 theaters.
WEEKEND B.O. FOR jULY 12-14
BOX OFFICE FOR JULY 12-14
2nd Update, Friday Midday: In the wake of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, and heading into the colossal Lion King, counterprogramming remains the freshest stuff on the marquee, but it’s not king. Paramount’s Sam Raimi-alligator production Crawl is seeing $4.5M-$5M today (including $1M from last night) for a 3rd place start between $11M-$12M at 3,170 locations.
Disney/Fox’s R-rated action comedy Stuber with $3M-$3.5M today and $7.5M-$9M for the weekend at 3,050 is far worse in 4th place. Far From Home, as expected, has No. 1 in its web with around $40M, -56% for a running total of $269.2M by Sunday at 4,634 theaters.
Disney’s Toy Story 4 has 2nd place in weekend 4 at 4,210 with $20M, -41%, for a $345.7M running total.
Universal has Yesterday in 5th place with $6M, -40% in weekend 3 at 2,755, for a running total of $47.6M.
1st Update, Friday 7:17 AM: Paramount’s Florida hurricane/alligator thriller Crawl is off to a solid start with $1M from 7 PM previews Thursday night. Industry tracking has the Alexandre Aja-directed movie in the $10M-$12M in the shadow of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s second weekend, which is expected to be in the low $40Ms, down in the low 50%-tile.
We hear that exhibitors really enjoyed Crawl, and if there’s a pic that could over-index this weekend, that’s the one. The Kaya Scodelario starrer is booked at about 3,000 theaters. We hear that Paramount kept the Sam Raimi-produced R-rated pic at a very responsible $13.5M before P&A.
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes currently give Crawl an 88% fresh score, which is great for a genre movie. Box office comparisons off of last night’s previews include Screen Gems’ Slender Man ($1M Thursday, $11.3M opening) and 2016’s The Shallows ($1.3M Thursday, $16.8M opening).
Spider-Man: Homecoming two Julys ago posted a $44.2M second weekend, -62% from its $117M opening. Through 10 days, the Jon Watts Marvel sequel counts $229.2M with $8.9M Thursday, -3% from Wednesday.
Disney has Fox’s action-comedy Stuber starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani opening today. The pic is expected to file in the $7M-$10M range and is not expected to change the fate of comedies at the box office. Previews were $750K last night and are just above the $700K made by Warner Bros.’ action comedy The Nice Guys back in May 2016, which opened to an underwhelming $11.2M. Critics don’t find the movie funny at 45% Rotten. The Michael Dowse-directed pic follows an Uber driver whose car is commandeered by a burly LAPD detective for a crazy night. The pic will be in play at 3,050 theaters.