Sunday AM Final after first 8:01AM post: Even in a normal, healthy economy, the major studios are typically skittish about opening big movies before Christmas with many still busy with holiday activities. So, it comes as no surprise during a pandemic where just north of 40% of all 5,500 domestic movie theaters are open that there wouldn’t be any new wide openings this weekend. This has put Universal’s DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age at the top of the weekend box office for a third weekend in a row with $3M, -32% for a running total of $24.M. Industry analysts believe the movie could hit $35M domestic.
Stateside, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group titles have topped the domestic box office for seven straight weeks.
No doubt, in the home entertainment holiday sphere, Croods: New Age will encounter competition later this month against HBO Max’s Wonder Woman 1994 and Disney+/Pixar’s Soul, both of which come free to each service’s monthly subscribers. Uni/DWA’s Trolls World Tour had zero competition over Easter weekend on PVOD. Croods: New Age will be charging around $20 for PVOD viewing, the only upside by going at the holiday is that people during the pandemic will run out of shows and movies to watch.
Worldwide Croods 2 is up to $76.3M. Croods 2 in China –where moviegoing remains alive in a COVID-19 laden world–now counts a running total of $46M (RMB 300M). That figure outstrips Disney’s Mulan (RMB 278M) to become the second-biggest MPA title of the year, only behind Tenet ($66.6M).
By the way, next weekend is when the Christmas drumroll (if we can call it that) starts with Sony/Screen Gems opening their videogame feature adaptation Monster Hunter and Lionsgate making a go with Deon Taylor’s thriller Fatale. Then Christmas Day brings Wonder Woman 1984, Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman, Universal’s News of the World and Roadside Attraction’s Pinocchio.
Weekend’s top 10 films:
- Croods: A New Age (Uni)2,115 theaters (-90), 3-day: $3M (-32%), Total: $24.2M/Wk 3
- Half Brothers (Focus) 1,386 theaters (+17), 3-day: $490K (-30%)/Total: $1.38MWk 2
- Elf( NL) 825 theaters (+125), 3-day: $390K (+24%), Total: $173.7M/Wk 5 of re-release
- Freaky(Uni)1,235 (-267), 3-day: $315K (-34%)/Total: $8.2M/Wk 5
- War With Grandpa(101) 1,080 (-205) theaters, 3-day: $266,9K (-16%)/Total: $17.96M/Wk 10
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (WB) 620 (+101) theaters, 3-day: $237K (+42%)/Total: $73.1M/Wk 3 of re-release
- Polar Express (WB) 500 theaters (+75) 3-day: $237K (+61%)/Total $187.4M/Wk 2 of re-release
- All My Life (Uni) 965 theaters (-5), 3-day: $215K (-42%)/Total: $696K/Wk 2
- Wonder Woman (WB) 900 theaters, 3-day: $187K/Total $412.7M/Wk 1 of re-release
- Come Play(Foc) 610 (-163) theaters, 3-day: $175K (-24%)/Total: $9.2M/Wk 7
The mind still wonders about Wonder Woman 1984 — was this a great idea for Warner Bros. to go out with a major piece of IP during the pandemic while largely most studios are protecting theirs?
Reminder that it’s a sequel which could have feasibly rode the back of its 2017 predecessor and potentially gross $1 billion in a normal global theatrical atmosphere. With or without HBO Max, is this a good idea for Warner Bros.?
Let’s break down some of the stats. There’s less movie theaters and markets open than there were when Tenet was released over Labor Day weekend (around 65% of all 5,5K U.S./Canada movie theaters then). It’s possible we get to around 3K theaters open by Christmas. No. 2 chain Regal has its 550 venues completely closed (except for one site in Massachusetts). AMC only has 64% of its near 600 multiplexes open. Cinemark has 67% of its 330+ hubs with lights on. True, Warner will go for the global play and tout the global number of WW1984 which will still pale in comparison because most of Europe is closed. Analysts with knowledge of WW1984‘s economics tell Deadline that the $200M DC sequel has to do 40% more than Tenet‘s current global take of $361.3 million to hit breakeven.
Warners knew that taking WW1984 out of the schedule would do further damage to exhibition (which is already broken). That said, rival distributors understand Warner’s need to finally open WW1984 after all the release delays. Unlike Tenet, WW1984 is a big fan film, and Warner Bros has the dilemma that if they open the movie in theaters, than how do people in the other part of the nation where cinemas aren’t open, see it so they can share in the experience?
However where the competition disagrees with Warner Bros is that they should have given some theatrical exclusivity (a 14 to 17 day window) to WW1984 on its way to dropping on HBO Max on either Christmas Day or Jan. 1. That concession wouldn’t have cost Warner Bros. more in the P&A they’re spending for both the theatrical/streaming release. It also doesn’t put theaters in an unfair faceoff with the streaming service. No one around town is believing that any spike in HBO Max subscribers (a U.S. service) will make up for the great shortfall in production and marketing costs on WW1984. Impossible — and don’t expect AT&T to show us how they get there.
Any way you cut this, with or without HBO Max, WW1984 will lose revenue by going in the pandemic. Let’s just hope it doesn’t have a long-term stinging effect on the cinema franchise going forward.
Different studios are responding to the pandemic in a variety of different means. Paramount and Skydance sold off what could have been a potential franchise (starring Michael B. Jordan no less), Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, to Amazon. That was their kneejerk reaction to a movie they were sitting on rather than waiting the pandemic out. So, it’s not just Warner Bros. who’s in a corner.
However, when we use Warner Bros and HBO Max in the same sentence, we keep coming back to their cavalier plan to drop their entire 2021 theatrical slate on HBO Max and in theaters day and date. While we were fine with WW1984 being a one-off, which is the way many studios are handling their titles –on a case by case basis for an in-home release as we ride COVID-19 out– the plan only spells a complete nuclear meltdown of exhibition and the theatrical window revenue generating system. Big exhibition would be wise to block this, but rival distribution believes the big chains will give in at the right price. And they shouldn’t.
The first week gross estimates per rival sources for WW1984 stateside are all over the place, from $10M to Croods 2 numbers of $14.2M. Should the movie best the 11-day $20.2M domestic opening of Tenet, there’s a belief that there’s potentially a false box office bubble during the pandemic. Why and how? We’re likely dealing with a marketplace where the consumer may not be completely educated, i.e. some will know WW1984 is in theaters, while others will know it’s on HBO Max. The two factions will ultimately catch up with each other with the moviegoers realizing the better bargain exists on HBO Max for $14.99/a month. We can assume, just like with Tenet, Warner Bros will hide the box office on Comscore from its competition out of fear that they will put a false narrative out there for the film.
But in the end, the numbers for WW1984 will speak for themselves…and pale greatly to the first film’s $103.2M domestic opening.