SUNDAY 7:30 AM, 3RD UPDATE: Sizzling Summer 2013 is now fizzling, and $200M total moviegoing this domestic weekend was down -20% from last year. Hollywood was especially glum while the media was annoyingly gleeful over more big-budget movies bombing. Bad news for every new film except Warner Bros/New Line’s low-budget The Conjuring (playing in 2,903 theaters) which opened #1 with a good news $41.5M weekend. It also received from audiences a coveted ‘A-‘ CinemaScore, an unusually good grade for the genre where ‘D’ and ‘F’ have become commonplace from fed-up audiences.
Going into Friday, the $20M-cost The Conjuring was Fandango’s top ticket seller among four new releases across online and mobile platforms. Warner Bros early on credited director James Wan with making “both an incredibly scary film but also a very well-made quality movie” that likely becomes a badly needed fresh franchise for New Line. Clearly, Wan (Saw, Insidious) was able to transition from gore to the bizarre and now to the supernatural helped by talented cast Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Ron Livingston and credited screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes. Producers are Tony DeRosa-Grund, Peter Safran, and Rob Cowan. The marketing campaign kicked off a month ago at the LA Film Festival. “It was an unusual strategy in that it exposed the film to critical reaction at a very early stage,” Warner Bros Pictures President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution Sue Kroll tells me. “But our faith in the film was well placed and the screening netted nothing but positive reaction – from fans and critics alike. The early screenings also provided us with great testimonials, social media fan reactions, and early positive quotes which were all used throughout the TV buy on everything ranging from NBA finals to late night roadblocks.” The campaign leveraged the most hype-worthy moments like the clapping scene at NY Comic-Con that eventually became the teaser trailer. Finally, the ‘true story” aspect of the demonology tale was emphasized.
Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment’s Red 2 (3,016 theaters) received a strong ‘B+’ CinemaScore so Friday’s soft opening went up +11% on Saturday since more adults turned out due to good word of mouth. But the $85M-costing sequel wound up grossing what the studio projected though didn’t beat the 2010 original’s $21.7M opening weekend. The first was a worldwide sleeper hit, of course. Since then there’ve been dozens of older audience-aimed clones so the novelty has worn off. Plus this installment received only 40% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes versus the original’s 72%. And summer may not have been the optimum time to release (last one went wide in October). Once again, Summit targeted the underserved older audience of adults 30-plus. Marketing focused on the ensemble cast (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and action/comedy blend (from director Dean Parisot and credited writers Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber based on characters created by Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner). Summit claims sequel is the first film showcased in an integrated marketing campaign with NBCU utilizing their cable networks and digital portfolio. Another first is Summit inaugural studio to utilize Twitter’s new TV ad targeting technology. Producers are Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian.
Universal knew full well its Jonah Hex-meets-Men In Black retread R.I.P.D. (2,852 theaters) would rest in agony this weekend. So lousy 11% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and low ‘C+’ CinemaScore were no surprise for what is now one of the summer’s biggest losers critically and financially. This long-delayed pic’s too-big budget came in at an astounding $182.1M for such a cheesy 3D movie. (My sources say the production rebate was $28.1M so the aggregate net negative to Universal is $154M even if the studio is claiming only $130M.) But everything about this result went wrong, from the casting of Jeff Bridges whose Old West shtick has gotten old to Ryan Reynolds who’s recognized as too bland yet again. Adapted from Pete M Lenkov’s Dark Horse comic series by Clash Of The Titans screenwriters Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, pic’s director Robert Schwentke who did Red and producer-distributor Neal H. Moritz who does the Fast & Furious series have done far, far better. Universal will release this bomb in 10 international territories day-and–date with North America. The remaining international rollout begins July 25. At least the studio has humongous worldwide profits from Despicable Me 2 to console it: that 3D toon crossed $500M worldwide this week and also became the highest grossing animated film of the year domestically.
Problem is, DreamWorks Animations’ original non-sequel Turbo (3,806 theaters) is no Despicable Me. After opening weak on Wednesday, it had one of DWA’s worst openings since the company started. Still these 3D animated pics have 4x-5x multiples around the globe so distributor Fox isn’t counting it out yet – not with its coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore. But the $135M-costing snail comedy has been sandwiched between Gru and his minions, Sony’s Smurfs 2 (releasing July 31) and Disney’s Planes (August 9). Rival studios feel producer Lisa Stewart and story scribe/director David Soren who scripted with Darren Lemke and Robert Siegel put together a very watchable toon but it’s aimed at rugrats and plays too young. Even DWA’s The Croods opened to $43.6M in March – and Hollywood thought that was soft. The voice cast though talented and diverse is unexciting what with Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, and Samuel L. Jackson. Pic may or may not make up the lower domestic dollars with foreign grosses after releasing day and date this weekend in 28 markets, including Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina and select Southeast Asia territories.
And it’s finally clear that Legendary Pictures’ too-expensive Pacific Rim may only eke out $100M domestic all in – which means it, too, must depend on Warner Bros’ distribution overseas for most of its coin.
Here are Top Ten domestic estimates for the weekend. Full analysis later.
1. The Conjuring (New Line/Warner Bros) NEW [Runs 2,903] R
Friday $17.0M, Saturday $14.3M, Weekend $39.0M
2. Despicable Me 2 3D (Illumination/Universal) Week 3 [Runs 3,820] PG
Friday $7.4M, Saturday $10.2M, Weekend $25.0M (-44%), Cume $276.1M
3. Turbo 3D (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) Week 1 [Runs 3,806] PG
Friday $6.5M, Saturday $8.3M, Weekend $21.3M, Cume $31.1M
4. Grown Ups 2 (Columbia/Sony) Week 2 [Runs 3,491] PG13
Friday $6.3M, Saturday $7.9M, Weekend $20.0M (-52%), Cume $79.5M
5. Red 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) NEW [Runs 3,016] PG13
Friday $6.2M, Saturday $7.1M, Weekend $19.0M
6. Pacific Rim 3D (Legendary/Warner Bros) Week 2 [Runs 3,285] PG13
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $16.2M (-57%), Cume $68.5M
7. R.I.P.D. 3D (Universal) NEW [Runs 2,852] PG13
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $4.9M,Weekend $13.1M
8. The Heat (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 4 [Runs 2,689] R
Friday $2.8M, Saturday TK, Weekend $9.2M, Cume $129.1M
9. World War Z (Paramount) Week 5 [Runs 2,066] PG13
Friday $1.5M, Saturday TK, Weekend $5.1M, Cume $186.8M
10. Monsters University 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 5 [Runs 2,186] G
Friday $1.4M, Saturday TK, Weekend $4.7M, Cume $248.6M