Box Office Weekend: Behind The Scenes, A Fight For Screens

This weekend, four new movies will debut — two of them are in the 3D format, but only one has a lock on the premium large-format screens (PLF) — Warner Bros.’ disaster pic Into The Storm. With Guardians Of The Galaxy from Disney having a second-weekend lock on all the coveted Imax screens, that leaves Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out in the cold with the large formats as they continue to try to negotiate for screens.

Will it harm Paramount’s Ninja Turtles weekend gross? “It won’t stop them,” said one veteran distribution executive. “It still could make $40 million or a little under this weekend.” If Guardians Of The Galaxy drops 50% in its second weekend, it will make around $41.4 million, so could not having those big screens make the difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 box office spot? “Yes, it could.” And therein lies the rub.

movies-into-the-storm-posterWhile distributors fight for screens every weekend, the behind-the-scenes jockeying for large-format screens has gotten particularly competitive this weekend, according to those with knowledge of the situation. Both Disney and Warner Bros entered into their prospective deals with Imax and the PLF exhibitors (respectively) early on and aren’t budging. Exhibitors that have the PLF screens include Cinemark, Regal, AMC and Carmike.

“I don’t blame the exhibs for sticking with Into The Storm because it’s really a picture that needs that kind of big screen,” said one distribution vet. “Ninja Turtles is more a family movie anyway, and families don’t want to spend that kind of money usually.” Like most family fare, the pic will be showing on both 2D and 3D screens (cheaper ticket prices).

The PLFs charge a higher ticket price so distribs always want those screens, especially for the films that have a strong fanboy base. Theaters across the country, for the most part, now are equipped with 3D capability, but not all have the giant screens. To show the impact, Guardians Of The Galaxy had 367 PLF, 352 Imax, and 112 XD (which is part of the same category of screens). 3D accounted for $41 million of its weekend take. Domestically, Imax took in 12% of the gross ($11.6 million) and accounted for eight of the top 10 of Guardians’ best-performing locales. Other PLFs pulled in about 8% of Guardians’ gross ($7.5 million).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is coming into this weekend much stronger on tracking than Into The Storm, which is looking like a low-$20 millions opening. Should be another wild weekend ride with Into The Storm in the third spot and Guardians and Ninja Turtles battling for No. 1; my bet is on Guardians to take the crown again but Turtles could go higher, which would be great for the industry. Another nice boost in the summer dog days of August? Anyone will take that. After that, there will be a large gap as not much is expected out of rookies Step Up All In and The Hundred-Foot Journey.


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