2nd writethru Saturday AM following Friday midday post: The doldrums of December are here and as remains standard following the lucrative Thanksgiving-Black Friday period most major distributors abstain from opening any wide entries, except for STX which is handling animated feature Playmobil. That movie is very close to becoming the lowest opening ever for a pic booked in 2K-plus theaters (according to Boxoffice Mojo) with a 3-day of $702K. That’s lower than Universal/Blumhouse’s Jem and the Holograms which tanked with a $1.37M opening (and final of $2.1M domestic) and not too far from the lowest bottom dweller for this range, the 2012 film The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure ($443K opening, $1M final domestic).
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The intention of course by STX was to nab any families who still want to take their kids to the movies after the whirlwind of Frozen 2 (STX and theater chains even offered up $5 tickets to experiment with pricing), but everyone is still going to see the Disney sequel which is now seeing a revised third weekend of $34.6M, -60% with a running total by Sunday of $337.5M. For a Disney pic in the post Black Friday weekend, that’s still a high besting the takes of its previous animated pic holdovers Frozen ($31.6M, -53%), last year’s Ralph Breaks the Internet ($25.5M, -54%), Moana ($28.2M, -50%) and Coco ($27.5M, -46%).
Playmobil is a service deal for STX and they’ll be collecting a distribution fee. Global Road was originally set to release this, also in a service deal, before they went belly up. STX aimed to have very little skin in the game here, so as not to get hurt, and I hear P&A, which is not backstopped, is in the low single digits, mostly in-theater especially through exhibs moviegoer loyalty clubs (and many rivals agree — that figure sounds about right given what they’ve seen). The pic based on the 45-year old German toy and featuring the voices of Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Gabriel Bateman, Adam Lambert, Kenan Thompson, Meghan Trainor and Daniel Radcliffe; cost around $40M. But the pic, made in Canada, was co-financed by a pool of distributors and co-financing partners including Telemünchen, DMG, Pathé, Studio Canal, Leda Film, Belga Films, Kinoswiat and others. National Bank of Canada and Coficiné backed the international sales. I hear that STX had to go wide with the movie based on the overseas movie deals in place on the pic. I understand 4pm previews were embarrassing on Thursday night in the $40K range leading to a $230K Friday (of course, most kids are back to school). If critics loathed this movie at 23% Rotten, then the few who’ve seen it agreed with 1 1/2 stars and an awful 36% definite recommend on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. General auds made up 31% while parents and kids under 12 repped 69% of those in seats. Parents had zero patience for Playmobil at 2 1/2 stars while the kids under 12 have waned from 4 stars to 3 1/2 stars. CinemaScore was a B+ which is never what you want your animated feature to have. Slightly more girls than boys on Friday with 53% vs. 47%. 51% of the audience were between the 10-12. Note these demos could continue to change over the weekend.
STX sought wanted to experiment with variable pricing on Playmobil, but in the end no cared or wanted to see this movie (arguably, even if it was offered for free). I hear STX went to exhibs, asked what the proper variable pricing was, and 97% of them agreed to charge a flat $5 ticket price for all showtimes (exceptions are theaters in Canada, ArcLight and Landmark). RelishMix says social media wasn’t on fire with light conversation and many of the pic’s stars –i.e. Adam Lambert, Anya Taylor Joy, and Jim Gaffigan not even pushing the movie. Meghan Trainer gave the movie a shoutout and a retweet on Twitter to her 2.1M there, but the end result is akin to a tree falling in the woods with no one around.Mark Ruffalo in ‘Dark Waters’ Mary Cybulski/Focus Features
On a down tentpole weekend such as this, specialty distributors typically look to appeal to sophisticated adult moviegoers. Focus Features expanded their Participant Todd Haynes legal drama Dark Waters from 94 to 2,012 theaters in weekend 3 and is seeing $4M with a running total by tomorrow of $5.1M. That’s not a great result given the 92% certified fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and A- CinemaScore (PostTrak is lower at 3 1/2 stars). The result is under Sony’s Denzel Washington legal pic disaster Roman J. Israel back in November 2017 which made slightly more money at fewer theaters: $4.4M at 1,669 and fizzled out with just over $13M stateside. Plus Roman had worst reviews (53% Rotten) and exits (B CinemaScore). Dark Waters follows a corporate defense attorney (Mark Ruffalo) who takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company. Despite being from Haynes and Participant (which is known for his awards season pedigree), the pic didn’t have the juice and wasn’t launched at a major fall film festival, hence these results. PostTrak exits showed a 60% definite recommend, an even split among males and females, and a 77% over 25 audience.‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ Neon
The big highlight on the specialty scene is NEON’s release of Cannes Film Festival winning French pic Portrait of a Lady on Fire from Celine Sciamma. Pic, set in the 18th century on an isolated island, follows a female painter who is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman. They fall madly in love. Early estimates show the pic with a $53,2K per screen from two theaters (or $107K). Pic won best screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes, best cinematography from NY Film Critics Circle and was one of the top 5 foreign language pics from National Board of Review.Amazon Studios
Amazon’s reteam of Theory of Everything‘s Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts, an $80M period meteorologist air balloon movie, is receiving a truncated theatrical-streaming release with a drop on Prime on Dec. 20. Of the numbers we’ve gotten our hands for this pic, it’s only made $20K at 38 venues or $529 per theater. Very bad, and that’s because it’s going to be on Prime. Again, these figures don’t come from Amazon but are industry estimates. We heard a couple of weeks ago that Netflix’s $200M production The Irishman only made $5M from its theatrical (despite packing arthouses; of course the viewership numbers reported yesterday were the bigger prize with 17M in its first 5 days). Pic was originally expected to be a theatrical release with an early debut on some Imax theaters, but Amazon cut its losses here (largely I would say on the theatrical P&A side). Pic was ultimately 72% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Though alright critically, an adult pic like this has to be at high-pitch critical levels to survive the onslaught of awards season. Amazon tried to give some push to this pic with premieres at Telluride and TIFF back in September.
Here’s how the rest of the top pics are looking per Saturday AM estimates
- Frozen 2 (Dis)/4,348 theaters (-92)/Fri $7.8M (-77%), 3-day $34.6M (-60%)/Cume $337.5M/Wk 3
- Knives Out (LG/MRC)/3,461 theaters/ Fri $4.1M (-61%)/3-day $14M (-48%)/Cume $63.3M/Wk 2
- Queen & Slim (Uni/MakeReady/Bron)/1,715 theaters (+25)/ Fri $1.9M (-56%), 3-day $6.5M (-45%)/Cume $26.8M/Wk 2
- Ford v Ferrari (Fox/Dis)/3,746 theaters (+161)/ Fri $1.9M (-64%)/3-day $6.4M (-51%)/Cume $89.3M/Wk 4
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar)/3,491 theaters (+256)/Fri $1.6M (-69%)/3-day $5.2M (-56%)/Cume $43.1M/Wk 3
- Dark Waters (Foc)/2012 theaters (+1918)/ Fri $1.4M (+600%), 3-day $4M (+567%)/Cume $5.1M/Wk 3
- 21 Bridges (STX) 2,465 theaters (-200)/Fri $803K (-63%)/3 day $2.7M (-50%)/Cume $23.8M/Wk 3
- Playing With Fire (Par/Wal) 2253 (-426)/Fri $465K (-72%)/3 day $2.1M (-51%)/Cume $42M/Wk 5
- Midway (LG/Cent) 2100 (-277)/Fri $568K (-66%)/3 day $1.9M (-51%)/Cume $53.3M/Wk 5
- Last Christmas (Uni) 1260 (-592) Fri $304K (-60%)/3-day $1M (-49%)/Cume/Wk 5