By Shawn Robbins
For awhile, we've been talking about how impressive 2015's summer schedule is shaping up to be. Films like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, Ted 2, and Minions form a very solid foundation for what the heart of next year should bring, but this past weekend's announcement that Warner Bros.' untitled Superman-Batman film has moved to May 6, 2016 arguably makes that year's summer calendar the hottest to watch now.
The Superman-Batman film (should we just start calling it Justice League?) is now in a game of chicken with Disney/Marvel's previously dated, but still untitled, release for the same first weekend of May. The general assumption is that flick won't be a fourth Iron Man, and out of Marvel's existing solo franchises under the Avengers umbrella, Tony Stark's would be the only one with enough box office muscle to flex against Warner's and DC's highly anticipated meeting of two of the most popular characters in history. Other than The Avengers itself, of course.
Instead, we can safely expect Disney/Marvel to re-shuffle its schedule of untitled releases. They could even bump their planned May 2016 offering (their first of two that summer) up by a full month to early April if this year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves to do well in the same pre-summer slot. That would also go a long way toward widening the "official" summer box office calendar to include part of April, an industry strategy coming closer and closer to fruition thanks to recent hits like Fast Five and The Hunger Games. Alternatively, Disney/Marvel could opt for a July/November release pattern.
Fun fact: the seemingly inevitable move would snap the streak of a Marvel-related film kicking off May for an unprecedented nine consecutive years (began by 2007's Spider-Man 3). Six of those will have been officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity (aka, the Avengers series).
Disney also has their Alice In Wonderland sequel scheduled for May 27 (Memorial Day weekend) that year--up against Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse. The Mouse House is in an interesting position because if they take Marvel's flick out of May entirely, Alice is their default anchor for what is usually the busiest weekend of the year. They probably won't give up both release dates, but they'd be wise to move up Finding Dory a few weeks from its June 17 date. That would simultaneously take it out of a head-to-head competition with Fox/DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 3 (also planned for the same date), not to mention give the studio a more lucratively promising holiday frame. (Let's face it: the Alice sequel is very unlikely to do the same big business as its post-Avatar beneficiary predecessor did in a less crowded 2010 market.)
That said, Dragon 3 is a candidate to move on its own when considering the average turnaround for animated sequels is three years--not two, as the franchise's creators are currently aiming for.
Broadening 2016's superhero glut even more will be Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 3, set to bow on June 10. The date's been marked since before Superman-Batman and Apocalypse were dated for the same summer, but it would deviate from the franchise's history of opening over a major holiday weekend or the start of May. As the fourth planned superhero movie opening within the span of less than two months, Sony's now in the position of asking themselves whether it might be wiser to push Spider-Man into July... or out of summer entirely. November and December 2016 are currently wide open, but they'll probably wait and see what Disney/Marvel does first.
2015's calendar itself is a work-in-progress, so don't be surprised when 2016's outlook shifts again over the next 18-24 months.
As things stand today, though, the moviegoing public's appetite for summer franchises of the superhero ilk will be tested to the utmost if five major comic adaptations hit the big screen in one summer. Unfortunately, the laws of averages and diminishing returns dictate that not all will come out looking rosy. Marvel's success has bred a newfound sense of competition among rival studios, and they're starting to push back against Disney's and Marvel's planned dominance over the release schedule. Will it work out for both studios and fans, or will it backfire on everyone and burst the comic book bubble?
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Frozen is still hot overseas. The Disney release collected $24.6 milion from 52 territories in its eigth weekend abroad, passing Up as the third highest grossing global original IP (non-sequel) with a $426.5 million overseas total and a $759.1 million global cume.
A big chunk of the weekend's collections came from an $8.9 million debut in South Korea. Frozen is the studio's biggest opener of all time in the market and the second highest industry animation opener of all time in South Korea behind Kung Fu Panda 2. The strong bow places Frozen as the studio's third highest earner in South Korea behind Toy Story 3 and Tangled.
The United Kingdom is the top overseas earner for Frozen with a $55.9 million total. Other major markets for the animated film include: Germany ($43.9M), France ($40.3M), Russia ($32.1M), Italy ($26M), Australia ($24.5M), and Mexico ($23.5M).
Despicable Me 2 crossed the $30 million mark in its second weekend in China, passing the lifetime total of Monsters University ($32.6M) in the market after only ten days in release. An $8.4 million tally bumps the film's Chinese total to $33.5 million and raises its overseas cume to $586.9 million. Despicable Me 2 has grossed a total of $955 million worldwide, trailing Toy Story 3 ($1.1B) and The Lion King ($987.8M) as the third highest grossing animated film of all time globally.
Jack Ryan returned to screens overseas more than a decade after Ben Affleck's turn as the CIA operative in The Sum of All Fears. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit welcomed a $22.2 million bow from 29 territories in the return of the U.S. spy franchise.
China posted a surprisingly positive $9.5 million opening weekend for the fledgling franchise to claim first place in the market. Jack Ryan opened against Grudge Match in Russia and put up a $2 million debut from 1,050 screens. The thriller also secured a $2 million bow from 227 locations in Australia. South Korea contributed $1.8 million from 350 venues and Mexico delivered $1.2 million from 456 cinemas.
Martin Scorsese scored the biggest opening weekend of his career in three key European markets. The Wolf of Wall Street took a #1 debut from the United Kingdom ($7.5M), Germany ($6.8M), and Spain ($3.6M). Universal is releasing the film in nine overseas territories where the film has already grossed an early total of $28.5 million.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug collected $10.9 million overseas this weekend to bring its total outside of North America up to $585 million. The prequel-sequel added $2 million from 807 screens in its sixth weekend in Germany to reach an $84 million cume in the market. Australia brought in $1.6 million from 496 screens in its fourth weekend to hit a $31 million total. The United Kingdom contributed an additional $1.4 million from 568 screens in its sixth weekend to bring its own cume up to $68.1 million. Other top markets for Smaug include: France ($49.5M), Russia ($44.5M), and Spain ($22.7M).
The Secret Life of Walter Mity crossed the $100 million mark overseas this weekend after adding $7.9 million from 4,741 screens in 57 markets. France led the hold-overs with a $1.1 million take in its third frame, only 24% down from the previous weekend, bringing its total in the market up to $6.5 million. Other top markets for the Ben Stiller film include Australia ($11.2M) and Russia ($10.3M). Walter Mitty has grossed $160.9 million worldwide.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones scared up $6 million from 4,161 locations in 40 markets to take its overseas total up to $43.9 million. There were no new openings this weekend as the film held on to post a $1.1 million tally in its second weekend in Brazil, reaching a $3.8 million cume in the market. The Marked Ones has grossed a total of $75.4 million worldwide.
The Book Thief earned $5.2 million from 2,020 screens in 16 markets over the weekend. The film posted strong holds in Australia ($1.9M, -12%) and Spain ($1.2M, +1%), along with a solid $1 million debut in Mexico. The Book Thief has collected a total of $11.2 million overseas with an expansion to follow in the coming weeks. The global total for the film is currently $31.3 million.
Walking with Dinosaurs opened in 302 screens in Brazil this weekend for a $1.2 million debut. The Brazilian debut helped the film collect $4.3 million from 4,231 screens in 52 markets in its latest overseas frame. Walking with Dinosaurs has grossed $72.2 million overseas and a total of $106.4 million globally.
47 Ronin is still trying to put up a fight overseas. The latest Keanu Reeves action tentpole took a mid-table debut across 181 dates in Australia that resulted in a $1.6 million opening weekend. The film continued its strong run in Russia with a $1.5 million hold in its third weekend across 663 dates. 47 Ronin has grossed a total of $25.1 million in Russia. The film has grossed $79.4 million overseas and $116 million globally.
The Counselor was one of the biggest box office disappointments of 2013 but was able to record a #1 debut in Italy with a $2.4 million take from 384 screens. The Italian debut pushes The Counselor to a $51.6 million overseas total and $68.5 million global cume.
Devil's Due took $2.2 million from 535 screens in 6 markets to reach an early overseas total of $2.7 million. An $8.5 million bow from North America gives the film a global day-and-date total of $11 million.
Anchorman 2 is slowing down outside of North America. The comedy sequel took $1 million from 669 cinemas in 6 markets to reach an overseas cume of $41.7 million. Ron Burgundy and co. have grossed a total of $163.8 million worldwide.
Pan will take the film's original July 17, 2015 slot.
The official press release below:
BURBANK, CA - January 17, 2014 - Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that the release of Zack Snyder's untitled Superman/Batman film has been moved to May 6, 2016, allowing the filmmakers time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story. The decision was made following the shift of the start of production to second quarter of this year. The Studio has also set a July 17, 2015, worldwide release date for its as-yet-untitled all-new Peter Pan adventure. Joe Wright will direct the epic live-action film about the boy who would never grow up, created by J.M. Barrie. The dual date announcement was made by Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President, International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.
Monday Update: Due to the NFL Conference Championship games on Sunday, most film were over-estimated yesterday. However, that wasn't the case for Universal's Ride Along, which took in an estimated $41.6 million for the three-day frame and an estimated $48.1 million for the four-day frame. Ride Along exceeded its already lofty expectations this weekend and in the process set new unadjusted three-day opening weekend records for both Martin Luther King Day weekend and the month of January as a whole (both records were previously held by the $40.06 million start of 2008's Cloverfield). While the rush out of Kevin Hart's growing fanbase could potentially lead to some front-loading for Ride Along, that could also be offset by strong word of mouth, as the film received a strong A rating on CinemaScore.
Fellow Universal release Lone Survivor placed in second with respective three-day and four-day takes of $22.1 million and $26.4 million. The four-day take for the Peter Berg directed war film starring Mark Wahlberg was down a solid 30 percent from last weekend's three-day take. With $77.2 million after eleven days of wide release, Lone Survivor is currently running 36 percent stronger than the $56.95 million Zero Dark Thirty had grossed at the same point in its run last year.
The Nut Job opened surprisingly strong in third place with respective three-day and four-day grosses of $19.41 million and $25.26 million. The 3D computer animated film delivered the second largest opening weekend ever for distributor Open Road, just behind the $19.67 million start of 2012's The Grey. The Nut Job opened 10.5 percent stronger than the $22.87 million four-day start of 2009's Hotel for Dogs and is within shouting distance of Lone Survivor for second place over the four-day frame. The film received a B rating on CinemaScore.
The news wasn't anywhere near as good for Paramount's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which debuted in fourth place with respective three-day and four-day takes of $15.58 million and $18.0 million. The attempted franchise re-launch opened on the very low end of expectations, which had been softened a bit after the film was moved from its previous Christmas Day release slot. Jack Ryan received a so-so B rating on CinemaScore, which isn't the greatest early sign going forward. The saving grace for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is that is carries a relatively modest reported production budget of $60 million.
The weekend's other new wide release, Fox's Devil's Due opened all the way down in seventh with respective three-day and four-day takes of $8.38 million and $9.3 million. The low-budget horror film debuted in line with its modest expectations. With a D+ rating on CinemaScore and the typically front-loaded nature of found footage horror films in general, expect Devil's Due to fade away from theatres very quickly.
Sunday Update: For a second consecutive weekend, Universal saw one of its films break out in in a big way, as its Ride Along easily led the three-day frame with an estimated $41.2 million. The action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube had been widely expected to perform well heading into the weekend, but was still able to exceed its lofty expectations. Ride Along set new unadjusted three-day opening weekend records for both Martin Luther King Day weekend and the month of January as a whole. Both records were previously held by the $40.06 million start of 2008's Cloverfield. The official four-day estimate for Ride Along currently stands at $47.8 million, which would top the $46.15 million four-day take of Cloverfield. That is also an impressive 24 percent stronger than the $38.44 million four-day start of The Book of Eli over Martin Luther King weekend back in 2010.
Clearly Kevin Hart was the driving force in the success of Ride Along this weekend. The film's performance is especially promising for the comedian going forward, as Hart will continue to transition into his film career throughout 2014 with upcoming releases that include next month's About Last Night and June's Think Like a Man Too. While the rush out of Hart's growing fanbase could potentially lead to some front-loading for Ride Along, that could also be offset by strong word of mouth, as the film received a strong A rating on CinemaScore.
Somewhat surprisingly, the audience breakdown for Ride Along skewed fairly heavily towards female moviegoers (57 percent). The film also skewed towards moviegoers 25 and older (54 percent).
Universal also claimed second place over the three-day frame, as Lone Survivor took in an estimated $23.2 million. The Peter Berg directed war film starring Mark Wahlberg was down a solid 39 percent from last weekend's stronger than expected start. In comparison, last year Zero Dark Thirty fell 35 percent in its second weekend of release (also over Martin Luther King Day weekend) to gross $15.79 million. The official four-day estimate for Lone Survivor stands at $27.6 million. That brings the film's total to $78.4 million after eleven days of wide release, which is 38 percent stronger than the $56.95 million Zero Dark Thirty had grossed at the same point in its run.
The weekend's biggest surprise was The Nut Job, which opened in third over the three-day frame with an estimated $20.55 million. Online buzz levels had been soft for the 3D computer animated film from Open Road leading up to its release, but family audiences were clearly ready for something new this weekend. The Nut Job delivered the largest opening weekend ever for distributor Open Road, just topping the $19.67 million start of 2012's The Grey. The film's performance is an especially welcome sign for Open Road, who was coming off a string of disappointing performers throughout much of 2013. With an official four-day estimate of $27.2 million, The Nut Job opened 19 percent stronger than the $22.87 million four-day start of 2009's Hotel for Dogs and is within shouting distance of Lone Survivor for second place over the four-day frame. The film received a B rating on CinemaScore.
The news wasn't anywhere near as good for Paramount's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which debuted in fourth over the three-day frame with an estimated $17.2 million. The attempted franchise re-launch starring Chris Pine and Keira Knightley opened on the low end of expectations, which had been softened a bit after the film was moved from its previous Christmas Day release slot. At the end of the day, there was simply still too much competition for Jack Ryan to stand out, as the break-out performances of Ride Along and Lone Survivor and the continued presence of Oscar nominees for Best Picture in the marketplace have limited the potential audience for Jack Ryan. The official four-day estimate for Jack Ryan stands at $20.0 million. The film received a so-so B rating on CinemaScore, which isn't the greatest early sign going forward. On the other hand, the film did register a strong estimated three-day opening weekend to Friday ratio of 3.19 to 1. The saving grace for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is that is carries a relatively modest reported production budget of $60 million.
The weekend's other new wide release, Fox's Devil's Due opened all the way down in seventh with an estimated $8.5 million. The low-budget horror film debuted in line with its modest expectations and 54 percent softer than the recent $18.34 million start of Paramount's Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. For the four-day frame, Devil's Due is headed for a take in the area of $9.5 million. With a D+ rating on CinemaScore and the typically front-loaded nature of found footage horror films in general, expect Devil's Due to fade away from theatres very quickly.
Even with the break-out performance of The Nut Job, Disney's Frozen remained strong this weekend with an estimated fifth place three-day take of $11.97 million. That represented a slim 19 percent decline from last weekend. The official four-day estimate for Frozen stands at $16.399 million, which brings the film's domestic total to a massive $337.03 million.
Noteworthy performances for films that received major Academy Award nominations included three-day estimated takes of $10.60 million for Sony's American Hustle, $7.59 million for The Weinstein Company's August: Osage County and $7.50 million for Paramount's The Wolf of Wall Street. American Hustle was up an impressive 28 percent over last weekend, August: Osage County was up 5 percent (thanks in part to receiving a major theatre expansion) and The Wolf of Wall Street was down just 15 percent. Respective total grosses through Sunday stand at $116.43 million for American Hustle, at $90.28 million for The Wolf of Wall Street and at $18.18 million for August: Osage County.
Saturday Update: Universal reports this morning that Ride Along banked a stellar $14.5 million Thursday night and Friday, giving it one of the best opening days ever for an original comedy and setting it on course for a massive $39.5 million 3-day / $46 million 4-day holiday debut. The 3-day figure would be enough for the second best January opening, and the 4-day would mark the second best extended MLK opening weekend in history, topping Lone Survivor's $37.85 million mark for the 3-day statistic. Cloverfield, for the time being, owns both records with $40.1 million and $46.2 million, respectively.
Although critics haven't taken to the film (17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), early word of mouth looks relatively healthy with 79 percent of Flixster users approving of or still anticipating the comedy. The recipe for success here is fairly simple: Kevin Hart. Bucking the strong possibility of his overexposure in a number of movies recently, Hart is riding a wave of growing popularity that broadens his appeal to a diverse audience. Ice Cube's presence is certainly helpful as well, himself coming off a supporting role in a similarly-themed buddy cop hit two years ago (21 Jump Street).
Paramount's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit came in significantly under early Friday projections. The franchise reboot pulled a disappointing $5.43 million yesterday, which should net it around $16.3 million for the 3-day and $19.2 million over the extended 4-day weekend. The studio was hoping for more but after Lone Survivor exploded last weekend and ensured the male/action fan audience would have a fairly tough choice to make this weekend, the film's prospects were severely hampered. Ryan's Flixster score is down to a modest 64 percent right now, while critical reception is leaning just toward the positive side with 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. On the bright side, the film's fairly low $60 million production budget means it could still end up a financial success if overseas business helps pick up some of the tab.
Open Road made its animation debut with The Nut Job this weekend as it pulled $4.8 million yesterday. Look for $18.8 million 3-day and $25.5 million 4-day figures. That's better than expected business with Frozen still riding strong with family audiences. Then again, with Nut Job's trailer running in front of that pic for the past two months, it certainly had a lot of exposure. Critics have shunned the flick (13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) while Flixster stands at 69 percent.
Fox's Devil's Due earned a soft $3.5 million yesterday. Combined with the very modest returns for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones two weeks ago, horror fans clearly aren't hungry for anything new right now--that, plus the film's marketing campaign failed to sell this film as a must-see picture for that crowd. The film's Flixster score is a disastrous 38 percent with critics similarly disapproving (21 percent on RT). Devil's Due should take in $8.5 million over the 3-day frame and $9.5 million for the 4-day.
Friday Update #2: Sources tell BoxOffice that Ride Along is gunning for close to $11 million based on early Friday business. That would put the Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy on pace for a $31-33 million 3-day / $35-37 million 4-day holiday weekend.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is looking at solid business today in its own right. Sources are projecting an $8.5 million take today that could end up netting the film a $24 million 3-day / $28 million 4-day debut.
The Nut Job is looking at around $3.5 million today. We're staying conservative on Nut Job for now with a projected $16-18 million 3-day / $20-22 million 4-day bow.
Devil's Due, meanwhile, may pull in around $3 million today. Horror films generate a big chunk of their business from late shows, so that's another figure we're cautious about. Should it hold, the front-loaded nature of the genre means Devil's Due will bank around $8 million for the 3-day and $9 million for the 4-day.
More updates to come...
Friday Update #1: Universal reports that Ride Along took in $1.1 million from Thursday evening shows, easily topping the $330K that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit managed.
More coming later...