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By Daniel Garris

Warner's American Sniper took in $4.18 million on Monday to continue to lead the daily box office with ease. The blockbuster Clint Eastwood directed film starring Bradley Cooper was down 76 percent from Sunday and down 77 percent from last Monday's inflated Martin Luther King Day performance. American Sniper has grossed a massive $204.58 million after eleven days of wide release. That places the film an extremely impressive 59 percent ahead of the $128.52 million eleven-day take of 2013's Gravity. Given the magnitude of its grosses and its continued strong holding power, American Sniper looks like it will have no problem remaining in first place over the upcoming weekend.

The Boy Next Door claimed second place with $0.820 million. The Jennifer Lopez led thriller from Universal was down 76 percent from Sunday. The Boy Next Door has grossed $15.73 million in four days, which is towards the higher end of pre-release expectations and represents a good start, especially with the film's low production budget in mind. The Boy Next Door is running 21 percent ahead of the $13.05 million four-day take of 2010's The Back-Up Plan.

Sony's The Wedding Ringer placed in third with $0.684 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad was down 76 percent from Sunday and down 80 percent from last Monday. The Wedding Ringer surpassed the $40 million mark yesterday and has grossed $40.07 million in eleven days. The film is currently running 3 percent ahead of the $38.84 million eleven-day take of last year's About Last Night.

Paddington took fourth place with $0.527 million. The well received family film from The Weinstein Company was down 86 percent from Sunday and down a very sharp 92 percent from last Monday's holiday inflated take. Paddington also surpassed the $40 million mark yesterday and has grossed $40.46 million in eleven days. That places the film just below the $40.67 million eleven-day take of last year's The Nut Job.

Fellow Weinstein Company release The Imitation Game rounded out Monday's top five with $0.485 million. The Best Picture nominee starring Benedict Cumberbatch was down 72 percent from Sunday and down 60 percent from last Monday. The Imitation Game continues to display strong holding power and has grossed a healthy $60.94 million to date.

Lionsgate's Mortdecai and Disney's Strange Magic continued their poor starts with respective eighth place and tenth place grosses of $0.274 million and $0.222 million. Strange Magic has only managed $5.73 million in four days, while the four-day start for Mortdecai stands at an even softer $4.47 million.  Both films will obviously disappear from theatres quickly.

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By Daniel Garris

Warner's American Sniper continued to absolutely dominate the box office this weekend with a first place take of $64.37 million. In the process, the Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper surpassed the $200 million domestic mark this weekend. American Sniper was down just 28 percent from last weekend. That represented an extremely impressive second weekend hold, especially for a film with grosses of this magnitude.

Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, American Sniper registered the eighth largest second weekend gross of all-time. American Sniper also registered the third largest January weekend gross of all-time (behind only the film's performance last weekend and the third weekend performance of Avatar back in 2010). With $200.14 million after just ten days of wide release, American Sniper is currently running a massive 64 percent ahead of the $122.32 million ten-day start of 2013's Gravity (which fell 23 percent in its second weekend to gross $43.19 million). Given this weekend's performance, American Sniper is obviously in great position to zoom past the $300 million milestone going forward.

American Sniper took in an estimated $5.8 million from IMAX locations this weekend. That brings the film's IMAX total to $18.8 million, which represents 9.4 percent of the film's overall gross thus far.

The Boy Next Door debuted in second place this weekend with $14.91 million. Universal's low-budget thriller starring Jennifer Lopez performed towards the higher end of pre-release expectations. The film was off to a good start, especially with its low production budget in mind. The Boy Next Door opened 22 percent ahead of the $12.20 million start of 2010's The Back-Up Plan (which also starred Lopez) and debuted 13 percent below the $17.12 million debut of 2013's The Call. The Boy Next Door received a B- rating on CinemaScore, which is respectable for a thriller. The audience breakdown for The Boy Next Door skewed heavily towards female moviegoers (71 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and older (60 percent).

The news was far worse for the weekend's other two wide releases as Disney's Strange Magic and Lionsgate's Mortdecai were both dead on arrival. As was the case with Universal's Blackhat last weekend, Strange Magic and Mortdecai both had a problem finding an audience due in large part to the breakout performance of American Sniper (with poor critical reviews for both films also not helping).

Strange Magic debuted in seventh place with $5.50 million. The computer animated film written and executive produced by George Lucas debuted below its already modest pre-release expectations. Strange Magic performed similarly to Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, which opened with $3.75 million back in May of last year. Strange Magic received a B- rating on CinemaScore, which is lackluster for an animated film. The audience breakdown for Strange Magic skewed towards female moviegoers (56 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and younger (53 percent). Family audiences represented 71 percent of the film's overall audience.

Mortdecai landed in ninth place with $4.20 million. Unlike Strange Magic, the comedy starring Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow had been expected to have somewhat of a presence at the box office this weekend, due in part to strong levels of online buzz. But much like last year's Transcendence (which debuted with just $10.89 million), Mortdecai failed to live up to expectations. Audiences have clearly lost interest in Depp, especially when it comes to his non-event film roles. Mortdecai received a soft C+ rating on CinemaScore.

Paddington took third place this weekend with $12.27 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company was down 35 percent from last weekend's three-day start. That represented a nice second weekend hold, especially with the added direct completion from Strange Magic. Paddington has grossed a very solid $39.94 million in ten days. That places the film just below the $40.06 million ten-day start of The Nut Job last January (which fell 38 percent in its second weekend to gross $12.10 million).

Sony's The Wedding Ringer followed in fourth with $11.31 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad was down a respectable 45 percent from last weekend. The Wedding Ringer has grossed $39.39 million in ten days, which is on the lower end of expectations. The film is now running 3 percent ahead of the $38.28 million ten-day take of last year's About Last Night (which declined a far sharper 71 percent in its second weekend to gross $7.53 million).

Fox's Taken 3 rounded out the weekend's top five with $7.41 million. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise was down a significant 50 percent from last weekend. Taken 3 has grossed $75.86 million in 17 days, which places the film 28 percent behind the $105.83 million 17-day gross of 2012's Taken 2.

Best Picture nominees The Imitation Game and Selma claimed sixth and eighth place with estimated takes of $6.95 million and $5.42 million. With aid from expanding into an additional 414 locations, The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game was up a strong 2 percent over last weekend. Paramount's Selma fell 38 percent from last weekend, due in part to last weekend's performance having been inflated by the Martin Luther King holiday. Respective total grosses stand at $60.45 million for The Imitation Game and at $39.14 million for Selma.

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By Alex Edghill

Fifty Shades Of Grey reclaimed its Facebook throne over the last couple weeks as it led all tracked films with 276,907 new likes. With its release now just over two weeks away and its marketing campaign gearing up its no surprise to see this back on top of the list given the level of interest the books have drummed up since their release in 2011. Its a forgone conclusion that this is going to be a real moneymaker on release given its modest price tag of $40 million, but the question remains just how big it will be. Though its not the best comparison, the best I can think of here (for which I have comparative data that is) is The Hunger Games which saw an increase of 735k new likes the same slots before release. I will say that the level of interest on Facebook for Fifty Shades was much higher than Hunger Games at this point before release in general as Shades has over 6 million likes while Hunger Games had only 1.7 million likes at the same time before release. However, even with that being said the discrepancy between the two in terms of increases is somewhat of a red flag in my books. Single point analysis and all that aside, my early expectations here is something in the range of $50-$60 million with anything more being a big surprise given its numbers.

Ted 2 continues to be a heavyweight on Facebook as it had the second highest like increases of all films tracked over the last couple weeks. The first was such a huge success in theaters, then came DVD, TV, and merchandising, which quickly immortalized it into pop culture. You might say that it has such a huge number that ~250k likes is such a small percentage. Which is true, but other massive films we track such as Furious 6 (54 million likes), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (13 million likes) haven't had the same level of consistent success on Facebook day in and day out as Ted 2 and it seems assured to best the already impressive $54 million that the first film generated on opening weekend in 2012.

The teen-targeted horrors battled it out for 3rd and 4th slot - Project Almanac and Unfriended. Almanac comes out a couple months before Unfriended on January 30th but both had nearly identical increases over the last two weeks of ~210k likes. Unfriended has really been turning heads on social media (see my earlier column about its trailer debut) in general and this just further proves it as it is running neck and neck with a release in the same genre that comes out more than two months before it. At this rate Unfriended will be at over 500k likes prerelease which is yet another strong sign for potential. Project Almanac has really been lagging up until a couple weeks ago but with its current trend upwards it looks like a lock for teen millions plus. 

Rounding out the top 5 was Minions which continues to impress me with its appeal and staying power despite its already massive like count.  It has either led or been in the top 5 every week since last November. This seems to be a sure lock to become a top 10 grossing film on the year.

Facebook Top 15 Movies by Like Increase for the last Two Weeks Ending Sunday January 25th

Rank Release Movie Likes Previous Change % Change
1 02/13/15 Fifty Shades of Grey 7,261,189 6,984,282 276,907 3.96%
2 06/26/15 Ted 2 21,336,358 21,068,474 267,884 1.27%
3 01/30/15 Project Almanac 306,996 97,192 209,804 215.87%
4 04/17/15 Unfriended 299,017 90,432 208,585 230.65%
5 07/10/15 Minions 28,362,539 28,234,446 128,093 0.45%

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by Esther Baruh, NATO Government Relations Manager, and Todd Halstead, NATO Consultant

For more than 20 years, policy makers at every level of government have pursued political solutions to reduce the nation's skyrocketing obesity rates. On their face, the objectives of these lawmakers are pragmatic. Obesity-related conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer are some of the leading causes of preventable death. Obesity also has an immense economic impact. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008. Individual medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than for those of healthy weight. 

In an attempt to reduce the burdens of these staggering statistics, policy makers have turned their attention to regulating American food consumption. Food and beverage manufacturers and retailers are in the throes of digesting the federal government's latest attempt at changing habits through legislation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued an expansive final rule on calorie labeling. The rule requires an establishment serving "restaurant-type food" with 20 or more locations to disclose calories on menus and menu boards, with additional nutritional information to be made available upon request. The FDA was charged with this rule making with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, in which Congress mandated calorie labeling for restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase former senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, politicians who haven't run a business can be bad at the business of regulating. The late McGovern learned the hard way about the impact regulations can have on businesses. After leaving the Senate, he acquired the leasehold on Connecticut's Stratford Inn, which led him to wish he had had that firsthand business experience while in office. "In short, ‘one-size-fits-all' rules for business ignore the reality of the marketplace," McGovern wrote after the inn went into bankruptcy. 

The FDA's new rule is wide ranging, covering businesses and food items that were exempted in the proposed rule issued more than three years ago. The blanket rule also overlooks the complicated nature of business operations. Particularly for movie theaters, which are increasingly experimenting with dine-in concepts and luxury cinema service, the rule presents many challenges and requires near-Talmudic interpretation to be successfully implemented. And it's not clear whether implementing this new rule will truly yield a change in public consumption.

While advocates claim menu labeling leads patrons to make informed and healthier choices, the FDA has failed to provide evidence that the regulation's costs-expected at more than $1.2 billion with 498,508 hours of paperwork-are justified by corresponding benefits to consumers. Despite many states and cities having implemented their own labeling mandates, studies do not uniformly find that consumers faced with calorie information on menus and menu boards change their eating habits. A 2013 National Institutes of Health study found no change in calories purchased after menu labeling was introduced in Philadelphia in 2010. Less than half of customers reported noticing the calorie counts. The study also discovered that the number of visits to fast-food restaurants did not change.

Advocates claim such data are inconclusive because menu labeling is a relatively new phenomenon. They are right. To gauge the ability of food labeling to rein in America's waistline, one needs only to look at the effect of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). The crowning health policy achievement of the 1990s, the NLEA requires most packaged foods to bear a Nutrition Facts panel containing basic per-serving nutritional information. Despite an FDA study that indicates 66 percent of consumers reported using the food label to determine food nutrients, data suggest the NLEA's implementation in 1994 has largely been unsuccessful at impacting the dramatic rise in adult and youth obesity rates. The CDC cites estimates that obesity in the United States has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. As of today, more than one-third of children, adolescents, and adults are overweight or obese. 

Surprisingly, there has been little empirical research evaluating the impact of the NLEA on obesity in the United States. The only comprehensive study, conducted by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2006, found that the NLEA labels had a slight beneficial impact on only one demographic group: non-Hispanic white females. The study did estimate that the total monetary benefit of the decrease in body weight for that group was up to $166 billion over a 20-year period, far in excess of the costs of the NLEA.

The murky question of calorie labeling's benefits has not gone unnoticed in Congress. Republican representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) stated that the agency had "acted recklessly" by mandating regulations without considering the impact they will have on employees, business owners, and local economies. Movie theaters are among the industries that will experience the "extreme cost" of adhering to the regulations, she warned. McMorris Rodgers is the sponsor of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, a bill that would predicate inclusion in the rule on 50 percent of a retail food establishment's total revenue coming from the sale of food. Her bill will not see action before the end of the 113th Congress; neither will companion legislation in the Senate sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), despite the bipartisan support enjoyed by both bills. While members of Congress are sometimes unwilling to push for legislative fixes while an agency is still engaged in the rule-making process, the publication of the final rule has sparked renewed efforts in this regard. A coalition of food retailers will likely push for the bill's reintroduction and passage in the 114th Congress. NATO is among the associations looking at possible legislative fixes. 

NATO's work on the rule won't be limited to seeking congressional solutions. We aim to serve as a primary resource for impacted members on a range of needs, including partnering with other associations on labeling materials and communicating member concerns with the FDA. If you operate 20 or more locations, regardless of whether your company has already implemented menu labeling, or you are just beginning the process of incorporating calorie counts in your facilities, NATO's team is here to help you. For more information, please contact our Washington, DC, office at 202-962-0054. 

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