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By Daniel Garris

Disney has announced today that Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back to December 15, 2017.  The eighth episode of the Star Wars saga had previously been scheduled for release on May 26, 2017.  The move isn't a big surprise given the record-breaking performance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a December release date.  Disney also has Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scheduled for release on December 16, 2016 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 scheduled for May 5, 2017.

In addition, Disney has moved up its Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales so that it will now occupy the May 26, 2017 date instead.  The fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had been previously scheduled to open on July 7, 2017.

Shortly after Disney's announcement, Sony also announced that it has moved up Spider-Man to July 7, 2017 and has moved back Jumanji to July 28, 2017.

Wednesday Afternoon Update:

In further 2017 release date news, Paramount has removed Terminator 2 from its previous May 19, 2017 release date and will now be releasing Baywatch on May 19, 2017 instead.  Terminator 2 is currently without a new release date.

Thursday Afternoon Update:

Universal has moved The Mummy to June 9, 2017.  The franchise re-launch starring Tom Cruise was previously scheduled for release on March 24, 2017.

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By Daniel Garris

Fox's The Revenant claimed first place on Tuesday with $3.14 million. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was down 45 percent from Monday's holiday performance and down a solid 37 percent from last Tuesday. The Revenant is on the verge of passing the $100 million domestic milestone, as the film has grossed a stronger than expected $98.84 million after twelve days of wide release (and an additional two weeks of platform release). The film is currently running an impressive 25 percent ahead of the $79.25 million twelve-day take of 2010's Shutter Island. With not much expected from this coming weekend's three new wide releases, The Revenant looks to be in good shape to lead the box office over the weekend.

Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens took second place with $2.38 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise declined 64 percent from Monday's inflated performance and a solid 38 percent from last Tuesday. The Force Awakens continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $861.33 million through 33 days of release. That places the film 69 percent ahead of the $509.06 million 33-day take of 2009's Avatar and 45 percent ahead of the $595.63 million 33-day gross of last year's Jurassic World. Today Disney announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back to December 15, 2017.

Universal's Ride Along 2 followed closely behind in third place with $2.28 million. The PG-13 rated comedy sequel starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was down 60 percent from Monday. In comparison, 2014's Ride Along fell 70 percent on its first Tuesday to gross $2.10 million. Ride Along 2 has grossed $43.28 million in five days. That is towards the lower end of pre-release expectations and places the film 15 percent behind the $50.73 million five-day start of Ride Along.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi placed in fourth with $1.84 million. The Michael Bay directed action thriller from Paramount held up nicely on Tuesday, as it was down just 39 percent from Monday. 13 Hours has grossed $21.06 million in five days of release. While that is a bit below expectations, the film may be able to hold up well going forward thanks in part to strong word of mouth. 13 Hours is currently running 26 percent behind the $28.42 million five-day start of 2012's Act of Valor.

Fellow Paramount release Daddy's Home rounded out Tuesday's top five with $0.703 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg fell 70 percent from Sunday and 38 percent from last Tuesday. Daddy's Home continues to impress with a stronger than expected 26-day gross of $132.56 million.

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Currently serving her third term as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a seasoned veteran of the film industry. Her storied career includes tenures as executive vice president of worldwide publicity for Paramount Pictures and president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema. Today, Boone Isaacs also acts as governor of the academy's public relations branch, a post she has held for 23 years, and heads the film marketing consultancy CBI Industries. BoxOffice spoke with Boone Isaacs ahead of her keynote address at Art House Convergence.

Interview by Daniel Loria

What is the importance of art-house theaters in today's film industry?

Two words right off the bat: very important. And I do believe that. I grew up in a world prior to multiplexes. I grew up in a medium-sized town in Massachusetts, and so much of my moviegoing experience was at a single-screen theater. When I lived in San Francisco, a big part of my moviegoing experience was at art-house theaters. I think it's terrific that there is this movement, because it wasn't that long ago that people were saying the single-theater experience was on its way out. I think it's important overall for the entire industry to have a very healthy independent-theater organization.

Since the beginning, the Academy Awards have helped market the cinema-going experience to the general public. And for a while, especially early on, it helped legitimize the cinema as an art form for mass audiences. Today, however, cinema isn't exclusively tied to moviegoing as it once was. What role do the Academy Awards play in promoting that moviegoing experience today?

With regard to our present rules, a film must play theatrically in Los Angeles for seven days in order to qualify. That is still our basic rule of inclusion for recognition by the academy. A film can qualify regardless of whether it's played in four thousand screens or two theaters; for us what matters is that it has been played for a general audience for at least those seven days. I'm always asked if that's ever going to change. I have no idea. Right now, these are the rules that we have. There's a lot of talk right now about the theatrical experience changing. Yes, it is changing, but when you have films grossing over $100 million over three- or four-day periods, it's hard for me to believe that this experience is actually waning. I think that the idea and the camaraderie and the communal experience of watching a movie with others is something that we humans really like. I think that experience will never go away.

It can be frustrating to read how the academy is portrayed in some outlets, as this monolithic bloc making unilateral decisions. We know that's not the case; each of the craft branches has its own voice, tendencies, and regulations. There remains a public perception problem, however, with audiences calling for more diversity on the screen and behind the camera.

It's an industry-wide issue, that's for sure. Studios and production companies really need to look at the audience they serve, because this is a business of serving that audience. I think the production entities need to widen their view of what is talent and start hiring, mentoring, and promoting-not only hiring, but promoting-different voices. The cinema experience is expanding quite a bit, especially in Asia and Africa. Folks like to see stories about themselves and others, because at the core we like to experience other people's journeys-whether it be in a documentary or a big-budget feature film. It's all about entertainment, and it comes in very different forms.

What upcoming projects are on your agenda?

Our biggest one is our museum, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is scheduled to open in early 2018. We're very excited about this project; it's a very big one for us. As you are aware, there hasn't been a museum dedicated to this art form in its hometown, and I do consider the hometown to be Hollywood, even though movies are made around the world.

 

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By Daniel Loria

What are some of the main points that art-house and independent exhibitors can take away from your presentation at Art House Convergence?

This is the first time NAC is involved with Art House Convergence, and we'll be talking about the value and benefits of concessions at art-house theaters. Interestingly, the average independent art-house theater only gets around 15 percent of its total revenue from concessions, whereas the typical circuit or chain theater gets around 35 to 40 percent of its revenue from concessions. We see an opportunity for the smaller independent theaters to improve their bottom line while also providing people with what they like on a trip to the movies. We always operate under the same philosophy: why should you allow people to leave your theater without eating if they plan to do so, whether it's before or after? It'd be wonderful to keep that money under one roof. In this case, hopefully with some creativity and real marketing savvy, we'll be able to find a way for art-house theaters to keep that money. I'm going to be doing a 75- to 90-minute presentation showing the benefits and trends in food, not just in concessions but also through many hospitality venues. We'll be going through product after product in the presentation; I'll have around 30 samples of everything, including bottled water, corn chips, and candy. It's a wonderful opportunity to engage with what can and what cannot work, examples that range from alcohol and dine-in to standards like popcorn and candy.

What sort of potential do art-house audiences represent in terms of concessions sales?

The average art-house moviegoer can go to the cinema almost twice as much as they go to any other theater. We're talking about going to the movies ten times a year instead of four. That speaks to the loyalty of those moviegoers. These are moviegoers that are usually more upscale, and that presents a wonderful opportunity. It's a different audience, so you need to be aware of trends like non-GMO to gluten-free and types of items that can appeal to that audience.

One of my favorite cinemas here in New York City draws an older crowd --let's just say they sell a lot of senior-discount tickets-- and it's interesting to see how that is reflected in their concessions strategy: they offer a variety of cakes and muffins that they display just as prominently as their popcorn and candy. How do demographics play into the equation?

Like any owner of a retail establishment, you need to know the demographics of your customers. What works in Manhattan, New York, doesn't necessarily work in Manhattan, Kansas. You need to know your audience, key questions like knowing if they have dollars to spend. If they don't, then you can always down charge some of the more popular items. In many ways you need to know your demographics in order to make your concessions business more profitable.

Hot food has been an important trend in exhibition as of late, but I can understand why more budget-conscious exhibitors might shy away from tapping into it. Are there any alternatives for smaller exhibitors who might want to try an extended concessions menu without having to take the financial risk it entails?

Some theater chains are hiring third parties so they don't incur the hassle or expense of opening up a kitchen. I know of locations that have opened up doughnut stands and bars that have been contracted out to third parties, receiving a percentage of their take. There are ways of getting around the overhead and liability issues involved in hot food.

What role does in-theater dining play in today's art-house cinema?

One of the largest members of Art House Convergence is Alamo Drafthouse. In my book they're an art house, but they're certainly a circuit as well if you see how they're growing and franchising throughout the country. They're doing very, very well. They've found a great way to make money through food and beverage. Companies like Alamo are just as good restaurants and bars as they are cinemas. We have members that focus just as much on their food and beverage as what they have on screen, because that's where they make more money.

How can NAC help art-house cinemas in their concessions strategies?

We pride ourselves on our work with smaller companies and entrepreneurial exhibitors and suppliers, and we've had a lot of success. We are obviously very excited to have great members like AMC, Cinemark, and Regal as part of our organization because they bring a lot to our company. But frankly, the ones who need our services most are the smaller companies that don't have the excess cash to do the research on their own. We can help them. We have the education and certification programs for them. In that sense, it's an opportunity to use the membership to extend their value.

 

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By Daniel Garris

Universal's Ride Along 2 debuted in first place over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend with $41.01 million. The PG-13 rated comedy sequel starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart debuted towards the lower end of expectations and 16 percent below the $48.63 million four-day start of 2014's Ride Along. The film had been widely expected to debut a bit below Ride Along due in part to less pre-release excitement and the potential for sequel fatigue. With that said, Ride Along 2 still registered the fourth largest four-day Martin Luther King weekend debut of all-time and the eighth largest thee-day January opening ever with a three-day take of $35.24 million. Ride Along 2 received a B+ rating on CinemaScore. While that's a solid score, it's also significantly softer than the A rating Ride Along received on CinemaScore and suggests that the film will be more front-loaded than its predecessor was.

Thanks in part to healthy word of mouth and its 12 Academy Award nominations; Fox's The Revenant continued to exceed expectations with a close second place take of $37.53 million over the four-day frame. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was down a very slim 6 percent from last weekend's already stronger than expected debut. The Revenant has grossed an impressive $95.70 million after eleven days of wide release (and an additional two weeks of platform release). That places the film 24 percent ahead of the $77.32 million eleven-day take of 2010's Shutter Island. The Revenant represents another strong performer for DiCaprio and should continue to hold up well going forward. The film took $31.80 million over the three-day weekend.

After leading the weekend box office for each of the past four frames, Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens fell to third place this weekend with a four-day take of $33.02 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise was down a solid 22 percent from last weekend. The Force Awakens passed the $850 million mark this weekend and continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $858.95 million through 32 days of release. The film is currently running 70 percent ahead of the $504.87 million 32-day take of 2009's Avatar and 45 percent ahead of the $592.84 million 32-day gross of last year's Jurassic World. The Force Awakens took in $26.34 million over the three-day frame. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, The Force Awakens claimed the fourth largest three-day fifth weekend gross of all-time (behind only Avatar, 1997's Titanic and 2013's Frozen).

Paramount's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi debuted in fourth place with a four-day start of $19.22 million. The Michael Bay directed action thriller debuted a bit below expectations. While it wasn't expected to do so, 13 Hours was unable to deliver the type of break-out performance that other war themed thrillers such as American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty have delivered in recent years during the month of January. Potential for 13 Hours appears to have been weakened by the politics that have surrounded the 2012 Benghazi attack, as well as the break-out performance of The Revenant. 13 Hours is running 27 percent behind the $26.42 million four-day start of 2012's Act of Valor. 13 Hours took in $16.19 million over the three-day frame.  The film did receive a strong A rating on CinemaScore, which suggests that 13 Hours will hold up well going forward.

Fellow Paramount release Daddy's Home rounded out the weekend's top five with a four-day take of $11.90 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg was down a solid 21 percent from last weekend. Daddy's Home continues to impress with a stronger than expected 25-day gross of $131.86 million. That places the film 32 percent ahead of the $99.65 million 25-day take of 2010's The Other Guys. Daddy's Home grossed $9.55 million over the three-day weekend.

Meanwhile, Norm of the North was off to a lackluster sixth place start this weekend with a four-day take of $9.38 million. The modestly budgeted computer animated film from Lionsgate opened in line with its already low expectations. Martin Luther King weekend is typically a strong weekend for family films, but Norm of the North was unable to take advantage of the holiday frame. Norm of the North opened a very underwhelming 63.5 percent below the $25.70 million four-day start of 2014's The Nut Job. Over the three-day frame, Norm of the North took in $6.84 million. Norm of the North received a lackluster B- rating on CinemaScore, which isn't a good sign going forward. On top of that, the film will be facing added competition for family audiences from Fox's Kung Fu Panda 3 beginning on January 29.

The Forest landed in seventh place with $6.98 million. The PG-13 horror film from Focus and Gramercy starring Natalie Dormer was down a respectable 45 percent from last weekend's debut. The Forest has grossed a stronger than expected $22.31 million in eleven days. That places the film essentially on par with the $22.40 million eleven-day gross of last year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. The Forest took in $5.98 million over the three-day weekend.

Thanks in part to the five Academy Award nominations it received; Paramount's The Big Short was up 4 percent to take in an eighth place four-day gross of $6.44 million. This weekend's hold was especially impressive given that The Big Short is playing in 764 fewer locations than it was last week. The Adam McKay directed comedy drama passed the $50 million mark this weekend and has grossed $51.76 million in 39 days. The Big Short grossed $5.30 million over the three-day frame.

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