Saturday AM: It’s the best of times and the worst of times at the box office.
On the bright side we haveBlack Panther which is performing like a summer tentpole during the first quarter of the year, set to hit $607.4M this Sunday, and what many ultimately believe will be an end game of $650M stateside, $1.25 billion worldwide and now per our film finance sources will churn a total estimated profit of $461M after all ancillaries (ironically, a total that’s close to what some analysts believe Disney CEO Bob Iger could earn over four years if he hits all his performance goals in his compensation package).
That’s a sizeable chunk of change, one that’s higher than the profits of Avengers: Age of Ultron $382.3M and Captain America: Civil War‘s $193.4M, and we’re informed a lot of that has to do with the fresh face cast of Black Panther. There’s not a lot of heavy participations impacting Black Panther‘s bottom line in the Robert Downey Jr. or Joss Whedon Avengers sense, nor is it at the level of a Fast & Furious cast where its top players reportedly earn $0.40 of every $1 of profit after breakeven. Note Disney did not generate these Black Panther profit estimates for us.
For better or for worse, studios are taking advantage of the summer off-season which has proven to be lucrative, however, they’re flooding the marketplace with male-oriented action pictures in the market (either opening or on their way), i.e. MGM/Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider this weekend (est. $23.1M opening in 2nd place drawing 37% Men over 25, men overall at 56%), Universal/Legendary’s Pacific Rim Rising next weekend, andWarner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Ready Player One over Easter. In sum, it’s a challenge for any of these titles to pop on tracking past $35M. Some distribution executives fear that this fierce competition is a blur. Ready Player One generatedsome great heat out of SXSW and Warner Bros. has some great stunts planned, so we could see that one rise in its projections, but for now Black Panther sits on everything with a fifth No. 1 weekend of $29M.
The lesson learned here for rival studios is: You’ve got to be better than Marvel. What does Marvel do that your studio does not in regards to making movies, and marketing them? For one, the creatives there don’t just rest on their laurels and believe that brand alone will open their movie as an event. Marvel movies defy genre, raise stakes, create experiences we haven’t seen before with an auteur’s touch: James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther all stand apart from each other, and audiences can point to and savor each pic’s unique qualities.
Our finance sources continue to be gobsmacked by the results of Black Panther‘s over-performance, especially overseas, but still emphasize that the film is largely driven by its domestic results of which African American audiences have turned out greatly (close to 40% per Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak). This makes the pic an anomaly, and hard to comp in the ancillary market. Given how Black Panther was soft in certain western Euro markets like Italy, Spain, Germany, and Japan, the thinking is that the home entertainment cascade in those markets will be smaller as well. That’s why our estimates for the movie’s net global home entertainment monies of $125M are smaller than say Civil War’s $132M global home entertainment revenues or Ultron‘s $161.7M. Disney has some of the best foreign TV deals, and terms for such output deals remain fixed whether a studio has a $1 billion-grossing film or a $700M-grossing title.
Check out our profit projections below:
At $90M+ before P&A (some even say it’s much higher at $106M), Tomb Raider is too expensive for a reboot, especially on a franchise which never surged in its sequel, rather collapsed with 2003’s Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life. That sequel made 43% less than its 2001 original at the global B.O. This weekend’s opening currently at $23.1M isn’t that far from Cradle of Life‘s of $21.7M, and critics and audiences are mixed at 50% Rotten, a B CinemaScore and 70% overall positive on PostTrak.
Here’s the thing: videogame movies have always been challenged at the box office. But the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider proved that they weren’t poison with an opening of $47.7M, domestic take of $131M and global haul of $274.7M. A lot of that had to do with Angelina Jolie. Lara Croft was one of her first big roles after winning the supporting actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted, and her star was rapidly on the rise. Her sex appeal, fierce acting, Hollywood legacy (her father Jon Voight made a cameo as her onscreen dad), and her ability to do stunts with the greatest of ease raised Lara Croft beyond the Raiders of the Lost Ark knock-off sensibility which inherently comes with the brand. But then the sequel fell into the tropes of other adventures films and Lara Croft went dormant. That puts this Tomb Raider in a very large hole to climb out of, despite the sublime acting skills of Alicia Vikander. No disrespect to her, but as an Oscar-winning actress largely known on the arthouse scene, she didn’t walk into this Tomb Raider with the machine that Jolie possessed 17 years ago. Couple this with the fact that the movie has squarely been sold on her image in one-sheets, and the unfortunate fact that stars don’t open movies anymore. In this day and age, the solo star and the brand need to prop each other, it’s a two-way street.
Here’s a more recent example that worked in regards to a fresh face actress raising a brand’s image: Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress previously known for her supporting turns in Fast and Furious movies, completely resonates and wows moviegoers sending Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman to $821.8M.So, how’d that work out so well? She’s radiant, vibrant, funny and charming in all of her public appearances leading up to her big screen debut as the DC superhero from Comic-Con to Jimmy Kimmel. She’s playing a role that was long over-due on the big screen, and fit the part to a ‘T’. Warner Bros. smartly tees up Wonder Woman’s introduction as a cameo in Batman v. Superman, and it’s not only the main reason why people went to see the film, all of the scenes with Gadot were their favorite moments. And then came Wonder Woman, the highest grossing film of last summer ($412M).
So the question asked to the creators of Tomb Raider is: What makes the 2018 version an event film? The studios’ challenge at $90M is to truly make this movie a version of Tomb Raider that we have never, ever seen before, and the opening weekend results speak for themselves: The pic is no better than Cradle of Life money-wise, and about the same in audience reception–B grade and 70% overall positive on PostTrak–as the first Lara Croft.Given how this property was in moth balls for so long and was last seen on a flat-footed note, it would have been more prudent financially (and most likely for the prestige of the brand) to make Tomb Raider on a $50M-$60M Resident Evil budget. At least then we’d be able to talk about how Tomb Raider worked at the box office.
Some want to give foreign the benefit of the doubt in regards to saving TombRaider profit-wise; that this property was built for overseas, not U.S./Canada audiences. China’s first day of $12.3M has been described to us by a rival studio executive as “nice” and when added into the pic’s running foreign haul counts $37M overseas as of this minute. The pic is opening in another 19 markets this weekend including Spain, Mexico and Scandinavia after bowing in nine Asian territories including South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia last weekend.
Low budget pics are working with their audiences: 20th Century Fox’s $10M gay teen romance Love, Simon is opening to $12M in 5th, however, the biggest surprise comes from Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate’s $7M faith-based Christian rock title I Can Only Imagine which is making a heaven-sent $14M at 1,629 locations in faith-based locales for a 4th place rank. Tracking predicted this movie would die in the low single digits, but there’s been a fervent turnout from churches on this one. We’ll expound more on how title soared as the weekend goes on, but Lionsgate trailered this title in front of the masses that attended Wonder. Trailers online generated 130M views. The pic is about the story behind Christian rock band MercyMe’s song, and the group showed off the trailer at all of their concerts. RSA and LG executed a strong Christian radio program, which is still the main driver of the faith-based market with spots about the success of the song and the story behind it. And, of course, there was an extensive grassroots campaign with screenings at faith events and ministry gatherings; down to churches direct-emailing their parishioners about the pic. Both I Can Only Imagine and Love, Simon earned A+ CinemaScores tonight.
Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is ranking 3rd with a second weekend take of $17.3M, -48% for a running total of $61.8M.
Friday midday update: Once again, it’s another weekend where other studios can blame Black Panther for eating up their homework: The Disney/Marvel movie is looking at its fifth No. 1 notch with an estimated $26M-$28M sending its cume to $604M-$606M by Sunday and crossing that threshold in its 31st day of release. That makes Black Panther the second-fastest to $600M after Star Wars The Force Awakens (12 days) and ahead of Jurassic World (36 days) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (37 days).
Tomb Raider looks to arrive between $22M-$24M — that’s at this point in time. We’ve heard the exhibitor screenings for this Alicia Vikander movie were good.
Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time is eyeing $15M-$16M right now off industry estimates, -53% in weekend 2 with a 10-day running total of $60.5m.
The biggest surprise is Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ Christian rock movie I Can Only Imagine which is trying to push Greg Berlanti’s 20th Century Fox teenage gay romance movie Love, Simon out of 4th place. Each is vying for an estimated $12.5M to $13M. We understand the raw gross right now for I Can Only Imagine is beating all titles, but of course as the hours go on, it will ease. There’s a ton of pre-sales in this film. Production cost on this pic before P&A was a thrifty $7M.
Friday AM update: MGM/Warner Bros’ Tomb Raider dug up $2.1 million last night in previews at around 3,100 locations. The reboot of the videogame franchise on screen starring The Danish Girl supporting actress Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as explorer Lara Croft is expected to bring in a mid-$20M opening for a projected No. 2 debut as Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther continues its grip at No. 1 with a high $20Ms fifth weekend. That will give it a running B.O. of $600M-plus.
Also on Thursday, Roadside Attractions’ faith-based title I Can Only Imagine grossed a strong $1.3 million Thursday at 1,392 locations. It’s not often we see a faith-based title break into the top five in advance ticket sales, but that’s exactly what Fandango observed heading into the weekend. The pic starring Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman and Trace Adkins is expected to file in the single digits.
MGM and Warner Bros co-financed Tomb Raider for what is reported to be a $90M production. The 2001 original shot Angelina Jolie to solo box office stardom with a $47.7M bow. In regards to comps, Tomb Raider beat Maze Runner: The Death Cure ($1.5M Thurs, $24.5M FSS) and The Huntsman: Winter’s War ($1M Thurs, $19.4M FSS) and was just under The Divergent Series: Allegiant ($2.3M Thurs, $29M FSS). A year ago at this time, Warner Bros had Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island which made $3.7M in Thursday previews, but surged to $61M off of great reviews (75% certified fresh). Critics are currently split over Tomb Raider with 50% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes off 140 reviews.
Greg Berlanti’s teenage gay romance Love, Simon earned $850,000 from 2,125 locations for a $400 per-location average. 2oth Century Fox is excited about the result citing that the top 10 theaters came from seven different markets: LA, NY, Dallas, Orlando, Toronto,San Francisco and Boston. Love, Simon was made for a reported $10M with a three-day expected in the low-to-mid teens. The pic is currently 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The comp here is MGM/Alloy’s teen romance Everything, Everything, which earned $525K in previews and a $11.7M opening.
Among regular pics in release, Black Panther was of course the No. 1 movie, grossing an estimated $3.6M for a running total of $578.4M. Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time was second with $2.35M and a week’s take of $44.5M. The Ava DuVernay-directed movie is expected to make another $16.6M this weekend.