Weekend Box Office (Jan. 13-15): The Dumping Ground + What Accounts for 'Hidden Figures' Success?

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April 20th 2017


For many years, January was always known as the month when studios would typically release their lousiest films, with the lowest box office expectations. However, in recent years, it seems that the trend may be ending, as more high profile films are getting January openings, and are performing extremely well. However, old habits die hard, and there were a few examples of that this weekend.

Although some high profile, big budget films with high expectations, which opened wide this weekend, crashed and burned at the box office. But we'll get to all of that and more in a minute.

First of all, the good news continues for "Hidden Figures" - which edged out "Rogue One" last week - was No. 1 again this weekend, with only a tiny 10% drop from last weekend, grossing $20.5 million (and another $5 million estimated for Monday's MLK holiday). As of now, "Figures" looks solid for at least $100 million domestically. It has already opened internationally, in countries such as Norway. So why is the film doing so well? Simply because it's one of those films in which everything works so well, which is a lot harder to do in a film than you can imagine. It tells a fascinating, but little known story that attracts of lot of interest; it's getting repeat business from filmgoers; word-of-mouth has been incredibly strong; and it plays to audiences who are looking for family friendly entertainment that's not simplistic or just for children.

In addition, it provides not just one, but three very strong positive roles for black women, which is hardly ever seen in movies. And let's face it, it's going to be a long while before you see that again, unfortunately, given Hollywood's history. The film is also attracting audiences who are interested in space travel, and there are quite a number of them as well.

To put in other words, it's just a professional, well-made, inspirational and entertaining film. The kind of film that Hollywood used to make by the dozens, but has forgotten how to do. And the timing of the film's release couldn't be more perfect. In these frightening times (which officially begin on January 20), we need all the feel good, inspirational films that we can get.

In second place at the box office this weekend was the modern day romance musical "La La Land" with $14.5 million, grossing just over $74 million domestically to date, and likely heading towards $100 million. It's earned another $55 million overseas.

Lionsgate/CBS Films' "Patriots Day" - about the April 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and its aftermath - was highly thought to easily top the box office list this weekend. It was following in the footsteps of other patriotic "Rah! Rah! USA! USA!" films such as "American Sniper" and "Lone Survivor" which pulled in extraordinarily huge box office numbers in January. But "Patriots Day" fell way short of the others, landing in 6th place with $12 million.

Several analysts said that the film's disappointing performance was due to the subject matter being too familiar and the film was made just "too soon". However one could also argue that Lionsagte totally botched the marketing of the film, concentrating more on the actual bombing and the survivors part of the film, which was perhaps too downbeat for audiences looking for more uplifting entertainment right now, rather than promoting the film's other plotline involving the manhunt and capture of the terrorists which may have had more audience appeal. This doesn't bode well for the upcoming film "Stronger" with Jake Gyllenhaal scheduled to come out in the fall, which tells the story of the one of the victims of the bombing and his struggle to recover.

What's an even bigger surprise was that a minor horror film titled "The Bye-Bye Man" actually out-grossed "Patriots Day," coming in fifth with $13.5 million, which is nearly twice what the film cost to make.

But getting to the major films that totally crashed and burned at the b.o. this weekend; the first being Ben Affleck's 1930's gangster film, "Live By Night," which he also directed. The film got middling reviews, and in limited release last week, failed to spark any excitement. So it shouldn't be that big a surprise that this weekend, when the film opened wide on over 2800 screens, it earned a dismal $5.4 million. Audiences just were not interested in the film, or Affleck in the film.

Also tanking was Martin Scorsese's 30 years in development dream project "Silence" which expanded wider to just under 800 screens, with a sorry $3 million.

Now as for the dumping ground, we have to turn to the sad story of Paramount's family film "Monster Truck" and how a bad movie idea turned into a film with bad results. The film, which came in 7th place with $10.5 milllion, was actually shot almost three years ago, reportedly based on an idea from a Paramount production exec whose young son once asked him if monster trucks had real monsters in them.

What a great idea the exec thought and promptly the studio went into the development with the film which was planned to be released in May 2015. But when the film got disastrous feedback from test preview audiences, the studio went back and continuously retooled it, while pushing back the release date a number of times.

The result was a film that never worked, that Paramount knew was a disaster from the beginning, and quietly released with no fanfare this weekend, almost three years later. In fact, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio, two months ago before the film came out, actually wrote off the picture as a $115 million loss before its weekend release.

Joining the dump heap with "Monster Truck" is Open Road's action thriller "Sleepless" starring jamie Foxx, which opened in 8th place with $8.4 million. A remake of the far superior 2011 French film "Sleepless Nights" (which is available on DVD), I previously suggested that Open Road moving up the film's original release date from February to the MLK holiday weekend, was a good sign, since studios routinely move up the release dates of films if they're very positive on them, and think they might have winners on their hands.

There was very little advance PR for the film, and there were no advance screenings for the media and film critics. And as I have mentioned in the past, these are signals that a studio knows they have a stinker, and want to prevent a deluge of negative reviews from being published the day the film opens.

The top 12 grossers this weekend follow below:

1) Hidden Figures Fox $20,450,000 Total: $54,833,100
2) La La Land LG/S $14,500,000 Total: $74,081,569
3) Sing Uni. $13,810,970 Total: $233,026,490
4) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story BV $13,759,000 Total: $498,850,734
5) The Bye Bye Man STX $13,378,000
6) Patriots Day LGF $12,000,000 Total: $12,924,082
7) Monster Trucks Par. $10,500,000
8) Sleepless ORF $8,468,787
9) Underworld: Blood Wars SGem $5,815,000 Total:4 $23,931,118
10) Passengers Sony $5,625,000 Total: $90,004,731
11) Live By Night WB $5,425,000 Total: $5,610,644
12) Moana BV $3,909,000 Total: $231,215,125

by Sergio Mims on April 20th 2017
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