Naturally the big question this weekend is whether any of this year's Oscar nominated films showed any kind of "Oscar bump" (or lower than expected drop-off) at the box office because of their nominations. In the case of "Hidden Figures" which got an nomination for Best Picture, and "La La Land" which (inexplicably) got 14 nominations - a tie for the most nominations ever for a film - the answer is more so for one than the other.
In the case of "Figures" the film came in third place with the smallest b.o. drop-off of only 11%, for a weekend gross of $14 million, and a domestic gross so far of $104 million. It's likely headed for $150 million. Meanwhile, some overseas numbers are finally coming in for the film, from Hungary and Spain, for a total of just under $850,000. The film finally opens in the UK next month where it's already getting some very strong interest and advance buzz.
However "La La Land's" b.o. weekend numbers actually increased by 43%, making just over $12 million for $106.5 million here in the States, and a total so far of $223.5 million worldwide.
But once again M. Night Shyamalan's suspense film "Split" was No. 1 at the b.o. for the second weekend in row, with $26 million and just under $78 million to date domestically, and $101 million worldwide.
The family movie "A Dog's Purpose" came in second with $18.4 million, though the film was expected to be No.1 this weekend. I mean it's about dogs. How could it lose? But the news reports about animals being mistreated during the making of the film, may have hurt it at the box office.
Getting back to the Oscars for a second... of course, there's been a lot of discussion this week about the "new reality" reflected in this year's Oscar nominations because of the diversity represented. A record six black actors where nominated for Oscars in acting categories, but also for Best Director and Screenplay (Barry Jenkins), the first time for black filmmakers for Best Cinematography (Bradford Young for "Arrival") and the first nomination for a black woman editor (Joi McMillon for "Moonlight"), as well as for producer Kimberly Stewart for her first film "Manchester by the Sea". So it's no surprise that there were a lot of people saying that this is a new day, and things will never be the same when it comes to the lack of Oscars nominees and winners of color.
Let's see whether the same things are being said next year. I've seen several lists of films that are scheduled to be released this year, and from those lists, the number of black films or films that have black actors in major roles, are pretty limited.
Of course there are many independently made black films as is the case every year, so we'll be keeping our eye out for those. The overwhelming majority of black films made every year are made totally outside the studio system. If they're lucky, they might get some major film festival attention, which could lead to bigger things. And yes there are always unexpected surprises. "Moonlight" was completely under the radar (except for here at S & A) until it was first seen at the Telluride Film Festival in August. And Fox Searchlight may have an art house hit and a possible Oscar contender in the documentary field with "Step", which they picked up last week at Sundance for $4 million.
But it looks like the 2018 Oscars might suffer another case of #OscarsSoWhite, despite this year's nominees. What happens then? More articles and complaints about the lack of diversity in Hollywood? Now granted, a lot of has to do with timing. It just happened that we had a coupe of Oscar worthy black films this year. It took Barry Jenkins at least 3 years to find the little money he needed to make "Moonlight" until someone introduced him to Brad Pitt who loved the project, and developed it under the umbrella of his Plan B production company.
And with "Fences", it took some 20 years - even back when Eddie Murphy, believe it not, was attached to it - to finally get made, only after other major financiers, such as Charles King's Marco Ventures, came in to finance a chunk of the budget, and made it for a very reduced budget, with all cast and crew taking huge pay cuts.
"Figures" had, in comparison, a relatively quick development process, but that's because the ex-CEO of Fox Group Peter Chernin, owned the property and deeply loved it and has a deal with his former studio that says they will finance every year, as a favor to him, one smaller budgeted project that he's really passionate about. And it so happens that film was "Figures" last year. This year his "passion" project is the wilderness survival drama "The Mountain Between Us" with Kate Winslett and Idris Elba; but nothing like "Figures" can be expected this year.
Also let's be honest, how many black films can be considered truly "Oscar worthy"? 90% of most films released every year (race-irrelevant) are not, so why should the ratio be higher for black films? Also, as I have mentioned before, I have a serious problem with this idea that an Oscar nomination makes a black film worthy or valuable in the eyes of black audiences? As if white approval is needed for a black film before it can be considered even equal to a white film. What if "Fences" didn't get a any Oscar nominations at all? That makes it less of a film? The filmgoers will still love the film, and I don't think most would care at all. The film works for them and that should be enough.
I think the emphasis should be on more black directors making more black films, and let the whole Oscar chase be damned. If a black film, or some black actors, get a nomination, that's great. But if not, it's nothing to be distressed over.
Meanwhile, getting back to the B.O. numbers, the sixth (and they claim the final) "Resident Evil" film, subtitled "The Final Chapter", opened with the lowest total for any of the films in the franchise, which goes back to 2002. But the film has already grossed another $65 million overseas so far, over half of that in Japan alone, so we'll see if they really mean it when they say that this will be the last one.
As for the Weinstein Company, they're currently struggling at the box office. Stellar reviews, positive word of mouth and a few Oscar nominations have helped "Lion" to be a modest success, though it is still in limited release. However "The Founder" is sinking; while their new film "Gold" with Matthew McConaughey, bombed this weekend with just under $3.5 million, giving more talk to the rumors that the company might be up on the auction block sometime this year.
This weekend's top 12 grossers follows below:
1) Split Uni. $26,268,685 Total: $77,998,775
2) A Dog's Purpose Uni. $18,386,020 Total: $18,386,020
3) Hidden Figures Fox $14,000,000 Total: $104,021,694
4) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter SGem $13,850,000 Total: $13,850,000
5) La La Land LG/S $12,050,000 Total: $106,509,372
6) xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Par. $8,250,000 Total: $33,487,750
7) Sing Uni. $6,213,710 Total: $257,405,085
8) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story BV $5,124,000 Total: $520,049,573
9) Monster Trucks Par. $4,100,000 Total: $28,135,147
10) Gold Wein. $3,470,000
11) Patriots Day LGF $2,850,000 Total: $28,381,241
12) The Founder Wein. $2,676,000 -Total: $7,503,067