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  1. 6 Reasons Why 'LEGO Batman's' Disappointing Box Office Is a Bad Sign for the Dark Knight

    Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, so a missing $20 million here or there isn't going to put a big crimp in his Bat-budget.

    Still, box office experts must be scratching their heads wondering why "The LEGO Batman Movie" opened about $15 million below the $70 million they projected, taking the No.1 spot with $55.6 million.

    Analysts widely expected the new animated feature to top the $69 million opening that "The LEGO Movie" enjoyed three years ago, released around the same time as "LEGO Batman." The success of the first movie, the eight-decade popularity of Batman, and the 4,088-screen release (the biggest ever for a February film) all made for much loftier prediction than what the film brought it for its opening weekend.

    Fellow sequels "Fifty Shades Darker" and "John Wick: Chapter Two" both outperformed expectations. Pundits predicted "Darker" would premiere in the low $40s, but its estimated sales as of Sunday came to $46.8 million. For "Wick," predictions hovered around $20 million, but the Keanu Reeves action film over-performed with an estimated $30.0 million.

    Why did "LEGO Batman" fall short of expectations, while "Darker" and "Wick" outdid them? Here are six likely reasons why:

    1. Fanbases
    Batman's been a popular character for nearly 80 years, but last year's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" may have squandered a lot of the franchise's good will.

    Not that it's at all clear that fans of those grim, grown-up movies would have come to see the family-oriented "LEGO" film's funnier take on the Caped Crusader, unless they wanted to see a spoof of the bleak bummers the live-action "Batman" movies have become. But it's also not clear that fans of the first movie, with its universe of characters, wanted to see a "LEGO" movie confined to Gotham City.

    Meanwhile, fans of the first "Fifty Shades" were widely expected to come back for a movie that pretty much offered more of the same "Mommy Porn" elements. And "John Wick" may have had the most ardent fanbase of all, those who made the 2014 hitman movie a modest hit in theaters -- and even bigger on home video. The "John Wick" fanbase may have been cultish, but they're also vocal and enthusiastic.

    2. "LEGO Batman" < "LEGO Movie"
    It's no wonder that "LEGO Batman" can't match the startling originality of the first movie. Sure, it was a feature-length toy commercial, but it also had a message (about world-building and childlike imagination) that fit the product. It also had a bright and dazzling visual style, one that seems both familiar and slightly muted in the new movie.

    Familiarity, not novelty, is the selling point of "Darker." Indeed, the point of casting Kim Basinger in a supporting role seems to be to remind older viewers that this sort of kinky-yet-glossy romance is nothing new, since Basinger herself practically invented it 31 years ago with "9 1/2 Weeks."

    As for "John Wick," the franchise's balletic action choreography and complex backstory will be novelties to most viewers, while the "Wick" cult from the first movie should appreciate the sequel's deeper dives into both style and mythology.

    3. Reviews
    Actually, reviews for "LEGO Batman" have been very strong (91 percent "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), as has word-of-mouth (as measured by an A- grade at CinemaScore). Not that kids read reviews, of course.

    The new "John Wick" has enjoyed nearly identical praise from both critics (90 percent on RT) and fans (A- at CinemaScore). In fact, the sequel's $30 million is more than twice the $14.4 million premiere of "John Wick" in October 2014, which shows just how strong the word-of-mouth is among "Wick" fans.

    The new "Fifty Shades," on the other hand, has earned terrible reviews (9 percent "Rotten" on RT), not that they matter so much to fans of the novel. Even they, however, seem to agree a bit with critics, having given "Darker" a good-but-not-great B+ grade at CinemaScore.

    To the extent that "Darker" viewers are older adults who still read reviews, the drubbing critics gave the movie may have kept some of them away. Indeed, that's why the sequel was expected to premiere with only about half the $85.2 million that "Fifty Shades of Grey" opened with two years ago.

    4. Star Power
    The names on the marquee don't much matter for animated movies, not that "Batman" voice star Will Arnett is a household name. (Sorry, "Arrested Development" fans, but it's true.)

    Neither are Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan; certainly, neither has proved to be any kind of box office draw outside the "Fifty Shades" franchise. Keanu Reeves doesn't have the greatest track record either, but he is a household name, and as long as he stays in his wheelhouse (brooding men of action who remain mysterious as long as they don't speak much), he's capable of delivering, as the "John Wick" movies have shown. Still, even the 52-year-old Reeves has to be pleasantly surprised by the robust premiere of "Chapter Two," which marks his best opening weekend since "The Day the Earth Stood Still" eight years ago.

    5. Not Great Timing
    February can be a good month for surprise blockbusters. This time last year, we saw "Deadpool" open with $132 million, about as much as this week's three new releases earned combined.

    Still, having three big movies open at the same time, even in February, means at least one will suffer. Yeah, you wouldn't think the audiences for the family-friendly "LEGO Batman," the female-friendly "Darker," and the testosterone-heavy "Wick" would overlap, and yet nearly $15 million of that extra $20 million projected for "LEGO Batman" seems to have gone instead to its new rivals. The rest may have gone to the other still-strong family films already established at the multiplex, including "A Dog's Purpose," "Sing," and even "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

    "Darker" may also have suffered from a quirk of timing. It opened on the same weekend as the first movie did two years ago, but in 2014, that Friday fell on February 13, so the weekend included both Valentine's Day and President's Day. That meant both a date-movie crowd and a Monday holiday helped boost sales. With Friday falling on the 10th this year, "Darker" enjoys neither of those advantages.

    6. Bad Weather on the East Coast
    The downside of a February opening? iAudiences may get snowed in, as much of the country did this weekend.

    Even so, moviegoers braved blizzard conditions to make this the biggest overall weekend at the box office since "Rogue One" opened two months ago. Plus, all of these movies have already earned sizable amounts overseas (a massive $100.1 million, in the case of "Darker"), so profitability is assured, as are the prospects of third installments for each franchise.

    Still, even though he's sitting on a $92.6 million worldwide jackpot, which will surely double by the time his movie leaves theaters, LEGO Batman's still going to brood over that $20 million left on the table.

    He's the Dark Knight, after all, and he's just built that way.

  2. Box Office: 'Fifty Shades Darker' Gets Overshadowed by 'Lego Batman Movie'

    By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Feb 12 (Variety.com) - Costumed avengers, a billionaire with a kinky side, and a brutally efficient hit man proved to be just the tonic for an ailing domestic box office.

    "The Lego Batman Movie" bested "Fifty Shades Darker" at the multiplexes over the weekend, earning a robust $55.6 million to capture first place. "Fifty Shades Darker," the sequel to 2015's "Fifty Shades of Grey," couldn't quite match its predecessor's $85.2 million launch. It had to settle for a still sizable $46.8 million debut and second place on the box office chart.

    Not to be outdone, Lionsgate's "John Wick: Chapter 2," a followup to 2015's "John Wick," picked up a smashing $30 million. That's more than double what the first film racked up during its debut. The three new releases succeeded by appealing to different demographics and age groups -- kids went to the new Lego movie, women were titilated by Christian Grey's red room, and men looked on as Keanu Reeve's assassin made quick work of his foes. Heading into the weekend, stateside ticket sales were lagging behind last year's numbers, down nearly 3% from 2016. Studio executives and exhibition industry insiders hope that this weekend will help reinvigorate interest in moviegoing, a comeback that will be aided by the upcoming release of "Logan," a new Wolverine movie, and a live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast."

    Warner Bros. backed "The Lego Batman Movie" and sees the animated films built around the line of Danish toys as being key to its corporate future. The studio is leaning heavily on a slate of animated Lego films, DC Comics adventures, and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a Harry Potter spinoff, to help it compete with Disney. That studio has popularized the concept of branded movies, with its arsenal of Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar films. "The Lego Batman Movie" cost $80 million to make, which is downright affordable at a time when many animated films carry budgets that are more than $200 million. It pits Batman against the Joker, and boasts a voice cast that includes Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Ralph Fiennes.

    "The Lego Batman Movie" now as the biggest opening of any 2017 release, but it did fall short of projections. Some analysts had predicted the family film would make more than $60 million.

    "Fifty Shades Darker" is a Universal release. The studio didn't give a budget for the film (as is its wont these days), but knowledgeable estimates put its cost in the range of $55 million. The sequel may have lost some of the audience who saw the first film to see just how much riding crop would make its way to screens, but there are other reasons it couldn't equal the reception of "Fifty Shades of Grey." That movie benefited from being released over the President's Day holiday, a period that also coincided with Valentine's Day, making it the date night movie dujour.

    Universal's "Split" surrendered the first place it had occupied for three consecutive weekends to the barrage of newcomers. The hit thriller took in $9.3 million to capture fourth place on the chart, while pushing its domestic haul to $112.3 million.

    Fox's "Hidden Figures" rounded out the top five, earning $8 million. The Oscar-nominated drama about African-American NASA employees fighting racial prejudice in the early days of the space program has made $131.4 million stateside.

    In milestone news, Universal and Illumination's "Sing" topped $500 million globally. The animated film about a talent competition has launched a new animated franchise for the studios.

  3. M. Night Shyamalan Tweets 'Split' Sequel Tease

    'Split' New York Premiere - Arrivals"Split" is destroying expectations at the box office, and M. Night Shyamalan is "humbled and grateful" about the response. The James McAvoy horror film, written and directed by Shyamalan, just topped the box office for its third weekend in a row. The idea of a "Split" follow-up film makes sense, and not just because this movie is making so much cash. So fans were happy to see these tweets from Shyamalan about his "next film":

    Thank you to everyone who has gone to see #Split in the U.S. & around the world. The response is overly generous. I am humbled & grateful.

    — M. Night Shyamalan (@MNightShyamalan) February 4, 2017

    I have an 11 page outline for my next film in my bag. I can't tell you what it is, but If you've seen #Split...

    — M. Night Shyamalan (@MNightShyamalan) February 4, 2017


    What's next? No spoilers here, but plenty of spoilers here if you want to discuss "Split" and what exactly this next film might entail.

    "Split" only cost about $9-$10 million to make, and worldwide it has earned more than $142 million so far. TheWrap reports that "Split" is Shyamalan's second film to top the box office for three consecutive weeks since 1999's "The Sixth Sense." It's never a bad thing to be compared to your first big hit, so no wonder M. Night feels "humbled and grateful." Now he just has to live up to his own potential.

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  4. Here's Why 'Split' Can't Be Stopped at the Box Office

    What year is it again? Judging by M. Night Shyamalan's three-week reign at the box office with his biggest horror/suspense hit in 13 years, it must be 2004. (Or 1999, when "The Sixth Sense" was the last time that the filmmaker had a movie threepeat at No. 1.)

    Shyamalan's "Split" proved unbeatable for the third straight weekend, earning an estimated $14.6 million from Friday to Sunday, for a 17-day total just shy of $100 million. This despite direct competition from "Rings," the third entry in the horror franchise whose first two installments earned more than $400 million worldwide.

    Even with "Split" losing 43 percent of last weekend's business, it still did better than "Rings," which debuted in second place with an estimated $13.0 million. That's about what it was expected to earn, so at least it did better than the other wide release, "The Space Between Us." No one had high expectations for that film, with predictions running around $6 million, but it didn't even clear that low bar, debuting instead with an estimated $3.8 million and settling for ninth place. That's the 11th worst opening ever for a movie released on more than 2,500 screens.

    As this column noted when "Split" opened with an astonishing $40 million two weeks ago, the thriller did a lot of things right, but it's also been lucky with its timing, in that it's competed against some especially feeble rivals. Here are seven reasons why "Rings" and "Space" fell short.
    1. The Super Bowl
    The biggest TV event of the year tends to keep people away from the multiplex. In fact, this was one of the slowest weekends in recent memory, the first in which total sales failed to crack $100 million since the doldrums of early December.

    2. Female Audiences Stayed Home
    You'd think a horror movie and a tearjerking teen romance would be smart counter-programming to the Super Bowl, as both genres target young women. But women watch football, too, so maybe not.

    3. A Glut of Horror Movies
    With several horror movies in the marketplace already, we really noticed that the market was saturated last week when "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" had to settle for a fourth-place premiere. This weekend, it's down to sixth place, with an estimated $4.5 million from Friday to Sunday and $21.9 million for its 10 days of release -- woof. That means the movie will finish with the lowest domestic total of any of the series' six installments.

    Besides, "Rings" earned a dismal C- at CinemaScore, indicating horrible word-of-mouth. ("Split" earned a B+.) Given a choice between two wide-release horror movies, the one with much better word-of-mouth had the edge.

    4. Too Long a Wait for "Rings"
    It's been 12 years since "The Ring Two," an eon in the lifespan of a horror franchise aimed at young-adult viewers. (This column noted the same problem last week for "Resident Evil," and that series went only five years between sequels.)

    The current generation of horror fans may not remember the first two "Ring" movies, and the fact that none of the principals from those films returned for "Rings" makes it hard for moviegoers to grab onto a thread of continuity.

    5. Release Date Musical Chairs
    Both "Rings" and "Space" had their initial release date changed or postponed at least three times. That doesn't bode well for a film's quality; it suggests a lack of confidence on the distributor's part. It also makes it hard to market the movie, especially if the trailers end up coming out so far in advance of the eventual release date that potential viewers forget about the film.

    6. Really Sh***y Reviews
    Critics certainly notice when a movie's release gets delayed three times, and since those delays lead critics to expect a disappointment, they may color the reviews. So does not screening a movie at all for critics and forcing them to wait until after it opens to see it and write about it.

    True, that's standard procedure for horror movies, but it still doesn't inspire confidence when a studio withholds screenings, perhaps because it knows the reviews won't help. In the case of "Rings," the result was a fresh rating of just 5 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. "Space" didn't do much better (18 percent).

    Actually, paying audiences really liked "Space," giving it a strong A- at CinemaScore. But you can generate good word-of-mouth only if you can get audiences in the door, and the delays, the reviews, and the Super Bowl all would have discouraged viewers from buying tickets in the first place.

    7. The Foreign Market
    As 2017's box office keeps reminding us, a lot of these movies simply weren't made with the American market in mind. That seems especially true of "Rings," with its Spanish director, Italian leading lady, and overseas gross of $15.2 million, about 53 percent of its earnings so far. "Rings" cost just $25 million to make (about half the cost of the original "The Ring" back in 2002), so it should make a profit whether Americans go see it or not.

    "Space" will have a much harder time abroad, as a dialogue-heavy movie without big-name stars or a title familiar from another medium. (At least its budget was also modest, just $30 million, pretty frugal for a movie involving space travel.)

    It might have done better on a weekend with fewer distractions and less competition, but that would have meant changing the release date a fourth time. Better, perhaps, to put it on the field with "Rings," "Split," and the Patriots and Falcons, and just take your lumps.

  5. Box Office: 'Split' Takes Top Spot for a Third Week, 'Rings' Takes Second

    Split is No. 1 at the box office for a third week, Rings takes second By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Feb 5 (Variety.com) - It was a squeaker, but Universal's "Split" has edged past Paramount's "Rings" to narrowly claim victory at the domestic box office. The low-budget thriller retained its first place position for the third consecutive weekend, earning $14.6 million. So far, "Split," the story of a man with multiple personalities, has made $98.7 million stateside, while costing just $9 million, making it very profitable indeed. The film stars James McAvoy, was directed by "The Sixth Sense's" M. Night Shyamalan, and produced by Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions, the maker of "Sinister" and "Paranormal Activity."

    "It's a darn good movie," said Nick Carpou, Universal's domestic distribution chief. "It's very satisfying for audiences. People seek out quality."

    It was a quiet weekend for Hollywood. After all, most of America's attention has shifted away from the multiplexes to the coming battle between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams will meet at Super Bowl LI, and the high-profile matchup should ensure that the weekend box office closes on a muted note.

    "Rings," an attempt to revive a long-dormant horror franchise, earned $13 million. The first "Ring" movie opened to $15 million in 2002 on its way to a $129.1 million domestic gross, while its followup, 2005's "The Ring Two," kicked off to $35.1 million, ending its stateside run with $76.2 million. "Rings" was delayed multiple times, and was originally intended to hit theaters in 2015. It cost $25 million to produce and, like its predecessors, focuses on a videotape that kills those who watch it. Overseas, "Rings" took in $15.2 million from 35 international markets, including Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. Paramount marketing and distribution chief Megan Colligan said she was pleased by the reception the film received here and abroad.

    "It's solid," she said. "Internationally we did incredibly well and it's nice to have over-performed in certain markets like Brazil." As for whether or not "Rings" will lead to more sequels, Colligan offered, "time will tell."

    Paramount has gone through a bruising period at the box office, enduring a stream of painful flops such as "Allied," "Ben-Hur," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows." The studio has scored with the Oscar-nominated "Fences" and "Arrival," but is trying to exhibit greater consistency on the big screen. That's seen as critical for the longterm survival of studio chief Brad Grey. He managed to make it through the ouster of Philippe Dauman, the head of Paramount's parent company Viacom and a one-time ally, but Grey must prove that he has the vision needed to restore the studio's luster.

    The weekend's other new wide-release, STX Entertainment's "The Space Between Us," bombed, eking out $3.8 million. That's far less than the $8 million to $10 million that the studio projected the film would earn in its debut. The science-fiction romance was picked up from Relativity Media after that company fell into bankruptcy. It centers on an intra-planetary relationship that forms between a young man who lives on Mars (Asa Butterfield) and a girl from Earth (Britt Robertson) who captures his heart. STX Entertainment is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, having launched in 2014 with backing from the likes of the venture capital firm TPG and the private equity player Hony Capital. The studio has struggled at times, scoring with "Bad Moms" and "The Gift," but falling flat with "Free State of Jones," "Hardcore Henry," and "The Edge of Seventeen." "The Space Between Us" cost $30 million to produce -- STX says it limited its financial exposure with foreign pre-sales, tax credits, and by taking on outside investors.

    "While we were hoping for more, we are proud of the film and the way we managed it creatively and financially," a spokesman for STX said in a statement to Variety.

    "A Dog's Purpose," a family film from Universal, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media, nabbed third place, grossing $10.8 million to push its domestic total to $32.9 million. The film was nearly derailed after video surfaced showing a skittish German Shepherd being forced by members of the crew into rushing water. Universal later claimed that the video was heavily edited. Despite the controversy, "A Dog's Purpose" has performed well at the box office.

    Fox's "Hidden Figures" took fourth place, continuing its torrid run at the box office. The drama about African-American NASA employees earned $10.1 million, bringing its domestic earnings to a sizable $119.4 million. "Hidden Figures" is also factoring into the Oscar race, having recently earned a best picture nomination.

    "La La Land," the musical expected to dominate this year's Academy Awards, rounded out the top five, adding $7.4 million to push its domestic results to more than $118 million. The film picked up another honor this weekend, as Damien Chazelle, the 32-year-old wunderkind who wrote and directed "La La Land," won the Director's Guild Award.

    In limited release, "The Comedian," a critically maligned dramedy with Robert De Niro, struggled to make much of an impression, grossing $1.1 million on 848 screens. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film.

    Magnolia's "I Am Not Your Negro" fared better, grossing $709,500 on 43 screens. The look at essayist and novelist James Baldwin is competing for an Oscar in the best documentary category.

    Overall ticket sales topped out at $100 million, a 4.7% jump from the year-ago period when "Kung Fu Panda 3" topped charts. The domestic box office is trailing 2016's results, but analysts believe that those fortunes will be reversed when "Fifty Shades Darker," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Logan" debut in the coming weeks.

    "We're not exactly off to a rousing start, but I still think this year will be a record breaker," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "It's just a late bloomer."

  6. The Most Anticipated Movies of February 2017

    Welcome to the "New Release Rundown," where we run down the most anticipated movies coming to theaters in February 2017. Let's dive right in...

    February blasts off with sci-fi heart-melter "The Space Between Us" and horror sequel "Rings" getting wide releases on the 3rd.

    February 10th premieres a trio of heavy hitters, including "The Lego Batman Movie," the sequel shoot-em-up "John Wick: Chapter 2" and the hotly anticipated "Fifty Shades Darker," all of which feature low-lighting and people getting tied up -- but for VERY different reasons.

    Another triple threat hits theaters the following weekend: horror-thriller "A Cure for Wellness," school-yard brawl comedy "Fist Fight," and the Matt Damon helmed action-fantasy "The Great Wall" square off for box office supremacy on February 17th.

    On February 24th, along with action movie "Collide" and the animated "Rock Dog," we get the Jordan Peele-helmed horror-thriller "Get Out," which is getting attention for its racially charged spookiness.

  7. Why 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' Was Such an Epic Fail at the Box Office

    Did you believe that "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" would really be the franchise's final chapter? Probably not, but after this weekend's shockingly dismal domestic debut, the lowest of all six movies in the franchise's 15-year history, it could be the last after all.

    The strongest and longest-lasting of all video game-inspired movie series, "Resident Evil" has grossed close to $1 billion worldwide. Milla Jovovich's Alice remains the rare action heroine who sells tickets to a predominantly male audience. So it's no wonder pundits expected it to challenge both last weekend's winner, "Split," and family newcomer "A Dog's Purpose," for chart supremacy, with a likely finish just under $20 million.

    Instead, "Split" easily repeated on top with an estimated $26.3 million, while "Purpose" scored an estimated $18.4 million. With six-week-old drama "Hidden Figures" coming in third with an estimated $14.0 million, "Resident Evil" had to settle for a fourth-place premiere.

    So, what went wrong? Turns out "Resident Evil" found itself up against a perfect winter storm of unfavorable conditions. Among them:

    1. Too Long of a Wait
    It's been five years since the last "Resident Evil" movie, the longest gap yet between installments. For this kind of horror-action franchise, especially one that appeals primarily to viewers under 25, that's an eternity.

    For an example, you have to look back only three weeks, to the failure of the very similar "Underworld: Blood Wars," another female-led, modestly-budgeted horror-action sequel from Sony's Screen Gems division that came five years after its predecessor and opened just under $14 million.

    2. The "Split" Audience
    "Resident Evil" had the poor timing to come along at the tail end of a wave of January horror movies, so you could argue that the market is saturated. Or you could argue that the horror crowd simply found a movie they really liked in M. Night Shyamalan's "Split."

    Usually, horror audiences tend to crowd the opening weekend of a new scary movie and then drop off quickly, which is why analysts expected "Split" to suffer a second-weekend drop of about 60 percent, to below $20 million. But "Split" added 161 screens this weekend, for a total of 3,199. As a result, it held onto all but 34 percent of last weekend's business, an unusually strong hold for both the genre and the director. "Split" doesn't have stellar word-of-mouth (just a B+ grade at CinemaScore), but its word-of-mouth is better than that of "Resident Evil" (CinemaScore audiences gave it a B).

    3. Controversy? What Controversy?
    Many thought the recent video that allegedly showed a dog being abused during the shoot of "A Dog's Purpose" would lead to a boycott that would hurt the film's sales. Actually, not so much.

    Despite all the news coverage of the video, which the filmmakers claimed did not show the dog being mistreated, the movie slightly outperformed expectations. What's more, it played well among women, who made up 56 percent of the audience. Women traditionally dominate the horror audience, but clearly, they were less interested in watching a post-apocalyptic action heroine than a heartwarming story about dogs. "Resident Evil," then, drew an audience that was 56 percent male.

    As the only new child-friendly film in multiplexes, the PG-rated "Purpose" was also a hit with families of kids under 13; such families made up 47 percent of the "Purpose" crowd. Despite weak reviews, "Purpose" earned an A at CinemaScore, indicating excellent word-of-mouth.

    4. The Oscar Bounce
    With last Tuesday's announcement of the Academy Award nominations, several nominated movies took advantage of their good fortune and added theaters this weekend.

    "La La Land," the movie with the most nominations (a record-tying 14), saw the widest expansion, adding 1,271 screens for a total of 3,136. The result was a 43 percent boost in sales over last week, for an estimated take of $12.1 million and a fifth-place finish. Several other nominated films saw modest increases, including "Lion," "Manchester by the Sea," "Moonlight," "Arrival," "Fences," "Jackie," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Toni Erdmann," and "The Red Turtle."

    Even "Hidden Fences," which lost 65 screens (down to 3,351), still did pretty well with its $14.0 million, third-place finish, enough to take the movie past the $100 million mark in its sixth week.

    In all, Oscar-nominated movies added 5,109 screens this weekend and took in an additional $45.2 million. (See? It really is an honor just to be nominated.) That's a lot of people who didn't go see "Resident Evil" -- or "Split" or "Purpose," for that matter.

    5. Overseas Is Where the Money Is
    Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems' action horror RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE.In the end, there's one more relevant comparison to make between the "Resident Evil" and "Underworld" series: both do much better overseas than they do here. In the case of "Resident Evil," it's earned 76 percent of its take from foreign ticketbuyers, though some installments have done as much as 82 percent of their business abroad. So it is with "The Final Chapter," which has already earned $64.5 million in overseas markets over the past month, about five times what it's earned here. Not bad for a special-effects action saga that cost just $40 million to make.

    As with "Underworld: Blood Wars" and last weekend's "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," the North American release is almost an afterthought, then, just gravy. As Sony worldwide marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein noted, "'Resident Evil' is built for an international audience. This is a perfect example of looking at a film as a global film and not as a U.S.-centric one."

    That doesn't mean Screen Gems didn't try hard to market "Final Chapter" here, but they didn't have to. It also means that, even with the disappointing domestic opening, there's enough of a worldwide audience for the franchise that you could imagine Sony still trying to squeeze a few more drops of T-virus-infected blood from it, final chapter or no final chapter.

  8. Ben Affleck's 'Live by Night' Reportedly Headed for $75 Million Loss

    Well, at least he's still Batman.

    "Live By Night" was often described as a passion project/labor of love for Ben Affleck -- who wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the Prohibition-era crime drama. Unfortunately, the film has not been a box office success, and Variety reports that Warner Bros. is looking at a $75 million loss. They got that number from "insiders with knowledge of its financing and rival studio executives," and any time rival executives are asked for comment you know they're not likely to be generous with their estimates, so keep that in mind.

    "Live By Night" reportedly cost about $65 million to make (plus distribution and marketing costs) and it has only made about $16.67 million at this point -- just over $10 million in domestic gross, and $6.5 million overseas. It's not expected to make much more internationally, despite Ben Affleck being a household name, because it's a "talky period picture" and it has no Oscar nomination backing.

    Warner Bros. didn't comment to Variety, but the site speculated that the studio will try to cushion any losses from the film through home entertainment sales and rentals, and TV licensing deals.

    You could argue that it's all worth it to keep Ben Affleck creatively happy. He is DC/Warner Bros.'s new Batman, and his debut in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" was praised, despite the rest of the film being heavily criticized. He'll return to the Batcave for "Justice League," and he's also working on his own Batman solo film. Considering the money the DC Comics movies make (critical acclaim or not), Warner Bros. can afford to take a loss on a passion project like "Live By Night." They probably don't want to be taking losses, but they also probably didn't expect blockbuster numbers from this movie. Then again, they did give it an initial limited release on Christmas, so they may have hoped it would at least get some awards love.

    [via: Variety, Box Office Mojo]

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  9. 5 Reasons Why 'Split' Crushed Vin Diesel's 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'

    Do today's moviegoers even remember what the movie landscape was like 15 years ago? That's how long it's been since Vin Diesel's last "xXx" movie, as well as M. Night Shyamalan's last monster hit.

    This weekend saw both Diesel and Shyamalan test moviegoers' memories, and while pundits predicted modest successes for both "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" and Shyamalan's "Split," the competition wasn't even close. "Xander Cage" opened as expected, with an estimated $20.0 million, but "Split" earned more than twice as much, topping the box office chart (and exceeding expectations) with an estimated $40.2 million. That's the fourth biggest January opening of all time.

    How did "Split," a low-budget ($5 million) horror movie with no box office stars to speak of (sorry, James McAvoy, but it's true), leave "Fast and Furious" mainstay Diesel's return to his other big action franchise in the dust? Here are some of the ways.

    1. January Is a Good Month for Scary Fare
    Or at least decent quality horror. Which is why "The Bye Bye Man" was the top new release last weekend -- and why "Underworld: Blood Wars" is unlikely to recoup its $35 million budget in North American ticket sales. In any case, with January's multiplex usually filled with prestige Oscar hopefuls and leftover holiday blockbusters, horror looks increasingly like smart counter-programming.

    2. Young Female Appeal
    One reason horror fills a niche at this time of year is that no other genre targets young women so directly. Look at "Split," with its three young heroines.

    By contrast, "Xander Cage" stars a 49-year-old man, returning to the spy-movie action fare that he sold, perhaps more convincingly, when he was 34. And unlike "Xander Cage," "Split" wasn't trying to draw viewers who were more likely to spend this weekend watching NFL playoffs.

    3. Blumhouse
    In any case, the real star of "Split" isn't "X-Men" regular McAvoy or the three little-known actresses who confront the kidnapper he plays; it's writer/director Shyamalan and low-budget hitmaker Blumhouse.

    The "Sixth Sense" creator is a brand name, albeit a tarnished one. His last huge hit, "Signs," was 15 years ago, and his creative overreach with such flops as "Lady in the Water" and "The Happening" made him appear less the master of twisty suspense than the butt of jokes. But over the past few years, he's teamed with producer Jason Blum, a godfather of low-budget horror hits who's been able to keep the once-profligate Shyamalan more disciplined. The results have been movies such as 2015's "The Visit," a horror hit that helped restore the director's reputation.

    Indeed, while it's not clear if today's young audiences remember "The Sixth Sense," "Signs," or "Unbreakable" (which gets one hell of a callback in "Split"), they do seem to have forgotten "Lady" and "Happening."
    Meanwhile, Diesel has done tremendously well with the "Fast and Furious" franchise, but he's had trouble turning his other franchises, notably the "Riddick" movies, into domestic hits. (All luring in crowds when he's not behind the wheel of his hit action franchise.)

    The "xXx" franchise doesn't have a lot of good will, even though the film that launched it earned $142 million back in 2002. That's because Diesel dropped out of the second film, the terrible "xXx: State of the Union," leaving Ice Cube to carry the movie. It flopped domestically with just $27 million, and there hasn't been another "xXx" film since 2005. The title of the new film touts the return of Diesel's character, but that wasn't enough to sell the franchise to newbies or make older viewers care. Maybe his fans are saving their money for the next "Furious" installment, due in April.

    4. Good Reviews and THAT FREAKIN' ENDING
    Not that horror or action fans really care about reviews, but "Split" did score a healthy 76 percent "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, while "Xander Cage" earned just 42 percent.

    The reviews do suggest, however, that the opinions of older moviegoers mattered more than pundits predicted. After all, they're the ones who still read what critics have to say. They're also probably the ones who helped "Split" cross over well beyond its target audience to reach $40.2 million. And they're the ones "Xander Cage" was depending on to come see a middle-aged star revive a long-dormant franchise.

    Buzz about the film's surprise ending hit fever-pitch late Thursday/early Friday, prompting several entertainment sites to post interviews and/or think-pieces about the ballsy, out-of-left-field sequence. The writer-director is known for twist endings, and the online chatter may have lead many ticketbuyers to see his latest WTF surprise.

    5. The State of the Marketplace
    The Cheeto may have stressed "America First" and "Buy American" during his inauguration speech on Friday, but as this column has noted, that's not the principle that drives big-studio franchise filmmaking anymore. For movies with lavish budgets and expensive stars, the overseas audience is now much more important than the domestic one.

    Exhibit A is the recent "Underworld" sequel, which few viewers here cared about, but which had earned more than $40 million abroad before it even opened in the U.S. and has so far earned 62 percent of its total take from foreign filmgoers.

    So it is with Diesel, whose movies tend to do much better outside America than inside. That's why Paramount, which has been on a chilly streak lately, was willing to pick up the "xXx" franchise rights from Sony and spend $85 million on "Xander Cage." And it's a gamble that's already paying off, with $50.0 million earned from 53 foreign markets, more than the double what the movie has earned here.

    Not that "Split" isn't looking for an overseas payoff as well, but Universal did make the American release a priority, generating homegrown word-of-mouth by screening it at Fantastic Fest in Austin last September and by hosting 24 sneak previews since (one for each of McAvoy's character's multiple personalities).

    As a result, "Split" has earned 87 percent of its take so far in North America. Trump may have become president because of voter concerns over outsourcing, but when it comes to low-budget thrillers, we're still number one.

  10. 5 Reasons Why 'Hidden Figures' Crushed 'Patriots Day' at the Box Office

    This was supposed to be a coronation weekend for "Patriots Day."

    The thriller about the capture of the terrorists behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing expanded wide to 3,120 screens in its fourth weekend, after an awards-season qualifying run on just seven screens. The team of star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg was expecting the kind of all-American January hit they achieved four years ago with "Lone Survivor." So was the industry, which saw the film tracking at No. 1 in online sales this weekend at Fandango. Analysts expected the drama to make around $20 million this weekend.

    Yet "Patriots Day" didn't even crack the top five, finishing instead in sixth place with an estimated $12.0 million. This suggests that the film will be lucky to recoup its reported $45 million budget plus a similar amount in marketing and distribution costs.

    In fact, of the three new wide releases and three expanding-into-wide-release movies, only one finished in the top five. That was "The Bye Bye Man," a low budget horror movie with no stars, which nonetheless debuted with nearly twice the $7 million it was projected to earn. In fact, at an estimated $13.4 million, it's within $400,000 of both "Sing" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," for a virtual three-way tie for third place. (Indeed, when final figures are released Tuesday, it could end up ahead of those holdover hits.)

    How did this underdog succeed where Wahlberg and Berg's epic stumbled? Here are five ways.

    1. Been There, Done That
    "Patriots Day" is Wahlberg and Berg's third collaboration, and their formula is apparent, with Wahlberg playing a real-life ordinary-grunt-turned-hero who shows all-American grit and determination in the face of a cataclysm or disaster. Audiences may have found the formula too familiar, since the star and director's "Deepwater Horizon" came out just four months ago.

    That drama opened moderately well, at $20.2 million, but it topped out at $61.4 million, suggesting that viewers were already starting to tire of the formula before "Patriots Day" followed fast on "Horizon"'s heels.

    2. No Awards Bump
    Despite its decent reviews and awards-season angling, "Patriots Day" has been a non-factor during the Golden Globes and Oscar races so far. Not that that should hurt it with audiences -- in fact, "Patriots" scored a rare A+ at CinemaScore from paying customers.

    Still, every little bit of positive buzz helps. Look at "La La Land," which scored a record seven Globe wins last Sunday. It jumped into second place this weekend, after six weeks of release, and earned an estimated $14.5 million, for a total of $74.1 million to date.

    3. Not Enough Appeal to Female Audiences
    Aside from "La La Land," the only movie catering to them was "Bye Bye Man." Horror movies do tend to do well in January, since they're usually the only releases targeted at young women during this season of awards hopefuls and holdover holiday blockbusters. The Friday the 13th opening date was a marketing bonus.

    4. Too Much Appeal to Older (Male) Audiences
    Some pundits suggested that "Patriots" did well on Fandango because it appeals to an older, affluent audience that is more likely to buy tickets online in advance.

    "Hidden Figures" showed its broad, cross-racial appeal last weekend when it edged out "Rogue One" for the top spot. Nonetheless, it should have been clear that young people weren't going to show up in great numbers for "Patriots Day" after the film's Thursday night preview. It's a given that older viewers aren't going to see a late-night Thursday movie but will wait for the weekend, but the Thursday take of just $560,000 indicated that young people weren't coming either.

    Especially young women. Did you happen to catch Wahlberg's visit to "Conan" this week? The star's fellow Bostonian noted that it's been a quarter-century since Wahlberg went from pop star to Calvin Klein underwear model to movie leading man. These days, the pop star-turned-Klein skivvies model is Justin Bieber.

    At 45, Wahlberg has aged well out of boy-band fan appeal, and the "Patriots" clip screened on "Conan" made him look not much younger than co-stars Kevin Bacon and John Goodman. As an aging action hero, he's not Liam Neeson yet, but he's getting there.

    5. Multiplex Pileup
    There's nothing wrong with relying on an older male demographic... except on a weekend like this one, where several other new or newly-wide releases are competing for the same audience. January is often a movie desert, but this weekend's six new wide movies made for a ticketbuyer traffic jam.

    Jamie Foxx's crime thriller, "Sleepless," and Ben Affleck's nostalgic gangster picture, "Live by Night," chased the same viewers. Berg and Wahlberg can console themselves that their movie did a lot better than those rivals; "Sleepless" finished eighth with an estimated $8.5 million, while "Live by Night" was way down at No. 11 with an estimated $5.4 million.

    Not to mention Martin Scorsese's "Silence," which has also come up empty as an awards contender despite strong reviews, and whose expansion into 747 theaters led to a take of just $1.9 million, for a sixteenth-place finish.
    The real disaster of the weekend was new kid film "Monster Trucks," even though it finished seventh with an estimated $10.5 million, about what was expected. Paramount notoriously delayed the film's release twice and then, after the movie had sat on the shelf for nearly a year, the studio took a $115 million write-off in anticipation of its box office failure. Woof. That move is unheard of in modern studio age, pointing that the studio knew they had a waste of space on their hands.

    Nonetheless, the studio went ahead with a costly 3,119-screen release, only to see the "Monster" flounder against holdover kid hits "Sing" and "Moana."

    Given the movie's reported $125 million cost, it looks like the accountants' dismal predictions were correct. Compared to that belly flop, "Patriots Day's" weekend doesn't look so bad.

  11. Box Office: 'Hidden Figures' Prevails as 'Monster Trucks,' 'Live by Night' Bomb

    Box Office: 'Hidden Figures' Prevails as 'Monster Trucks,' Ben Affleck's 'Live by Night' BombBy Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Jan 15 (Variety.com) - It's bombs away at the multiplexes.

    Family film "Monster Trucks" tanked when it debuted over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, while Ben Affleck's "Live by Night" and Martin Scorsese's "Silence" suffered moribund national expansions. Their failures will lead to tens of millions of dollars in red ink for the studios that backed them. "Sleepless," an action-thriller with Jamie Foxx, also suffered an underwhelming opening, getting lost in the onslaught of new releases.

    "There's almost an unprecedented number of films out there," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "It's got to be somewhat daunting and overwhelming for moviegoers."

    Amidst the carnage, Fox and Chernin Entertainment's"Hidden Figures" retained its box office crown in its second weekend of wide release, earning $20.5 million for the weekend and a projected $25.3 million for the long weekend. That will push its total to $59.7 million. The historical drama about African-American NASA workers during the early days of the space program has been one of the biggest breakouts of awards season.

    "Hidden Figures" faced stiff competition from Lionsgate's "La La Land," riding high after sweeping the Golden Globe Awards, and STX's "The Bye Bye Man," which earned $14.5 million and $13.4 million, respectively. "La La Land" is widely expected to dominate the Oscar nominations. The musical about lovestruck Angelenos should finish the four-day weekend with another $17.5 million in domestic receipts, which would bring its stateside total to more than $77 million.

    "The Bye Bye Man's" strong reception is welcome news for STX, which had expected the film to open to roughly $10 million. The horror movie about college students grappling with a deadly supernatural figure cost less than $8 million to produce. It should make $15 million over the four-day holiday. Studio executives said they weren't afraid of the crush of new releases heading into the weekend, because they felt they were the only film targeted to younger females. STX also wanted to release the picture on Friday the 13th, a marketing hook for scary movies.

    "We knew we were going to be able to get that core audience of females," said Kevin Grayson, STX's domestic distribution president. "Not only did they go on Friday, they continued to go all weekend."

    Heading into the weekend, most analysts expected CBS Films and Lionsgate's "Patriots Day" to put up more of a fight. The drama about the Boston Marathon Bombing earned $12 million after moving from seven theaters to 3,120 locations. It could make $14.3 million over the four-day stretch. That's below projections -- analysts expected the film to earn as much as $18 million. However, the studios believe that "Patriots Day" could benefit from enthusiastic word-of-mouth. Audiences gave the film a rare A+ CinemaScore.

    "Monster Trucks'" failure seemed preordained. Last year, Paramount took a $115 million write-down on the film. "Monster Trucks'" reception justified that fiscal white-flag waving. It opened to a pallid $10.5 million and a projected $14.1 million over the holiday, a disastrous result given its $125 million budget.

    "The movie works for the audience it's intended to work for," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's marketing and distribution head. "It did really well in the midwest and south. It was over 50 percent kids. The balance was good between boys and girls...without a whole lot of competition, it will keep plugging along."

    Paramount has hit a rough patch. The studio was embroiled in a corporate power struggle that pitted the controlling Redstone family against Philippe Dauman, the former chairman of Paramount's parent company Viacom. The Redstones ultimately prevailed, but the pressure is now on Paramount chief Brad Grey to prove he can deliver more hits. The studio scored with "Fences" and "Arrival," but lost millions on the likes of "Allied," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," and "Ben-Hur."

    "Live by Night's" troubles will hit Affleck hard. He directed, produced, and wrote the Dennis LeHane adaptation, and took a starring role as a charismatic rum runner. Warner Bros. is releasing the $65 million production. It earned a sallow $5.4 million and should end the four-day holiday with just over $6 million, which more or less leaves the gangster picture on the slab. Affleck should be on firmer commercial ground reprising his Dark Knight role in "Justice League" later this year.

    Open Road's "Sleepless" didn't fare too well either, although it cost significantly less than "Live by Night" and "Monster Trucks." The $30 million production stars Foxx as a morally compromised cop whose extracurricular activities endanger his son. It kicked off with a meager $8.5 million and should end the long weekend with $10.1 million in the till. The studio says that "Sleepless" will make its way into the black because Open Road covered its financial exposure by selling foreign distribution rights and through tax rebates.

    "Given our economics, this $10 million opening on 'Sleepless' will certainly become profitable for Open Road," said a spokeswoman.

    Then there's "Silence," a decades-in-the-making religious drama. Scorsese struggled for years to cobble together the financing for this story about Jesuit priests who risk torture and death to spread the gospel in feudal Japan, but audiences seemed to have little appetite for his rumination on faith. "Silence" expanded from 51 theaters to 747 locations, earning just over $2 million for the long weekend. The $50 million film was financed independently. Paramount is distributing the picture.

    "Marty Scorsese is one of the greatest living filmmakers," said Colligan. "He's earned the right to independently finance a movie and make the movie he wants to make. This is a complicated, beautiful film, one that movie critics have named the best of the year and one that will be taught in film schools for years. It needs to be judged on its merits."

    Holdovers "Sing" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" continued to show strength, with both films earning roughly $13.8 million. "Sing," the latest collaboration between the "Despicable Me" team of Universal and Illumination, has earned $237.2 million stateside. "Rogue One" is now the top-grossing 2016 release with more than $500 million in receipts. It will cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office this week.

  12. Here's How 'Hidden Figures' Crushed Expectations at the Box Office

    There's a fascinating series of articles in this weekend's Los Angeles Times, inspired by the media's spectacular failure to read the nation's pulse during last year's presidential campaign, that explores the question of whether Hollywood has lost touch with America.

    It's a loaded question, one that depends on your definitions of "Hollywood" and "America." And the answer requires a lot more nuance than even these 16 articles can muster, but the answer is, of course, yes.

    But there's also the box office truism, which the Times writers don't address, that Hollywood doesn't really make movies for Americans anymore because it's making them primarily for audiences overseas.

    This weekend's box office offers a good illustration. In a dead-of-winter weekend -- with just one new wide release -- pundits had predicted an easy four-peat victory for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." They also called for a second-place finish for the cartoon hit "Sing," modest success for inspirational drama and awards-hopeful "Hidden Figures" in its first weekend of wide release, and a weak opening for the lone newbie at the multiplex, "Underworld: Blood Wars."As it turned out, however, "Rogue One" fell 56 percent from last weekend, much faster than experts had predicted, and so did "Sing" (down 55 percent), while "Hidden Figures" came in nearly $2 million above expectations. The result was a photo-finish contest between "Rogue One" and "Hidden Figures," with the former claiming just a $172,000 advantage over the latter as they both approached $22 million on Sunday. (By the time final figures are released Monday, "Hidden Figures" might even end "Rogue One"'s reign after just three weeks on top of the chart.)

    Meanwhile, the fifth "Underworld" didn't even reach the low $15 million threshold it was predicted to clear, coming in fourth with an estimated $13.2 million.

    Of course, "Rogue One" is still one of the biggest hits of 2016 (it should overtake "Finding Dory" for the year's top spot by the end of this week) and will soon be one of just seven movies in history to earn more than $500 million in North American theaters. Still, its plunge this weekend took pundits by surprise. Why did "Rogue One" fall so fast? You could point to the movie's bleak and violent tone, or its tangential connection to the Skywalker family story line of the rest of the "Star Wars" movies, or the bitter winter weather in much of the country. But you could also point to "Rogue One"'s casting. As one commenter to the Times complained, there's not an American actor to be seen. (Wait, what's Forest Whitaker, chopped liver?) Indeed, it's a blockbuster action movie with a female British lead and an international cast. This sort of diversity in casting of big-budget movies has spurred some backlash in the last couple of years, most notoriously with the "Ghostbusters" remake, but the fact is, it helps sell the movie abroad to have a Diego Luna or Donnie Yen or Riz Ahmed (or all three) in the cast.

    Whatever American audiences may think a hero should look like, Hollywood is overlooking your preferences with an eye toward foreign markets. That's true whether it's an otherwise standard action franchise with a diverse cast (like the successful "Fast and Furious" movies) or a fantasy picture with a built-in overseas audience.

    This is especially clear with the new "Underworld." The past four installments of the vampire-action series have all opened above $20 million here, but the current film treated its American release like an afterthought. In fact, "Blood Wars," which sees Brit Kate Beckinsale reprise her lead role, opened in most overseas markets in November, and it's already made $42.1 million in foreign sales. It's not clear why Sony's Screen Gems dumped it into American theaters during the winter wasteland that is the January release calendar, unless it knew that the movie's profit (it cost just $35 million, about half the budget of the previous installment) was already assured. How "Blood Wars" fares in America clearly doesn't matter.Conversely, "Hidden Figures" is a movie with all-American appeal. (Exit polling shows that 43 percent of "Hidden Figures" viewers were white, 37 percent were black, and 13 percent were Hispanic.) That may sound paradoxical, since it's a movie about math whizzes, and since its stars are three black women, but the historical drama about the overlooked but crucial contributions of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) toward launching the first Americans into space during the 1960s is an only-in-America story.

    Only in America would Jim Crow and institutional sexism have been a barrier to achievement for these women, and only in America could they have overcome those barriers through pluck, hard work, and sheer merit. And only in America could mainstream audiences respond to this feel-good entertainment with the assumption that racism and sexism are problems we solved for good during the Civil Rights Era in which the movie is set, and that they're not something we need to feel bad about or work to correct today.

    Indeed, "Hidden Figures" feels like a rarity among major-studio Hollywood movies. Again, not because its stars are black women or because it's a PG-rated inspirational movie with heartland appeal, but because it's a modestly-budgeted ($25 million) drama with a lot of dialogue, whose characters are mathematicians and engineers, taking place in a distinctly American historical setting. There's none of the shut-off-your-brain, effects-heavy, action-blockbuster elements that make Hollywood movies hits overseas. It's a movie clearly made with an eye toward American audiences alone. In today's box office landscape, that looks like a real gamble.

    Given the $24.8 million that "Hidden Figures" has earned to date, the A+ rating it's earned at CinemaScore from paying customers, and the likelihood that it'll be up for major awards over the next two months, it seems that distributor Fox's gamble will pay off.

    But that jackpot will be a modest one. Meanwhile, "Rogue One" finally opened in China this week, where it sold 56 percent of all tickets purchased, for a take of $31 million. That's where the box office game is, with fantasy space heroines like Jyn Erso, not real-life American space heroines like Katherine Johnson.

  13. The 8 Biggest Box Office Winners (and Losers) of 2016

    Sure, 2016's domestic box office did hit a record $11.3 billion, up a modest 1.7 percent from 2015's record take. But that doesn't account for the inflation in the average ticket price -- $8.61 this year, up 18 cents from 2015 -- which means the number of tickets sold this year, 1.31 billion, was down a hair from a year ago, when theaters sold six million more tickets.

    In fact, the total number of tickets sold has been slipping ever since the peak year of 2002 (1.58 billion tickets).

    The current weekend is a pretty good snapshot of the year as a whole. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" topped the charts for a third straight weekend with an estimated $50 million (for a total of more than $400 million domestic to date). That made it 2016's second highest-grossing film, surpassing "Captain America: Civil War."

    Looking at these movies, as well as the rest of the year, it becomes easier to find trends amid the box office confusion of 2016 and declare some clear winners and losers.

    WINNERS:

    1. Star Wars
    Along with "Rogue One's" earnings so far, and "The Force Awakens" playing into the early months of 2016, the franchise accounts for a solid $700 million toward the year's total take in North America. We've never had a year with two "Star Wars" movies in the multiplex before, which paves the way for "Episode VIII" in December 2017.

    2. Disney
    The House That Walt Built was far and away the market leader this year, both globally and domestically. With "Star Wars," Marvel, Pixar, and live-action remakes of its animated library, the studio has hit upon several winning formulas, enough to power it past $7 billion globally this year.

    Disney scored four billion-dollar movies and six of this year's ten biggest domestic hits. Not everything worked, but the big smashes were more than big enough to make up for the extravagant flops -- sorry not sorry, "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and "The BFG."

    3. China
    Remember what a huge flop "Warcraft" seemed to be earlier this summer? It made only $47 million here, but it was a massive hit abroad, earning $386 million.

    The largest chunk of that change came from China ($221 million), a market whose taste in movies is now, arguably, more important than Americans' taste as far as determining which films Hollywood greenlights. Of course, if President-elect Trump goes all protectionist on trade with China, that country may respond by limiting Hollywood imports, which would mean fewer "Warcrafts" getting made. A win-win for everybody!

    4. Talking Animals
    "Finding Dory," "The Secret Life of Pets," "The Jungle Book," and "Zootopia" were all among the year's top 10 movies. Current hit "Sing" is in the top 20, with $177 million to date.

    5. Idris Elba
    Did any actor have a better box office year in 2016? With "Zootopia," "The Jungle Book," "Finding Dory," and "Star Trek Beyond," his movies made $1.35 billion in North America. Granted, he's seen on camera in just one of those films, but still, his name in the credits now seems to be a sign that the movie is going to be a well-crafted popcorn entertainment.

    LOSERS:

    6. Bad Sequels
    "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," "The Divergent Series: Allegiant," "Now You See Me 2," "Zoolander 2," "Bad Santa 2," and many others flopped because either you didn't like them or want them.

    Same was true for some uninspired remakes, including "Ghostbusters," "Ben-Hur," and "Pete's Dragon." None of this is going to stop the studios from betting the farm on sequels: they're still easier to market than unfamiliar original titles, and they're still likely to make money if they're done right. A big "if," to be sure.

    7. Hollywood Stars Aren't a Sure Thing to Put Butts in Seats
    More than ever, it became apparent that marquee names alone aren't enough to sell a movie, and they're certainly not enough to turn a dog of a film into a thoroughbred.

    "Passengers" is currently flailing despite the presence of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (in two weeks, it's earned back just $61 million of its $110 million budget), and James Franco couldn't sell "Why Him?" (an estimated $10 million this weekend, for a total of $37.6 million to date, though that one cost just $38 million to make).
    Throughout 2016, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Will Smith, Melissa McCarthy, and other A-listers failed to interest ticketbuyers in their latest weak offerings. Tom Hanks helped make the well-liked "Sully" a hit but couldn't interest anyone in the widely ridiculed threequel "Inferno."

    But even quality, star-driven movies can be a tough sell. Meryl Streep pulled in just $27 million for "Florence Foster Jenkins." Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal haven't been able to propel "Nocturnal Animals" past the $10 million mark. Jury's still out on Denzel Washington's "Fences," which has made just $33 million in three weeks but has yet to go into wide release. After tireless promotion by stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, three-week-old "La La Land" is the biggest limited-release hit of the year, but even that amounts to only about $37 million so far.

    8. Movies for Guys
    Yes, testosterone still rules the marketplace, which helps explain all the superhero movies. Still, it's worth noting that at least eight of the top 25 movies are driven by female protagonists, as studios start to recognize that women buy tickets too.

    Meanwhile, sausage fests like "The Nice Guys," "War Dogs," "Dirty Grandpa," and the current "Assassin's Creed" and "Why Him?" all had a hard time drawing dudes to the theater.

    Maybe guys stayed home this weekend to watch college football playoffs, or maybe there just wasn't anything on that menu as compelling as watching Felicity Jones fight the empire in "Rogue One."

  14. 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Dominates Holiday Box Office

    Rogue One holiday box officeBy Dave McNary

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" remains powerful at the U.S. holiday box office with a dominant $15 million on Christmas Eve and projections of a $120 million-plus haul over the six-day Dec. 21-26 period.

    Illumination-Universal's animated comedy "Sing" easily led the rest of the pack on Christmas Eve with a solid $7.9 million, followed by Sony's "Passengers" with $2.9 million, Fox's "Assassin's Creed" with $2.2 million and Fox's "Why Him?" with $1.8 million.

    Paramount launched Denzel Washington-Viola Davis's "Fences" with $750,000 at 1,547 sites in Saturday night showings and plans to expand the drama to about 2,200 locations Sunday.

    Overall moviegoing slowed on Christmas Eve, as is typical, with "Rogue One" falling about 33 percent from Friday and "Sing" declining about 40 percent. Business should rebound sharply on Christmas Day on Sunday and on Monday, an official holiday for many.

    Disney-Lucas film's "Rogue One," starring Felicity Jones, wound up business on Christmas Eve with about $260 million domestically in its first nine days and is projected to finish the holiday on Monday with about $327 million. That will be enough to pull it past "Suicide Squad" as the eighth highest domestic grosser of the year.

    "Rogue One," the eighth Star Wars movie, is running about 42 percent behind the pace "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," which opened a year ago and grossed a still-stunning $571 million in its first 11 days on its way to a record $948 million domestic total.

    "Sing" is projected to come in a second with about $71.5 million over the six days - in line with forecasts - followed by the Jennifer Lawrence-Chris Pratt sci-fier "Passengers" at about $29 million to $30 million and videogame adaptation "Assassin's Creed" at $22.6 million.

    James Franco's romantic comedy "Why Him?," which opened Friday, is forecast to finish the four-day weekend with about $14.4 million.

    Martin Scorsese's historical drama "Silence" is projected to finish the four days with $170,000 at four theaters. The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as 17th century priests who face brutal persecution in Japan.

    "Patriots Day," from CBS Films and Lionsgate, took in $34,336 on Christmas Eve from seven locations and is project to wind up the six-day holiday break with about $280,000. The Boston Marathon bombing movie is directed by Peter Berg and stars Mark Wahlberg.

  15. Christmas Box Office: 'Rogue One' & 'Sing' May Destroy 'Passengers' & 'Assassin's Creed'

    US-ENTERTAINMENT-PREMIERE-PASSENGERSThe "X-Men" powers of Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender -- even combined with Marvel's own Star-Lord Chris Pratt -- are unlikely to save "Passengers" and "Assassin's Creed" at the Christmas weekend box office. Sorry, but they're just no match for Felicity Jones and animated singing animals.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter's box office projections, "Rogue One" is expected to dominate once again (no shock), with "Sing" taking the biggest haul of the three movies that opened Wednesday, Dec. 21. "Passengers" and (especially) "Assassin's Creed" are expected to have disappointing opening weekends, perhaps matching their disappointing reviews.

    US-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-PREMIERE-SING

    • "Rogue One" opened Friday, Dec. 16 to big numbers, and THR said it's projected for a Friday-Monday holiday weekend gross of more than $110 million, putting its domestic intake above $300 million through Monday.

    • "Sing," which cost about $75 million, is projected for a six-day (Wednesday-Monday) opening of roughly $80 million.

    • "Passengers," which cost around $110 million, is expected to have a six-day launch of $27 million-$30 million. THR noted that Sony had hoped for a $30 million-$40 million start. That's not too far off, though.

    • "Assassin's Creed," which cost around $125 million, is projected for a six-day opening of approximately $20 million. That's not great.

    ENTERTAINMENT-US-PREMIERE-ASSASSIN'S CREED-ARRIVALSThese are, of course, projections, and by the time Tuesday rolls around to end the long holiday weekend, box office prognosticators could be in for a shock at what fans actually went to see over Christmas break.

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  16. 'Rogue One' Opened Huge, but Could It Have Opened Bigger?

    It's not like anyone at Disney is complaining (publicly, at least) about the estimated $155.0 million that "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" earned this weekend during its domestic debut.

    After all, distributors of most would-be blockbusters would kill for an opening weekend that huge. It's the 12th biggest domestic debut of all time and the second biggest December debut ever, behind only last year's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." By the time the movie leaves theaters -- around the time you're starting your summer beach-body diet -- it will probably have earned close to $600 million in North America, which would make it one of the top six movies of all time.

    There were several factors that could have made a difference in boosting "Rogue One"'s numbers toward "Force Awakens" heights. Here are a few of them.
    1. It's a Spinoff
    It's possible that audiences weren't as emotionally invested in this self-contained side story, especially since its ending was something of a foregone conclusion (we all know what became of the stolen Death Star plans from having seen the opening minutes of "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope"). It also contained a roster of almost completely new characters, not the familiar heroes (or the stars who played them) that fans have loved for 39 years.

    With the notable recent exception of "Minions," spinoffs seldom do as well as the films that spawned them. (Recent exhibit A: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.") That doesn't mean they're not still a license to print money, just not as much money.

    2. Make 'em wait
    George Lucas used to give fans a typical wait of three years between installments, and sometimes as long as 16 years. Coming exactly one year after "Force Awakens" (which ended a 10-year "Star Wars" drought), "Rogue One" didn't have much time to build up anticipation or make us miss the "Star Wars" universe enough to pine for its return to the screen.

    3. The Weather
    Arctic blasts in much of the country could have kept viewers at home. Anecdotally, however, there were plenty of tweets from fans who insisted that they were braving the cold to go see "Rogue One."

    4. School Isn't Quite Out Yet
    This was Disney's own excuse for the smaller audiences, that not enough kids had Monday off to lift Sunday's numbers. True, "Force Awakens" was released on the same weekend last year, but the school calendar was different, and more kids could see the movie Sunday night without having to worry about being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enough for class on Monday. Even so, Disney's own tracking assumed that this student drop-off would result in a weekend around $135-$145 million, yet the movie managed to improve upon that lowball guess by about $10 million.

    5. 3D
    A full 38 percent of ticketbuyers ponied up for glasses-rental surcharges to see "Rogue One." Among those were the 12 percent of viewers who paid extra to see it on a giant IMAX screen. Those are excellent numbers for those formats, about the best that can be expected for any domestic debut with a 3D or IMAX option. Indeed, with "Rogue One" playing on more than 400 IMAX screens in North America, it's the widest IMAX release ever, resulting in the most lucrative IMAX premiere of 2016 ($19 million) and the second most lucrative December IMAX debut ever (after "Force Awakens").

    6. Gender Appeal
    "Rogue One" is the second straight "Star Wars" movie with a kick-ass female protagonist, so you'd think that would have helped draw more women to the film. Yet exit polls say that the film's audience was still about 59 percent male.
    The opening could have been worse. Like, "Collateral Beauty" bad. By Warner Bros. and New Line releasing his newest movie opposite "Rogue One," they embarked on a mission that evokes the title of his last movie, "Suicide Squad." Certainly, it could not have engendered much good will toward his new holiday tearjerker, which opened in fourth place and scored just an estimated $7.0 million, below even the modest $10 million pundits had predicted. That's the lowest wide-release opening of Smith's career.

    This was the movie, like such past Smith year-end releases as "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds," that was supposed to draw the female, adult audience that was presumably avoiding "Star Wars." (Indeed, that strategy worked last year for the R-rated comedy "Sisters.") But terrible reviews (just 14 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) may have scared away the grown-ups, who, as we've seen, were predisposed to see "Rogue One" anyway. Those who bought tickets actually liked "Collateral Beauty" a lot, giving it an A- at CinemaScore, but that positive word-of-mouth wasn't enough to overcome the reviews or the power of the Force.

    Even if "Collateral Beauty" didn't end up causing any collateral damage to "Rogue One," the absence of female and adult viewers from the multiplex has been a mystery that has vexed the industry for much of 2016. So far, sales for this year are about four percent ahead of what they were at the same point in 2015, but "Rogue One" falling short of selling tickets as fast as "Force Awakens" means 2016's total take could fall behind last year's.

    Could the relative lack of movies with female and adult appeal this year, compared to 2015, have made the difference?

  17. 'Rogue One' on Track for $300 Million Global Opening

    The box office projections just keep on looking better for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," with the standalone flick eyeing a potential $300 million worldwide haul on its upcoming opening weekend.

    While industry analysts were initially conservative in their estimates for the flick, predicting a domestic take of about $130 million, some prognosticators were predicting an opening frame in the $150 million take. And it looks like that latter number could be closer to the film's actual haul come this Friday, with analysts now adjusting their projections to predict at least $135 million in domestic receipts (with some still saying $150 million is likely), and an overall worldwide total in the range of $300 to $350 million once Sunday evening rolls around.

    Disney is keeping its own internal projections a bit more down-to-earth, with the Mouse House now saying it predicts a domestic take of $120 million on the low end, to $150 million on the high end. According to THR, Disney has always been quick to point out that it expects "Rogue One" to perform differently from the in-anthology "Star Wars" flicks, since it features new characters and an unfamiliar, one-off story. But the studio is still expecting the film to do quite well, putting its overseas projections between $130 million and $150 million, for a total worldwide opening weekend somewhere in the range of $250 million and $300 million.

    THR also points out that Disney is perhaps keeping its predictions conservative thanks to the fact that December openings aren't typically very large, thanks to the rush of the holiday season. While last year's "The Force Awakens" earned a whopping $529 million worldwide opening weekend, it was an extreme outlier, with not even the highest-grossing worldwide movie of all time, "Avatar," approaching that type of opening when it bowed back in December 2009.

    "Rogue One" may not break any records, but based on high fan anticipation, it's sure to score big at the box office. The flick opens on December 16.

    [via: The Hollywood Reporter]

  18. 6 Reasons Why 'Office Christmas Party' Lost the Top Spot to 'Moana'

    This weekend, there was actually some suspense in the race to the top of the box office chart.

    Some pundits expected "Office Christmas Party" to open in the top spot, given its star-studded cast and the lack of comedy competition. With no other new wide releases, its only rival was Disney's "Moana," champ for the past two weeks. Both movies were expected to run neck-and-neck, with around $18 to $20 million apiece.

    In the end, though, "Moana" had stronger legs, losing just 33 percent of last weekend's business and finishing first with an estimated $18.8 million. "Office" settled for second with an estimated $17.5 million.

    As this column predicted last weekend, no one was going to beat "Moana" until "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" opens Dec. 16. Even bigger news came at the specialty box office.
    "La La Land," the Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone musical that may be the most critically adored film of the year and an Oscar front-runner, opened this weekend. On just five screens, it scored an estimated $855,000, or an astonishing $171,000 per theater. That's the biggest per-theater debut of 2016; in fact, it's the biggest since "The Grand Budapest Hotel" nearly three years ago and the tenth biggest of all time. Not even "Rogue One" is going to top that.

    So here's why "Christmas Party" proved no match for Disney's newest heroine.

    1. Execution
    By most accounts, "Moana" is simply a better movie. It has a 96 percent "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, compared to a 43 percent for "Office." And audiences agree, based on CinemaScore grades of A for "Moana" and a weak B for "Office." Right now, there's not another movie in wide release that critics and audiences like as much as "Moana."

    2. It's Not a Good Time for R-rated Comedies Right Now
    Seriously, people -- did we learn nothing from the recent spectacular failure of "Bad Santa 2?"

    True, "Sisters" did well at this time a year ago, even though it was released on the same day as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and Paramount was smart this year to give "Office" an extra week before the "Star Wars" onslaught. Still, Christmas and raunchy comedy don't mix, at least not this year. The only comedy that's done well this season is modest hit "Almost Christmas," which is rated PG-13.

    3. Theater Count
    "Office" actually had a higher per-theater average than "Moana," $5,452 to $4,862. But "Moana" is playing on 665 more screens than "Office." Had "Office" been playing in just 246 more venues, it could have overtaken "Moana."

    4. Competition for Adult Eyeballs
    The target audience for the R-rated antics of "Office" was necessarily restricted to mature audiences, who had a lot to choose from this weekend, even if none of it was comedy.

    Not only were there the wide-release dramas that have been holding up fairly well -- "Arrival," "Allied," and "Hacksaw Ridge" -- but there were also three grown-up indie movies, all Oscar hopefuls riding a wave of buzz, that moved into wider release: "Nocturnal Animals," "Manchester by the Sea," and "Miss Sloane." Together, the three films added nearly 2,000 screens to their theater counts and $8.3 million to their collective earnings. Not huge numbers, maybe, but enough to make a difference if "Office" didn't have them to compete against.

    5. Star Wars' Jyn Erso
    Even though "Rogue One" doesn't open until this coming weekend, its rebel heroine may have already struck a blow.

    Fans may have held off going to the movies at all this weekend in order to save their ticket dollars for December's event movie, much as they did in late October before the November 4 debut of Marvel's "Doctor Strange."

    6. Weak Weekend Before the Holiday Rush
    Indeed, it wasn't just "Office Christmas Party" that suffered from "Rogue One" anticipation this weekend. In fact, the whole box office was down, with total sales at only about $83.6 million, making this the lowest grossing weekend of all of 2016 so far.

    Whether it was holiday shopping, football, cold weather, or holding onto that ticket money until the Force pries it loose, it seems everyone had better things to do than go to the movies this weekend.

  19. Here's Why 'Moana' Will Rule the Box Office... Until 'Rogue One'

    Maybe you prefer your Thanksgiving dinner carved from the turkey breast or thigh. But at the movie theater in the weekends after Thanksgiving, it's all about the legs.

    Traditionally, the end of November/beginning of December at the multiplex is a quiet period. It certainly seemed so this weekend, with "Moana" staying at the top of the chart for a second week -- and only one new wide release, horror film "Incarnate," opening in dismal ninth place.
    Still, the long legs, the holding power that "Moana" and other November movies are showing, is impressive. The Disney cartoon may not have faced any serious challenges this week, but together, these movies are selling just enough to keep 2016 some four percent ahead of last year at the same time. The box office may be in a holding pattern until "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" blasts off into hyperdrive on Dec. 16, but for now, sub-light speed is just fine for everyone, thanks.

    Typically after Thanksgiving, whatever Disney movie happens to be on top slides about 55 percent. "Moana," however, lost just 50 percent, coming in at an estimated $28.4 million in its second weekend. That's a stronger hold than any of Disney's recent Thanksgiving cartoons, including "Tangled," "The Good Dinosaur," and even "Frozen."

    With its appeal to both adults and kids, "Moana" is unbeatable right now. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is actually playing on more screens (3,988 to 3,875), but it's in its third week, so it mustered up just an estimated $18.5 million, good for second place. Still, that's enough to bring its three-week domestic total to $183.5 million. Overseas, it's done twice as well, leading to a global total of $607.9 million. Never underestimate the wizardly power of J.K. Rowling to sell movie tickets worldwide.
    Two films appealing primarily to adults are holding on surprisingly well. Brainy alien-visitors drama "Arrival" actually added 473 theaters in its fourth weekend (for a total of 2,915) and was rewarded with an additional $7.3 million (down just a modest 36 percent from last week) and third place.

    To date, "Arrival," which cost a reported $47 million to make, has earned $73.1 million in America and a total of $105.2 million across planet Earth.

    Meanwhile, World War II drama "Allied" also fell less than 50 percent (44.5 percent, to be exact) from its debut a week ago, finishing fourth with an estimated $7.1 million. That middling reviews haven't hurt this movie much among its target audience (of people old enough to still care what critics think) is a testament to Brad Pitt's star power, or at least to prurient tabloid interest in him.

    Rounding out the top five, "Doctor Strange," in its fifth weekend, still managed to conjure up an estimated $6.5 million. With a domestic total to date of $215.3 million, it's one of two current movies that are already in the Top 10 for the whole year so far. ("Fantastic Beasts" is the other.)

    Compared to the top five, "Incarnate" may not look like much. The exorcism thriller opened on 1,737 screens and scared up an estimated $2.7 million. That's well below the already modest $4 million that pundits had predicted. Apparently, the film was following in the example of 2015's "Krampus," which picked this same unlikely holiday-season weekend last year to open and stuffed its stocking with $16.3 million. But that film had a Christmas theme, more obvious youth appeal (unlike "Incarnate," whose stars are middle-aged Carice van Houten and Aaron Eckhart), and a tongue-in-cheek tone. Given those deficits, along with poor word-of-mouth (measured by a horrific C- grade at CinemaScore) and "Incarnate" not being screened for critics, it's no wonder "Incarnate" didn't come close to matching the debut of "Krampus."

    The absence of a new sleeper hit like "Krampus" kept this weekend's total box office about three percent below that of the same weekend last year. Still, total domestic earnings for the year to date stand at $10.3 billion, marking the first time that the figure has crossed the $10 billion mark by this time of year. Last year's record haul was only $9.9 billion at this time, though there was still a "Star Wars" movie yet to be released.

    Even if this year's "Star Wars" installment doesn't approach the monster success of last year's "The Force Awakens," 2016 is still four percent ahead of last year and on track to become Hollywood's biggest year to date. For that, the studios can thank pluggers like "Arrival" and "Allied" for inching the 2016 total closer to that record, one ticket at a time.

  20. Box Office: 'Moana' Tops Slow Post-Thanksgiving Weekend With $28.4M

    Walt Disney Pictures' MOANABy Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 4 (Variety.com) - "Moana" sailed to the top of the domestic box office for the second consecutive weekend. The Disney animated adventure picked up $28.4 million to push its stateside haul to $119.9 million.

    Not that "Moana" faced much in the way of competition. The weekend after Thanksgiving tends to be a slow one for the movie business and this year's edition was in keeping with that tradition. The only major new release, "Incarnate," failed to sell many tickets, earning $2.6 million and falling short of its expected $4 million to $5 million opening.

    "Incarnate" centers on a scientist (Aaron Eckhart) who enters the mind of an 11-year-old boy to rid him of an evil spirit. The horror film is the latest offering from BH Tilt, which is trying to contain distribution costs by orchestrating more targeted marketing campaigns for certain theatrical releases. "Incarnate" used digital advertising to try to better reach younger horror fans, and debuted on 1,700 screens, substantially fewer theaters than most studio movies unfurl across. It cost $5 million to produce.

    "Believe," a faith-based drama about a Christmas pageant, grossed a quiet $602,519 from 639 locations. Freestyle Releasing backed the film.

    One bright spot was the limited release debut of Fox Searchlight's "Jackie." The look at First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's efforts to put on a funeral for Jack Kennedy that honored her husband and cemented the president's legacy has earned raves for Natalie Portman's lead performance and Oscar buzz. It also did strong business in five theaters, picking up $275,000 for a $55,000 per-screen average.

    "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the Harry Potter spinoff from Warner Bros., took second place, earning $18.5 million to push its domestic gross to $183.5 million.

    Paramount's "Arrival" came in third, earning $7.3 million. The science-fiction thriller has made $73.1 million. Coming in fourth, Paramount's "Allied" added $7 million to its $28.9 million gross. Marvel's "Doctor Strange" rounded out the top five, picking up $6.5 million to bring its stateside bounty to $215.3 million.

    Among Oscar contenders, Amazon Studios and Roadside's "Manchester by the Sea" expanded nicely, picking up $2.4 million after moving from 48 to 156 screens. The acclaimed drama about a grieving janitor has made $4.4 million.

    A24's "Moonlight" continued to impress. The coming-of-age story made $915,750, pushing its gross to $9.9 million.

    The domestic box office continues to outpace last year's revenues, with 2016 up roughly 4% over 2015. However, the weekend totals were off 3% from the same period last year, when the horror comedy "Krampus" debuted to a strong $16.3 million.

    The movie business continues to hold its collective breath for the opening of "Rogue One: A Star Wars" story on Dec. 16, which is expected to dominate ticket sales for the rest of the year.

    "This was the drama-free weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "It's the calm after the storm and the calm before the storm."

  21. 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Could Rake in Over $130 Million on Opening Weekend

    It should come as no surprise that a movie with "Star Wars" in the title would have some rosy prospects at the box office. But early projections for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," the first spinoff film from the folks at Lucasfilm, are much rosier than anticipated.

    Advance tracking is pegging the flick for an opening in the $130 million range, and that's on the conservative side of estimates. Some analysts are predicting as much as a $150 million haul for the space saga, a stunning sum for a feature starring a bunch of unknown characters.

    But that's the prestige of the "Star Wars" brand, which has proven more powerful than even the magical "Harry Potter" franchise in recent years. While audience anticipation was high for prequel flick "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," it still only managed a $75 million opening weekend, off of estimates in the $80 million range. (The film has since gone on to prove it will have some strong legs at the box office, earning an impressive $65 million in its second frame this past weekend.)

    With advance ticket sales already tracking well for "Rogue One," and audience interest peaking as far back as January, it looks like the sky's the limit for the venerable sci-fi franchise. The film opens on December 16.

    [via: The Hollywood Reporter]

    Photo credit: Disney

  22. Here's How 'Moana' Crushed the Competition at the Box Office

    Disney's "Moana" had plenty to be thankful for over the holiday weekend, but for all the other new releases that went up against it, it was a Black Friday.

    "Moana" actually performed near the low end of expectations, even though it broke some records with its preview sales on Tuesday and its first-day tickets on Wednesday. Those early numbers had pundits suggesting the animated adventure could open as high as $90 million. But then the Turkey Day tryptophan coma kicked in, and the numbers went back to normal, for a more modest but still solid $55.5 million in estimated sales from Friday to Sunday, good enough to surf past "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (with an estimated $45.1 million in its second weekend) to the top of this weekend's box office chart.

    By contrast, Brad Pitt's World War II spy romance, "Allied," had to settle for a fourth place opening estimated at a mere $13.0 million. ("Doctor Strange," in its fourth week, edged it out of third by less than $400,000.) That was still way better than "Bad Santa 2," opening in eighth place with just an estimated $6.1 million, well below the low-teens estimates of some analysts. And then there was Warren Beatty's long-awaited "Rules Don't Apply," which failed to meet even meager predictions of $2 to $3 million. The period Hollywood backstage tale premiered with just an estimated $1.6 million, debuting way down in twelfth place.

    Overall, this was a strong holiday at the box office, with total receipts up more than $25 million from a week ago and even up about $1 million from last Thanksgiving, a holiday weekend that saw the final "Hunger Games" movie sharing the multiplex with the debuts of "The Good Dinosaur" and "Creed." This Thanksgiving, however, there was little sharing of the holiday bounty. "Moana" and "Beasts" carved up more than half the feast between them and left table scraps for everyone else.

    So why did "Allied," "Bad Santa 2," and "Rules" flounder? Here are three reasons.

    1. It's Disney
    The studio behind such past Thanksgiving smashes as "Tangled" and "Frozen" knows how to reach a holiday audience of kids on school break. By now, Disney pretty much owns these Thanksgiving five-day weekends. The six biggest five-day Thanksgiving debuts and the eight biggest three-day Thanksgiving openings all belong to Disney. "Moana" now ranks as No. 2 in both categories, behind only "Frozen" (which had a $67.4 million Thanksgiving three-day weekend).

    2. Cartoons Aren't Just for Kids
    "Moana" also knew how to reach adults, by casting familiar voices like Dwayne Johnson and getting "Hamilton" fountainhead Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the songs. Or maybe they just came along to babysit their kids. Either way, Disney claims some 43 percent of "Moana" viewers were 25 and older.

    3. Other Adult Fare? No So Adult
    Or at least, not that appealing to a grown-up audience. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard's "Allied" looks like at least three other Pitt movies and at least one set of tabloid headlines. "Bad Santa 2," coming 13 years after the original, may have looked like a cynical cash grab, a sequel no one asked for.

    As for "Rules Don't Apply," which marks Beatty's first directing job since "Bulworth" 18 years ago -- and his first acting role since legendary flop "Town and Country" 15 years ago -- well, Beatty does remain a figure of fascination for much older audiences, but not for many under 50. And yet, he's just a supporting character in his own movie, with the leads played by two much younger, lesser known actors.

    You could argue that the 79-year-old is simply out of touch with what modern audiences want from movies, but even older audiences must have been hard-pressed to find interest in a Beatty comeback that's not much of a Beatty comeback.

    All three movies had underwhelming reviews from critics, whom older audiences still read. But paying customers themselves agreed with the critics, giving the films lackluster word-of-mouth at CinemaScore.

    In general, it's been hard to get adults to come to the multiplex this fall. The grown-up thrillers and prestige Oscar-hopeful dramas that were supposed to draw them out of their living rooms have mostly failed, either because of poor execution, poor marketing, or poor timing.

    Certainly, having three such films open in wide release at once wasn't going to do any one of these adult movies any favors. Having them open opposite a well-made Disney cartoon that they'd enjoy watching with their kids proved a recipe for unappetizing turkey leftovers.

  23. Box Office: 'Moana' Sails to Top Spot for Thanksgiving Weekend


    By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Disney's "Moana" sailed to the top of the Thanksgiving box office, earning a mighty $81.1 million over the five day holiday period and $55.5 million for the weekend.

    Its success builds on the studio's hot streak. Disney has released five of the year's ten highest grossing films, is the leader in terms of market share, and is poised to set a new record for annual grosses. Its hits include "Captain America: Civil War," "Zootopia," "Doctor Strange," "Finding Dory," "The Jungle Book," and now "Moana," with "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" waiting in the wings.

    Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis said that the success of "Moana" and others like it justified the company's decision to make fewer films, while taking bigger bets. Part of that strategy involved shelling out billions of dollars to buy Pixar, Marvel, and LucasFilm, the brands behind "Toy Story," "The Avengers," and "Star Wars."

    "We are working with the greatest brands and we're doing big, broad storytelling that resonates domestically, but has the power to transcend borders and languages and cultures around the world," said Hollis.

    While "Moana" thrived, other new releases weren't as fortunate. Paramount's "Allied" earned $18 million over the five-day period and $13 million for the weekend, a weak result given its $85 million budget. The film stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as spies who marry only to have their love affair become entangled in a larger conspiracy. Robert Zemeckis ("Flight") directed the picture.

    Pitt has gone through a bruising divorce from Angelina Jolie that limited his participation in publicizing the film. The actor didn't do television interviews or magazine spreads, which might have helped raise "Allied's" profile. The film also drew a much older crowd, with 39% of ticket-buyers coming in over the age of 50. Paramount suggested that might mean that its core group of ticket buyers may be slower to embrace the picture, even as it acknowledged that the results were disappointing. "It's just okay, and over Thanksgiving you always hope for something a little better than okay," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's head of marketing and distribution. "The bright spot is that there's not a lot of competition in the marketplace over the next few weeks and our audience takes a minute to get to the theater." Paramount is coming off a series of bruising failures such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" and "Zoolander 2." As its parent company, Viacom, prepares to merge with CBS, there are questions about studio chief Brad Grey's leadership of Paramount. Last month, Grey hosted a preview of the studio's film slate for media, during which "Allied" was positioned as a key component in Paramount's revival. The studio did enjoy a hit with "Arrival," a brainy sci-fi thriller, but after "Allied's" struggles, it will now have to look to "Fences" and "Silence," two awards hopefuls from Denzel Washington and Martin Scorsese, to close out the year on a high note.

    Broad Green and Miramax's "Bad Santa 2" also failed to ignite. The follow-up to the 2003 cult comedy "Bad Santa" earned $9 million over the five day stretch and $6.1 million for the weekend. It cost $25 million to produce and had been tracking to open in the mid-teen millions. Broad Green, a newcomer to film distribution, has also been floundering of late. It has released a number of flops and disappointments such as "The Infiltrator," a thriller with Bryan Cranston, and "99 Homes," a drama with Andrew Garfield, and has only had one true breakout hit with "A Walk in the Woods," a Robert Redford comedy that debuted last year.

    Warren Beatty's "Rules Don't Apply" was roundly rejected by moviegoers. The romantic comedy about Howard Hughes bombed, earning a disastrous $2.2 million over five days and $1.6 million over the weekend. Beatty hasn't been on screens in more than a decade and has spent years trying to assemble financing for the film. Hughes, the famously reclusive billionaire was something of an obsession for the actor. To realize the passion projection, Beatty tapped a network of one-percenters that includes Steve Bing, Steven Mnuchin, and Ron Burkle to pull together "Rules Don't Apply's" $25 million budget. Fox is distributing the picture. Its opening is one of the worst ever recorded for a movie that debuted on more than 2,000 screens.

    "Moana" centers on a girl in the Pacific Islands who journeys across the ocean to save her people. Disney did not release a budget, but most animated films cost between $150 million to $200 million to produce. "Moana" now ranks as the second biggest Thanksgiving debut ever, behind only "Frozen," which made $93.6 million in its first five days.

    As many new releases floundered, Warner Bros.' "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" continued to draw crowds. The Harry Potter spin-off picked up $65.8 million for the five-day period and $45.1 million in its sophomore weekend. The fantasy adventure has earned $156.2 million in two weeks of release.

    In limited release, EuropaCorp's "Miss Sloane" bowed in three theaters where it made $63,000, for a per-screen average of $21,000. Jessica Chastain stars in the thriller as a driven lobbyist who takes on the gun industry.

    The Weinstein Company's "Lion," a drama about a man who uses Google Earth to reunite with his long-lost family, debuted to $128,368 in four theaters for a $32,092 per-screen average.

    "Lion" is seen as a potential Oscar winner. One of its chief competitors, Amazon and Roadside's "Manchester by the Sea," expanded from four to 48 screens this weekend, where it earned $1.3 million. The drama about a grieving janitor has made $1.6 million since it opened.

  24. 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Expect 'Fantastic Beasts' to Be the Next Harry Potter at the Box Office

    "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was supposed to be one of the Fall's biggest movies, but it suffered from some of the same problems that's bedeviled other films this season: how to find enough of a fantastic audience.

    Predictions for the "Harry Potter" spinoff's premiere ran anywhere from $80 to $100 million. After all, it's been five years since the last film set in the Potter universe, and anticipation for a return trip to the wizard-ing world was high, what with a screenplay by J.K. Rowling herself, the franchise's first ever American-set story, and the launch of a new five-installment series of movies.

    And yet, after all the weekend wand-waving was done, "Fantastic Beasts" had conjured up only an estimated $75.0 million. Though good enough for first place, that's $10 million below the opening take of "Doctor Strange" two weeks ago, and $28 million behind the $103 million averaged by the eight "Harry Potter" movies during their opening weekends. An opening in the $90 million range would have indicated strong enthusiasm stateside to warrant the five-film franchise plan. Now, the movie will need all the help at the international box office not only to recoup its reported $180 million budget before P & A, but also to justify five future outings at almost $200 million a pop. Would you spend that much on five films when the first film opened to less than amazing results?

    Why didn't "Fantastic Beasts" cast a similar spell over the box office? Here are seven reasons, starting with the glaringly obvious:
    1. No Harry
    Sorry, Newt Scamander, but you're just not the Boy Who Lived. You're the zoologist who traveled. You don't even get your name in the title, like Harry did, eight times. The near total absence of familiar characters in this prequel, set 70 years and a continent away from the actions of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," wasn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but it doesn't seem to have helped, either.

    2. No Real Bankable Stars
    True, the Potter movies had no stars either when "Sorcerer's Stone" launched the franchise; rather, the franchise was big enough to make stars out of Daniel Radcliffe and his Hogwarts pals. Maybe it'll make one out of Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne, too. But going into the project, Redmayne was anything but a proven box office draw. Even if you loved him as Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," that didn't mean you were eager to see him play a 1920s wizard with a briefcase full of magical animals.

    3. No Source Material to Inspire Fandom
    This was the first "Potter" movie not based on a previous novel, just a fake textbook that popped up on Harry's syllabus decades later. That the plot was a mystery to all Potter fans was supposed to be a selling point, but without a novel to whet fan appetites and introduce the characters and setting, "Beasts" may have proved too confusing -- or just plain too "who cares?" -- for even some hardcore Potterphiles.

    4. Potter Fans Are Mostly All Grown Up
    "Beasts" attracted an audience that was 55 percent above the age of 35, and just 18 percent were under the age of 18 -- or less than what one would expect considering the target audience. Remember, kids who were Potter fans when the movies began 15 years ago are now mortgage-paying adults, often with kids of their own. That and the fact that "Beasts" is a period drama about adults and not a contemporary-set film about school children seems to have contributed to the adult-skewing polls. It's good to see grown-ups finally returning to the multiplex, but something's wrong when a J.K. Rowling fantasy movie can't enchant a kid audience.

    5. Beastly Rivals
    Let's start with that other current movie sorcerer. Knocked out of the top spot in its third weekend, "Doctor Strange" is still holding on well, earning an estimated $17.7 million this weekend. Yep, all the grown-ups are back, and they're watching guys with capes perform spells. Or maybe they were seeing "Arrival," "Almost Christmas," or "Hacksaw Ridge," adult comedies and dramas that are also holding up well. The kids, meanwhile, were all seeing "Trolls" for the third straight weekend; it came in third, just a hair behind "Strange." That urgent, must-see-it-the-first-weekend feeling just wasn't there among potential "Beasts" audiences. And that may have been due to...

    6. Low Stakes
    Harry Potter had to save the world. It's less clear what drives Newt, but even with the Muggle-world catastrophe of World War II looming for the "Beasts" characters, we already kinda know how that one turned out.

    Plus, we got to watch Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow up on screen over the course of 10 years of movies. No such treat is in store for "Beasts" viewers. So it's harder for even full-on Potterheads to get emotionally invested this time around.

    7. Multiplex Drain
    THE EDGE OF SEVENTEENHas the success of "Doctor Strange" ended the fall box office slump, or just provided a temporary break from it? It's starting to look like the latter, with total receipts at the multiplex declining for the second straight weekend.

    Every new movie underperformed expectations. Teen dramedy "The Edge of Seventeen" was expected to net low-to-mid teens with its 95% "Fresh" RT score. Instead, it came in seventh place with less than $5 million. And no one wanted Miles Teller's boxing biopic "Bleed for This," which flopped in eighth place. Also bombing? Ang Lee's buzzed-about Oscar hopeful "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," which expanded wide in its second weekend but wound up in 14th place with just an estimated $930,000, or a measly $791 per screen

    Viewers seemed to enjoy "Beasts and "Seventeen," giving "Beasts" an A CinemaScore and the latter an A-. But for paying customers who enjoyed those movies to recommend them to others, they first had to be enticed into the theater.

    And yet, clearly, people had better things to do this weekend and last than to go to the movies.

  25. Box Office: 'Fantastic Beasts' Finds Its Way to the Top Spot

    By Brent Lang

    LOS ANGELES, Nov 13 (Variety.com) - "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" dominated the weekend box office, debuting to a boisterous $75 million and launching a new cinematic franchise.

    It confirms Warner Bros.' high hopes for the property and its decision to back five installments in the fantasy series. The film is a spin-off of the Harry Potter films, but instead of Hogwarts, it unfolds in 1920s New York City and features an entirely new cast of wizards and mythical creatures.

    The studio spent $180 million to make the picture, enlisting Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling to write the screenplay and bringing back David Yates, the director of several previous boy wizard outings.

    Audiences may have embraced the return to Potter-dom, but they gave the cold shoulder to several new films, among them the boxing drama "Bleed for This" and the Iraq War drama "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk." Both films bombed, with "Bleed for This" eking out $2.4 million and "Billy Lynn's" mustering $930,000 after expanding from four to 1,176 theaters. It has earned $1.1 million.

    Open Road is distributing "Bleed for This," which looks at Vinny Pazienza's efforts to get back into the ring after a car accident. It has a $6 million budget.

    Sony is backing "Billy Lynn's" along with Bona Film Group, Film4, and Studio 8. The $40 million is a technological gamble. Ang Lee shot the picture to be exhibited at 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution in order to achieve greater clarity and realism. Critics have been divided about the look of the picture, with some faulting it for looking too much like a telenovela. It's something of a moot point, as less than a half dozen theaters have the ability to exhibit the film at the higher speeds.

    STX's "Edge of Seventeen" didn't fare much better than the other struggling new releases. The teen dramedy with Hailee Steinfeld only managed to pull in $4.8 million for a seventh place finish. Heading into the weekend, it was expected to gross $10 million. The film centers on a high school girl grappling with the fact that her best friend is dating her brother. It cost $9 million to make.

    Second place went to Marvel's "Doctor Strange," which brought in $17.5 million to push its domestic gross to $181.5 million after three weeks in theaters. DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls" took third, earning $17.5 million to bring its haul to $116.2 million.

    Paramount's "Arrival," a science-fiction thriller with Amy Adams, nabbed fourth place, picking up $11.8 million to bring its stateside gross to $43.4 million. Universal's "Almost Christmas" rounded out the top five, picking up $7 million to push its domestic total to $25.4 million.

    In limited release, "Manchester by the Sea" capitalized on glowing reviews and Oscar heat to open to $241,230 with a robust $60,308 per-screen average. Amazon bought the film out of Sundance for $10 million and is releasing it in conjunction with Roadside Attractions. Casey Affleck stars as a janitor trying to come to terms with a personal tragedy.

    Focus Features also debuted "Nocturnal Animals," Tom Ford's noir-ish thriller, in 37 theaters where it made $493,000.

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