In theory, Father’s Day weekend and the June 19 holiday could boost Sunday’s takings enough to keep this weekend from falling below last year’s performance. Still, even if that is the case – and in all likelihood it isn’t – it’s one hell of a note when you look at the debut of two new major franchise films, each costing over $200 million, and some vital reserves.
For once, the real joy can be found in the specialized release. Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” (Focus) has a best post-Covid opening of $790,000 at just six theaters. With a per-theater average of $131,667, it’s the best of the year. (In recent history, it’s hard to find another film that has done so.) The slowly expanding “Past Lives” (A24), now in 85 theaters, added another $761,000. At this point it has an impressive PTA of nearly $9,000 and $1.9 million to date.
Based on max-adjusted tracking for “The Flash” (Warner Bros. Discovery) and “Elemental” (Disney), we were hoping for a $200 million minimum weekend for all films. The current estimate is around $167 million.
It’s easy to blame franchises: both DC Comics (“Black Adam”) and Pixar (“Lightyear”) have fallen short recently (though even those had better openings). There’s also the unique challenge of “The Flash” star Ezra Miller absenting himself from all promotions, and Pixar’s recovery from being perceived as a streaming rather than a theatrical property.
However, a more existential concern may be to blame. Studios are now spending $200 million – $300 million on what appear to be safe, audience-proven projects – only to find that increasingly demanding audiences, perhaps in response to our always-on entertainment industrial complex, have become increasingly savvy. in ignoring the hype.
Under James Gunn, a full-scale revamp is underway at DC. But how different can it really be? (On June 16, WBD announced that “The Flash” director Andy Muschietti will helm the latest “Batman” reboot.) Whether Marvel or DC, comic book success is no longer a given, and that makes harder to justify individual production and marketing investments that easily exceed $300 million.
Pixar no longer defines animated success, although it consistently makes the most expensive animated films. The best hits of the year to date, animated or otherwise, are Universal’s Illumination production “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and Sony’s Marvel title “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” They are made and marketed as fun early films, something Pixar seems to have lost.
Summer is still more than two months away with several potential blockbusters in sight, but a $400 million domestic release is increasingly unlikely to be among them. Our best hope once again falls on Tom Cruise and the new film “Mission: Impossible”.
This weekend’s frontrunners managed to steal market share from inventories, with “Spider-Verse” and “The Little Mermaid” down 50%. The title no. 1, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” dropped 67 percent for fourth place and just $20 million.
“Spider-Verse” is a hit; “Mermaid” has a believable domestic performance; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” will be profitable if insignificant. As for everything else – “Fast X”, “Transformers”, foreign penchant for “Mermaid”, “Elemental” – this summer will see a lot of movies that are sure not to be.
For theaters, that might be enough for now. Summer remains six percent ahead of last year, with several promising July releases including the new “Indiana Jones” (another $300 million production). YTD it is now 23% ahead of 2022 (if that’s worth, a $9.1 billion year). The four-week rolling comparison to 2019 remains excellent at 98 percent, but will decline; Summer 2019 saw three huge releases open after June 18th.
The problem is getting to this level, studios have to keep spending on movies, or try to figure out how to spend less and still have appeal. Add in the WGA strike and the reaction to these weak results could translate into a weakening of the future pipeline.
With the Juneteenth party on Monday, Lionsgate released its acquisition of Tim Story’s comedy “The Blackening” for $6 million. They acquired the Toronto-premiering horror comedy for $5 million, with additional marketing expenses. It placed number 6. ‘Adipurush’, an Indian epic film released in two languages, came in ninth place with $2.5 million in 960 theatres.
Wes Anderson’s latest far surpassed the best of another Anderson platform (Paul Thomas, for “Licorice Pizza”). This Anderson has a great track record for strong opening. His previous three films were Searchlight titles with some level of limited initial release. His last film to be released only in New York/Los Angeles was “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014, which (with lower ticket prices) opened to $811,000 in four theaters.
Much has changed in the show since then, including the loss of two major Los Angeles venues. “Asteroid City” also faces the challenge of getting enough seats at other theaters on a busy week, along with decent but less exuberant reviews. That makes this weekend’s performance even more outstanding than the figures suggest.
Anderson’s film will expand nationwide to about 1,500 theaters next week. Audiences may not respond to the levels of ‘Budapest’ (it grossed $173 million worldwide), but this debut is a win for the initial platform game concept and ‘Asteroid City’ distributor Focus Features.
1. Lightning (WBD) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 56; Est. budget: 200 million dollars
$55,100,000 in 4,234 theaters; PTA (average per theater): $13,014; Cumulative: $55,100,000
2. Elemental (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: 200 million dollars
$29,500,000 in 4,035 theaters; PTA: $7,311; Cumulative: $29,500,000
3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$27,800,000 (-50%) in 3,873 (-459) theaters; PTA: $7,178; Cumulative: $280,383,000
4. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$20,000,000 (-67%) in 3,680 (+2) theaters; PTA: $5,435; Cumulative: $100,622,000
5. The Little Mermaid (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #3
$11,600,000 (-50%) in 3,480 (-840) theaters; PTA: $3,333; Cumulative: $253,559,000
6. Blackening (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 70; Est. budget: 5 million dollars
$6,000,000 in 1,775 theaters; PTA: $3,380; Cumulative: $6,000,000
7. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #4
$5,000,000 (-31%) in 3,175 (-915) theaters; PTA: $2,212; Cumulative: $344,360,000
8. The boogeyman (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$3,800,000 (-47%) in 2,140 (-965) theaters; PTA: $1,776; Cumulative: $32,768,000
9. Adipurush (Long live) NEW – Est. budget: 60 million dollars
$(ext). 2,500,000 in 960 theaters; PTA: $2,604; Cumulative: $(estimate) $2,500,000
10. Fast X (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD
$1,620,000 (-62%) in 1,550 (-1,272) theaters; PTA: $1,303; Cumulative: $142,003,000
Other specialized titles
Movies (limited, expansions of limited releases, as well as award-oriented) are listed by week out, starting with those open this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grossing over $5,000 are listed.
City of Asteroids (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes 2023
$790,000 in 6 theaters; PTA: $131,667
Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hypgnosis) (Utopia) Week 2 1
$5,400 in 2 (+1) halls; PTA: $2,700; Cumulative: $23,960
Past lives (A24) Week 3
$760,871 in 85 (+59) theaters; PTA: $8,951; Cumulative: $1,902,000
You hurt my feelings (A24) Week 4
$269,412 in 249 (-178) theaters; Cumulative: $4,351,000
Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Week 6; also on PVOD
$33,000 in 129 (-79) theaters; Cumulative: $17,519,000
It’s not over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6; also on PVOD
$62,316 in 97 (+36) theaters; Cumulative: $543,307