Against all expectations, the weekend Top 12 cume actually went down a notch from the previous weekend despite seeing a powerful opener on top. Even though the decline was just 2.5%, it is still surprising, given that the weekend was about to see what many expected to be one of the year’s top grosser. Then again, things obviously didn’t turn out the way many thought they would this weekend. On the upside, for the first time in five weeks the box-office saw an uptick compared to last year. The $148.3 million Top 12 cume represented an 8.6% increase over the same weekend last year when The Avengers reigned in its third round and Battleship opened to disappointing numbers. While the overall 2013 box-office is still tracking a pitiful 11.6% behind 2012, with two (hopefully) powerful openers this upcoming weekend, this year will soon start to catch up quickly. However, there still lacks a $400+ million mega-blockbuster in the summer, such as The Dark Knight Rises was last July. It’s now up to the combo of The Man of Steel, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University to make up for that gap.
Sometimes, even great box-office results can seem oh so disappointing. Star Trek into Darkness was a prime example for that this weekend, when it captured the top spot with $70.2 million over the three-day-period, averaging $18,140 per theatre from 3,868 locations. As the film was released on Thursday already, its four-day total (including Wednesday night previews) amounts to $83.7 million. The film made 45% of its gross from 3D screens, a share identical to Iron Man 3. Impressive results came from IMAX screens, which accounted for 16% of the weekend’s gross. If you told someone five years ago that a Star Trek film opening above $80 million in four days would be considered disappointing, that person would have shook his head at best or tried to call the men in white coats on you at worst. Afterall, its four-day total is already higher than the total grosses of all, but two Star Trek films prior to the 2009 reboot (unadjusted for inflation of course). On top of that, Star Trek’s three-day opening alone makes for the third-best opening weekend of the year (behind Iron Man 3 and Oz The Great and Powerful). What’s not to be impressed by? However, following the 2009-reboot’s phenomenal success, Star Trek into Darkness’ numbers are nothing, but disappointing. Perhaps one needs to look back to 2009 to understand why this start, albeit undeniably good, is ultimately underwhelming. J.J. Abrams and Paramount resurrected the franchise from the dead four years ago. An extremely effective marketing campaign, that lured Trekkies as much as non-fans into the film, ensured a surprisingly huge $79.2 million opening (including previews). That alone, was incredible back then. However, what followed was even more stunning. Unlike most other Star Trek films, which tended to be naturally frontloaded (for the times they were released in), the reboot showed off particularly impressive legs, not dropping 50% or more until its 9th weekend and finishing with $257.7 million and a multiplier of 3.3. It’s only because it was overshadowed by giant success stories such as Avatar, The Blind Side and The Hangover in the same year, that it did not end up as one of 2009’s biggest box-office stories. As it was, it still ended up on the 7th spot of the yearly chart and grossed more than all other Star Trek films even when accounted for inflation. It was a phenomenon, one that did not just opened well, but also seemingly gathered new fans along the way, leading to incredibly good legs for what everyone expected to be a very frontloaded picture. Usually, when a breakout like this happens, you naturally expect the follow-up to increase in gross. The Star Trek franchise finally went from a niche series for nerds, to a mainstream blockbuster and once it has opened up itself to new audiences, it was up to the reboot’s sequel to deliver the first über-blockbuster of the Star Trek franchise. Or so it seemed back then. Many, including myself, expected the follow-up to perform similarly to the way Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and X2: X-Men United did, compared to their respective predecessors. Alas, it didn’t.
It seems really unfair to bash on Star Trek into Darkness opening to more than $80 million in four days, whereas that is something that one could have only dreamed of ten years ago, but times and circumstances have changed. We’re dealing with a $190 million successor to a $258 million-grossing leggy hit that was Paramount’s main tentpole this summer. The fact that it did barely more in four days than what Star Trek did in three is simply not that good. Especially if you consider four years of inflation, a higher IMAX share and, most importantly, the 3D premium that its predecessor didn’t have. All that aside, one would naturally expect a follow-up to a successful and beloved movie to open significantly better anyway. Even Iron Man 2, which arrived only two years after Iron Man and didn’t have 3D, still outopened the first film by around 30%! So instead of another Transformers 2, Star Trek into Darkness looks to be pulling another The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian or Kung–Fu Panda 2, two high-profile sequels released in May 2008 and 2011 respectively that let down despite seemingly beloved and successful predecessors. Maybe it’s a rule that one of these just happens every couple of years.
But what exactly did happen here? There are many factors to be considered, though none of them can, by itself, fully explain what happened to Star Trek into Darkness. Some will blame the marketing campaign, which was selling an unnamed villain and looked too dark. I would beg to differ, however, as Star Trek’s marketing certainly looked no worse than for most other releases this summer and Iron Man 3 had a dark spin in its marketing as well. It could also be that the last film hit the maximum of the franchise’s potential and was just lucky to perform as well as it did. It had little competition, when it opened, as no other live-action May 2009 release hit a $200 million total domestically, whereas Star trek into Darkness had to contend with Iron Man 3’s third weekend and The Great Gatsby’s second weekend – both movies that outdid the expectations. That still doesn’t explain, however, that the new movie probably sold around 20% less tickets than the 2009 flick, despite being a sequel and thus probably more frontloaded. The film’s heavily male and older demographics also show that Paramount failed to reach young audiences beyond the already existing core fans. 64% of the film’s opening weekend audiences were male and 73% were over the age of 25. Its predecessor skewed somewhat younger and slightly more female. The biggest factor was probably the four-year-long gap between the two films. You should strike the iron, while it’s hot. When Star Trek overperformed back in 2009, the new movie should have been out by 2011 or 2012 at latest. Waiting for four years after such a successful first film is inexcusable and the franchise probably just lost monumentum in the meantime. If you look at sequels to movies that hugely overperformed, a long gap usually results in a severe decline (see Little Fockers, Rush Hour 3, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) That still doesn’t fully explain the disappointing results, but it is as close to an explanation, as I can get. Not all hope is lost for Star Trek into Darkness, of course. In addition to strong reviews, the film has also received an encouraging “A”-CinemaScore. The good word-of-mouth might just offset the direct competition it will suffer through Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III this weekend, though it will still take a hit. This WoM will also ensure that the film will most likely top $200 million by the end of its run and thus not be a complete letdown. Nevertheless, making $200 million doesn’t guarantee a spot in the yearly Top 10 this year and it’d be quite a shocking turn of events if Star Trek into Darkness didn’t end up on there. A turn of events that is not too unlikely right now. Even with really good word-of-mouth and the fact that it will be the only IMAX-release until The Man of Steel on June 14th, the competitive marketplace will cut its legs short. Star Trek into Darkness looks to finish in the $210-230 million range and it is not too unlikely that ten movies will gross more than that this year.
Even though Star Trek into Darkness didn’t break out in the fashion many expected it to, it obviously stole Iron Man 3 some of its target audiences and took away many of its IMAX screens. That led to a 50.7% decrease for the Marvel sequel, as it dropped one spot to #2 with $35.8 million over the three-day weekend. That was enough for the sixth-biggest third weekend gross of all-time, as it successfully bumped Titanic out of the Top 10 for that record. Its third weekend came in ever so slightly ahead of The Dark Knight Rises’, yet well behind Shrek 2, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man. After 17 days in theatres, iron Man 3 has grossed an incredible total of $337.7 million, making it the 44th movie to cross the $300 million threshold at the domestic box-office and already the 25th-biggest release of all-time. It will enter the Top 20 within the next ten days, though the all-time Top 10 keeps getting harder to get to. The gap to The Avengers’ running cume in the same time frame increased to $120 million by now. Even though it initially seemed that Iron Man 3 would benefit from great word-of-mouth and hold much better than Iron Man 2 throughout its run, it now looks like its opening-to-total multiplier won’t be better than that of its predecessor afterall. Right now, it is a near-certainty that it will miss a multiplier of 2.5, indicating not only strong frontloading, but also WoM that is more mixed than many initially assumed. Even The Avengers, after its tremendous opening, achieved a multiplier around 3. While Iron Man 3 will benefit from the Memorial Day weekend, it will also suffer the onslaught by Fast & Furious 6 and, to a lesser extent, The Hangover Part III as they both go for male audiences as does Iron Man 3. The animated flick Epic will also snatch away some of its family demographics. The competition in June will be less heavy overall, but by then enough damage will be done, so that Iron Man 3 will end up somewhere around $420-430 million. Obviously, that is still a tremendous success, though not breaking the all-time Top 10 after delivering the 2nd-biggest opening on record would be somewhat surprising and underwhelming in itself.
Last weekend’s big winner The Great Gatsby dropped 52.2% to $23.9 million and occupied the 3rd slot at the box-office. It brought its 10-day-ttoal to an amazing $90.7 million, a figure some expected to be its total gross at best. Though the weekend decline was undoubtedly harsh, it was actually better than I have imagined, given what appeared to be mixed word-of-mouth and likely frontloading. Obviously the fact that the weekend’s only wide opener strongly appealed to men, whereas Gatsby targets primarily women helped a lot, as well as the fact that it is the only major movie playing now that aims at more “sophisticated” audiences. Its success, however, lies in the fact that thanks to Warner Bros.’ ingenious marketing efforts, the film could also reach younger demographics as well. After ten day, it is already the 8th-biggest grosser ever for its star Leonardo DiCaprio and it is tracking $15 million ahead of Shutter Island in the same time frame, while coming off a bigger second weekend. The Great Gatsby still has the strong summer weekdays ahead of itself, which tend to be particularly kind to movies targeting female audiences. This is how Sex and the City managed a solid multiplier overall, despite seemingly insanely frontloaded at first. Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III will heavily appeal to male moviegoers, leaving the female demographics to Gatsby once again this upcoming weekend. It will be a while, until another female-skewing film opens, thus allowing for good late legs for The Great Gatsby, in spite of mixed reception. While last weekend it looked like it’d be lucky to end up with $140 million, it now seems to be guaranteed. In fact, The Great Gatsby could be as high as $120 million by the end of the long Memorial Day weekend, with still a lot of gas left in its tank. It’s looking at a $150-160 million finish now, with a small chance at topping Django Unchained’s $162.8 million and becoming DiCaprio’s fourth-biggest hit.
With a huge distance to #3, Pain and Gain occupied the 4th spot in its fourth round as it dropped 35.3% to $3.2 million. It is a remarkable hold, given that Star Trek into Darkness targeted its male audiences. The Michael Bay-directed flick brought its total to $46.7 million and now looks certain to pass $50 million by the end of its run. While its total gross still looks a little underwhelming given all the talent involved, the $26 million flick will end up as a nice success for the studio. Like most holdovers outside of the current Top 3, Pain and Gain will very soon succumb to the effects of the newly released competition and will disappear from most theatres within the next three weeks. It will make a total of $54 million before leaving the theatres altogether.
Facing no competition yet again, The Croods delivered its second sub-20% drop in a row and managed to climb up two spots back into the Top 5 in its 9th weekend. Down mere 16.2%, it collected $3 million over the weekend and brought its running total to a very respectable $177 million. By doing so, it has passed Ice Age to become the 31st-biggest CG-animated release ever in North America, with its sights set on the Top 30. It will need to top DreamWorks’ own Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($180 million)to do that. With a little luck, it might achieve that by the end of the Memorial-Day-weekend. It will finally face some strong direct competition courtesy of Fox’ own Epic, but the holiday weekend might offset the hit it will receive from its competition. I expect it to still play well into June, until Monsters University’s arrival. It will leave the theatres with around $184 million in its pockets and a great multiplier above 4.
At the same time, the baseball-themed drama 42 dipped one spot down to #6, as it lost 38.7% of its audiences. A $2.8 million weekend pushed the flick’s running cume to $88.8 million after six weeks. It’s now tracking about $21.5 million ahead of Moneyball and keeps slowly, but surely widening that gap. However, it looks now like it might land just a tad too far off $100 million for Warner Bros. to push it beyond. Then again, maybe they’ll do some creative accounting with The Man of Steel to allow for the second $100+ million-grossing baseball flick ever
Despite facing very direct competition from the new Star Trek and losing whatever it had left of its IMAX screens, Oblivion went down just 43.2% to $2.3 million and brought its total up to $85.6 million. It will lose a ton of its theatres to new competition this upcoming weekend, though, but could just be able to crawl to $90 million afterall. Still, barely reaching a multiplier of 2.4 just cannot be considered good for this film.
Mud received yet another generous expansion from Roadside Attractions this weekend. It added 108 theatres and brought its theatre count to 960. That helped the weekend gross, of course, as it dipped just 12.2% to $2.2 million and could hold on to #8 at the box-office. The WoM-success has thus far accumulated $11.7 million and become Roadside Attraction’s biggest release ever. There are no signs of slowing down either. As it represent good counterprogramming to blockbuster fare such as Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek and Iron Man 3, it should do well over the Memorial Day weekend and play well into June. I expect it to top $20 million by the end of its run.
Tyler Perry Presents Peeples suffered the worst decline in the Top 12 and fell 53.2% all the way down to #9 and $2.2 million. Its 10-day-total stands at $7.9 million and it won’t go further than $12 million.
The Big Wedding rounded off the Top 10, whilst decreasing 51.4%. The harsh drop can be attributed to the film losing about one-third of its theatres. A $1.2 million weekend brought the film’s total to $20.3 million. I expect it to wind up with $23 million when all is said and done.
Like The Croods, Oz The Great and Powerful continued to benefit from the lack of movies directed at families. Down just 19.2%, it collected $0.9 million in its 11th weekend and occupied the #11 spot at the box-office. It has made $231.4 million so far and is stll aiming at a $233 million total.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation reaped the benefits from being paired as a double feature with Paramount’s Star Trek into Darkness at many drive-in-theatres. This studio-related boost led to a miniscule 4.5% decline and a rise back into the Top 12 at #12. It made $0.6 million over the weekend, finally passing $120 million for a running total of $120.5 million. It will very soon leave all theatres with a $122 million cume.