First, a little background. Super Bowl weekend used to be a box office wasteland, a cinematic version of Chernobyl West. Studios believed that moviegoers were too busy either planning or attending Super Bowl parties and stayed away from the first weekend in February as if it had cholera. But then in the mid 2000s Clint Culpepper and the crew at Screen Gems discovered that young females would turn out for PG-13 horror films and the weekend effectively became the property of the low budget Sony offshoot.
The high point of this period was 2006’s “When a Stranger Calls” remake, which at the time set a Super Bowl weekend record with a USD $21 million opening. That was followed by other Screen Gems gems like “The Messengers” and “The Roommate,” neither of which would be confused with “Citizen Kane” but respectable moneymakers nevertheless. But then something happened. Screen Gems’ “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” died on the vine with a paltry USD $5 million debut in 2015 and the company stopped claiming the weekend of the big game as their own. Clint is now gone from Screen Gems and it has been left to other studios to carry the Super Bowl weekend horror football.
Paramount gladly obliged last year with a USD $13 million “Rings” opening which, although not at the level of Screen Gems circa 2005, was still respectable. Now this year we have Helen Mirren in “Winchester” which begs the question, wasn’t there a single studio who could have done their research and tossed in a young female skewing PG-13 horror title on this week? Did CBS really think that Abby and Mia from Tarzana would be scheduling a Spotafriend meet-up for a movie starring a 73-year-old actress whose first role was during the Johnson Administration? What, was Gloria Stuart not available?
It was undoubtedly that lack of younger female buying power that led “Winchester,” despite a stronger than expected start to the weekend, to open to a middling USD $9.2 million and get edged out by holdover extraordinaire, “Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle,” which swung its way to yet another weekend victory with USD $11 million. Sony’s cash cow now stands at an overall cume of USD $352 million here in the United States, per our friends at comScore, and a hand-over-fist USD $500 million overseas.
Meanwhile back at the gun rack, the longterm playability of “Winchester” seems fairly limited courtesy of a B- Cinemascore, which isn’t half bad for a horror film but disappointing for a Helen Mirren movie, and a Rotten Tomatoes score that one can count without having to take off their shoes and socks. For an actress used to being mentioned at Oscar time this is certainly unchartered territory. Even the “Fast and the Furious” installment she was in scored a respectable 66. I doubt she’ll want to be remembered for a Rotten Tomatoes score that rivals those for Pauly Shore comedies or movies that show up on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
Elsewhere, that sirocco you felt blowing past you this weekend was “Maze Runner: Death Cure,” which dropped 58% and now stands at just under USD $40 million Stateside. “The Shape of Water,” thanks to added interested from Oscar nominations, fished out a weekend take of USD $4.3 million and the little engine that could, “The Greatest Showman,” is now up to USD $137 million after another solid weekend of USD $7.7 million. “Hostiles” rounded out the Top 5 with a USD $5.5 million holdover.
AT THE ART HOUSES
All of the Oscar films of note are now over the 1,000 theatre threshold so this section will return next week with two limited openings scheduled and we can see how the Indian movie about sanitary napkins fared (more on that later).
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
- Just when you thought the Weinstein chaos couldn’t get any worse after this weekend’s New York Times interview with actress Uma Thurman comes word that Entertainment One Canada is suing the House That Harvey Destroyed and its global distribution unit for more than $7 million, claiming they backed out on a deal to release “Paddington 2” in Canada. I’m guessing the lawsuit is more symbolic than an actual quest for financial retribution, considering the withering state of Bobvey’s finances.
- According to a report this past Friday on CNN, Marvel’s “Black Panther” is outselling every prior superhero movie in presales per ticketing site Fandango.
- Stumbled across a story about Steven Soderberg’s latest film “Unsane” and how it was shot entirely on the director’s special 4K iPhone. The article indicated that Soderbergh has declared this mobile phone technology to be a game changer for the industry. Harkening back to the distribution scheme that was supposed to be a “game changer” with his “Logan Lucky” release, this term is one that the director seems to toss around quite frequently. We hope that this innovative iPhone works out a tad better than “Logan Lucky,” which didn’t exactly flip the industry on its ears and cause a frenzied run on self-distribution.
- The Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) kicks off February 15th and one of the more interesting additions to the festival is a new 4K restoration of the Cold War thriller, “Fail Safe.” The film is one of the most underrated movies of the 1960s and bravo to Park Circus and especially to Grover Crisp and his team at Sony for painstakingly bringing the Henry Fonda/Larry Hagman drama back to the big screen.
Not that anyone cares but here’s my CJ list of Top 10 films of the year:
- “The Trip To Spain” – Like a well-worn LL Bean hoodie, the “Trip” series is witty, intelligent comfort food sprinkled with a liberal dollop of Mick Jagger impressions
- “Lady Bird” – The most honest portrayal of the torture and triumph of teen life in years
- “Darkest Hour” – It’s hard to imagine anyone upstaging Winston Churchill but leave it to the great Gary Oldman to pull it off
- “Coco” – Gorgeous to look at with a surprisingly compelling and emotional storyline
- “Dunkirk” – Nolan’s WWII (near) epic is (almost) everything his fans hoped it would be
- “I, Tonya” – Come for the off-the-rails trainwreck. Stay for the ensemble performances
- “Jane” – Sorry, Gal Gadot, but this is the best female superhero movie of the year
- “Three Billboards…” – Gritty, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, infuriating. Everything an Oscar-worthy film should be
- “Loving Vincent” – The most original film of the year, hands down. Exquisitely and laboriously animated and Lianne La Havas’ version of “Starry, Starry Night” might be the best use of end credit music in a movie in years
- “The Post” – The best thriller of 2017 doesn’t star The Rock or Gerard Butler but rather Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Go figure
THIS COMING WEEKEND-WIDE RELEASES
“Fifty Shades Freed” (U) — Apart from this being the finale to the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy there isn’t too much different this time out than the first two. Both stars are obviously back for the finale as is director James Foley. This movie was actually filmed at the same time as “Fifty Shades Darker” presumably to shave costs and so neither Jamie Dornan or Dakota Johnson could come to their senses and think better of it.
The Verdict: Although there was a precipitous drop between the first installment and the second as far as opening weekend is concerned (USD $85 mil vs. USD $46 mil). Fifty Shades Darker did, ummm, last longer than the first with a 2.5X multiplier vs. 2.1X for the first. Still and all, the decline in overall boxoffice take was significant and though there may be some added interest to see how the trilogy comes to a, ummm, climax, look for another dropoff at the boxoffice. USD $36 million.
“Peter Rabbit” (Sony) — Sony hopes to keep its current run of good fortune going with this animated Beatrix Potter adaptation that features the vocal talents of James Corden (as our fluffy hero), Margot Robbie, Domhall Gleeson and Daisy Ridley. Director Will Gluck has been predictably unpredictable in his helming choices as shown by an IMDB page that includes “Annie,” “Easy A” and “Friends With Benefits.” This is his first animated effort.
The Verdict: Curiously, this is the first major studio animated Peter Rabbit film in decades. Referencing the above provisos I am not including 2006’s “Miss Potter” nor 2001’s “Peter Rabbit and the Crucifix.” Could I make that last one up, by the way? Sony’s Exhibitor Relations department has done a terrific job of nailing trailer placement on the big November and December animated titles so awareness is quite high for the film. Bet the over and go with USD $24 million
“15:17 To Paris” (Warners) — Director Clint Eastwood suffered through a 2000s drought with tepid titles such as “Hereafter,” “J. Edgar” and “Jersey Boys” but leave it to Dirty Harry to enjoy a career resurgence at age 84 with both “American Sniper” (USD $350 million) and “Sully” (USD $125 million). His latest doesn’t figure to quite reach those lofty goals, but it is the most interesting release of the year so far as the actors playing the three Americans that thwart a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris are the three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris.
The Verdict: While the above certainly makes for a noteworthy piece of PR, the lack of any star power in this film will ultimately be its undoing. Both “Sully” and “American Sniper” had major stars to carry the load. In addition, if moviegoing is to be affected by the start of the Winter Olympics, this feels like the picture that could take a small hit. The Olympics take place in South Korea so the opening ceremony will be taped. The last Olympics was in Socchi Russia, also taped, and opening night ratings for that Olympics were fairly strong. USD $14 million.
THIS COMING WEEKEND-LIMITED AVAIL TITLES
“La Boda de Valentina” (Pantelion) — Romantic comedy about a Mexican woman who must choose between her New York boyfriend and the man her family wants her to marry. Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but without the souvlaki. 325-350 theatres.
“Padman” (Sony) — I’ll try to write this with a straight face. Here goes. Akshay Kumar stars in this Bollywood movie about a man who brings female sanitary pads to women in rural India. It will be hard pressed to compete with Disney (yes, Uncle Walt’s) “Story of Menstruation.” I desperately want a copy of the movie soundtrack (although you don’t need to send me the box of promo tchotchkes.) 150-175 theatres.
On the Rive Gauche side of the street, Wednesday brings us both the Royal Opera House’s “Tosca” and Exhibition on Screen’s “Michelangelo: Love & Death” along with The Met Opera’s “L’Elisir D’Amore” on Saturday. We then cross the tracks for Sunday’s anime title, “Mazinger Z: Infinity.”
CJ QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast!”
–Chariots of Fire (1981)
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