This weekend, audiences were craving bad guys (and gals) as the comic book film Suicide Squad shattered August box office records with a towering number one debut grossing an estimated $135.1M in its first frame. Warner Bros. rolled out its latest adventure from DC Comics into 4,255 theaters and averaged a scorching $31,752 per site.
The opening began with $20.5M from Thursday night pre-shows starting at 6pm which led to a full opening day gross of $65.3M. Both soared past the old August records held by Guardians of the Galaxy of $11.2M and $37.8M, respectively. The Marvel anti-hero team also launched on the first weekend of August two years ago and hauled in $94.3M. It also held the old records for this month for biggest opening weekend and theater count. Suicide Squad broke those records too. This record weekend take was a healthy 43% higher than Guardians.
Suicide Squad generated the third best opening weekend for all of 2016 behind fellow comic smashes Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M) and Batman v Superman ($166M) and edged out the $132.4M debut of Deadpool, another darker and more violent super hero blockbuster. Final grosses are to be released on Monday.
Reviews were mostly negative for Suicide Squad but that did not stop fans from rushing out to see the newest story in the extended universe. Like with soap operas, DC and Marvel are making interlocking movies so fans need to see each film in order to enjoy the ongoing cinematic story. Next year will see Warners release Wonder Woman in June and Justice League in November before continuing with more solo films for various characters in the years ahead at a pace of two per year.
It was an extremely front-loaded weekend for Squad. Saturday tumbled 41% to $38.8M while Sunday is projected by the studio to drop another 20% to $31M. The Saturday fall was even larger than the 38% for BvS which had the added benefit of having the Good Friday holiday on its opening day. Both DC films were met with weak reviews and started with 6pm Thursday pre-shows, though BvS had more well-known characters in it.
Batman v Superman had a thunderous opening weekend but then collapsed in the following weeks. Its first frame represented a very high 50% of its final. Suicide Squad is playing out in similar fashion and winning the same kind of feedback from moviegoers, however its August play period should lead to better mid-week grosses since all schools are out. So a final domestic haul in the $275-300M range is possible which is still incredible. The production budget was about $175M.
Comic book films have a built-in fan base that show up in theaters. But also contributing to the runaway success of Squad was the diversity of the cast which featured many women and actors of several ethnic backgrounds helping to create broad appeal. Studio data showed that females made up 46% of the crowd which is extraordinarily high for a comic book movie. 35-40% is the norm.
For Will Smith, the former number one movie star on the planet, it was a new career best opening by far zooming ahead of the $77.2M of I Am Legend. In the eight years since Hancock (another super hero flick), Smith has struggled at the box office.
Harley Quinn and pals earned a B+ CinemaScore grade which was relatively good. It was a notch above the B that BvS earned but below the A- of X-Men: Apocalypse. The marketing campaign executed by Warners was nothing short of brilliant. It did the impossible and made the teen and young adult crowd excited for its arrival. The 18-35 age group represented a stunning 48% of the audience.
Suicide also ruled the international box office too despite going head-to-head with the start of the Rio Olympics. 57 markets tallied up a sturdy $132M making the global launch a sizable $267.1M with three major territories still to come. China has not given a greenlight yet for a release there, and it is possible that like Deadpool, it will not get to play there due to its harsh content not being allowed in.
Matt Damon’s The Legend of Bagger Vance co-star stole away action audiences this weekend which prompted Jason Bourne to freefall by 62% in its second frame to an estimated $22.7M. Universal’s fifth installment of its lucrative spy series has grossed $103.4M to date and looks headed for a domestic final of around $160M. Global tally is now $195.3M.
Suicide Squad’s weakest quadrant was older females and that demo still responded favorably to the comedy Bad Moms which enjoyed a great second weekend dipping only 40% to an estimated $14.2M. The $20M production has already grossed $51.1M and may end its run in the $80-90M range for STX.
Animated sensation The Secret Life of Pets enjoyed a good hold declining by 39% to an estimated $11.6M in its fifth weekend. Universal has banked a superb $319.6M so far putting Pets at number 48 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Global broke the half-billion mark and rose to $502.2M.
Sci-fi threequel Star Trek Beyond fell a sharp 59% as action fans left this weekend. The Paramount pic grossed an estimated $10.2M for a new cume of $127.9M as worldwide climbed to $194.4M.
A blip on the radar came from new family comedy The Movie Where Kevin Spacey Turns Into A Cat which opened in sixth place with an estimated $6.5M from 2,264 locations for a mild $2,871 average. The PG-rated tale featuring Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner generated very little interest for EuropaCorp and was never expected to draw in much of a crowd.
Off 44% to an estimated $6M was the horror pic Lights Out which has collected a sturdy $54.7M for Warner Bros. The teen thriller Nerve dipped 48% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $4.9M. Total for Lionsgate is $26.9M on its way to a $35-40M finish.
Sony’s Ghostbusters fell 53% to an estimated $4.8M in its fourth round and has banked $116.7M to date from North America and $179.5M worldwide. The $250-300M range is where it may end up. The toon sequel Ice Age: Collision Course tumbled 61% to an estimated $4.3M putting Fox at a weak $53.5M so far. $288.1M is the worldwide gross with 81% coming from overseas markets and China still to come.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $220.3M which was up 95% from last year when Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation stayed at number one with $28.5M; and up 30% from 2014 when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened in the top spot with $65.6M.
Compared to projections, Suicide Squad opened somewhat higher than my $128M forecast while Nine Lives was on target with my $6M prediction.
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