Box Office Guru

Box Office Plummets In a Calm Before the Star Wars Storm

Mockingjay Leads One of the Worst Weekends of 2015

by | December 13, 2015 | Comments

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Call it the calm before the Jedi storm. The North American box office plummeted to one of its worst showings of 2015 with the top ten generating a measly $66M in ticket sales led for the fourth week in a row by the latest Hunger Games while the only new wide release, the epic Moby Dick adventure In the Heart of the Sea, attracted little interest from moviegoers. Film fans are focused on the highly-anticipated arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens which begins breaking records this Thursday night with 7 p.m. pre-shows.

In its fourth weekend, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 collected an estimated $11.3M declining by a moderate 40%. Lionsgate has amassed $244.5M to date which is still the smallest gross yet for the profitable series with the new chapter currently running 12% behind the pace of its 2014 predecessor which sat at $276.9M at this same point. The only other film in this franchise to four-peat was the first Hunger Games in the spring of 2012. Of course, part of the reason for the new film staying on top is next weekend’s Star Wars scaring away studios from programming anything worthwhile on this frame.

Overseas, the second Mockingjay boosted its cume to $320.1M led by the U.K. and Germany with $38.1M and $36.2M, respectively. The global haul stands at $564.6M including China where the film has finished its run. Last year’s chapter was higher at this stage with $611M and that total did not include China which opened later in the run. The entire franchise has grossed just under $2.9M worldwide to date.

Opening close behind in second place was Ron Howard’s historical adventure In the Heart of the Sea with an estimated $11M from 3,103 theaters for a weak $3,547 average. The Warner Bros. release starring Chris Hemsworth earned lackluster reviews and never commanded much consumer interest in the first place. Add in the fact that the PG-13 actioner found no love from end-of-year awards groups and Heart clearly had no must-see buzz.

Studio data showed that the audience was 68% over the age of 35 and 54% male as young people were not engaged at all. The CinemaScore grade was a B+ which is decent, but not strong enough to signal nice legs ahead. Thursday night’s arrival of Force will only make matters worse, though the studio can always have a new hope trying to capture spillover business from those sold out of Star Wars.

Even if a solid holiday run results in the weeks ahead, it will be difficult for In the Heart of the Sea to finish its domestic run much past the $50M mark. That would be a big disappointment for Warners, given the production cost estimated to be over $100M. Even international may not save this one.

Kidpic The Good Dinosaur isn’t exactly showing sensational legs. A decent hold saw the toon drop 32% to an estimated $10.5M lifting the total to just $89.7M. Dinosaur is running a mere 7% ahead of 1998’s A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s lowest-grossing movie ever. Luckily ,the Disney empire will be taking in truckloads of cash next weekend with the return of Mr. Solo.

This weekend, Creed became the highest-grossing Rocky franchise installment in 30 years as movie fans delivered another good hold with a 33% slip to an estimated $10.1M. With an impressive $79.3M after its third weekend, the second-generation boxing drama surpassed the $70.3M of 2006’s Rocky Balboa on Friday. A trip to the $100M club looks very likely.

The rest of the holdovers were slumming it in single-digit-millions land. In its second weekend, the horror-comedy Krampus enjoyed an acceptable hold thanks to good buzz and no new competition falling 51% to an estimated $8M. Universal has banked $28.2M to date.

Sony’s big end-of-year offering SPECTRE dropped 28% to an estimated $4M boosting the domestic haul to $190.8M which is 30% behind Skyfall from the same point three years ago. Global grosses have exceeded $820M now. The studio’s Seth Rogen holiday comedy The Night Before followed with an estimated $3.9M, down 23%, for a cume of $38.2M. Collecting an estimated $2.7M in its sixth weekend was Fox’s The Peanuts Movie which dipped 26% and sits at a sum of $125M.

Gaining awards season momentum with three Golden Globe nominations for picture, director, and screenplay, Open Road’s Spotlight did well again easing just 10% to an estimated $2.5M as its theater count broke the 1,000 mark for the first time. Cume is now $20.3M with plenty to come thanks to the upcoming holiday season plus continued Oscar talk. Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn hung in the top ten again with an estimated $2M, off 19%, for a new total of $14.3M.

Generating spectacular results in its platform debut was the all-star financial meltdown pic The Big Short which opened to an estimated $720,000 from only eight locations for a stunning $90,000 average. The Paramount release combined starpower from Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt with great reviews and growing awards buzz including the four Golden Globe nominations that came out on the day before it released. All audience metrics show very positive support from paying moviegoers. Short will remain limited while Star Wars opens and then expands nationwide on Dec. 23 as it embarks on a potentially lucrative holiday season run despite a crowded field.

The Weinstein Co. finally expanded its awards contender Carol after three weeks in four theaters. With five Globe nominations including Best Picture – more than any other film – it went out slowly to 16 sites and grossed an estimated $337,000 for a solid $21,063 average. Sum is $1.2M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $66M which was down 11% from last year when Exodus: Gods and Kings opened at number one with $24.1M; and down a steep 52% from 2013 when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug debuted in the top spot with $73.6M.

Compared to projections, In the Heart of the Sea opened very close to my $12M forecast.

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  • Mark Trollglade

    Not bad, Mockingjay.

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