Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Best At The Box Office (8/26/22 – 8/29/22)

Next Best Picture’s weekly analysis of the box office and what the numbers mean for the industry, films, filmmakers, and the Oscar race is back for another week! This is a re-occurring post every Monday morning, so stay tuned for more box office information and hopefully more additions to these posts in the future. During the quietest summer weekend at the box office (a paltry $53.7 million combined gross), two niche new releases left little impact while familiar holdovers capitalized with varying results.

Distributor Sony wins the unimpressive top spot distinction as “The Invitation” earns $7 million in its debut. For August horror releases, the film’s modern-twist on vampire aesthetics ranks significantly behind success stories like “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” (a $20.9 million opening) and “Don’t Breathe” (a $26.4 million opening). More apt comps would be the modest performances of “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” ($8.4 million debut) or the similarly-themed horror-satire “Ready Or Not” ($8 million, although that film debuted initially on a Wednesday).

Snark aside, “The Invitation” is a respectable performer for Sony. Apathetic reviews (hovering around 25% on Rotten Tomatoes), a nonexistent marketing push, and the played-out narrative concept certainly did not set up this film for significant success. Still, the $10 million production carved a decent audience from the barren, late-August wasteland. The film’s decent-enough debut offers another reminder of horror films being the safest bet in the business. Even if the film falls off a cliff next weekend (which is likely), the film will carve a small profit before serving as another product for the Sony-Netflix streaming agreement.

Both wide releases from last weekend stumbled mightly in their sophomore outings. The Idris Elba-led creature feature “Beast” fell 57% with a $4.9 million gross in third place. Distributor Universal can’t be thrilled with this gradual decrease considering the film’s mediocre opening and solid word of mouth (it sits around 70% on Rotten Tomatoes). At $20 million so far on a $37 million budget, “Beast” is an unfortunate loss for Universal despite the studio’s admirable attempt to recreate the magic of the ’90s and 00’s genre features.

“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” endured a more predictable fall after winning the top spot last weekend. The fan-favorite anime earned $4.5 million in fifth place – a sharp 78% decrease from its $21.1 million opening. Anime films tend to pack theaters with their diehard fanbase on opening weekend before falling off a cliff in subsequent weeks. That trend may never course correct, but the genre continues to garner a substantial fanbase in domestic markets. With $30.7 million so far, “Super Hero” is delivering some much-needed life to the late summer box office.

On a more dour note, “Three Thousand Years Of Longing” made little noise with its $2.8 million debut in seventh place. It would’ve taken a magical wish from Idris Elba’s djinn/genie protagonist to make this high-concept twist on fantasy lore a financial success. That said, let’s keep realistic expectations here. The 2022 Cannes offering from “Mad Max: Fury Road” director George Miller was always more of an auteur/critic play, similar to “Cloud Atlas” in 2012 and 2018’s “Downsizing.” While it’s fair to debate whether “Three Thousand Years Of Longing” actually satisfied that objective considering its mix of positive and divisive reactions, I will always support well-established directors getting a chance to play in their creative sandboxes. A moral victory is about all that distributor United Artists Releasing will get here, considering the film’s pricey $60 million budget. Miller and the creative team are likely hoping the film can gain a loyal cult following once it hits streaming on Amazon Prime (I enjoyed it for its noble ambitions and bold visceral vision).

Developments also remain relatively quiet in the specialty marketplace. The 2022 Sundance title from distributor Bleecker Street, “Breaking,” earned a so-so $1 million in 902 theaters. This opening is actually a slight increase from Bleecker’s other summer 2022 wide release, “Mr. Malcolm’s List” ($810,742 in 1,384 theaters), although the results here aren’t anything revelatory. Still, Bleecker deserves praise for carrying the specialty torch theatrically in a marketplace where streaming has become a more convenient option. The film’s box office run should hopefully open more doors for its eventual VOD debut.

I wanted to take some time to address the media uproar surrounding this unremarkable week at the box office. Most pundits have heavily criticized studios for not taking advantage of the late summer period after “Candyman” and “Shang-Chi: The Legend Of The Ten Rings” performed well around this time last year. My reaction to this conceit is a little more mixed. Could the marketplace benefit from another marquee title? Undoubtedly, yes. This weekend marks the beginning of a three-weekend drought without traditional mainstream releases until the September 16th debut of “The Woman King.” It’s bizarre that a studio did not take a chance on one of their fall releases, like Universal with their fall comedies “Bros” and “Ticket To Paradise.”

That said, I place significantly more blame on streamers’ ambivalent treatment of theatrical platforms rather than distributors. Netflix dropped “Me Time” this weekend – a mainstream-leaning buddy comedy with Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart – while Amazon quietly released the Sly Stallone superhero outing, “Samaritan.” Both of these films could have made a decent dent if released in theaters, with “Me Time” boasting the type of studio comedy appeal sorely missing from the mainstream marketplace. Netflix especially needs to be more proactive in developing an effective theatrical strategy after both blockbusters “The Gray Man” and “Red Notice” made no impact in their short-lived runs.

Next weekend, the Sundance 2022 standout “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.” debuts. I am happy distributor Focus Features is giving this a wide release push, but I would be surprised if this made more than $1.5-$5.5 million in its 4-day opening. Don’t be surprised if a re-release leads next week, whether it’s the IMAX/3D rollout of “Jaws” or the extended cut of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Over the holiday weekend, I could see “Spider-Man: No Way Home” get as high as $8-$12 million. Hopefully, the introduction of National Cinema Day on September 3rd, which includes unprecedented $3 movie ticket prices for most chains, brings some life to what will be a quiet weekend.

Here is this week’s Top 10…

1. The Invitation – $7 million ($8,600,000 to date worldwide)
2. Bullet Train – $5.6 million ($173,607,000 million to date worldwide)
3. Beast – $4.9 million ($36,190,000 million to date worldwide)
4. Top Gun: Maverick – $4.75 million ($1,422,413,000 million to date worldwide)
5. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero – $4.56 million ($68,661,982 to date worldwide)
6. DC League Of Super-Pets – $4.22 million ($146,489,000 million to date worldwide)
7. Three Thousand Years Of Longing – $2.87 million ($2,876,000 million to date worldwide)
8. Minions: The Rise Of Gru – $3.52 million ($868,873,000 to date worldwide)
9. Thor: Love And Thunder – $2.7 million ($868,873,000 to date worldwide)
10. Where The Crawdads Sing – $2.3 million ($106,588,000 to date worldwide)

Do you like this new format? What would you like to see in future posts? Your feedback is greatly appreciated as we attempt to bring you our view of the box office and how it impacts the industry. But also, please tell us what you saw this weekend. What did you think of the movies? What will you be seeing next weekend? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Matt C. and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @MattKhanway

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