Sexism kinda sorta wins in a way slightly, and Other Box Office News.
Hey, kids! Today’s episode of your friendly neighbourhood US Box Office Report is brought to you with a side order of Hollywood Economics! See, in this crazy world of tax rebates, franchise aspirations, reckless overspending, purposeful initial low-balling, and good old-fashioned wilful manic distortion of indisputable factual numbers bent to whomever’s benefit, what may appear to be isn’t always and as such requires further extrapolation and sufficient context in order to understand the myriad spectrum of reactions brought upon by this weekend’s box official financials. Or, to put it simply: shit is complicated and requires a whole mess of qualifiers. So come join me, boys and girls and non-binary folks, as I attempt to explain why the Ghostbusters result is pretty great, not-that-bad, and the end of all good things all at the same time!
The facts first: Ghostbusters opened in second place with $46 million, bested by the second weekend of The Secret Life of Pets which only dropped 51% to a $50 million haul. Now, one may immediately attempt to pin this as a total loss, since Ghostbusters is a big Summer tent-pole that failed to claim the top spot in its opening weekend, but the industry at this point is beyond such simple binary readings (it’s why you’ll likely hear Warner Bros. attempt to claim The Legend of Tarzan is a hit soon). We need to go deeper, so let’s start with how managing expectations makes Ghostbusters a hit. For one, Sony, going into the weekend, sent out estimates of between $38 and $40 million, so $46 million is a nice over-performance for the studio according to its own narrative, whilst professional box office analysists pegged the film opening between $45 and $50 million, so landing slap-bang in the middle of that makes it a solid success. The per-screen average, meanwhile, is $11,607, which actually bests Pets just slightly and is strong by most Wide release standards. In addition, Ghostbusters is Paul Feig’s best opening weekend by a good $7 mil, besting 2013’s The Heat, which is a good statistic to trot about.
But, and here’s where things start to get doomy, the Feig statistic is not exactly as outstanding as it may sound because Ghostbusters is PG-13 and all of Feig’s other comedies have been rated R. Given the lower age-barrier, one would expect a bigger growth than just $7 million. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, Ghostbusters is a big Summer tent-pole and, as such, comes with a big Summer tent-pole price-tag: $144 million, after supposed tax rebates. $46 million, for a blockbuster with a large price tag and franchise aspirations (y’all saw that ridiculous Ghostbusters spin-off studio logo before the film started), is inarguably not a good enough figure. It’s barely $5 mil more than what Independence Day: Resurgence opened to 3 weeks back. It’s why The Legend of Tarzan, despite holding extraordinarily well, is still gonna leave Warner Bros. in the red because that cost them $180 million. Even if it holds, and it may not cos the crucial next two weeks are crowded, it’s not a strong enough starting base, especially since the lucrative Chinese market, which has rescued domestic underperformers like Terminator: NDX from being total financial write-offs, is not an option; the film’s been banned there.
Yet, things are not without hope for those of us who are fans of women, ghosts, the busting thereof, desecrating childhoods of whiney man-children, and those of us fighting for more female representation – in age, race, and sexual orientation terms; all categories of which Ghostbusters quietly satisfies – in big tent-pole blockbusters. For one: the marketing for this film has been totally and inarguably dreadful, and the buzz surrounding it toxic, so people turning up to this at all is cause for celebration. For two: the film scored a strong “B+” Cinemascore overall, and an “A-“ from those under 25, so those who saw it really liked it, which may indicate there being some legs for whatever that godawful system we all still nonetheless subscribe to is worth. For three: Paul Feig films often do have decent legs at the box office. None of his films have posted final multipliers (opening weekend to close) of less than 3.8x. And for four: although China is out of the game, we still cannot discount foreign box office in countries like Japan, Germany (both where the film is yet to open), and the UK which had a respectable debut of $6.1 million.
So, to summarise… there’s no clear-cut victory/defeat scenario here. Things don’t look great, admittedly, but the situation is complicated and lacks an immediate crowd-pleasing resolution for us to throw back in the haters’ faces. Such is the story of Ghostbusters 2016 in general. Dash it all.
Let’s talk about some other films for once, then. Here’s the Full List.
Box Office Results: Friday 15th July 2016 – Sunday 17th July 2016
1] The Secret Life of Pets
$50,560,000 / $203,147,865
That alleged review: working on it right now as you read these words. Well, if you’re reading this post as it goes up then I’m not literally working on it “right now” as I’m either in the shower or walking the dog, and if you’re reading this after the piece has gone up then obviously I’m not working on it “right now” cos it’s done, but the point is that it will be finished and go live this week.
$46,000,000 / NEW
What’s this I have here? Is it… a review? Of a new release film? On time? Those are like frickin’ unicorns on this site at this point! Treasure it like you would your new-born child even though it’s not a particularly good one, in all honesty! I’m seeing this again on Friday because I had a tonne of fun, laughed like a maniac, and just want to be Kate McKinnon in all honesty. I mean, we all do, but I’m pretty sure I want it more than you.
3] The Legend of Tarzan
$11,120,000 / $103,050,257
I am either gonna try penning a review of this or it’ll turn on up on my Bottom 10 list at year’s end for a thorough dressing-down because… dear lord, this is a Pan-level fiasco, I am not exaggerating.
4] Finding Dory
$11,040,000 / $445,504,450
Highest grossing animated film domestically of all-time. Though, really, the true news in this story is that Frozen only made $400 mil domestic? I mean, I know that “just” and “$400 million” do not belong next to each other in the same sentence, but still! Frozen hung around forever! I remember covering it week in and week out, certain that it would never actually drop out of the Top 10, being a constant in my life like crippling loneliness and a lack of self-worth!
5] Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
$7,500,000 / $31,323,716
6] The Purge: Election Year
$6,080,000 / $71,001,660
So it turns out that, at the last possible moment and with no fanfare, the UK release of Election Year was pulled from July 15th and pushed to the end of August. I even passed a cinema in Hull that put the film’s poster out in the Now Playing section despite it not being out anywhere. Universal, in the nicest possible way, WHAT THE FUCK GIVES?! And why, of all the potential release dates, would you reschedule it to the same day that you’re also dropping Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping into UK cinemas?! Did all that money you made last year make you go mad and you’re now drunk on power?
7] Central Intelligence
$5,300,000 / $117,508,303
I am going to die on the Kevin Hart hill, aren’t I? I’ll just be here alone, waiting forever for him to actually pick a good goddamn film so that I don’t look crazy when I keep insisting that he actually is a funny guy despite continued film-based evidence to the contrary.
8] The Infiltrator
$5,287,124 / NEW
I spent all of the pre-amble parsing through the Ghostbusters mess, so let’s use this space to run through the other new releases. This opened on 1,600 screens, made a per-screen average of $3,304, and won’t be here next weekend so who cares. Cafe Society, the newest Woody Allen work and what will it take to get that creep blackballed from film already, whipped up $355,000 from 5 screens (in New York and Los Angeles of course) for a $71,000 per-screen average, which is the highest of the year so far. Whilst notable human puss-boil Dinesh D’Souza shat out another (what can very charitably be described as a) documentary, Hilary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, in time for the Republican National Convention next weekend and it made $82,500 from 3 theatres for a per-screen average bigger than Ghostbusters.
God, people are the fucking worst.
9] The BFG
$3,747,000 / $47,336,611
Is it just me, or has the new Pete’s Dragon received almost zero advertising despite dropping in almost exactly one month’s time? Have Disney just decided that they’ve made enough money for the year and are taking the rest of it off, leaving the rest of their films to fend for themselves cos they can afford to? In the words of a true intellectual, “it’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ‘em.”
10] Independence Day: Resurgence
$3,450,000 / $98,516,443
Did we all just collectively forget how to make blockbusters? Ignoring the almost definitely true theory that all movie studios think that all moviegoers are fucking idiots who will take whatever they are given and be grateful for the experience, what if everyone this Summer just forgot how to tell stories in blockbuster form? Most I’ve seen so far this year aren’t bad for idiosyncratic or unforeseen reasons, they’re often bad because they completely fail at basic filmmaking competency. This, Tarzan, Alice, Angry Birds, X-Men… What, did everyone in Hollywood get bonked on the head Fred Flintstone-style and just magically forget entirely how basic storytelling and filmmaking work? It’s too widespread for me to not start asking questions!
Oh, who am I kidding, it’s the fact that studios think we’re all fucking idiots. Of course it is.
Dropped Out: The Shallows, Sultan