Saturday AM Update: Despite the worst reviews ever for a Marvel movie, and a B CinemaScore, the second weekend of Disney/Marvel’s Eternals didn’t implode, now on track to be down -62%, which is on the high end of where we were expecting it, with $27.4M. The pic made $7.8M yesterday, -75%. Through ten days, the Chloe Zhao-directed movie will stand at an estimated $118.7M.
Meanwhile, Paramount/eOne’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, looks to clear $20M in five days, which bests the $15M-$17M the studio was eyeing, and that’s with the movie on Paramount+. The 3-day on the Walt Becker directed kids film is $14.5M after a $4.2M Friday. The movie is on an exclusive theatrical window in Canada, which is helping boost grosses, and unlike Paramount’s release of Paw Patrol, has No. 2 circuit Regal as part of its 3,700 theater count.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek doesn’t have a dog in this box office race with Clifford, but has a studio which is the leader in family product, and thus has the power and leverage to determine how the industry releases films in the future. Earlier this week, during Disney’s Q4 earnings call, Chapek expressed that the conglom is sticking to a flexible theatrical/Disney+ distribution plan in the near future, because “We’re still unsure in terms of how the marketplace is going to react when family films come back with a theatrical first window.”
I call B.S. on that one. It’s OK for the theme parks to be open during COVID (which doubled revenue to $5.45 billion in Q4), but families are hesitant to come to the movie theater? You still have to go indoors at a crowded theme park and touch guard rails, etc. I don’t buy Chapek’s reasoning. The box office numbers are proof that there’s an audience out there for family features, and if Clifford could do close to $20M in five days, we know it could have done more without Paramount+.
Even Disney/20th Century Studios’ Ron’s Gone Wrong, which was a clunker in its opening weekend with $7.3M, is seeing solid holds: after a 4.6% decline last weekend in weekend 3, with the movie easing -40% in its current weekend 4 with $2.1M, taking its total to $20.6M; and that’s a niche family movie. The Biden administration announced earlier this week that close to 1M kids 5 to 11 have already received their first Covid shot within its first week of eligibility, with another 700K appointments booked for those to receive their first dose. The figures are based off of 20K pharmacies and clinics. All of this bodes well for Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday box office.
What I need to emphasize here is that November after Eternals, and following a huge $638M October stateside during the pandemic that was beefed up with summer-event films, isn’t going to really dazzle at the box office. Not until Sony/Marvel/Disney’s Spider-Man: No Way Home next month, and that’s all because of product. I know it sounds like I’m repeating myself, but it’s something worth bearing, as whenever there is a misfire, or lackluster gross, the fear is that studios (or Disney) will use that as an excuse to go hybrid. Disney has Encanto coming up for Thanksgiving, and what’s important to remember is that original animated movies are a challenge to launch. Encanto is currently expected to do $37M-$40M over five days, but will likely leg out. But just because it’s lesser IP, it’s no reason to go collapse the window. The riches are in the long run through windows, not in the mere collapsing of marketing costs.
Furthermore, film finance sources inform me that of all the genres, hybrid releases for family movies are the worst. If a family audience sees the movie in a theater, they’ll see it again and again in future ancillaries. Collapsing windows only robs the studio of money. Why is Paramount doing this with Clifford? Because with a limited amount of Viacom brands, especially intriguing product on their streaming service, they’re starving for subscribers, which stands at 46.3M WW across all of its streaming services. The conglom is hoping for 65M-75M by the year 2024, a figure that greatly trails Disney+’s current worldwide muscle of 118.1M. While it’s not ideal for exhibition to compete with a streaming service at home, they, too, are so desperate for a rebound that they’d agree to play a day-and-date release. That is, until they can’t put their foot down and squarely refuse such fare from the studios.
“While Covid will be in the rearview mirror, God willing, I think change in consumer behavior will be more permanent,” added Chapek earlier this week, I don’t exactly agree with that; I think it’s more about Disney missing their subscriber numbers, which sent their stock tumbling 10% from $176.87 at the close of Monday to $159.63 by Friday close, and that’s due to the backlog of their production series line. Disney in Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, etc. has brands that are the envy of the entire town. Disney needs to be careful not to dilute that. If you’re making a film available in both homes and theaters simultaneously, then what’s the premium value of that? Did Black Widow trigger more sign-ups than the availability of Labor Day theatrical release Shang-Chi this weekend on Disney+? Or is the better question to ask: Will binge Marvel series Hawkeye and Lucasfilm’s The Book of Boba Fett which are exclusively on Disney+ this holiday season, and not in theaters, spur more subscriptions? Exclusivity, whether it’s theatrical or simply Disney+ are the respective drivers to either medium. Disney will get their stock back up. I don’t think it’s down on account of keeping their movies on a theatrical window, they just need more new product on Disney+, and that will flood will certainly come. But in the meantime, don’t burn the Mouse House down to keep warm.
Meanwhile, Focus Features’ black and white Kenneth Branagh-directed movie Belfast is putting up solid numbers in arthouses with $1.63M at 580 theaters in 126 markets. Friday earned $640K, which is higher than the opening day for Focus’ The Card Counter, which posted a $422K Friday and $1M opening weekend at 580 sites. Good numbers here in NYC, LA, Toronto Vancouver, Montreal, Philly, Denver and San Francisco. AMC Lincoln Square in NYC is far and away the best gross in the nation, with an estimated $6K Friday night. Similar to last year’s awards season films, their prestige will be judged purely on their cinematic merit, not pre-determined by box office with older audiences still crawling back. Among the holdovers: Searchlight’s The French Dispatch in 1,225 theaters with a weekend 4 of $1.7M, -32% with a running total of $11.5M and NEON’s Spencer, also in the top 10 with a second weekend of $1.59M, -24% due to a 269 theater expansion to 1,265, for a 10-day total of $4.7M.
1.) Eternals (Dis) 4,090 theaters, Fri $7.8M (-75%)/3-day $27.4M (-62%)/Total: $118.7M/Wk 2
2.) Clifford the Big Red Dog (Par/eOne) 3,700 theater, Fri $4.2M/3-day $14.5M/Total $20M/Wk 1
3.) Dune (WB) 3,282 (-264) theaters, Fri $1.62M (-29%)/3-day $5.6M (-28%)/Total $93.2M/Wk 4
4.) No Time to Die (UAR) 2,867 (-140) theaters, Fri $1.4M (-23%)/3-day $4.6M (-23%), Total: $150.5M/Wk 6
5.) Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony) 2,538 (-102) theaters, Fri $1M (-14%)/3-day $3.7M (-15%)/Total $202.4M/Wk 7
6.) Ron’s Gone Wrong (Dis/20th) 2,430 (-220) theaters, Fri $533K (-36%)/ 3-day $2.1M (-40%)/Total $20.6M/Wk 4
7.) The French Dispatch (Sea) 1,225 (+20) theaters Fri $538K (-35%)/ 3-day $1.7M (-32%)/Total $11.5M/Wk 4
8.) Belfast (Uni) 580 theaters Fri $640K/3-day $1.6M/Wk 1
9.) Spencer (NEON) 1,265 (+269) theaters, Fri $483K (-38%)/3-day $1.59M (-24%)/Total: $4.7M/Wk 2
10.) Antlers (Sea) 1,825 (-975) theaters, Fri $337K (-45%)/ 3-day $1.1M (-44%), Total $9.5M/Wk 3