Film studios facing worst Memorial Day weekend since 2001 as Clooney …

26 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Tomorrowland’ Takes Top Spot at Box Office on Slow Weekend.

Disney’s expensive fantasy adventure essentially had Memorial Day weekend to itself, and still only pulled in a modest $41.7 million in its first four days in theaters according to Rentrak estimates on Monday. A summer box office that was hurtling toward record-breaking numbers hit its first speed bump this Memorial Day after “Tomorrowland” landed with more of a whimper than a bang.Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland suffered one of the worst Memorial Day starts in recent memory for an all-audience tentpole, marking a rare miss for an otherwise empowered Disney. The Disney adventure film debuted to a disappointing $41.7 million across 3,972 theaters, less than the $50 million it was projected to make over the four-day weekend.

Based on the futuristic land at Disney theme parks, the PG-rated movie starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson flutters on the low end of all-time best Memorial Day openings — primarily dominated by sequels, according to Box Office Mojo. Disney put their full weight behind the Brad Bird-directed film with an ambitious George Clooney-led promotional campaign. “It’s not ever ideal to be below your estimate before the weekend starts, but it feels like it’s too early to judge the run,” said Disney’s Distribution EVP Dave Hollis. Meanwhile, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” took the third- and fourth-place spots, while Fox’s “Poltergeist” remake debuted in fifth place, with an estimated $26.5 million. The first shows post-apocalyptic anarchy, a society run by tyrants and an oppressive government, the earth running out of resources, a vast wasteland, or that same earth disintegrating.

Even if it had hit those initial estimates, “Tomorrowland” faced an uphill climb if it hoped to make back its $180 million production budget plus tens of millions more spent hawking and distributing the fantasy film. Long-story short, that’s not a great number, just a bit above the $25m-$30m debuts of mega-budget whiffs like John Carter, Prince of Persia, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Battleship. That’s the lowest since 2001 — particularly bad when considering that average ticket prices have risen 44% over that time, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. The other scenario shows the dominance and influence of science; this is where you see artificial intelligences, bionic human beings, buildings, laboratories and monuments floating in the sky, fantastical modes of transportation, conquests of gravity and outer space.

The film stars Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy, and Hugh Laurie in a story about a young girl who stumbles upon a secret alternate world which resembles the would-be futuristic utopias dreamed about back in the 1950′s and 1960′s. Despite Tomorrowland’s aggressive marketing campaign and Disney parks tie-in, “it just seems that audiences are very reluctant to try new things and stake their money on something that’s somewhat unknown.” Still, the movie had been projected to earn $40 million to $50 million over the long weekend, Dergarabedian adds.

The key reason for the empty multiplexes was the weak performance of “Tomorrowland,” the weekend’s sole new big budget movie and a rare misfire for Walt Disney Co. Overall, Memorial Day box office revenue in North America was down more than 15 percent from last year, when X-Men: Days of Future Past opened to $90.8 million. It breaks the chilling sci-fi scenario and takes us to the kind of fun and excitement the theme park brings, something like Yul Brynner’s Westworld, bigger but not necessarily more astounding. The somewhat cryptic marketing campaign has struggled to sell the film to kids and parents based mostly on George Clooney’s star power and the promise of unrevealed treasures to be revealed.

Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief, argued that the film would benefit from being the only family release until Pixar’s “Inside Out” debuts next month. More importantly, the film was hit by surprisingly negative reviews, with few raves and even the mixed-positive reviews (like mine) bending over backwards to praise the intent if not the execution, while all-but-admitting that the so-called mystery box wasn’t hiding anything beyond merely unspoiled story beats.

In 2010, total revenue only reached $192.7 million after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opened to $37.8 million, and Sex and the City 2, to $36.8 million. The directing debut of actress Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise) has already outgrossed its predecessor’s $65 million U.S. total, and all but guarantees a sequel, as newcomer Hailee Steinfeld looks to take the reins of the franchise from Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. The prior year, “Fast & Furious 6” opened to $97.4 million. “Tomorrowland” featured a rare attempt by the company to spend big money — $180 million in this case — on a movie that didn’t feature characters or a fictional world already well known to audiences. When the movie opens, Frank (George Clooney) is starting what appears to be like a broadcast interview that is continually interrupted, establishing his impatience.

The Mouse House did something interesting a couple weeks ago, whereby they invited a select group of “Mommy Bloggers” to the world premiere in Anaheim’s Disneyland park and had them participate in the junket interview process. As of now, industry observers put 2015 Memorial Day revenue between $192 million and $193.5 million, but an official figure won’t be released until Tuesday.

The weekend’s only other new opener, horror remake Poltergeist, was a scream with the younger set, taking $26.5 million for fifth place — a healthy debut for the low-budget, PG-13 thriller. Like “The Lone Ranger” and “John Carter,” more-expensive attempts by Disney to jumpstart franchises, “Tomorrowland” had difficulty drawing audiences. The studio expected an opening in the low $20 million range. “I think for our filmmakers, who had set out not to just remake a classic but to introduce a new generation of fans to the genre, it was very successful,” said Fox’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson. Tomorrowland will need to overcome its so-so B CinemaScore and enjoy strong word of mouth in order to end up in the black, considering the live-action fantasy adventure cost $180 million to produce.

Only 30% of audiences Saturday were families, according to exit polls. “I do think an original [story] plays a part in parents waiting to hear from other parents,” said Disney’s executive vice president of distribution, Dave Hollis. “We also played on the mystery” in the marketing and “weren’t as explicit about what it is.” The executive said he hoped “Tomorrowland” will perform better with families in the coming weeks, as there isn’t a new PG-rated movie until Disney’s own “Inside Out,” from Pixar Animation Studios, on June 19. International audiences were even less willing than Americans to take a risk on an a movie with an unfamiliar premise. “Tomorrowland” opened to a weak $26.7 million in 65 foreign markets. Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. The Warner Bros. release has earned $95.5 million domestically and has picked up $124.3 million internationally through Sunday — respectable results, but there is still ground left to cover before the studio recoups the $150 million it spent making the picture. As the best that Hollywood can offer, Tomorrowland tries to push its premise that imagination is more important than knowledge, a statement for debate among artists and artist types, and scholars and researchers.

Fifth place went to “Poltergeist,” a remake of the 1982 horror classic from Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that brought in a solid $26.5 million across 3,240 screens. For more than a decade now, the American movie industry has churned out highly-imaginative futuristic disaster movies, most of them variations from the theme of tomorrowland. A PG-13 rating helped “Poltergeist” attract a younger crowd that might be unfamiliar with the hazards of placing a housing development on a cemetery.

Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis said that while the opening was disappointing, he believes Tomorrowland will begin to galvanize the family audience, noting that it’s the only PG title until next month. “This morning, our numbers were a little better than what we thought on Sunday. Hollis, pointing to the film’s high-stakes opening in China on Tuesday. “Tomorrowland” barely beat “Pitch Perfect 2,” which grossed $37.9 million over four days.

If it were a slower movie, it would be a paean to a world of natural vistas and old-world charm, a paradisiacal beach, a clean, quiet country setting, with nice old cottages — all of these an endangered reality. In quick shots and sequences, Tomorrowland shows catastrophic images such as the Eiffel Tower being halved, or Manhattan’s Central Park going under water. So we’re looking at a final domestic gross of between $82m and $105m, with the absolute best case scenario being a Bruce Almighty-like 2.8x multiplier and $120m domestic total. Heading into the long holiday weekend, most expected Bird’s film to gross between $45 million and $50 million for the four days domestically, giving it a wide lead over Pitch Perfect 2.

Even the Oscar-winning Clooney sometimes gets buried in the avalanche of eye-poppers, maybe deliberately for it is a Clooney tradition to give the floor to a co-star as he did to Sandra Bullock in the other year’s sci-fi adventure Gravity. Barring some strong legs and/or overseas might, neither of which I am ruling out, this isn’t promising for the ambitious original in a sea of sequels and reboots. Amid the battery of carnival sights and thrills, it is that face that stays in the mind — more lasting and vivid than the bleak future depicted here.

For all the visual delights a sleek thriller may bring, in the end, it is not the high concept and technical mumbo jumbo but the characters (moving within an interesting plot) that make a movie more memorable and truly satisfying. In a summer that some analysts expect will hit $5 billion for the first time, Memorial Day ranks as a bust, with numbers suggesting it will be the worst box office results for the holiday in at least five years. “Usually there is one huge movie on Memorial Day, but it didn’t happen that way this year,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “The movies people really wanted to see opened the weekend prior.” From Disney and Marvel Studios, the superhero tentpole jumped the $400 million mark at the domestic box office on Sunday, becoming the first film to achieve that feat since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, both released in November 2013. Of course it’s fitting that studios would spend this much on a remake as opposed to an original, but that’s why the “okay” Of course it’s fitting that studios would spend this much on a remake as opposed to an original, but that’s why the “okay” box office figures posted by It Follows made me a little cranky a couple months ago, so on that note I hope Guillermo Del Toro‘s Crimson Peak does big business this October for Universal. I don’t mean to pick on Poltergeist (there are a ton of good actors like Sam Rockwell, Jane Adams, and Jared Harris involved), so let’s just do the numbers.

Poltergeist, directed by Gil Kenan and produced by Sam Raimi, is a solid swing for MGM and Fox 2000, coming in ahead of expectations, thanks to teenagers. By the way, the film played 41% 3D, 55% female, 59% under 25 years old, 44% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic, 21% African-American, and 14% Asian and/or “other.” And that’s the new release news for this weekend. Join me next week when Cameron Crowe’s Aloha! (starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams) squares off against Dwayne The Rock Johnson’s earthquake spectacular San Andreas. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Spy launched to $12.5 million from 10 markets, including a record $4.6 million in South Korea, the top opening of all time for a Hollywood action comedy.

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