‘Freaky’ Leads & Jackie Chan’s ‘Vanguard’ Tries To Throw A Punch During A Truly Depressed Box Office Weekend
SUNDAY AM UPDATE: The weekend before Thanksgiving is one of the most lucrative ones on the calendar, last year bringing in $204.9M off the opening of Disney’s Frozen II, which posted November’s fifth-best domestic opening of all-time at $130.3M.
Who would ever think that the domestic box office would sink to such an atrocious level as this weekend? If last weekend brought in $10M for all titles with California theaters and other markets like Illinois open, this weekend is surely the lowest weekend for exhibition since theaters reopened back in September for Tenet, with an estimated $6.5M, a 35% drop.
At that level, how can a circuit like AMC, which has an estimated weekly burn rate of $25M, stay open? It’s hard times, as many theaters coast to coast were closed because of local safety ordinances or curfews.
There was only one wide release this past weekend, Jackie Chan’s Vanguard, and it wasn’t from a major studio, rather Gravitas Ventures, a distributor known for its theatrical day and date PVOD titles. The movie fizzled in the No. 7 spot, with a reported $400K at 1,375 theaters in 178 markets in what I’m told is a 90-day theatrical window. Vanguard‘s most notable numbers were in the West and the South. But, of course, they weren’t very strong. Critics hated the movie at 29% Rotten, but PostTrak audiences were a bit more positive at 72% and a 57% recommend. Older males showed at 64% guys, 55% over 35. Diversity breakdown was 51% Caucasian, 18% African American, 22% Asian/other and 9% Hispanic.
Universal/Blumhouse’s Freaky led the box office in its second weekend, with $1.2M, -65% for a running $5.6M. It is not a time for victory laps and bragging. Around the world, Freaky stands at $9.2M. Yikes. Freaky saw $410K on Friday, a lift on its second Saturday with $550K, +34%, and it’s expecting $260K today.
As much as exhibition praised Warner Bros. recently for its cannibalistic Christmas Day release of Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and HBO Max, even if the DC sequel didn’t have have the HBO Max component, that movie alone couldn’t save the domestic box office during COVID-19, as we’re operating in a marketplace where several cities are off-line or curbed by local curfews.
Wonder Woman 1984 is primed to open in an exhibition infrastructure that’s more broken down around the world vs. when Tenet played, amounting to a $356M WW result. Last weekend, distribution sources told me that 3,400 cinemas were open, and now there’s only 2,850, with most of California closed, along with New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico. Oy.
Here in upper Los Angeles County, where more lockdowns are being threatened by the government, people are rushing out to grab whatever they can for Thanksgiving. With all the traffic and filled parking spaces, one wouldn’t think that there’s a pandemic going on except for the fact that we’re wearing masks and lining up to get in at Trader Joe’s. Even if movie theaters were open, no one would go. It’s interesting, because there’s a hypocrisy in place among the general populous. People will head to Target, Wal-Mart, the grocery store — even airports (and you can imagine what the next month is going to be like at major hubs). But the movies, wherever they’re open, are just not in the cards for people. Yes, part of that is lack of product, or they’re not aware their movie theater is open. But no one wants to go to the cinema during a pandemic.
Because of these dynamics, studios have cut down their spending to promote their movies. According to iSpot TV spending of late, Universal spent roughly $8M on Freaky and Focus Features’ Let Him Go, respectively, as of Thursday. However, I’m told and iSpot even shows that Uni has shelled out $19M+ for its Wednesday release of The Croods: A New Age, which is a 30-day play before Christmas PVOD drop. Even with that type of financial commitment, which is low by normal marketplace standards, what can anyone expect with a majority of the country’s theaters closed down?
The TV spend on Vanguard didn’t even register on iSpot, however. Gravitas reports they’ve taken out TV spots on linear cable targeting Men 18-49 across sports and entertainment networks from Nov. 14-18, i.e. ESPN, Adult Swim, FX, FXX, Fox Sports, History, Paramount Network, NBC Sports, the NFL Network TNT, and TBS. Also, there were non-skippable ads for the Stanley Tong-directed and written action pic on smart TV and OTT devices like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Hulu, Sling, AT&T TV Now and fuboTV.