It’s been a long while since we’ve had a hack at the box office statistics, and for once it’s not because January and February have been an empty husk. On the contrary, quite a lot’s been doing for the past few weeks while we’ve been slaving away at trivial Oscar predictions. Now’s our chance to catch up, but not before we take a look at the appreciable, if weirdly under-performing, box office debuts of this weekend. This weekend was filled with selfish giants; blockbusters from studios perhaps overconfident in how their properties will perform. Remember that studio implosion Steve Spielberg predicted? Well if certain promising original properties (The Lego Movie, Gravity, Non-Stop) will keep that from being as catastrophic as it sounds, I’d like to think we’re heading into the last days of an old studio order. Obviously only time (and 2015, God help us) will tell.
New Release Competitors
300: Rise of an Empire a solid, but far lesser debut than the first
We’ve had a lot of swords, sandals and oily pectorals to carry us through the winter, so I suppose it’s to this film’s credit that it did so well after Legend of Hercules and Pompeii catered to same exact crowd. Then again, this is on a much larger scale with a more influential studio budget behind it. At $45.1 million, it’s exactly 50% below the opening of its predecessor 300, a film which pretty much ignited this swords-and-sandals craze. By comparison, that film cost only $65 million, while Rise of an Empire cost a heftier $110 million. To be certain, the profit margins will not be the same, particularly as the weeks take their toll on it. If nothing else it can count itself a less considerable downfall than Wrath of the Titans was in 2012. It’ll make its weight back, but don’t expect any more tales of the brave 300… who were already dead anyways, so.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman a solid, but disappointing Dreamworks debut
The weeks may indeed prove more fortunate for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, if only because children’s animation tends to fare better than adult-oriented action. It’s still not very encouraging to note that Dreamworks has been spinning progressively downwards lately. The mediocre failures of Turbo and Rise of the Guardians have not been kind to the prolific, but not particularly esteemed animation studio. Past the prejudicial fury of Oscar season, I can still muster up a surprising bit of fondness for The Croods, and How to Train Your Dragon is still nestled comfortably in my heart and imagination. That doesn’t alter the fact that they’re a miss company more than a hit one.
That Mr. Peabody and Sherman opened in the same range as Turbo and Guardians does not put it on nice footing going forward. An animated film can move on from a small debut to a nice haul, but this simply doesn’t have the passionate feeling out there that Dragon or even Croods had. The studio’s entering a period where they need to seriously reconsider how they go about making movies. They have films like B.O.O. Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, Bollywood Superstar Monkey and Trolls on the way, and we can only imagine how those will turn out. Dreamworks will limp along to 2017 (where it has nothing scheduled yet), but where do they go from there? Tough to say, but if rumors are that Noah Baumbach’s involved, we have reason for hope.
The debuts on the blockbuster front were tinged with doubt, but we can always count on Wes Anderson to wipe that doubt clear from our minds. His latest was bound to make a dent, but at present it’s close to breaking the record for largest per-theater-average for a live-action release. With $800,000 at 4 venues, all that stands in its way is Red State‘s extra $4,000, which it achieved on just one screen. It’s an incredibly strong and buzzworthy start for a film that’s entering the market several leagues away from Oscar season. If it were closer we might mark it as a guarantee, but here in March its chances are limited, but not shot. More on that in due time, since it should feel too early to talk 2014 Oscars already. For now this is a fine achievement for Anderson’s growing fandom.
Concerning 2014 Thus Far
I’d say we’ve had three particular hits so far in 2014, and they’re not necessarily the three highest grossers. Okay, two of them are, though their successes aren’t as predictable as those for your average Marvel movie. Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy Ride Along took advantage of the empty January environment, earning $130 million to date thanks to adding humor to an often dour market environment. It was a surprise hit, though not a particularly encouraging one for those of us who like our whirlwind successes to reach a certain standard of quality.
As an enriching counter-balance to that, The Lego Movie was both an exciting critical success and a huge treat for audiences. When it seemed that Oscar-caliber material was vacating the season, here came a vibrant burst of color, wit and enthusiasm, and the rare animated film to appeal as winningly to adults as it does to the kids. Currently with $225 million to its name, it’ll be some time before it’s dethroned as 2014’s highest grossing animated film, if it’s dethroned at all. How to Train Your Dragon 2 currently seems to be its only formidable opponent, and if it doesn’t take flight like the first one did, Lego may remain the year’s studio animation champion.
Other than those two, there hasn’t been much else succeeding on the same scale. The Monuments Men is up to a fine $70.6 million, but given its $70 million budget, one expects this isn’t the kind of take Sony imagined for the Argo lookalike. The Nut Job made $61.4 million for largely the same reason as Ride Along: there wasn’t a whole lot of options. Even in that respect Frozen‘s made more in 2014 than it. If there’s any seemingly marginal success that feels like something more, it’s Non-Stop, a Liam Neeson thriller which, like many a Liam Neeson thriller, is more than just a Liam Neeson thriller. Currently at $52.1 million and still holding strong, it’s the kind of action thriller that delivers its audience exactly what they want, but doesn’t go about it in a way that feels false. There will be many films to outshine it as the year goes on, but it’s good to keep track of the small, seemingly unnecessary standouts of a year.
Box Office Top 10 – March 7th-9th
1. 300: Rise of an Empire (1st Weekend: $45.1 million) *NEW*
2. Mr. Peabody & Sherman (1st Weekend: $32.5 million) *NEW*
3. Non-Stop (2nd Weekend: $15.4 million; TOTAL: $52.2 million)
4. The Lego Movie (5th Weekend: $11 million; TOTAL: $225 million)
5. Son of God (2nd Weekend: $10 million; TOTAL: $41.5 million)
6. The Monuments Men (5th Weekend: $3.1 million; TOTAL: $70.6 million)
7. 3 Days to Kill (3rd Weekend: $3.1 million; TOTAL: $25.6 million)
8. Frozen (16th Weekend: $3 million; TOTAL: $393.1 million)
9. 12 Years a Slave (21st Weekend: $2.2 million; TOTAL: $53.1 million)
10. Ride Along (8th Weekend: $2 million; TOTAL: $130 million)