cars-3

Welcome to the Weekend Box Office Review

 

CARS 3

Pixar’s Cars 3 opened to a solid but unspectacular $53.7M, providing the biggest animated opening so far of 2017, but dropping about $10M from the previous two CARS debuts.

Why? 

This one fell directly in the center of expectations. The CARS series has always been the black sheep of the Pixar family. The 2006 original was the first Pixar film to garner its share of truly middling reviews, and the much-maligned creative misstep that was CARS 2 (the first film was about preserving history and embracing old fashioned Americana, and the second film was a…spy spoof starring Mater?) soiled folks on the franchise. Add to that the public disclosure that the CARS franchise was Pixar’s top merchandising moneymaker (especially among small children), and the series was forever tarnished with the stink of capitalism over creativity. The announcement of a third film was met with eye rolls and loud groans from Pixar’s adult fans, as it seemed to stand for the ultimate in “we didn’t ask for this.” Add to that middling reviews that touted it as an improvement over Part 2, but still not worthy of Pixar’s higher standard. So with so much negativity (and/or indifference) for the franchise, an opening weekend drop from the previous installments ($60M and $66M, respectively) was to be expected.

So why didn’t it go even lower? THE GOOD DINOSAUR opened at $40M (proving the Pixar brand doesn’t GUARANTEE huge openings), so it stands to reason that CARS 3 could have followed the trend of underperforming summer franchise pictures and wandered in closer to $30-40M. But that’s where the merchandising angle comes in. As much as CARS is a shrug for adult Pixar fans, the franchise is hugely popular with kids. And with a G rating, the Pixar name, and a return to a story focused around Lightning McQueen instead of Mater, families filled the seats, offsetting the inevitable drop. I would gather that it is unlikely we will see a CARS 4 (also a longshot that this film will even match CARS 2’s $191M domestic gross), but the fact that this one didn’t outright BOMB makes it seem that there may be some gas left in the tank, and the franchise will likely live on in some form or another.

ALL EYEZ ON ME

Outperformed even the most optimistic expectations with an impressive $26.4M debut.

Why?

Two words: Tupac Shakur. Three more words: STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. The life of the prolific and beloved artist has taken on a near mythic reputation in recent years, with Elvis-like sightings (“He’s not really dead!”) to controversy (his holographic “performance” at Coachella in 2012), to seemingly never ending merchandising (unreleased performances and unfinished albums continue to pop up), so it was clear that the market was hungry for a biopic. And with the incredible success of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON in 2015, this film had potential, especially as effective counter programming at the start of summer, during a weekend that saw films catering to primarily kids and women. So with all that going for it, why didn’t it even open higher? After all, COMPTON pulled in $60M during its opening weekend…

Marketing was low as compared to COMPTON – not too much was done to reach out beyond Shakur’s heavily black, male fan base. Also unlike COMPTON, which had producer (and one of the subjects of the film) Ice Cube promoting it at every possible opportunity, EYEZ was marred with many of the film’s living subjects keeping their distance from it, with others (Jada Pinkett Smith in particular) actively speaking out against the film’s creative validity. Finally, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 23% didn’t help sway anyone on the fence, and couldn’t compete with COMPTON’s 87%, which ended up leading to multiple end of the year awards and Top Ten lists. Fans clearly wanted to see EYEZ, and they showed up – but the mediocre buzz kept it from going as high as it could have. Next week’s hold will show us if the film has $100M potential (unlikely), or if it will top out around $60M – still turning a profit, but not shaking the marketplace.

47 METERS DOWN 

Inexpensive indie shark movie did just fine with $11M – unspectacular, but not a bomb.

Why?

Not much to say about this one – expectations were low, as the film featured no bankable stars (sorry Claire Holt, Matthew Modine and Mandy Moore) and little selling it beyond “Hey, remember THE SHALLOWS last year? You like sharks, right?” The fact that it still found its way to $11M means the horror community was hungry for more water-based thrills, and the effective low key marketing (prominent standees in theaters for a little-promoted film has a sneaky way of suggesting a potential sleeper hit) did its job. Still, there’s not much heat on the film, and it should drift away shortly, turning a comfortable profit on its $12M budget.

ROUGH NIGHT 

With an bomb-tastic $8M opening, the title-based puns write themselves for this one.

Why?

Chalk this one up to a confused marketing campaign, and the continued success of WONDER WOMAN. Everything was just a mess: the print campaign centered around Scarlett Johansson, but the trailers seemed to hide from her – focusing mainly on the supporting cast. The ads pushed it as a younger BAD MOMS-meets-THE HANGOVER, but there was no specific sellable plot element outside of Kate McKinnon’s confusing and unfunny Australian accent, and the unpleasant suggestion of jokes surrounding a dead stripper. A heavily advertise, and similarly themed film (with a funnier trailer) called GIRLS TRIP opens in a month, adding confusion to the mix. The confusion obviously hurt ROUGH, but it should benefit GIRLS, which now has a full month to distinguish and distance itself. Mediocre reviews were the final straw – like BAYWATCH, if comedies have have an “unfunny” stink about them, people stay away. Movie prices are too high these days to pay for something that will play better on TV if word of mouth is bad.

The WONDER WOMAN factor might have played into ROUGH’s weekend too. The super-sized super hero hit had a huge $41M third weekend, and it’s safe to say that in this summer of massive female strength & empowerment on the big screen, the film’s target audience (women) wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to spend 2 hours with a bachelorette party gone wrong due to drugs, panic and manufactured lunacy.

That’s it for this week – next week we see how a 5th TRANSFORMERS film plays as the only new release in town.

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