Welcome to the WrestleMania edition of Gene Scallop’s entertainment report. Here’s what’s topping today!
Zootopia surprised the box office with 73 million smackers as its 4th March debut and the record for the original Disneytoon helped beat former box office hits Big Hero 6 and Frozen. With the flick gunning for more Angie, how can it handle this weekend’s box office arrivals?
Angie Angelfish (via Deadline Hollywood)- We knew by Friday night that Zootopia was headed to a record opening for a Disney non-Pixar toon with $70M, but when all was done and finished, the film landed at $75.1M. Thanks to Zootopia, 2016 clicked past the $2B mark at the domestic B.O, pacing 9.5% ahead of the same frame in 2015. The Disney toon also boosted weekend tickets sales to $162.7M, +82% versus the same FSS a year ago. Zootopia‘s weekend also ranked as the fourth highest March debut.
While Zootopia beat Frozen‘s $67.4M wide opening out of the gate, whether it beats that film’s $400.7M is another question. Non-Disney distrib chiefs don’t think it can, despite having a mass and critical groundswell of 99% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Some have it with a final B.O. in the high $200M range. Frozen was a true fangirl movie that benefited from year-end holiday traffic, and Zootopia is playing to staggered spring break schedules. Also that jump from Zootopia‘s A to Frozen‘s A+ can makes a difference in regards to a pic’s multiples off its opening (3.6x to 4.8x). Even though it’s the only family film out there until April 15 when Disney’s Jungle Book comes along, there’s plenty in Zootopia‘s way, specifically The Divergent Series: Allegiant and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Disney plans to capitalize off of rolling spring breaks which swell from 5% K-12 off today to 9% on Friday and then 16% next Monday. As such, the studio will be adjusting its social marketing and TV spots towards kids on break. Look for Zootopia to hang on to the top spot at the box office this weekend with $37.5M-$40M, putting Paramount’s monster sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane in second with $24M.
Throughout the weekend, Zootopia played strongly from its matinees through its 9PM shows. Business was great from cities to small towns.
On Sunday, Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis reflected on the boom times for original Disney animated fare in recent years as Zootopia joins a growing list of hits that includes Frozen ($400.7M domestic), Big Hero 6 ($222.5M) Tangled ($200.8M) and Wreck-It Ralph ($187.4M).
“When you make something this fantastic from a quality perspective that builds on an original story in an original world, that connects and is relatable to audiences and puts up these types of numbers – this momentum comes from the Walt Disney Studio team. The animation team is in a space right now where they are consistently delivering high quality storytelling. The studio is being led and driven by storytellers,” exclaimed Hollis.
In second place, Gerard Butler is having a better time this weekend than last as Gramercy/Focus Features’ London Has Fallen is looking at an opening weekend of $21.6M, and an A- CinemaScore. That’s the same grade that the previous installment, Olympus Has Fallen, received three years ago. Olympus Has Fallen opened a week before Easter in 2013 and played to a 3.2 multiple up to $98M. Of course, the reason London isn’t playing a week before Easter this year is to give it legs; otherwise, it would butt up against Warner Bros.’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. “There’s a nice runway as far as competition is concerned,” said Focus Features distribution chief Jim Orr. “It gave us another four weeks. Also, March proved to be particularly lucrative for Olympus.” It’s safe to say given the strong exit polls among older adults, London could do a similar gross factor. That demo comes out to the cinema gradually, rather than crowding a title’s opening weekend.
Butler’s other title on the marquee, Gods Of Egypt, is down 63% in its second weekend with $5.2M in fifth place and a 10-day cume of $23M. Many sources still scratch their heads as to why the title was dated a week before London Has Fallen, but as we explained last week, Lionsgate was making a grab at about 50% of Imax’s supply in an effort to boost weekend grosses. It’s never a good thing when a major star like Butler has two back-to-back wide releases in the marketplace. Leonardo DiCaprio was in this situation back in December 2002 with Gangs of New York ($77.8M) and Catch Me If You Can ($164.6M domestic). Granted both were making a go at awards, but the Steven Spielberg pic outperformed the Martin Scorsese title by 112%.
Elsewhere this weekend, Paramount’s Tina Fey political dramedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is filing fourth with $7.4M opening in fourth, well below the $10M-$12M range the industry projected. CinemaScore folks gave it a B.
Per its marketing materials, Zootopia might look like some sort of Madagascar or Richard Scarry knock-off. Similar to a Pixar title, Zootopia talks up to adults with plenty of takeaways for everyone in this socially conscious title. Zootopia follows a rookie rabbit cop who teams with a con-artist fox as they crack a case in a world where big animals rule and tiny ones are inferior. At a time when leading Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump builds on inflammatory rhetoric and counts a groundswell of bigoted hate group supporters, along comes a Disney movie that promotes equality and battles fear-based sentiment. As it takes several years to make an animated feature, I’m told the socio-political themes in Zootopia weren’t last minute add-ons riffing off the current election atmosphere. The film’s themes would have resonated even outside an election cycle. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers hits the nail on the head: “This animated crime caper comes ready to party hard, but also takes a deep dive when necessary, especially when certain species are treated as threats and cause public panic. Listen up, Mr. Trump.” CinemaScore showed Zootopia being female heavy at 58% with the under 25 set repping 56%. Under 18 turned up at 42%. All three of those demos gave Zootopia an A+.
Zootopia‘s $5.2M Imax weekend is the second best for the large format exhibitor after Toy Story 3‘s $8.4M.
Disney dropped the teaser for Zootopia back in early June and trailered the title on its summer hit Inside Out as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3. The Sloth trailer in particular on SWTFA had the biggest increase in search volume of all films (+281%). Social volume for the trailer spiked by 117% and sentiment was overwhelmingly positive at 70%. At D23 in August, Disney announced that Shakira was providing a voiceover and recording the song “Try Everything.” A huge hit with the media was Zootopia‘s satirical creative marketing with one sheets of Cinderelephant, Star Wars: The Furce Awakens, Girrafic World, Straight Otter Zootopia; as well as the hilarious Oscar campaign digital content including Gazelle on the red carpet, Lion “Oscar” statue, as well as posters for Bridge of Sloths, Mad Yax: Furry Road, and The Hibernant. Disney partnered with top zoos across the country on over 35 onsite activations, including VIP screenings, social posts and email blasts. And of course, there was synergy through the Disney conglom on ABC, ESPN, the cruise ships, Disney radio and theme parks.
On social per RelishMix, #Zootopia hashtags across Twitter and Instagram combined were strong for a family film totaling 14.4K, followed by #LondonFallen with 4.5K per day combined and #WTFtheMovie with 1.6K.
Gramercy/Focus Features is handling London Has Fallen for a fee, and the label is covering P&A for the Millennium $60M-financed title. That production cost is $10M cheaper than Olympus’ price tag. As we indicated last weekend, Butler has been drumming up support for London on social, casting a shadow over any word of mouth for Gods of Egypt. Butler served as the 2016 Grand Marshall for the Daytona 500 and was the honorary celebrity guest of the WWE Raw Monday night show in Anaheim, CA. There were advance screenings at 19 U.S. military bases in the U.S. and Kuwait. Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett visited troops at three of these U.S. bases. Another marketing highlight was a WAZE integration featuring Morgan Freeman’s voice (in character as Vice President Trumbull). In terms of audience make-up, London Has Fallen looks quite similar to Olympus with older males at 55% guys, 74% over 25. Butler fans showed up at 33%.
Political comedies are tough sells at the box office and that’s essentially what’s challenging Paramount’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Following in the wake of October’s Chilean presidential campaign comedy Our Brand Is Crisis which cost Participant and Warner Bros. $28M-$30M before P&A and opened to $3.2M and finaled at $7M, WTF just further underscores the uphill battle for these types of movies on the big screen. In fact, CinemaScore showed that the same older women who bought tickets for WTF also spent money on Our Brand Is Crisis. In both cases, the lead actress was the chief draw with Fey attracting 69% and Brand‘s Sandra Bullock pulling in 76%. Older women over 25 was 56%/89% for WTF, while the ratio for Our Brand Is Crisis was 56%/96%.
Not that it didn’t deserve a spot in theaters, but it would have been a better trek for WTF had it played on HBO or Netflix. Given its message, it would have found prestige on those outlets and potentially resonated with a bigger audience, rather than getting buried at the B.O.
In a marketplace where Zootopia is the family destination and London Has Fallen is the testosterone choice, Paramount was looking to provide something for women with WTF. As we described earlier, Focus Features used this tactic for the Fey-Paul Rudd adult romantic comedy Admission back in late March 2013 when it went up against Olympus. That movie flatlined with a $6.1M FSS and a final cume of $18M. Note that WTF isn’t ha-ha funny like Fey’s mass-appealing titles Sisters ($87M) and Date Night ($98.7M). Rather it’s an adaptation of Afghan war journalist Kim Barker’s tome Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which follows her journey to change up her mid-life TV journo career as she embarks on a 2002 tour of war-torn Kabul.
WTF feels like a movie that Miramax would release in its ’90s/’00s heyday. It speaks volumes that a major studio like Paramount would roll $35M on a semi-modern day Catch 22. TV spots, which iSpot estimates at $11.3M, sold this like a Fey comedy, and you can’t fault the studio for doing that. If they sold the somber side of this film, no one would show up. The only way to get the 30 Rock fans in the door is to bait them with Fey antics (peeing in the bushes, firing a machine gun). WTF isn’t as satirical as 1972’s MASH and it’s not as cutthroat high-stakes as Zero Dark Thirty, but it’s somewhere in between, and that middle ground is what’s keeping critics at a 63% Rotten Tomatoes score. Some reviewers, including Deadline’s Pete Hammond, have praised Fey for taking her acting chops to another level. But this is certainly a case where more good reviews could aid the B.O. battle. Paramount made sure WTF grabbed some national headlines with a D.C. screening hosted by MPAA chief Senator Chris Dodd and Viacom EVP Global Government Affairs Dede Lea, with special guest Vice President Joe Biden.
Would it have been better if Paramount platformed WTF? That’s the approach for their Richard Linklater title Everybody Wants Some which is opening on April 1 and getting a launch at SXSW. But that’s a different animal from WTF. It’s always a tricky decision for a studio to platform a star-driven title. Par had the benefit of Fey’s PR machine, and thus the wide amount of bookings. From that vantage point, it made sense to go wide. The Linklater film has a fresh-faced cast, and the director is a household name among art-house denizens.
Deadpool through four weekends stands at $311.5M after a $16.7M weekend, off 46%. To date, it’s the third highest R-Rated movie at the domestic B.O. behind The Passion of the Christ ($370.8M) and American Sniper ($350.1M).
Fox’s best director & actor Oscar winner The Revenant shed 157 theaters down to 1,488, but it’s doing better than Open Road’s best picture winner Spotlight which raised its theater count past 1,200, $3.4M to $1.76M. Spotlight‘s FSS isn’t that far from Birdman’s post Oscar win weekend ($1.9M) a year ago. Spotlight counts $41.6M, which is 3% ahead of Birdman‘s stateside tally following the Oscars. That film finaled at $42.3M at the domestic B.O. Spotlight, like Birdman at this time, is also on DVD/VOD.
Broad Green’s Terrence Malick title Knight of Cups about a Hollywood writer and his romances with six women crashed at four Los Angeles and New York theaters with $61K or $15K a theater. The film carried mixed reviews, which is never good for a Malick title, hence the reason why its ticket sales aren’t through the roof. P&A was adjusted accordingly because of this. There was no way the film was going to mint $35K per hub. Knight of Cups will expand next weekend. For comparison purposes: Malick’s The Tree of Life, hot off its Palme d’Or win hit theaters during Memorial Day weekend 2011 and made $93K at four sites or $373K, while New Line’s The New World opened during Christmas weekend 2005 and made $10K a theater at three playdates.
The Octonauts are readying themselves for their special trip. But before the trip, the team takes 3D to another level. What made the team up the ante to 4D Danny?
Danny Angelfish (via Animation World)- Silvergate Media, an international TV production and licensing company focused on pre-school children’s entertainment based in New York and London, has announced a partnership with SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment, to bring the first 4-D Octonauts cinema experience to fans globally.
In the first film The Amazon Adventure – 4-D, the Octonauts travel deep down the Amazon River in search of a lost city and Kwazii’s long lost grandfather, Calico Jack. The film will be offered to attractions worldwide, with the UK premier scheduled for May 2016. More Octonauts films from SimEx, in partnership with Silvergate, will follow in a three-year deal.
Ron Allen, SVP Commercial, Silvergate commented, “The Octonauts with its unique underwater setting, action adventure stories, and real-life creatures, is the perfect show for an immersive 4-D movie experience. We’re excited to be working with SimEx, the best possible partners for bringing fun, interactive movies to our fans.”
“We’re thrilled to be working with Silvergate to deliver an Octonauts 4-D experience to our theaters worldwide,” added Mike Frueh, SVP, Licensing and Distribution, SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment. “Our guests will love joining the Octonauts down the Amazon River, and being chased by piranhas, all in 3-D with 4-D special effects.”
Now in its fourth season, Octonauts is aired in over 100 countries across the world, including on Disney Channel (USA), CBeebies (UK), ABC (Australia), TF1 (France) and Super RTL (Germany). Octonauts is also broadcast on China Central TV (“CCTV”).
Since 2011, the brand has emerged as a leading preschool property in the United States, UK, Europe, Australia, and Korea. A successful brand launch is underway in China, with Russia to follow this Fall.
1,510 fans are currently on the board at the Penguins tally as Spring sweeps draw closer.