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Weekend B.O. July 6-8 (Huge Debut For 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' + Why 'Lone Ranger' Bombed)

Box Office
by Sergio
July 7, 2013 12:21 PM
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Of course, the big news this weekend has been the smashing success of Despicable Me 2, and the huge box office failure of The Lone Ranger, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But practically overlooked was some even more surprisingly impressive news; I’m talking about Kevin Hart’s concert film Let Me Explain.

The film opened last Wednesday in only 876 theaters, and has grossed, since then, an astounding $17.4 million. The film was the lowest budgeted film to debut last week, and opened in the least amount of theaters, yet it had the third biggest per screen average after Despicable Me and The Way, Way Back for Fox Searchlight.

That beats out Hart’s previous concert film, Laugh At My Pain, which grossed just under $8 million total, in less than 300 theaters. In other words, Kevin Hart is money in the bank.

And no one was really surprised that Despicable Me 2 opened to such huge numbers. That was expected. 

But what happened to The Lone Ranger, which grossed only $48.9 million in its first five days.

A few things to consider:

1. Where did the money go? - Seriously  With a budget reportedly of $225 million (though some have it as high as $250 million) just where in the hell did the money go? They couldn’t have made the film cheaper than that? Especially when you compare it to other recent westerns. The Coen brothers’ True Grit cost $42 million to make, and Open Range cost an even more modest $23 million.  Django Unchained, a bigger and more elaborate film, cost around $80 million, which is a lot of money, but still it’s reasonable considering what Ranger cost. And all those films were huge box office successes, both domestically and internationally, especially Django, which made some $261 million overseas alone.

And, in fact, Disney originally shut down The Lone Ranger for six months during pre-production because the film was ballooning past its original $175 million budget (still too high). They eventually agreed to bump up the budget to $215 million (still way too high), though at the end it’s still north of $225  million which means Disney, which needs the film to make around $500 million to break even, is not going to do that with the B.O. overseas figures the film makes.

2. Bad idea - On paper The Lone Ranger might have looked like a good idea. Especially when you consider that those Pirates of the Caribbean movies with Johnny Depp and directed by Gore Verbinski (the last one, Stranger Tides, was directed by Rob Marshall) have made billions for Disney.

Stranger Tides alone grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, with just over $800 million of that from foreign markets. Putting Depp in a funny costume doing one of his “weird” bits with Verbinski directing is about as a sure-thing as you can get.

The Lone Ranger was one of the most popular radio shows ever. That is back during the 1930’s and 40’s. And it was one of the most popular TV shows in the history of the medium… which ended its original run in 1957. What possessed Disney into making such a massive and expensive film based on the characters that people under the age of 45 weren’t familiar with? If they wanted to go through with the project, then clearly the film should have been made at a much lower and reasonable budget.

3. Faulty strategy - Disney, a couple of years ago, decided to change their whole strategy regarding movies. Almost gone were the low or mid-range budgeted films that they made during the 80’s to the early 00’s, and they decided instead to concentrate, for the most part, exclusively on spending huge amounts of money on a few tentpole movies which they could, in turn, spin off into sequels, amusement rides, merchandising, etc.

The problem is that that strategy hasn’t been working all that well. And when they have serious misfires in the form of huge bombs such as John Carter and now The Lone Ranger, threatens to put the company into a painful financial situation, spending all that money for very little in return, though those Pixar and Marvel Comics films help ease the pain.

This is the kind of risky strategy that gets executives fired. It happened at Disney after the John Carter fiasco, and it may happen again (if it hasn’t happened already). A few more like these and, as Steven Spielberg recently said, the whole house of cards is going to come crashing down.

Though I suspect that more modest mid-range budgeted movies may be making a major comeback at Disney soon. And, in fact, plans were underway for a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, though I wonder if Disney is now having second thoughts about that. considering how much it would cost.

4. Don’t monkey around with westerns - I LOVE westerns. They are, without question, my favorite movie genre. But one thing western movie lovers hate, is when you monkey around with the genre. When you play it straight like True Grit, Open Range, 3:10 To Yuma or even Django, which, despite everything in it and the odd flourishes, was basically a traditional western, they do well.

But when you fool around with it, mainly in hopes of attracting a younger audience (like with Cowboys and Aliens, which was an underwhelming box office performer, and The Lone Ranger, which, though entertaining has a smug “we’re too hip for this” attitude, instead of a more serious traditional western) people tend to stay away.

1) Despicable Me 2 Uni. $82,518,000  Total: $142,076,000 
2) The Lone Ranger BV $29,432,000 Total: $48,936,000 
3) The Heat Fox $25,000,000 Total: $86,398,000
4) Monsters University BV $19,590,000 Total: $216,127,000 
5) World War Z Par. $18,200,000 Total: $158,758,000 
6) White House Down Sony $13,500,000 Total: $50,478,000 
7) Man of Steel WB $11,415,000 Total: $271,206,000 
8) Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain LG/S $10,100,000  Total: $17,460,000 
9) This is the End Sony $5,800,000  Total: $85,554,000 
10) Now You See Me LG/S $2,770,000 -Total: $110,415,000 
11) Star Trek Into Darkness Par. $1,310,000 Total: $223,065,000 
12) Fast & Furious 6 Uni. $1,024,000 Total: $235,439,000 

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  • Matthew Prince | July 10, 2013 8:22 AMReply

    Disney needs to bring back Touchstone Pictures into full production again and not just distribution for Dreamworks. They used to make great comedies, thrillers and dramas for the over 30s audience.

  • sergio | July 10, 2013 9:12 AM

    I agree with you 100% That was a winning strategy for Disney for years. The good news for Disney is that new head of production Alan Horn who bought in after the John Carter debacle and was previously an exec at Warners, is known to be much more favorable to original ideas and keeping coats low (Ranger was a project he inherited from the previous production chief so he was stuck with it) The studio always has a bunch of mid-range films set for release that weren't made with the idea of turning them into amusement rides. You now just making a film for the sake of makig film that people will go see and nothing more.

    The interesting thing is that, according to Anne Thompson piece about the Ranger failure on her blog Thompson on Hollywood, everyone at Disney pretty much knew that The Lone Ranger was a really bad idea and had second and third thoughts about it. But they went along with it only because Depp's and Verbinski's Pirates movie had made billions of dollars so they had the clout to force Disney to make it. And even then Verbinski went way out of control spending tens of millions of dollars more past the budget just for wild ideas he came up with during shooting.

    Meanwhile some filmmaker somewhere is struggling to raise $100,000 to make his film

  • Blackseed | July 8, 2013 3:59 PMReply

    From what I read about the production The Lone Ranger, it would've been really interesting if they stuck with their original plan: a Pirates of the Caribbean set in the West with a bit of supernatural twist.

  • Jeffrey Fearing | July 8, 2013 3:44 PMReply

    And don't forget Will Smith's bomb, Wild Wild West.

  • ALM | July 8, 2013 12:15 AMReply

    Congrats to Kevin Hart.

    I am really surprised that Disney didn't do some type of intro of the "Lone Ranger" world to the general public prior to releasing the movie, i.e. an animated version on television a year before the movie's release.

    One of the reasons people continue to connect with superhero movies is that the superheroes never really leave our world. In addition to paper and digital comics, both DC and Marvel continue to churn out comics series to television, so even the youngest viewers have some sort of touchstone with these characters.

  • tishauna7 | July 7, 2013 6:36 PMReply

    adding genre busting elements to westerns aren't inherently bad (look at brisco countty jr.), there's actually a name for the sub genre. it's called the "weird west". basically people adding horror, supernatural, low sci-fi (like clock punk). the problem with lone ranger is that it's budget was waaaaay over the top, and it seem to not take itself seriously. like another poster said if you don't believe in the character than don't make it.

  • Donella | July 8, 2013 11:53 PM

    Then it was maybe the right choice for Gallowalkers [Wesley Snipes] to bypass theaters.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 7, 2013 7:45 PM

    There was a time when the western genre was so money that almost every film produced therein was guaranteed to make a profit.

    Then it died. Then came "Unforgiven," essentially an anti-Western. Hollywood was all like, "People want westerns again." Then they put out some sorry shit (a few gems, but still...). And then the genre died again.

    Plus, period pieces are deemed too expensive for the risk. There aren't a hundred already-constructed sets, wardrobes and prop rooms sitting around waiting for the next western being churned out this month for film or TV -- as was the case decades ago.

  • CareyCarey | July 7, 2013 2:31 PMReply

    Sergio, pickup the phone, Disney is calling you. Well, actually, if they were reading Shadow and Act they'd know you the man on everything -- cowboys flicks.

    Heck, as I was reading along I found myself in agreement on all points.

    Bad ideas: Yep! Bloated budget/A weird (Apocalypses Now) looking Johnny Depp/DON'T MONKEY AROUND WITH WESTERNS.

    I mean, you're right, True Grit, Open Range, 3:10 To Yuma and Django, all did well at the box office, but Disney's research department must have fallen asleep. Didn't they check out a big budget cowboy flick featuring a bigger star than pale face Johnny? Somebody had to mention Will Smith and Wild Wild West? The producers of that western are still looking to recoup some of their 170 million investment.

    And come on, I thought the title of the movie was The Lone Ranger, not Edward Scissorhands. Don't get me wrong, I can do Johnny Depp but... I didn't see any of those Pirates of The Caribbean movies until this year (not my groove zone. I got stuck in an airport. A little kid who I didn't know, just happen to have ALL of them). Anyway, Johnny's "Jack Sparrow" was alright, but The Lone Ranger is a tall guy who wears a black mask, not a puney white guy talking in a fork tongue.

    But, since this is the 4th of July weekend, my family get together to shot fireworks and go to the movies. Well, I was chosen as the "babysitter" at the movies. That's right, while other grown folks sat back lickin' barbecue off their fingers and sippin' gin and juice, I had to take the rugrats to the cinema. But see, what I didn't tell my rat pack siblings was that Kevin Hart would find me laughing at his new movie. Yep, the ol' drop-off and RUN move.

    But DAMNIT, 911 a joke in my town. I mean, Kevin Hart's film was not playing in my town. So I picked my lip up off the floor, cussed my brother and sister, and then escorted the noisy band of 5 to Despicable Me 2.

  • CC | July 7, 2013 7:13 PM

    Scripttease, I love animation/cartoons, but I don't love being in a theater full of yaking kids (including those I had to slap upside their heads). Well, I didn't bop their heads but I did give them the evil "if you don't sit yo' ass down" look. Damn, I was trying to conserve my money so I bought those mega-bongo refillables (and plenty of napkins and water cups). Why did I do that... they tore through that soda and popcorn like flies on a big pile of fresh dookie. And then, up and down, up and down, going to the bathroom, getting more pop and popcorn, up and down... up and down, they got on my last nerve.

    When I agreed to be the chaperone, I thought it was going to be me and Kevin Hart, not me and Bebe's kids.

  • ScriptTease | July 7, 2013 5:05 PM

    Surely you enjoyed Despicable me??? Nothing wrong with grown folks watching animation/cartoons, laughing out loud even. Put on some Old School Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes (none of this new crap), I'm Ten again.

  • lfresh | July 7, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    I hate westerns. Recent westerns have been successful because they have been disguised as NOT westerns. There might have been good stories in those old westerns but its incredibly difficult to get past the bad stereotypes and bad acting. Those ridiculously dated old troupes were refreshed and dusted off and placed within a more modern sensibility. Instead doing something similar and refreshing the worse of those westerns they literally stuck to stereotype. I have little sympathy.

  • lfresh | July 7, 2013 3:12 PM

    Anything John Wayne has a warning label firmly afixed to it he would title the worse of those movies and the main contender for worse actor ever. No worries Sergio i watch westerns... now, that the good ones were made in the 00's with lesser stereotypes and reduced bad acting.

  • sergio | July 7, 2013 2:59 PM

    I would put The Wild Bunch and The Good The Bad and The Ugly over those two. But what can you tell someone who hates westerns? They're a lost cause

  • Josh | July 7, 2013 2:35 PM

    You should check out Stagecoach and High Noon.

  • Josh | July 7, 2013 2:21 PMReply

    With LR I think they were trying to hit that sweet spot between comedy and adventure that the first Mummy movie hit so well and completely botched it. I'm annoyed that the movie spent so much time making fun of the title character. If your embarrassed by the guy then don't make it. I feel Captain America handled that better. There were a few jokes about the name "Captain America" but it didnt dominate the whole movie like in LR-"whats with the mask?" I would have loved to have seen this as a sixty million dollar played straight gritty movie with a real native american as Tonto.

  • Qstorm | July 7, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    I don't understand why executives in Hollywood seem puzzled when a movie like John Carter fails. First of all, your movie is named John Carter! Sounds like a guy who would sell me a used Buick. You take out the subtitle, Warlord Of Mars, which at least SOUNDS exciting. 2nd, who the hell knows who or what John Carter is? And why am I paying money to see something I've never heard of? I myself have heard of it, but I'm in my late forties and even then, I wasn't a fan of the books. Same with Lone Ranger! Are you kidding me? You're going to spend the same amount of money on a concept that no one hardly remembers as they spent on the Avengers movie??? You're going to smother the one bankable star in goofy white makeup and stick a crow on his head? You're going to cast a virtual unknown in the lead? So what he starred in Social Network, you think people are going to say, Oh the guy who played the twins is starring in this, I must go see it! Then you make it nearly 2.5 hours long?? Whoever greenlit this movie needs to go back to producing wedding videos. It's really not that difficult to see that this was doomed from the start.

  • Donella | July 8, 2013 1:17 PM

    Same problem with the Jack Reacher movie. People who didn't read the book don't know who the character is.

  • sergio | July 8, 2013 7:31 AM

    The original title was John Carter of Mars but the marketing geniuses at Disney decided to remove "of Mars" because their "research" said that women don't like sci-fi. So just call it John Carter and how somehow all these women will rush to see it not realizing what it is. Brilliant

  • SF | July 7, 2013 10:14 PM

    You are on the money with your John Carter comment!! The main reason I didn't see it at the theater was because of the title name. It's a shame the marketing team for John Carter was so inept, because it's actually a really good film.

    I totally agree with your Lone Ranger assessment as well. Seems to me the decision makers at Disney could save themselves a couple hundred mil and hire folks like us as consultants!

  • ScriptTease | July 7, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    Congratulations to Kevin Hart's film... I love to see films staring "Black folks" succeed, it's puts a smile on my face. Kevin is on top of his game, and he will be for a while. I see Fast & Furious is still on the list.

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