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'Monsters University' and 'The Heat' Battle for Top Spot at Lagging Summer Box Office

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
June 29, 2013 2:28 PM
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The release calendar is crowded, and Friday's numbers show that the intense competition for the top films is not expanding the marketplace. The end result is not the box office bonanza many have been predicting. In fact, the total numbers for the top 10 yesterday fell just under 20% from the same Friday last year. This means that a blockbuster summer is less likely than ever to salvage a weak year. And this is at a time when multiple releases are burdened with unforgiving production budgets exceeding $150 million--and more.

The top two films for the day have the advantage of having discrete audiences. "Monsters University" (Buena Vista) took in $14.3 million to retain the #1 spot, keeping the family audience to itself for a second weekend (that changes when challenger "Despicable Me 2" opens on Wednesday). The Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy comedy "The Heat" (Twentieth Century Fox) capitalized on its popular stars and the dearth of female-centric films to gross $13.6 million, very solid and about 20% ahead of the latter's last film, "Identity Thief," which went on to take in $134 million in the U.S./Canada. Still, its opening day is only two-thirds of what "Ted" opened to exactly one year ago, another sign of ongoing box office falloff.

The next three spots show how the intersection of top-end male-oriented action films at the same time is taking its toll. Paramount's "World War Z" looks to come out ahead for the weekend (falling about 50%), but the opening day (including late night Thursday shows) for Sony's "White House Down" placed #3 for the day, with $9 million, just slightly ahead of "WWZ." This is at the low-end for what this $150 million cost film needed, and indeed is below what the same studio's slightly less expensive "After Earth" amassed its opening day. "Down" is the year's second action assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the just-under $100 million take for "Olympus Has Fallen" (Film District) in the spring took its toll. It will take strong word of mouth (still possible) to salvage this film.

Warner Bros.' "Man of Steel" continues its rapid decline, coming in #5 in only its third weekend, dropping more than 50% again at $6 million. The front-ended grosses combined with the international take so far have this Christopher Nolan-overseen reboot of the Superman franchise approaching $500 million worldwide, but the domestic part of that won't get much above $300 million, well below expectations.

Number six-ranked "This Is the End" (Sony) and #7 "Now You See Me" (Lionsgate) both fell off under 40% as they continue their successful runs -- the latter now crossing the $100 million mark. Previous #1 openers "Fast & Furious 6" (Universal), "Star Trek Into Darkness" (Paramount) and "Iron Man 3" (Buena Vista) round out the top 10, all of these heading for sub-$3 million weekends.


  • Nathan Ligon | June 29, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    It has to be weird to have to make a story out of nothing. Who were these "some" that were predicting a "box office bonanza" this weekend. I do this for a living and all the tracking had MU opening around 45m, The Heat opening around 34m, and White House Down around 33. MU is over performing, The Heat is over performing, and White House Down is under performing. WWZ and Man of Steel are doing exactly what was predicted. Actually, it looks like the weekend is going to finish higher overall than the experts (bomojo,, Forbes, etc.) predicted. Yes, it is a drop from last year, but that's not much of a story either because the last 2 weeks were way over last year. Oh, and FYI, Man of Steel is performing exactly like 90% were predicting. Most predicted 290 to 350 for its final domestic. That is still exactly where it appears it will finish. The foreign predictions were around 300 to 350 as well and it appears Man of Steel could clobber that (as it is tracking exactly in line with last years Spider Man which finished at 490). So, in other words, the only story here is that WHD is a little down and The Heat is a little up. Everyone else is covering the same news and you are the only one that sounds like Chicken Little. The sky is not falling my friend.

  • Tom Brueggemann | June 29, 2013 10:52 PM

    Thanks Nathan and The Film Peddler for your comments.

    I base my assessment not on what predictors close to opening dates suggest films are going to gross - that for me has little relevance. What is important (for studios) is how they do compare to what was predicted when budgets were approved and for theaters how close they come to recent years (in many cases, the emphasis on tentpoles increases film rental).

    On that basis, and with production budgets closing in on all time records, 2013 needed to before studios worldwide and for US exhibitors domestically substantially ahead of 2012. And if it is going to be so, June and July will tell the story. Last year, Dark Knight Rises - nothing close to its grosses on the near-term horizon - was the 2nd biggest film of the summer. The Heat is below Ted. We'll see how the animated films do.
    And the end of 2012 was a stretch of overperforming films from Lincoln through Les Mis and Django. Could it happen again? Sure.
    As far who was predicting a record summer - I read a wide variety of blogs and industry papers, and the theme of "biggest ever" (as always, forgetting the critical caveat of adjusting figures for inflation) has been a drumbeat since at least Cinemacon in March. And it's not happening. The falloff is not close to what it was from January-April, which I note regularly. But this summer is underperforming, and it will have consequences I fear.

  • The Filmpeddler | June 29, 2013 6:31 PM

    Well and accurately stated, actually there's a strong possibility that 2013 will exceed 2012 domestic theatrical.

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