At the multiplex this weekend, you could feel the excitement building... for next weekend.
That's when "The Fate of the Furious" hits theaters and, most likely, it will dominate the box office for the rest of April. This weekend, by comparison, not much happened, even though there were three new wide releases.
If nothing else, the meh results for this weekend's new features prove the importance of timing. With potential ticketbuyers hoarding their cash until next weekend, here's a breakdown of what happened this weekend:
Nothing Could Beat "Boss Baby"
Last week's champ is still riding the wave of strong word-of-mouth, Alec Baldwin's current omnipresence (he's been prettymuchinescapable the last few weeks), and the lack of better options. Sure, with its estimated $26.3 million take this weekend, "Boss Baby" just edged out "Beauty and the Beast" (an estimated $25.0 million). Still, "Boss Baby" remains on the rise (in its second weekend, it actually added 56 screens, for a total of 3,829), while "Beauty" is finally waning after four weeks in theaters.
RIP, "Smurfs" Movie Franchise
Why did Sony put "Smurfs: The Lost Village" up against fellow family films "Boss Baby" and "Beast"? You can sort of see the reasoning: With kids out of school for spring break and Easter on the way, the timing may have seemed right for the return of the little blue guys from the '80s.
Still, putting out another animated film the weekend after "Boss Baby" seemed like a suicidal move, which is why predictions for the third "Smurfs" movie were only in the high teens. But the film didn't even do that well, winding up with an estimated $14.0 million.
One could argue that Sony didn't care that much about positioning; after all, the "Smurfs" franchise typically plays much better overseas than here (in fact, it's already made an estimated $42.0 million abroad), and the movie didn't cost that much (at a reported price of $60 million, the studio saved tens of millions by making this one strictly a cartoon, instead of a live-action/cartoon blend like the first two installments).
Yet Sony went all out on social media to promote it, and the filmmakers made a point of increasing the movie's girl appeal (there are many female Smurfs in the movie, not just one). And the families who saw "Lost Village" really liked it, judging by the strong A grade at CinemaScore. So you have to conclude that the marketing would have propelled the film to a much higher gross if it had been given a release date further away from two other family-film smashes.
"Going in Style" Did Better Than You Thought
No one expected much from the geezer-heist caper comedy remake either, with predictions running below $10 million. Yet the movie opened with an estimated $12.5 million. This despite critical scorn (44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), usually deadly for a film aimed at an older audience that still cares what critics think.
Still, that's a largely underserved audience, and the film's trio of beloved Oscar-winning stars -- Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin -- was enough of a draw to overcome bad reviews. Indeed, word-of-mouth on the film was actually pretty good, with its overall CinemaScore grade of B+ rising to an A- for most viewers over age 50.
The other plus of catering to an older audience is that the target audience doesn't all rush to the theater on opening weekend, so if the film can stay booked for a few weeks, that word-of-mouth will pay off with steady sales over time. So "Going in Style," made for an absurdly low reported budget of $25 million (then again, director Zach Braff paid for his last movie with Kickstarter donations, so $25 million is a big step up for him), stands a good chance of making a profit before it retires to cable and home video.
"The Case for Christ" Proves Faith-Based Movies Are Losing Steam
Movies aimed at churchgoing audiences are always a wild card when it comes to predicting how big they'll open. This one, from the same folks who made the two successful "God's Not Dead" movies, was expected to debut between $3 and $6 million.
It opened toward the low end of expectations, premiering in 10th place with an estimated $3.9 million. That's still not bad for a movie playing on just 1,174 screens. Like "Smurfs," "Case" was scheduled with Easter in mind, so the film may yet do more more business than its modest debut suggests.
Why Aren't More People Talking About Anne Hathaway's "Colossal"?
Maybe it's because the Internet still loves to hate her. Or maybe its because her offbeat indie opened with just under $126,000 in four theaters. Still, the movie earned an estimated $31,452 per screen (nearly five times as much per screen as "Boss Baby"), scoring far and away the highest per-screen average of the week. That bodes well for "Colossal" as it expands to more theaters in weeks to come.
Moviegoers Saved Their Money for "Fate of the Furious"
Notice how many genre movies were hanging out in the lower reaches of the Top Ten?
"Ghost in the Shell," "Power Rangers," "Kong: Skull Island," "Logan," and "Get Out" -- all of them weeks old, all of them scraping by on a $4 to $8 million take for the weekend. No one wanted to release a new movie with young-male appeal this weekend, just to see it get run over by Vin Diesel and his racing crew next week.
Overall box office was down 28 percent from last week, since potential moviegoers either found little compelling among this weekend's new wide releases, or else they're keeping their wallets shut until Dom and company pry them open next weekend.