Who says old-fashioned movie genres are dead?
Some of the biggest headlines this weekend at the box office came from a western and a musical. Yep, you kids may like your futuristic teenage sci-fi dystopia movies, like the latest "Maze Runner" -- and then again, you may not -- but the kind of movies that your grandparents like, such as "Hostiles" and "The Greatest Showman," are giving the box office a run for its money.
As a result, there were some surprise winners and losers this weekend. Such as:
The studio claimed the top movie, with "The Maze Runner: The Death Cure" debuting with an estimated $23.5 million. In fact, Fox had three of the top five movies this weekend, including "Showman" (in fourth place, with an estimated $9.5 million) and "The Post" (in fifth with an estimated $8.9 million). Add to that the top two Oscar contenders -- "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" -- both released by subsidiary Fox Searchlight, and the company can claim five of this weekend's biggest movies, with a total estimated at $51.2 million among them.
Anyone still think Disney was unwise to try to buy the studio?
Loser: Young Adult Fantasy
Sweet as the "Maze Runner" victory may be, the movie still opened well below the $30-million-plus debuts of the first two installments. You could blame the long delay in the film's release date, which was caused by star Dylan O'Brien's on-set injury.
But it could also be that the genre that peaked with "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" is simply played out; witness the way the "Divergent" movies fizzled out, or the industry's failure to launch a similar new franchise since "Maze Runner." The film had a strong social media campaign (including a viral trailer made with LEGOs), and there wasn't much else for young adult viewers this weekend (except the still-strong "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle"). Even so, there still wasn't enough incentive to draw a bigger audience.
No one expected much from this western, released by the relatively new Entertainment Studios (it's just their fourth film). It was hoping for a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Christian Bale, but after "Hostiles" was absent from Tuesday's nominations list, pundits predicted an opening as low as $5 million.
Nonetheless, the movie scored an estimated $10.2 million, good for third place. That speaks to Bale's star power, to the film's appeal among older audiences, and to the fact that the western genre isn't quite dead yet, even though the industry has been saying last rites over it for more than three decades.
Loser: The Oscar Bounce
The success of "Hostiles" carries an extra sting, in that, despite the lack of Academy love, it still did better than any of the movies that did get nominated. Traditionally, the nominees, especially for Best Picture, see a solid boost in business the weekend after the nomination announcement. Some did; "Shape of Water," "Three Billboards," and "Lady Bird" all did at least 61 percent better than last weekend. But other movies were still losing viewers, including "The Post," "Phantom Thread," and "Darkest Hour."
All of these movies have already been playing for at least five weeks, so it's no wonder they're petering out. So far, among the nominees still in current release, "The Post" has been the most successful, with $58.5 million earned to date. The rest have yet to top $46 million, and it's unlikely that any of them will still have enough gas to outrace "The Post" before the Oscars are handed out on March 4.
By the way, "Get Out," which earned more than $175 million last winter but left theaters long before it picked up a Best Picture nod and three other nominations, returned to 468 theaters this weekend to capitalize on its Oscar success. It needn't have bothered; it added just an estimated $170,000 to its take, or a measly $363 per screen.
Clearly, everyone who wants to see "Get Out" already has, either at the multiplex or at home. Some movies have an apparent saturation point, and most of this year's Oscar contenders seem to have reached theirs.
Winner: Long Legs
After three weeks on top, "Jumanji" was finally pushed down to second place, but weep no tears for The Rock.
For one thing, it's no small feat for a movie in its sixth week of release to still be bringing in an estimated $16.4 million. For another, it's earned a total of $338.1 million to date, making it the third most successful release in Sony history, behind only the first two Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" movies. (Watch your back, "Spider-Man 2," "Jumanji" is coming for ya.)
It shows little sign of slowing down, having lost just 16 percent of last weekend's business. Remember what we just said about saturation points? "Jumanji" still has a long way to go before that happens.
So does "The Greatest Showman." The family-friendly musical, down just 11 percent from a week ago, has earned $126.5 million in six weeks. This despite a relative lack of hype and just one Oscar nomination (Best Song for "This Is Me"). There's no reason to think it won't cross $150 million, which would put it in the neighborhood of "La La Land" and "Les Miserables" and make it one of the five most lucrative musicals of all time.
The lavish Hindi-language costume epic opened on just 324 screens but earned $4.3 million, good enough to debut in tenth place. Its per-screen average of $13,188 was far and away the biggest of any movie playing this weekend. Which just proves that there are always underserved audiences that can make a surprising splash at the box office if someone actually makes a movie they want to see.