Did 'Ant-Man' Really Win the Box Office?
Who won the box office this week? Depends on how you look at it.
We treat the box office like a horse race every weekend, as if the new and old movies were all competing on the same playing field. But the truth is, on any given weekend, every new release is more like a stock IPO, each with its own unique background and set of expectations. They all just happen to be launching at the same time.
So you could view the weekly winner, not necessarily as the movie that sold the most tickets, but the movie that did the best on its own terms. Here's a look at the movies that made the biggest splash at the ticket counter this weekend, depending on which measure you use.
"Ant-Man": Yes, "Ant-Man" sold the most tickets in absolute numbers, an estimated $58.0 million worth. But considering how high Marvel has set the bar for its films' opening weekends, is that really a good number? It's their lowest opening weekend since 2008's "The Incredible Hulk."
Given that most pundits projected a weekend premiere of about $60 million, "Ant-Man" opened a little below expectations. Then again, the tiny hero is a fairly obscure Marvel character, so you can argue that the movie was lucky to do as well as it did, proving (as did "Guardians of the Galaxy" last summer), that, no matter how unfamiliar the superhero, the Marvel brand name alone is enough to conjure up a No. 1 box office debut.
"Minions": At an estimated $50.2 million, the cartoon did almost as well on its second weekend as "Ant-Man" did on its first.
In 10 days, it has zoomed past $200 million (to $216.7 million) and surpassed by nearly 10 percent the take of predecessor "Despicable Me 2" over its first 10 days ($197.9 million). But then, that film opened on a Wednesday, so its first 10 days included just one full weekend. Also, "Minions" had a sharper drop in its second weekend (57 percent) than pundits predicted. (Some thought it would hold on to enough of last weekend's business to defeat "Ant-Man.") That steep drop-off doesn't bode well for the film's prospects of out-earning "Despicable Me 2," which grossed $368.1 million.
"Trainwreck": The R-rated comedy's estimated $30.2 million debut, good for third place, is a vindication for first-time movie star/co-screenwriter Amy Schumer, for producer/director Judd Apatow, for the marketers at Universal, and for R-rated comedies targeted toward women.
Despite the growing popularity of the Comedy Central-bred comic actress, the movie was expected to be a tough sell, at least to men. (Indeed, only 34 percent of the audience were guys.) It probably helped that Universal's ads emphasized Apatow's role ("from the guy who brought you 'Bridesmaids,'" said the ads, even though Apatow merely produced that film), or that the filmmakers stocked the cast with LeBron James and other guy-appeal sports stars. But it also suggests that Schumer's humor has more appeal to men than experts thought.
After all, some pundits predicted the movie would open only in the high teens or mid-20s. In fact, the movie opened on a par with Apatow's biggest opener yet, "Knocked Up" ($30.7 million), and higher than all the other movies he's directed.
"Jurassic World": It's in fifth place this weekend, with an estimated $11.4 million. But its total to date is $611.2 million, making it only the fourth movie in history to cross $600 million in North America. And it did it in only six weeks.
"Irrational Man": The new Woody Allen movie opened on just five screens and earned just $188,000. But that's an average of $37,600 per screen, the highest per-theater average of any movie currently playing.
That doesn't mean "irrational Man" would have done "Ant-Man" sized numbers if it had opened on thousands of screens, but it does bode well for the movie once it expands onto a few dozen, then a few hundred screens as the summer progresses. Meantime, it's earned solid bragging rights.
"Mr. Holmes": The revisionist take on Sherlock Holmes, with Ian McKellen playing the sleuth as a very old man who's losing his memory, opened on just 363 screens, but it took in an estimated $2.5 million, enough to crack the Top 10 in tenth place. It averaged $6,857 per screen. All those numbers are very good for an independent movie, especially one with a 76-year-old leading man.
The lessons? Not every franchise reboot is a guaranteed success, there may not be room in the marketplace for more than one or two films whose primary audience is women, and there are some movies that not even the Universal marketers can sell. Overalll, the box office was down 10 percent from last weekend, which is understandable, given how huge "Minions" was when it debuted with $115.7 million a week ago.
Still, there are many movies this weekend that have reason to celebrate with a toast. Raise your glasses, even if they're thimble-sized.