by Brad Brevet
March 3, 2016
We may have another record-breaking weekend on our hands as Disney’s Zootopia looks as if it will topple 2012’s The Lorax to claim the largest March opening weekend for an animated feature. Additional new releases include Gerard Butler‘s second straight weekend with a new release as he stars in the Olympus Has Fallen sequel, London Has Fallen, and Tina Fey delivers the war comedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. And once the numbers are tallied, this year’s top twelve may come close to doubling last year’s top twelve total over the same weekend.
Getting a head start on its domestic release, Zootopia has already brought in more than $93 million internationally from 31 territories. That said, not only is it opening in the U.S. this week, it’s expanding into 14 additional territories including Germany, Russia (where it had $1.3 million in previews last weekend) and China. These international releases obviously upped the film’s online footprint worldwide, but Google search trends for the U.S. specifically show it outpacing Kung Fu Panda 3 by a wide margin compared to the same point in its release cycle. In fact, it’s more in line with the trend Minions saw heading into release, though don’t go expecting 2016’s second $100+ million opener.
Zootopia is opening in 3,827 theaters domestically, which includes 365 IMAX theaters and 325 PLF theaters, and over 80% of all those theaters are 3D locations. All of which suggests a healthy bump in box office performance. While the studio says it’s expecting a $60 million opening, that seems mighty low for a film with this much awareness, a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes as of publication and the Disney marketing machine behind it (they created a wholly original “Real Housewives of Zootopia” segment on Bravo). The largest opening weekend for an animated feature in March is The Lorax with $70.2 million and while a $75+ million opening Zootopia may be a little risky a prediction, somewhere around $72-73 million seems just right.
Disney is kicking things off with Thursday night previews beginning at 7PM, something not always done with animated films. For those looking for something to compare to once numbers are released, Minions brought in $6.2 million from Thursday previews ahead of its $115.7 million opening and before that Inside Out brought in $3.7 million in Thursday previews and a $90.4 million opening. Here are the top ten Thursday previews (does not include Frozen‘s $1.2 million Tuesday night take) for animated features:
- Minions – $6.2 M ($115.72 M opening weekend)
- Despicable Me 2 – $4.7 M ($83.52 M opening weekend)
- Toy Story 3 – $4 M ($110.31 M opening weekend)
- Inside Out – $3.7 M ($90.44 M opening weekend)
- Monsters University – $2.6 M ($82.43 M opening weekend)
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 – $2. M ($49.45 M opening weekend)
- Big Hero 6 – $1.4 M ($56.22 M opening weekend)
- The Good Dinosaur – $1.3 M ($39.16 M opening weekend)
- Home (2015) – $.65 M ($52.11 M opening weekend)
- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – $.56 M ($55.37 M opening weekend)
One thing that might keep Zootopia from climbing too high is the fact it is playing in fewer than 3,900 theaters. The top six titles above all opened in over 3,900 theaters, four of them in over 4,000 theaters with Minions opening in a massive 4,301 theaters.
Targeting his second straight weekend in second place (though this time with a different film), Gerard Butler is put to the test in London Has Fallen. In 2013, Olympus Has Fallen opened against The Croods and finished in second place with $30.3 million. This time around the runner-up position is a guarantee, though by a much wider margin.
Looking at the reviews, the 18% RottenTomatoes rating doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as that’s even worse than the 48% the first film received. Fortunately for Olympus, audiences took to it, giving it an “A-” CinemaScore, propelling it to $98 million domestically and $161 million worldwide. London will most likely fall short of that domestic figure, but given the international setting it might fair a bit better overseas than its predecessor.
Considering how much this feels like a forced sequel rather than one out of narrative necessity or something audiences were asking for, lower returns than the original should be expected. The studio is anticipating an opening in the low $20 million range, which seems just about right unless the tea leaves prove deceiving and the sequel ends up just as much a surprise hit as the original.
The week’s final new wide release is the Tina Fey war comedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, opening in 2,374 locations and looking like a film that could underperform. Comparable titles are a little wishy-washy when it comes to strictly genre comparisons. The best of the lot seem like The Men Who Stare at Goats ($12.7m opening) and Charlie Wilson’s War ($9.6m opening). Comparing to Fey’s recent success with Sisters doesn’t seem apt considering she was paired with Amy Poehler and that was more of a broad comedy, whereas this one seems to be hoping the audience that didn’t turn out to see Our Brand is Crisis will be more likely to buy a ticket for this one.
The studio is expecting something around $10-12 million for the weekend, but Fey has history in this release slot. She and Paul Rudd opened Admission opposite Olympus Has Fallen in 2013 and could only muster a $6.1 million opening. The 62% RottenTomatoes rating for Foxtrot shows greater critic support than for the poorly reviewed Admission, but an opening as high as $12 million seems like an absolute ceiling for this title with a weekend range more likely in the $8-11 million range.
In terms of holdovers, expect Deadpool to hold relatively steady with a weekend around $15-17 million, though if London Has Fallen manages to surprise it could put a larger dent in Deadpool than expected. Gods of Egypt should drop 50+%, Kung Fu Panda will drop a bit more than it has in the past now that some competition has entered the frame and sophomore features Eddie the Eagle and Triple 9 will battle it out at the bottom of the chart.
A pair of films to keep an eye on will be Oscar winners The Revenant and Spotlight. While Revenant is losing 150 theaters it should hold almost even or perhaps see a little bump, but Best Picture winner Spotlight is seeing a large boost as Open Road is adding an additional 542 theaters for a total of 1,227. While it’s unlikely to find itself in the top ten, should Spotlight see a 119% bump, similar to Birdman last year, a weekend around $1.6 million is in the cards.
In limited release, Fox is debuting the R-rated horror The Other Side of the Door into 546 theaters. Last year the studio released The Pyramid in 589 theaters and saw a $1.36 million opening, which is probably the ceiling for this title.
Finally, Broad Green is releasing Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups, though only in four theaters so don’t expect too much of a box office explosion.
Predictions for this weekend are directly below and we’ll have updates tomorrow morning with Thursday preview numbers and Saturday morning with Friday estimates.
- Zootopia (3,827 theaters) – $72.71 M
- London Has Fallen (3,490 theaters) – $20.24 M
- Deadpool (3,624 theaters) – $16.8 M
- Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2,374 theaters) – $8.07 M
- Gods of Egypt (3,117 theaters) – $6.64 M
- Kung Fu Panda 3 (2,700 theaters) – $4.63 M
- The Revenant (1,488 theaters) – $4.15 M
- Risen (2,507 theaters) – $4.09 M
- Eddie the Eagle (2,042 theaters) – $3.41 M
- Triple 9 (2,205 theaters) – $3.18 M
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