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Friday, June 21, 2024

Weekend Box Office: THE FALL GUY Falls Flat, PHANTOM MENACE Storms Back to Theaters

© Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures

1. The Fall Guy
Universal Pictures | NEW
$28.5M Opening Weekend
$65.4M Global Total

Universal Pictures took a risk by making a romantic action comedy geared towards grown-ups to kick off the summer season. The early results aren’t promising. The Fall Guy took in $28.5 million on 4,002 screens for a $7,121 PSA, the highest of any wide release. That number came in below our forecast range of $30M, a debut that failed to live up to the film’s expectations in the weeks leading up to its release. Here’s the 3-day breakdown for the opening weekend:

  • Fri – $10.49 million
  • Sat – $10.25 million
  • Sun – $7.76 million

Overseas the earnings were about on par with domestic, taking in an estimated $25.4M on 9,963 screens in 78 territories for an international cume of $36,903,000 million and $65,403,000 million globally. The biggest opening overseas was UK and Ireland where it took #1 with $4.4M on 1,400 screens, no doubt aided by having Brit Emily Blunt on the poster. Other big markets included Mexico ($2.5M) and France ($2.3M).

On the surface, The Fall Guy had all the makings of a smash with two charming leads, an expert summer action helmer in David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Hobbes & Shaw), a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 83% as well as an 87% audience score and A- CinemaScore. Unfortunately, the 80’s TV show the film is based on has next-to-zero contemporary cultural footprint (something that also hurt Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), and the combination of thrills, romance, and comedy may have left some scratching their heads as to what the genre even was. Three decades ago a genre blend like this would have played well in theaters (see Speed or True Lies), but nowadays it’s harder to sell audiences on stars, spectacle, or charm without a known brand.

Some pundits are comparing The Fall Guy IP with Mission: Impossible, saying a forgotten TV IP could have worked, except when the first Mission movie launched in 1996 it was only 23 years removed from the original series run and a handful from the 1988 revival, not to mention the iconic theme song which had been played in hit films like Wayne’s World (1992). The Fall Guy show has been off the air for four decades with nary a revival in sight.

The biggest factor affecting exhibitors wasn’t down to the film itself, but where it was positioned. The Fall Guy was dated on a weekend that has been a traditional earner for cinema owners, both before and after the pandemic:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5-7, 2023) – $118.4M opening
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6-8, 2022) – $187.4M opening
  • Avengers: Endgame (May 3-5, 2019) – $147.3M second weekend
  • Avenger: Infinity War (May4-6, 2018) – $114.7M second weekend

Marvel has been laying the gauntlet down for launching the summer movie season for a long time, and were planning to do the same with Deadpool & Wolverine in this very slot before the strike threw a monkey wrench into those plans. While it looks like there may be no ceiling for the third Deadpool entry when it does finally open in late July, Universal’s decision to fill the gap with The Fall Guy showed that if you don’t put a four-quadrant film with high IP brand recognition in this slot the audience simply won’t come. With little appeal to teens and younger kids, Fall Guy was a two-quadrant movie that might have fared better in a late summer slot ala Bullet Train.

After the anomaly of Barbie (technically not Gosling in the lead), the star’s other biggest opening was 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 with $32.7 million, making The Fall Guy his third largest debut weekend. While co-star Emily Blunt has had many more big openers, PostTrak report that Gosling was the main attraction for half the audiences who went to see the movie as opposed to 35% for Blunt.

Our biggest comp for this film was director David Leitch’s 2022 original actioner Bullet Train starring Brad Pitt and a parade of other stars, which Sony opened in late summer to the tune of $30M. The fact that Fall Guy couldn’t match that despite a lavish marketing push doesn’t bode well for the film. Let’s not close the books on it yet, though: the studio “anticipates continued playability,” and they might be right with the kind of buzz it has. Next week’s Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has enough brand recognition to knock it off the top spot but the tone of both films is different, with Fall Guy boasting a sunnier disposition and more star power to keep audiences coming back for a good time summer popcorn movie. If The Fall Guy performs on par with Bullet Train, it should hit the $100 million mark by the end of its domestic run.

2. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Disney | [2024 Re-Release]
$8.1M Opening Weekend [2024 Re-Release]
$14.5M Global Total [2024 Re-Release]

Despite outcries of disappointment from Original Trilogy fans upon release in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace clearly left a mark on younger kids who are now revisiting the film in theaters, many with their own young children in tow. The George Lucas-helmed prequel took in $8.1M in 2,700 domestic theaters, including 150 premium screens and 130 specialty motion D-Box/4D auditoriums. Compare that to the re-release of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi at the end of April last year, which opened to $5.1M.

Internationally the film took in $6.4M for an estimated global cume of $14.5M this weekend. This included #2 openings in the UK ($1.4M, top territory), Germany ($1.0M), and Chile, as well as #1 in Norway. Overall the George Lucas film’s lifetime cume now stands at $1,035,124,677 million, making it the #2 film ever (initially) released by 20th Century Fox (after Avatar), the #11 all-time domestic release adjusted for inflation (#22 unadjusted), and the fifth overall grosser in the Star Wars franchise after Disney’s Sequel Trilogy and Rogue One.

The release was timed with the fan-focused “May the 4th Be With You” holiday and also marks the 25th anniversary of Phantom Menace, which has experienced something of a re-evaluation from fans who grew up with the Prequel Trilogy as well as continued expansions to that era of the Star Wars universe with shows like The Clone Wars and Kenobi. Mark Hamill appearing at the White House with President Biden was also a publicity boost, as was the added bonus of an exclusive sneak peak of the upcoming Disney+ series Star Wars: The Acolyte, premiering June 4. A notable fraction of $0.3M came from theaters showing marathon runs of all nine films in the Star Wars Saga.

3. Challengers
Amazon MGM | Week 2
$7.6M Weekend | $29.4M Domestic Total
$39.7M Global Total

Dropping from #1 to #3 is Amazon MGM Studios’ Challengers, which performed in line with what we predicted, dropped less than half from its opening weekend gross with $7,642,6172 million (-49%) for the 3-day weekend on 3477 screens. The Zendaya-led tennis drama has taken in just south of $30M in North America, with a cume of $29,462,046 million. Deadline opined that this film stole women under 25 from The Fall Guy, which was the Gosling pic’s lowest demo. Worldwide on Challengers is now at $39,738,023 million.

4. Tarot
Sony Pictures | NEW
$6.5M Opening Weekend

The Sony/Screen Gems horror film Tarot opened below our forecast range of $7M, finishing its opening frame with an estimated $6.5M from 3,104 locations with a $2,094 PSA. The fact that this film got trounced by not only last weekend’s Challengers but also the 25-year-old Phantom Menace is a bad sign for any longevity on this programmer title from Sony’s genre arm Screen Gems. Internationally the title brought in $3.7M for a worldwide cume of $10.2M. Here’s the 3-day breakdown:

  • Friday – $2.545 million
  • Saturday – $2.355 million
  • Sunday (projected) – $1.600 million

Reviews were rock bottom for the directorial debut of screenwriter Spenser Cohen, with a 12% RT as well as 59% audience score and “C-” CinemaScore. This does not come as a shock, as the critical notices didn’t start posting until the day of release, never a good sign.

Tarot was gunning for a similar concept as Blumhouse’s Ouija franchise, although that IP running out of steam quickly after the 2016 prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil shows how much cinematic mileage supernatural parlor games have. When a concept is working Blumhouse will keep making sequels, so when they stop studios should take notice.

This year has also seen horror as a holistic genre in the deep doldrums, with no breakthrough release to speak of, and Tarot is one of the poorest performers so far…

  • Night Swim – $11.7M Opening / $32.4M Cume
  • Imaginary – $9.9M Opening / $28M Cume
  • The First Omen – $8.3M Opening / $19.3M Cume
  • Abigail – $10.2M Opening / $19.1M Cume
  • Tarot – $6.5M Opening
  • Immaculate – $5.3M Opening / $15.6M Cume

Other Notable Performances

As with Challengers and The Fall Guy, we continue the trend of studios opening big movies in overseas territories first with Sony launching their big animated family film The Garfield Movie (a Columbia Pictures/ Alcon co-production) internationally for an estimated $22M haul on 7,500+ screens. Added to that is the fact that these 18 first-wave markets represent only 35% of the intended international footprint… or paw print. According to the studio, tracking is “76% bigger than DC League Of Super Pets, 41% higher than Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, and on par with The Secret Life Of Pets 2 for the same group of markets at current exchange rates.” The next big markets include Germany (May 9), South Korea (May 15), Saudi Arabia (May 23), UK (May 24), Indonesia (May 29), Australia (May 30), Poland (May 31), France (Jul 17), and Japan (Aug 16). This bodes very well for the US opening on May 24, although the live-action franchise from the mid-2000s only left $103,794,440 million worth of lasagna at the domestic box office between two films. Still, the Ryan Reynolds starrer IF is the only real family competition this month.

After the mainstream wide launch of A24’s Civil War (which currently stands at $62M domestic, all-time #2 for the studio), the shingle is back to soft-launching weirder films like I Saw the TV Glow, which opened to $116,340 thousand in 4 theaters for an impressive $29K PSA. The numbers for the psychological horror film starring Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine were buoyed by sold-out Q&A’s over the weekend as well as an 88% RT score and (according to the studio) “terrific exit polls.” A24 plans to expand to new markets next weekend and keep platforming throughout the month.

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title Weekend Estimate % Change Locations Location Change PSA Domestic Total Week Distributor
The Fall Guy $28,500,000   4,002   $7,121 $28,500,000 1 Universal
Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace $8,080,000   2,700   $2,993 $482,624,677 1,303 20th Century…
Challengers $7,642,617 -49% 3,477 n/c $2,198 $29,462,046 2 Amazon MGM S…
Tarot $6,500,000   3,104   $2,094 $6,500,000 1 Sony Pictures
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire $4,500,000 -38% 2,884 -428.00 $1,560 $188,067,000 6 Warner Bros.
Civil War $3,550,396 -48% 2,689 -829.00 $1,320 $62,006,311 4 A24
Unsung Hero $3,000,000 -61% 2,832 n/c $1,059 $13,143,890 2 Lionsgate
Kung Fu Panda 4 $2,400,000 -33% 2,380 -387.00 $1,008 $188,346,000 9 Universal
Abigail $2,300,000 -56% 2,638 -755.00 $872 $22,791,000 3 Universal
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire $1,800,000 -45% 2,025 -602.00 $889 $109,903,000 7 Sony Pictures
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare $1,600,000 -58% 2,068 -777.00 $774 $18,410,943 3 Lionsgate
Dune: Part Two $785,000 -62% 702 -632.00 $1,118 $281,344,000 10 Warner Bros.
Dragonkeeper $429,000   760   $564 $429,000 1 Viva Pictures
Monkey Man $350,000 -69% 536 -1,002.00 $653 $24,708,000 5 Universal
Spy x Family Code: White $245,000 -78% 407 -1,602.00 $602 $7,805,000 3 Crunchyroll
The First Omen $191,000 -73% 400 -600.00 $478 $19,685,566 5 20th Century…
The Mummy $135,000 -87% 465 -771.00 $290 $157,061,000 1,305 Universal
I Saw the TV Glow $116,340   4   $29,085 $116,340 1 A24
Arthur the King $82,000 -67% 186 -225.00 $441 $25,022,345 8 Lionsgate
The Long Game $75,000 -66% 146 -195.00 $514 $2,931,236 4 Mucho Mas Media
Wildcat $58,140   3   $19,380 $58,140 1 Oscilloscope…
Evil Does Not Exist $45,300   3   $15,100 $45,300 1 Janus Films
La chimera $43,103 1% 53 -4.00 $813 $711,985 6 Neon
Late Night with the Devil $22,010 -80% 66 -209.00 $333 $9,923,609 7 IFC Films
Stress Positions $15,700 -41% 17 3.00 $924 $89,033 3 Neon
Humane $3,544 -87% 31 -25.00 $114 $40,014 2 IFC Films
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