Once Upon a Time at…the Box Office

Sony’s release of the latest film from Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, got off to a great start at the North American box office this weekend. While the debut numbers for Hollywood weren’t enough to dethrone Disney’s The Lion King from the top spot, they were more than enough to set a record for the biggest opening yet for a Tarantino feature. They were also an encouraging reminder that there is still a market in the summertime for original films aimed at adults.

First, let’s talk about the King. In its second weekend on 4,725 screens, The Lion King found its box office strength decreased by a hefty 61%, resulting in an estimated $75.5 million weekend haul. Ten days into its theatrical run, The Lion King has earned $350.7million.

While a 61% drop in business is common for an event pic like King in its second weekend, in this case it’s also a bit concerning. In comparison to other recent Disney remakes, King’s drop is a bit on the steep side. 2017’s Beauty and the Beast fell a modest 48% in its second round, 2016’s The Jungle Book 40%, Alice in Wonderland 46% and the recent Aladdin, only 53% (and that was after a holiday weekend, no less). The only remake to suffer a drop in the same league as The Lion King? This past spring’s misfire, Dumbo.

We will have to wait until next weekend to see if The Lion King will level out or continue a fast fade. No matter which direction the Jon Favreau film goes, it should have enough in its tank to pass the $500 million mark. A regal sum, but just how majestic it really is depends on how much money the Mouse House poured into making and marketing the film.

Internationally, Simba pawed his way to $142 million this weekend, elevating the foreign gross for The Lion King up to a mighty $612 million. With $962 million collected in overall global ticket sales so far, The Lion King will become the fourth Disney film to cross the billion-dollar mark within the next few days.

Once upon a time at the movies…your local multiplex was a pretty different scene. Long ago, original, adult-themed product coexisted peacefully alongside the summer blockbusters. In fact, some of those films actually became big hits. Films like Apocalypse Now, Prizzi’s Honor, Do the Right Thing and Unforgiven profitably co-existed alongside the popcorn likes of The Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future, Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman Returns. 

Sadly, it seems, those days are coming to a close. As each year passes, the summer box office is seeing less and less original product, and more and more of superheroes, lazy live-action rehashes of cartoons or sequels to films that should have stopped after one. The films with adult appeal that do make it into the theaters – think this summer’s Booksmart or The Last Black Man in San Francisco­- are given so little time to find their audiences that if they don’t pull in Endgame numbers, they are out the door in near-record time.

But every so often, a few arrive in theaters and actually connect with audiences looking for something new and different. This summer, we’ve had two. One was Universal’s Yesterday, which is closing in on the $70 million mark in tickets sales. The other is Once Upon a Time in…Hollwyood. Months after having its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood finally made its way to 3,659 North American theaters this weekend, collecting a great $40.4 million.

Hollywood‘s opening numbers represent a career high for 56-year old Quentin Tarantino, edging past the $38 million scored by his 2009 Universal feature Inglorious Basterds. Hollywood’s debut also represented the best opening in six years for its two lead stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

The daily box office breakdown for Hollywood was: $5.8 million from Thursday night previews, $11 million from opening day on Friday, $13.6 million on Saturday and an estimated $10.1 million for Sunday.

A funny, moving love letter to the waning days of Hollywood in the 1960s, reviews were solid across the board for Hollywood, with some –myself included- calling it Tarantino’s best film to date (it’s easily the best film of the year so far). Hollywood earned an 85% approval on Rotten Tomatoes and an 85/100 on Metacritic. Viewers polled on CinemaScore gave the 162-minute Hollywood a “B.”

In comparison to Tarantino’s other work, Hollywood ranks sixth among critics on Rotten Tomates. On Metacritic, the film places second just behind 1994’s Pulp Fiction. The CinemaScore grade was slightly below the “B+” many of Tarantino’s previous directorial efforts have earned on the polling site. Only two of his films –Kill Bill, Volume Two and Django Unchained– earned “A-“ grades.

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood should have a healthy August run ahead of it, which could help make it Tarantino’s fourth $100 million+ domestic earner. Given the enduring popularity of Tarantino, DiCaprio and Pitt overseas, the international market should be even bigger.

Sony’s other film in the top five, Spider-Man: Far From Home, kept on swinging in third place with an estimated $12.2million from 3,851 theaters. Down 42% from its fourth weekend, Home has cleared $344.4million so far and is looking to call it a day around the $375 million mark.

Far From Home cleared two box office hurdles this weekend. Not only did the film pass the $334 million final of its predecessor, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, it also became the first standalone Spidey flick to cross the one billion dollar mark at the global box office.

Another film getting ready to hit the billion-dollar club is Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4, which held strong in its sixth week on 3,610 screens, where it earned an estimated $9.9million. Off 37%, Toy Story 4 has grossed $396 million so far in North America. It will pass the $400 million domestic milestone by midweek.

Internationally, TS4 added $29 million to its foreign bank account, which currently sits at $522 million. With $917 million in overall sales –and Germany set to debut the film in three weeks’ time-, Toy Story 4 could hit $1 billion by the end of August.

Rounding out the top five was Paramount’s Crawl with an estimated $4 million from 2,720 screens. Down only 34%, in its third weekend, Crawl has chomped on $31million so far domestically and an additional $14 million internationally.

  1.  Yesterday (Universal) $3 million (-40%); $63.3 million
  2.  Aladdin (Disney) $2.8 million (-32%); $346 million
  3.  Stuber (Fox) $1.7 million (-59%); $20.1 million
  4.  Annabelle Comes Home (Warner) $1.57 million (-40%); $69.7 million
  5.  The Farewell (A24) $1.55 million; $3.7 million

The highly acclaimed comedy/drama from Lulu Wang expanded to 135 screens this weekend and wound up with the second highest per screen average in the top ten. The Farewell will continue to say “hello” to new venues across the country in the upcoming weeks.

Next week, it’s business as usual as Universal unleashes Fast and Furious Presents: Calvin and Hobbes – I mean, Hobbes and Shaw- on a gazillion screens.

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