Box Office: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ scores big, ‘Ghostbusters’ looms

A new weekly box office write-up I’ll do every Monday analyzing the past weekend at the box office and looking ahead to the next one.

New Entries:

Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets dominated this week, opening at $103M in part thanks to a gigantic 4,370 theatre release (the largest since The Dark Knight Rises). Most pundits and trackers had it in the $70M-$80M range, so the nine-figures are certainly a pleasant surprise. Credit Universal for finding the perfect weekend for it in between Finding Dory and Ice Age: Collision Course. Had this movie came a week earlier or a week later, it probably doesn’t do 80% of what it just did.

Fox’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates fell right in line with what you’d expect from a July raunchy comedy at $16.6M, but optimists thought the star power of Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick could get it over $20M. Given that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising didn’t do quite what Universal hoped for back in May, perhaps it’s time to jump off the “R-rated comedy starring Zac Efron” train for a while. Baywatch should prove a hit for him next summer, but if that puts up huge numbers studios could credit Dwayne Johnson’s draw more. TBD. Mike and Dave is by no means a miss, and should hold up for a couple more weeks, but it’s far from the next surprise comedy hit.

Hanging Around:

The Legend of Tarzan dropped just 46% and came out with $20.7M in its second weekend, which isn’t great in a vacuum, but is far from the disastrous summer dud many wrote it up to be for Universal. Its international numbers will hold strong, especially given that the Euro Cup is now over. If you trust the Variety estimation that it needs to hit $400M to break even (which I think is a little high for its $180M production budget), then Tarzan is likely to go down as an insignificant space holder.

The Purge: Election Year dropped big (63%), but its solid opening last week ($31M) should be more than enough to squeeze its ultimate global take in between those of the first ($89M) and second ($112M) films in the series. It only cost $10M to make and should prove a nice summer holdover for Universal along with Central intelligence, which hauled in $8M over its third weekend and has reaffirmed the drawing power of Dwayne Johnson (and?) Kevin hart. It’s made a very healthy $103M domestically and could see that total approach $120M.

The real loser of this weekend (again) was Spielberg/Disney’s The BFG, dropping 60% and only bringing in $7.7M despite being on nearly 3,400 screens. With a production budget of $140M, it’ll likely prove to be the worst commercial endeavor of Spielberg’s career. There are a number of reasons for this, I think. First off, the marketing for the film wasn’t particularly kid-friendly (there’s a lot of bathroom humor in the film that hasn’t made its way into the trailers), which combined with competition from talking animals was probably enough to sink it from the start. It probably needed better reviews to sell itself to parents, and word has been mixed since Cannes. Also, as great as Mark Rylance is, the average American moviegoer knows him as a guy who won an Oscar for a movie they probably didn’t see and nothing more. This film’s failures would be a bigger story if Disney wasn’t having a huge year and Finding Dory didn’t just cross a billion.

Other quick notes: Independence Day: Resurgence continues to drop rapidly, hauling it just $7.6M. It’s barely going to make $100M domestically. Free State of Jones will likely end its domestic run with LESS than $20M, an insane thought a few months ago for a film starring McConaughey. The Shallows and The Conjuring 2 continue to hold up relatively strong on dwindling theatre counts and will likely prove to be two of the better dollar-for-dollar films of the summer.

For a full list of this week’s numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

Opening This Week:

All of the talk will surround Ghostbusters, for numerous reasons. I’m already sick of it. Everyone in the movie community –journalists/critics/fans- seem to have made up their minds with this film months ago, which is ridiculously silly given that nobody had seen the movie. It all concerns the female leads and love for the original. Everyone is wrong. The “They’re ruining my chilhdhood” people need to chill the fuck out and do some self-evaluation, while the journalists assuming everyone who didn’t like the first trailer or the casting announcements as a whole are sexist need to stop digging for a narrative that doesn’t actually exist.

As for its opening weekend, Ghostbusters is an interesting study, though I don’t think it says too much about female-centric blockbusters, regardless of the results. Most tracking has it falling in the $40-$50M range, which isn’t particularly good given it reportedly cost a surprisingly high $154M to make and surely carries heavy marketing costs. Ideally, a film of this cost and position (also hoping to start a franchise) would open in the $60-$70M range, which doesn’t appear to be likely. Still, positive reviews possibly suggest strong 2nd and 3rd weekends, which are critical if this movie hopes to hit anywhere near $500M total. Ghostbusters as an entity doesn’t have a ton of international appeal so it’ll need word to be good.

I think Ghostbusters numbers, whatever they are, say more about Melissa McCarthy as a leading lady and 80s nostalgia than they do about female-driven blockbusters as a whole. McCarthy has been one of the biggest stars around over the last few years, but The Boss earlier this year didn’t prove to be the huge, profitable smash studios have come to expect from her. If this movie struggles, there’s a good chance McCarthy will be seen as a leading lady for adult comedies and nothing more (which is fine, by the way). If this movie proves a successful franchise igniter, McCarthy would cement her status alongside Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson as the most bankable female stars on the planet not named Jennifer Lawrence.

There’s little new competition for Ghostbusters; really only Bryan Cranston’s crime thriller The Infiltrator, and that’s targeted at a very different audience. That, combined with solid early world and what I expect to be a sizable drop-off for The Secret Life of Pets, has me feeling a lot better about this movie’s opening than I did even a week ago. I think it can pass that $50M mark.

Domestic Weekend Predictions for New Entries:

Ghostbusters (Sony): $52.2M

The Infiltrator (Broad Green Pictures): $3.8M

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