Weekend Box Office: FURIOUS 7 Makes it Three in a Row

     April 19, 2015

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As expected, no newcomer was fast enough to catch Furious 7 this weekend. Universal’s record-breaker remained in first place for a third frame with $29 million and brought its domestic cume up to $294.4 million. As we told you yesterday, Furious 7 has already crossed the $1 billion mark in worldwide sales and is now expected to end its run with at least $1.2 billion. That’s on par with the worldwide take of Iron Man 3 and Frozen and would put the film among the top ten global releases of all time.

While at this point there are few accolades that Furious 7 has not justly earned, it’s worth taking a moment to clarify one claim that was widely reported last week. Some outlets stated that, with the outsized success of F7, Universal’s Fast and Furious series is now the highest grossing franchise of all time. That is simply not true.

Through Friday, the seven films in the F & F series had earned a total of $1.2 billion in domestic grosses and more than $3.38 billion worldwide. By comparison, the eight Harry Potter films took in $2.39 billion in North America and $7.72 billion globally. Depending on your definition of “franchise” there are other series that beat Fast and Furious, including James Bond, Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But assuming we’re eliminating properties that are more ‘brand’ than franchise – or that have had the benefit of multiple re-releases – Fast and Furious still gets beat by the boy wizard, Shrek, Lord of the Rings and Transformers. On the other hand, the franchise should eventually overtake Pirates of the Caribbean and The Twilight Series, if that makes fans feel any better.paul-blart-mall-cop-2-kevin-james

One series that will not be making any runs at an all-time record is Paul Blart. The sequel to Sony’s improbably popular Paul Blart: Mall Cop hit theatres this weekend, and while it didn’t embarrass itself, it didn’t exactly make a strong case for ‘Paul Blart 3’ either (to rate “franchise” status a property has to make it to three films). Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 opened in second place with an estimated $24 million from 3,633 locations.

You may recall that the first Paul Blart: Mall Cop was a box office phenomenon back in January 2009.  Opening over the MLK holiday weekend, the PG-rated comedy claimed first place and took in nearly $40 million in its first four days. Paul Blart remained in the top spot for a second frame and went on to realize impressive holds throughout February – ending its domestic run with over $146 million. Not bad for a comedy that cost less than $30 million and starred Kevin James: best known at the time for starring in the already-cancelled TV series King of Queens. Like many box office writers, the success of Paul Blart took me by surprise. The film’s dominance remained a running gag for the next 18 months or so, underscoring how hard it was to anticipate box office performance in a world where a Paul Blart could thrive. Among my many snarky comments from the period, I believe “this diminishes us all” best sums up my opinion of the Paul Blart box office.


Even six years ago, it was clear that Sony would make Paul Blart 2. What was not so clear was just how long it would take the sequel to actually materialize. In most cases, a successful follow-up hits theatres within three years of the original. Any more time (say, the four-plus years it took How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be released) and you risk losing box office momentum. If you did the math, you know it’s been more than six years since Paul Blart first enchanted audiences. Kevin James has starred in four Sony comedies post-Blart, including the two successful Grown Ups features. His two headlining roles – Zookeeper and Here Comes the Boom – were both disappointments, which is probably why circling back to Paul Blart seemed like a good plan.

So how’s that plan working out? Not bad, actually. Despite the long wait between films, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 opened in line (or even slightly above) expectations. True, the film’s three-day take is down 24% from its predecessor, but considering the fact that it earned a perfect zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (from All Critics and Top Critics alike), an opening above $20 million has to be seen as a win. Mall Cop 2 is not the first movie to rate 0% (Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas earned the same score last November), but as far as I can tell it is the first major studio release of the last 20 years to open in 3,000-plus locations and succeed despite overwhelmingly negative reviews.unfriended-shelley-hennig

Universal’s R-rated horror film Unfriended opened in third this weekend with an estimated $16 million from 2,739 locations. The third of this year’s dozen-plus horror films produced by Jason Blum (the first two were The Boy Next Door and The Lazarus Effect), Unfriended opened on par with most pre-release expectations. Even better, the film earned a Certified Fresh 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is high praise indeed for a low-budget horror pic. In any case, with a reported budget of just $1 million Unfriended is already a runaway success story.

The documentary Monkey Kingdom, from Disney’s specialty unit ‘Disneynature’, earned an estimated $4.7 million from 2,012 locations. That’s the widest release to date for Disneynature, which launched in April 2009 with Earth. With its $32 million domestic total, Earth remains Disneynature’s most successful release – a title Monkey Kingdom cannot hope to challenge. Of the studio’s six releases since 2009 (all timed to coincide with Earth Day) Monkey Kingdom has the lowest initial opening – lower even than 2014’s Bears. Who knew that bears would be more of a draw than monkeys? Disneynature does – now.

Finally, Fox Searchlight’s True Story opened in eleventh place this weekend, earning an estimated $1.93 million from 831 locations. The R-rated thriller starring James Franco and Jonah Hill has received mixed reviews (48% on Rotten Tomatoes) and claimed a per-screen average slightly lower than Monkey Kingdom’s. Neither stat bodes well for the film’s anticipated expansion.


Here’s how this weekend’s top ten played out:

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Furious 7 $29,096,000 $294.4
2.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 $24,000,000 $24
3.  Unfriended $16,023,000 $16
4.  Home $10,300,000 $142.6
5.  The Longest Ride $6,850,000 $23.5
6.  Get Hard $4,830,000 $78.2
7.  Monkey Kingdom $4,715,000 $4.7
8.  Woman in Gold $4,587,000 $15.9
9.  Insurgent $4,150,000 $120.6
10.  Cinderella $3,871,000 $186.3

 

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