It’s Super Bowl Sunday, which means a lot of Americans will not be hitting the multiplex. Conventional wisdom says that the box office suffers when up against the most popular sporting event of the year and, in 2016, conventional wisdom seems to be winning. As expected, Kung Fu Panda 3 came out on top, claiming an estimated $21 million and its second consecutive box office title. Given it’s A CinemaScore and lack of direct competition, however, the animated release was expected to hold a bit better. Kung Fu Panda 3 was down 49% from its debut: a steeper drop than it may have experienced on another frame.
The impact of the game was also felt in the overall box office estimate, which reached just $94 million this weekend – down from $102.2 million at this time last year. The disparity is due largely to the difference between Kung Fu Panda 3 and American Sniper, which took in $30.6 million one year ago. That total represented one of the highest grosses ever for a film competing against the Super Bowl – and was achieved on Sniper’s third weekend in wide release.
But last year was a bit of anomaly. In 2014, Ride Along was the number one film on Super Bowl weekend with just $12 million – a low total at any time of the year. And the history of new releases on this sports-centric frame is even spottier. Last year three new titles attempted to counterprogram the game and not one hit $10 million. On the other hand, two 2012 debuts, Chronicle and The Woman in Black, both opened above $20 million – the first and only time that has happened against the Super Bowl.
This year’s new releases were far less successful. Strongest of the three was Hail, Caesar!, the all-star comedy from the Coen Brothers. From 2,232 locations, Caesar! earned an estimated $11.4 million. That was in line with pre-release expectations, though a bit below where previous wide releases from the brothers have debuted. In 2003, Intolerable Cruelty launched with $12.5 million in 2,570 locations and, in 2008, Burn After Reading took in $19.1 million from 2,657 venues. Along with opening against the Super Bowl and strong holdovers like The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Hail, Caesar! looks like it was limited by its initial word of mouth. Though critics gave the film relatively high marks (79% on Rotten Tomatoes), CinemaScore audiences put Caesar! at a C-.
On the opposite end of the critic vs. audience spectrum is The Choice. The latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel (The Notebook, Dear John), The Choice received a B+ CinemaScore but a disastrous 6% from Rotten Tomatoes critics. Lacking the star power of many previous Sparks films (no Channing Tatum, in other words), The Choice opened in fifth place with an estimated $6 million from 2,631 locations. Last April, Sparks’ The Longest Ride (which also lacked name recognition in its leads) debuted with $13 million. So either Super Bowl weekend is making it harder for female-driven pics to break out or Sparks’ schtick is getting old? Or maybe it’s just a bad movie.
This weekend’s final new release is also its biggest box office disappointment. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the long-awaited big screen version of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s best-selling book, was expected to open with at least $10 million. Instead, the horror take on Jane Austen’s beloved Bennett sisters claimed an estimated $5.2 million from 2,931 locations. In comparison, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (also adapted from a Grahame-Smith book) brought in $16.3 million when it opened in June 2012 – and that film is no one’s idea of a domestic hit. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies received a B- from CinemaScore and has a current Rotten Tomato rating of 40%.
After getting through this year’s deflated Super Bowl frame, hopes are high for next weekend’s Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend. Last year’s double holiday saw the overall box office total soar above $210 million, thanks to the record-setting launch of Fifty Shades of Grey and a second strong debut from Kingsman: The Secret Service. In 2016, Marvel’s Deadpool will dominate with a low-end projection of $75 million. Comedies Zoolander 2 and How to be Single will also debut, with each expected to open in the $20 million range. We’ll let you know what happens.
|1.||Kung Fu Panda 3||$21,000,000||$69|
|4.||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||$6,890,000||$905.9|
|6.||Pride and Prejudice and Zombies||$5,200,000||$5.2|
|7.||The Finest Hours||$4,715,000||$18.3|
|8.||Ride Along 2||$4,520,000||$77.2|