Universal's banner 2014 continues to get better as the studio looks poised to once again have the weekend's two top films. Unfortunately for Lionsgate, the news isn't as good (at least domestically) as its debut release for the year will open out of the top five and below expectations.
Universal (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA))
Finish: 1st place / Budget: $25 million / 3-day estimated total: $21.1 million/ Est. total to date: $75.4 million
Finish: 2nd place/ Budget: $40 million / 3-day estimated total: $12.6 million / Est. total to date: $93.6 million
It was a repeat performance on top of the charts for Universal Studios as its potent one-two punch of Ride Along and Lone Survivor held tight onto their box office positions for a second week in a row. The cop comedy Ride Along added another $20+ million to its cume and looks to pass the $75 million mark fairly soon, which is not bad for a movie produced for a modest $25 million. Also spending its fifth week on the charts (and third in wide release) is Lone Survivor, which should hit the $100 million milestone by next weekend.
Universal has a steady flow of movies on its early 2014 slate, including two in February, each with a lot of potential. The first is the romantic drama Endless Love, starring Alex Pettyfer (Beastly, I Am Number Four) and relative newcomer Gabriella Wilde (Carrie). Set to release on Valentine's Day, the story of forbidden love looks similar to last year's hit Safe Haven in tone.
Haven earned $30 million over the long President's Day weekend, but it had the advantage of a better-known cast and being an adaptation of a Nicolas Spark novel. Still, it bodes well for Universal, which just two weeks later will unleash Liam Nesson on the box office with Non-Stop. The action star looks to have "a very special set of skills" at the box office when given a first-quarter release date. With this foursome leading off 2014, Universal appears to have a special set of skills as well.
The Nut Job
Finish: 3rd place / Budget: $30 million / 3-day estimated total: $12.3 million/ Est. total to date: $40.2 million
Open Road's 3D animated kid flick The Nut Job broke through a crowded pack at the box office last week to become a surprise hit. After this weekend, the movie should be just past the $40 million mark and as a result will become its distributor's fifth highest-grossing film of all time.
Open Road, which is part of a joint venture between theater companies AMC and Regal, doesn't have a lot of movies on its roster in 2014. In fact there are only 16 releases in company history, but the studio will ride Job's momentum as long as it can until April, which sees the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner Sabotage and the newly relocated A Haunted House 2 comedy spoof. While both of those could go either way upon release, for now Open Road is riding high.
Finish: 6th place / Budget: $65 million / 3-day estimated total: $8.3 million
Well, this is just plain disappointing. Early estimates had this horror/fantasy flick looking at around $14 million to $17 million, but then were downgraded to $10 million and now won't even hit that mark. So how did Frankenstein flop? Looking at the last few weeks, it's clear audiences aren't into frights right now as both Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil's Due under-performed. While those were more hardcore horror than this one, the hope had been a more mainstream dark fantasy film would help, but that wasn't the case.
Ironically just one year ago, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters propelled Paramount to a first place finish and was the third of four horror/fantasy-esque films to win the box office. What a difference a year makes as it looks the tastes of consumers has changed considerably. However overseas I, Frankenstein has made some friends in Russia where (believe it or not) the movie is actually number one with a $6.4 million haul.
Lionsgate had to be aware this was a possibility, but this is about a worst-case scenario. After all, with this being football's bye week between the championship games and Super Bowl, the timing was perfect for a movie to sneak in and turn a profit. Just not this one.
The studio won't be out of the mix for long, as its next big mainstream release comes in March with the normally reliable Tyler Perry and his Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club. Even more, the studio is banking on its Divergent, which comes one week later.
Divergent is the studio's next big bet to build a Hunger Games-type franchise. Based on all the buzz, there's a good chance the Shailene Woodley and Theo James headlined picture could become one of the year's first megahits.
In the meantime, Lionsgate will shepherd in two limited releases this February with the cult horror film Nurse 3D and the teen dramedy Date and Switch. Both films open within a week of each other, but neither is expected to be a major player at this point.