After holding onto the box office for three weeks with The Lego Movie, Warner Brothers lost the top spot last week to Universal's Non-Stop, but quickly stormed back this week with 300: Rise of an Empire and again reclaimed pole position. Fox and DreamWorks Animation's Mr. Peabody & Sherman also made its presence felt, earning a strong second place, though not on par with the other animated fare we've seen recently.
Warner Brothers (a subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX))
300: Rise of an Empire
Finish: 1st place / Est. budget: $110 million / 3-day estimated total: $45 million
The Lego Movie
Finish: 4th place/ Est. budget: $60 million/ 3- day estimated total: $11 million/ Est. total to date: $224.9 million
Despite not having the same name-drop appeal the original had with Gerald Butler in the lead role, Warner Brothers' 300 sequel still pulled in $45 million to win the week. Still, that was half of the $70 million total the original snagged in 2006. Yet overseas the movie is playing in 58 markets and has seen its international gross rise to around $85 million, which gives it a total of $132.8 million worldwide. With a production budget of $110 million, the drama has now proved profitable and will likely build on that total next week given lighter competition.
From an industry perspective, this is good news as it sheds a little more light on moviegoers' taste. For one it shows that even though 300 didn't naturally lend itself to a sequel, audiences still flocked to it on opening weekend. Granted it was in lesser numbers, but the studios literally made something out of nothing here, which is important to remember because it shows moviegoers are still game if it is related to a franchise they like. Executives also knew that it would be supported internationally and Empire's success underscores the growing realization that while audiences look to be growing tired of 3D stateside, outside territories still can't get enough of the technology.
Between this and The Lego Movie, Warner Brothers has had a nice start to 2014, but the studio's next project is the one getting people talking. On Friday Warner Brothers debuts Veronica Mars, which is based on the cult classic TV series that ran for three years. Funded by Kickstarter, the project broke all kinds of crowd-sourcing records and will soon become the first wide release under the studio's digital distribution wing. Mars will debut in (limited) theaters along with on-demand options, which will give Hollywood a ton of numbers to digest. The information coming from this experiment will not just tell executives what movies people want to see, but where they want to view them. It could prove to be a game changer.
20th Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Finish: 2nd place / Est. budget: $145 million / 3-day estimated total: $32.5 million
Son of God
Finish: 5th place / Est. budget: $20 million / 3-day estimated total: $10 million/ Est. total: $41.9 million
Fox and DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ:DWA) teamed up on this release, which had already been given a month head start in the international market. While it fell short of the $43 million previous DreamWorks hits The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon did during their March releases, Mr. Peabody & Sherman certainly won over audiences as its Cinemascore rating was a "A" overall and a "A+" from the under-25 crowd.
$32.5 million in its opening weekend is nothing to discount, but given the name recognition of the property it stood to reason the film should have had more drawing power. Still as with Empire, international audiences were receptive and worldwide its total will hit $100 million in the next few days. DreamWorks is a company looking at franchises to carry its business over the next few years, and that model usually proves profitable thanks to consumer product pushes and (as of late) theme park tie-ins. Expect no less from Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Meanwhile last week's surprise smash hit Son of God tumbled 61% week to week, which indicates faith-based films may not have as long of legs as other genres. Paramount's Noah hits theaters at the end of the month and it will be fascinating to see how that fares in comparison. Son of God was cobbled together from a mix of new footage and parts of History Channel's mini-series The Bible, so it wasn't really a costly project -- this is a win for Fox no matter what it does from here on out.
Fox has had a busy few weeks, but it will take small breather until April when it has two movies set to bow. One of which, Rio 2, will be especially of interest as analysts will be watching to see if it can top Peabody's debut weekend as the original earned nearly $40 million during its 2011 opening frame. The animated film with a voice cast comprised of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jaime Foxx (among others) is looking to repeat its strong past performance that made it a surprise hit. It will also serve as another industry barometer for animated fare overall ahead of How to Train Your Dragon 2, which comes to theaters in the summer.
Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends DreamWorks Animation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.