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Weekend Estimates: Newcomers Can’t Dislodge Suicide Squad

August 21st, 2016

Suicide Squad

Three even-matched debutants proved to be no match for the incumbents at the box office this weekend, with Suicide Squad taking a third straight victory at the box office with $20.71 million, according to Warner Bros.’ Sunday morning projection. Sausage Party stays in second with $15.3 million, and that leaves the new entrants in 3rd, 4th and 5th. This was a weekend where diversity isn’t the problem, but novelty is.

In fact, this weekend is notable in many ways for the diversity of offerings. The top 16 films all offer something slightly different to moviegoers, both in terms of demographic appeal, from the likes of Pete’s Dragon on one end, to Florence Foster Jenkins and Bad Moms on the other; and also in sheer quality, with Hell or High Water getting some of best reviews of the year, and Nine Lives getting some of the worst.

What seems to be the problem is novelty. War Dogs covers ground already trodden by Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, although it will open with considerably more: $14.3 million, compared to $7.5 million. Kubo and the Two Strings is another charming film from Laika, but unfortunately looks as though it will do the worst of their offerings, at least domestically. It opens with a projected $12.6 million this weekend, quite a bit less than The Boxtrolls’ $17.3 million start. Ben-Hur, meanwhile, follows in the sandal-clad footsteps of Exodus: Gods and Kings and Gods of Egypt, and will do worse than both on opening weekend, with $11.35 million (Gods and Kings did $24.1 million, Gods of Egypt $14.1 million).

Paramount wisely trimmed Ben-Hur’s sails a bit and brought the film in for around $100 million, which is $40 million less than the two Gods films. Still, it falls within what seems like a bit of a dead zone for films these days. To create a real spectacle costs at least $200 million now, and, once you add in $150 million-plus in global marketing costs, that only makes sense for a film with a guaranteed audience that will deliver $700 million at the box office. Six films have broken that barrier worldwide so far this year, with The Secret Life of Pets and Suicide Squad also there or thereabouts. But there’s a dearth of films making $400 million to $600 million worldwide: only X-Men: Apocalypse, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Warcraft have done so (and also Chinese hit The Mermaid, which did virtually all its business at home). That’s a real problem, unless studios can find a way to make and market their second-tier films for more like $150 million than the current $250 million or so. That last $100 million spent on special effects and TV advertising doesn’t seem to move the needle much with audiences. Finding ways to reach moviegoers through more original ideas and more targeted marketing is the big challenge for studio heads as they make their plans for 2018.

Back here in August, 2016, a couple of other films are worth mentioning this weekend at the box office. Hell or High Water is worth shout out for its $2.65 million second weekend from 472 theaters. It could yet manage another round of expansion, and should get continued good word of mouth. A Tale of Love and Darkness will open with around $36,000 from two theaters, making a good launch platform for Natalie Portman’s feature-directorial debut.

- Weekend estimates

- War Dogs comparison chart
- Kubo and the Two Strings comparison chart
- Ben-Hur Comparisons
- Suicide Squad comparison chart
- Sausage Party comparison chart
- DC Extended Universe at the box office
- Bad Moms comparison chart

Bruce Nash,

Filed under: Weekend Box Office, A Tale of Love and Darkness, Warcraft, The Secret Life of Pets, X-Men: Apocalypse, Ben-Hur, Sausage Party, Suicide Squad, Florence Foster Jenkins, War Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, Pete’s Dragon, Bad Moms, Hell or High Water, Nine Lives, DC Extended Universe, Natalie Portman