Weekend Box Office: Why ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Failed And ‘The Boss Baby’ Succeeded

After thoroughly dominating the box office the last two weeks, Beauty and the Beast — so far, the biggest movie of 2017, with nearly $400 million domestic after only 15 days — has finally give up the throne. It was not Scarlett Johansson who took down the Disney film, however; it was Alec Baldwin.

More precisely, it was the voice of Alec Baldwin speaking for the title character in 20th Century Fox’s The Boss Baby, which overcame middling reviews and a series of punishing review headlines to take the top spot with a hefty $50.3 million. The popularity of The Boss Baby may be inscrutable to many, but parents understand why the film managed to take down the competition. Trailers for the film have been attached to nearly every animated film for the last six months (including Trolls), the trailer has been seen online over 100 million times, and cardboard cutouts of the Boss Baby have littered theaters since Christmas. For most kids starving for a new animated offering, that’s all it takes. Attaching a trailer to Beauty and the Beast that poked fun at Beauty and the Beast two weeks ago surely didn’t hurt, either. Basically, The Boss Baby reached maximum exposure among the little-kid market.

According to Cinemascore, 73 percent of moviegoers went to see The Boss Baby for one major reason: It was an animated film, only the third one this year after The LEGO Batman and Rock Dog (and most parents could not be cajoled by their kids into seeing the box-office bomb, Rock Dog). In fact, I’ll be taking my kids to see The Boss Baby for the very same reason this afternoon. While many adults are satisfied to wait and watch mediocre offerings at home (especially because of the closing window between a film’s box-office release and its home release), movie theaters remain an alluring novelty for most kids, and an easy way for parents to win their favor, especially on a snowy weekend in New England where spring has been delayed for at least another week.

Meanwhile, although it fell to number two, Emma Watson’s Beauty and the Beast continues to perform incredibly well in its third weekend, adding another $47.5 million. If that holds, it will be good for the sixth best third weekend of all time, ahead of Spider-Man. After three weeks, it’s $400 million nearly puts it $200 million over the second-highest grossing film of the year, Logan, and it’s added more than $400 million overseas, as well. Beauty and the Beast is primed to join the exclusive billion dollar club, and there’s a small chance it could even become only the fourth movie ever to cross $2 billion mark worldwide, particularly because April has only one major blockbuster (The Fate of the Furious) standing in its way.

The news wasn’t good at all for Scarlett Johansson’s The Ghost in the Shell. Despite its huge marketing presence, an A-list star, and $110 million price tag, the movie could only conjure up around $18.5 million for its opening weekend. To me, it felt like the kind of movie that looked visually appealing, but that would need a boost from critics to do well. It did not get that boost (it sits at 42 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and while I am willing to see a bad, interesting movie, many critics have put this squarely in the bad, boring category.

The whitewashing controversy has also given Ghost in the Shell a black eye, and while Deadline suggests it’s not the type of thing that “weighs heavily on average moviegoers’ minds,” films with whitewashing controversies have all performed very poorly in recent years (see also: Matt Damon’s The Great Wall, God’s of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Aloha, Stonewall, and Pan). Most of these films also share poor reviews in common with Ghost in the Shell, but the whitewashing concerns shouldn’t be dismissed, either. After all, when promotional interviews with stars like Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson almost always feature a question about whitewashing, it creates tense unpleasant exchanges with actors who are consistently on the defensive, which surely doesn’t encourage moviegoers to see their movie.

Deadline, meanwhile, suggests that the poor performance of Ghost in the Shell had more to do with Scarlett Johansson’s lack of a social media presence, which seems like the the type of thing to me that doesn’t “weigh heavily on average moviegoers’ minds.” No, ScarJo doesn’t have a Twitter account, but neither does Keanu Reeves and John Wick 2 fared very well this year. Meanwhile, Vin Diesel’s huge social media footprint didn’t exactly prevent xXx: The Return of Xander Cage from bombing, while Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s social-media omnipresence couldn’t do anything to save CHiPs.

I think Shell‘s failure was a mix of poor reviews, being based on a property that doesn’t have a wide appeal in America, and the fact that the whitewashing controversy alienated the very people who actually are interested in the original Japanese manga. When basing a film on a property with cult appeal, the first audience a studio should please to is the passionate fanbase and hope that it expands from there based on positive feelings and good word of mouth.

Meanwhile, The Power Rangers, which doubled Ghost in the Shell’s box-office take in its first weekend despite similarly mediocre reviews, capitalized on its diverse cast and appealed to moviegoers across all demographics and put up numbers slightly better than expectations. It’s not going to be a monster hit for Lionsgate, but it did manage another $13 million in its second weekend to bring is total near $65 million, meaning a sequel is still a possibility, depending on how well the film does in China. In at fifth place, Kong: Skull Island adds another $9 million to quietly bring its total near $150 million. Logan, meanwhile, added another $6.5 million to bring its total to $212 million, good for second highest grossing film of the year, so far.

In at seventh place was Get Out. The $157 million the film has made, so far, gives Jordan Peele the honor of directing the highest-grossing debut film ever for writer-director with an original screenplay. Eighth place goes to Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds’ Life, which continues to flounder (thanks, in part, to that infuriating death), while ChIps never had a chance, coming in at ninth place with $4 million.

One other new entry this week was Jessica Chastain’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, which debuted at number 10 with $3.2 million despite being in only 500 theaters. That’s better than Chastain’s last offering, Miss Sloane, which similarly opened on a small number of screens (and is the perfect kind of drama for adults to watch at home).

Next week won’t be nearly as exciting at the box office, as it sees three new unexciting wide releases: Another Smurfs sequel, the senior citizen comedy Going in Style (directed by Zach Braff), and the faith-based offering, The Case for Christ.

(Via Box Office Mojo, Deadline)