Between 2008 and 2012, there was a fairly good run of films that scored decent box-office numbers over Super Bowl weekend, a weekend that was once considered a no-go zone. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour and Taken are two of the biggest Super Bowl weekend openers, grossing $31 million and $24 million, respectively, over their opening weekends. However, studios have found less success opening films on this weekend the last three years, including this one, which served up a lot of duds.
Typically, studios will release a horror film over this frame, with mixed results. Woman in Black, When a Stranger Calls, Warm Bodies, and Boogeyman have done well over past Super Bowl weekends, while The Messengers, The Eye, Uninvited, and Project Almanac, among others, have not. This year, Paramount sought to revive the Ring franchise with Rings and it might have done better had another horror film not been standing in the way. M. Night Shyamalan’s Split has quietly become the first sleeper hit of 2017. For a horror movie, it’s hanging in incredibly well, dropping only 39 percent in its third weekend to lead all comers with around $14 million. After three weeks, it’s nearly at the $100 million mark and only 8.5 percent behind where The Sixth Sense was at the same point (don’t expect Split to perform as well, however. Six Oscar nominations kept The Sixth Sense chugging along to $293 million.
Rings would’ve had an uphill battle against Split even if it were a good movie, but it was not. It’s at 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so far, and not even fans who turned out for the film could muster any enthusiasm for it (it has a dismal C- on Cinemascore). It’s also a rare miss for horror remakes — the $13 million opening weekend puts it around 29th or 30th among the opening weekends of modern horror remakes, depending on its final weekend numbers. The good news is that it only cost $25 million (relatively cheap for a traditional film, but relatively expensive for horror movies in the Blumhouse era), but it will probably have to rely on international grosses to make a profit (both The Ring and The Ring 2 made over $120 million internationally).
Holdovers held spots 3-8 this week, which just shows you how poorly the other two new releases did. Hidden Figures continues to chug along (another $10 million weekend brings it to around $120 million cumulative); last week’s number 2 movie, the canine snuff film, A Dog’s Purpose, fell to number four, adding another $10 million, bringing its total to $32 million. In at number five was La La Land, which seems to be withering the online backlash most Oscar frontrunners receive around this time just fine, adding $7 million to bring its total to $118 million. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter plummeted 70 percent in its second weekend. It sits at only $21 million after 10 days. Sing held on to number seven ($262 million overall) and Lion added 830 theaters after its Oscar nomination and accrued $3.5 million over the weekend to bring its total to a healthy $25 million.
Meanwhile, a film with absolutely no buzz at all that had also been bumped from September to Christmas Day before being pushed back again to Super Bowl weekend was The Space Between Us, a movie that could only possibly appeal to moody teenagers. Love stories often do modestly well on Super Bowl weekend (Dear John, The Wedding Planner) as a form of counter-programming, but Britt Robertson and Asa Butterfield lack the star power to drive teenage audiences to theaters. Critics were not a fan (18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and while moviegoers gave it an A- Cinemascore, not enough people saw it to provide much word of mouth power. There was only a $30 million price tag on this film (plus marketing costs), but it seems unlikely to recoup that costs without a huge international turnout for a movie about the first human born on Mars.
Meanwhile, for the third weekend in a row, there’s a “prestige” movie that had hoped to capitalize on awards buzz to sell it but failed to do so. Michael Keaton’s The Founder was outstanding but ignored by the Academy and audiences; Matthew McConaughey’s Gold was not very good and rightfully ignored in awards season; and now, Robert DeNiro’s The Comedian has also whiffed with both critics and moviegoers alike. It mustered only a 25 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and no major awards. It came out of the gate positively limping, outside of the top 10 with only a $950,000 opening weekend. In his late career, DeNiro should probably stick to supporting roles (Joy, American Hustle, The Intern), where he’s performed much better in recent years.
Next weekend — with nothing but The Walking Dead midseason premiere to stand in the way — should be a robust Valentine’s Day weekend at the box office with John Wick 2 premiering alongside The LEGO Batman Movie and Fifty Shades Darker. We could easily see three new movies top $20 million, and LEGO Batman will probably open north of $70 or $80 million.