November box office update - plenty of flops

Cairns on Cinema

John Cairns

We are now deep into November, traditionally a big month at the movie box office. So this is a good time for an update as to where things are at the box office both here in North America and around the world. 

Of course, September and October were the usual down months that we have come to expect for grosses. The one movie that did well was The Martian, starring Matt Damon, which has hauled in over $208 million so far.

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But several movies underperformed during the month of October. One of the losers was Steve Jobs, the Danny Boyle-directed biopic of the late Apple co-founder with the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. It was supposed to be one of these “highly anticipated” movies, but unfortunately it was only highly anticipated by a few people, as it took in a dismal $7.3 million for its opening weekend for a seventh place finish. This movie had been expected to contend for the top of the box office that weekend. My guess is people are just tired of hearing about Steve Jobs and Apple.

Then a week later came another flop, Our Brand is Crisis, which starred Sandra Bullock as a political operative in Bolivia.

This movie got only so-so reviews, however, and even though Bullock has had a string of box office successes, it didn’t happen this time.

Our Brand is Crisis turned into the worst opening for Bullock ever at only $3.4 million for the opening weekend, an eighth place finish. It hauled in just $1.1 million on opening day Oct. 30, which was the worst Friday of Bullock’s career.

To be fair, there were plenty of other flops that did as bad or worse – Burnt, The Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and so on. 

Around this same time there were stories in the press, this usual knee-jerk reaction, about how Hollywood was in crisis because of this string of flops. They went on and on about how nobody was going to the movies. But I was sitting back and saying, “Wait until November. Things will change for the better.” And they have.

For whatever reason, November is always a big month for the movies. It’s a prime season because Thanksgiving is coming up in the United States, and as a result people have more free time to go to the movies.

The first weekend in November we saw the big rollout of two highly-anticipated movies.

One was Spectre, the fourth James Bond movie to be helmed by Daniel Craig. Before it opened in North America, it rolled out in the UK and some European markets and set some opening box office records in all of them. In the six territories where it opened in late October, Spectre hauled in over $80 million, including £41.7 million in the UK.  

When it opened in North America, though, Nov. 6, it opened to only $73 million. Now, granted, that’s still really good, but many were surprised it wasn’t higher.

My theory is Spectre fell victim in North America to the glut of spy movies at the cinemas this year. We had Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Kingsmen: The Secret Service from earlier this year. There was even a spoof comedy movie Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy. So that may have played into it somewhat.

But keep in mind, the domestic haul is still really good. This is no flop movie. And James Bond has done some record business in the overseas markets, particularly China where it just opened to $48 million. I think the Bond franchise appeals more to the international market anyway.

As of Nov. 15, Spectre had a haul of $550 million worldwide and $137 million domestic and it led the domestic box office for two weekends in a row.  

The other big box office so far in November belonged to The Peanuts Movie, which had the misfortune to open on exactly the same weekend in North America as James Bond. But there’s clearly a lot of nostalgia left over for Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang, and it opened to $44 million. Its domestic haul is $85 million as of Wednesday.

So that is where we stand going to this weekend as we look ahead to the coming weeks at the box office. Two movies in particular stand out as the big monsters of the box office.

This weekend is The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2, the final Hunger Games movie, and that is expected to dominate the box office for the coming weeks. It is being released to 4,000 theatres in North America and has record-setting potential if all goes as planned. 

The other weekend to watch out for at the box office is the Dec. 18 weekend, and that is the big one for Star Wars – The Force Awakens. Again, this has the potential to set records. I should note the hype is already through the roof for that movie, much like it is for The Hunger Games and the anticipation is intense. I notice even our columnist Brian Zinchuk, an avowed Star Wars fan, cannot wait for this movie to open.

Expect the Star Wars fanatics to stand in long lineups outside the theatres, waiting in the ice and cold to get in to see this latest installment. That is all for this month about the box office at the cinemas.       

 

 

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