SATURDAY UPDATE: While it appeared that the summer box office was dusting itself off from the pandemic over the last two weeks, both newcomers Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated Jon M. Chu- directed, Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights and Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway are currently filing less than spectacular results, respectively with a No. 1 rank of $5M Friday, $13M 3-day, and No. 4 place of $4M Friday, and $10.2M 30-day.
Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II, as we told you, crossed $100M yesterday after a third Friday of $3.75M, -40%, on its way to a $12.5M 3-day (-35%) weekend in second at 3,515 (-229) theaters. Don’t be surprised if the sequel reclaims the No. 1 spot this weekend, beating In the Heights, with a running total of $109.8M.
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If there’s anything positive to say about the marketplace, the top four films are each grossing over $10M at the weekend box office, which should, in all, total an estimated $60M, off 11% from last weekend. New Line’s second weekend of Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It did $3.6M yesterday (-63%), on its way to an $11.3M (-53%) weekend in third place at 3,237 (+135) for a $45M running total by tomorrow.
Now, why all of this? Several reasons. But chiefly, distribution analysts are having a hard time reading tracking and projections in a marketplace where 5,88K theaters are 75% open and capacity restrictions (average 50%) are still in effect. Oh, let’s not forget the whole simultaneous theatrical-HBO Max day-and-date of it all for In the Heights. No one knows precisely how much the streaming service is siphoning away from movie ticket sales.
Interestingly enough, one of the first projections I heard for In the Heights, in hindsight is the most correct which was $10M to mid teens at 3,456 theaters. However, other box office sources, as the week went on, had In the Heights doing over $20M+, and that might have been on account of the estimated $20M Warners added to their P&A toward the end of their marketing blitz for this feature musical, which is a celebration of diversity. The studio really put its heart in marketing this movie. In no way was In the Heights orphaned, teeing off this past week with a huge in-person Tribeca Film Festival world premiere.
Don’t forget Warners closed a $50M deal for the movie rights after a bidding war took place for the IP around town. This included studios’ marketing departments pitching the filmmakers and dressing their backlots up like scenes from the Tony-winning Broadway show in an effort to show what they could do with In the Heights. The musical’s feature rights were extracted ahead of the Weinstein Co’s bankruptcy in May 2018. Before that, Universal almost made In the Heights, but found it to be too expensive at $37M back in 2011, with Miranda in the lead role as the bodega owner with big dreams, Kenny Ortega as director, and big Latinx stars in smaller roles. It would have helped a bit if Miranda did have a lead role in the movie now, versus supporting. His face is absent on the main ensemble one-sheet, though his character of Piraguero received a standalone poster.
Similar to the social media push to turn Black Panther into an event for African American moviegoers, and Crazy Rich Asians a must-see for Asian American audiences, there’s a #LatinxGoldOpen hashtag going around for In the Heights, with tastemakers holding screenings, according to RelishMix. Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding posted on Facebook:
Oprah Winfrey held a virtual block party for the movie:
Sony always saw Peter Rabbit 2 in the $8M-$10M opening range at 3,346 theaters. But rivals believed, like they did with In the Heights, that it could get higher. Peter Rabbit 2’s Thursday night preview of $900K also provided hope that the sequel could best expectations.
Now, In the Heights has an ‘A’ CinemaScore, indicating that the musical’s fans showed up, and it may take a while for some word of mouth to click-in. Warner Bros. has a unicorn here in regards to great critics’ score at 97% certified fresh, and great Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits of 88% positive and a 67% recommend, along with a strong turnout from the Latinx community at 33%. It’s elements such as this which could keep the In the Heights train going.
However, unfortunately working against In the Heights is that it’s a small Broadway musical IP, which doesn’t have the sensational legacy behind it like Miranda’s Hamilton. Some may say that the fresh-faced cast is a factor for curbing business. But we’ve seen big musicals like Universal’s Cats get tricked out with stars like Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and Jason Derulo, and it didn’t spur any more want-to-see.
Also, I hear a bulk of In the Heights business is coming from NYC this weekend, which is no surprise. Imax and PLF repped a third of In the Heights‘ business to date. At the end of the day, In the Heights arguably has a cult following.
Other intel on In the Heights: The feature musical leaned 62% female, 60% over 25 with half of all moviegoers between 18-34. Outside of Latinx demo, the movie drew 46% Caucasian, 12% Black, and 9% Asian/other.
In all fairness to Warner Bros. in regards to In the Heights, Crazy Rich Asians, which is the logical comp, also touted a fresh-faced cast, but opened on a Wednesday, and in its first 3-days only made $16M. In the Heights made the same amount as Crazy Rich Asians in day 1: $5M. That said, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison: Crazy Rich Asians didn’t have previews, In the Heights did around $1M+ in Thursday previews, I understand. Also, Friday is a bigger day at the box office than Wednesday, duh. Crazy Rich Asians, in the end, posted a $26.5M 3-day, $35.2M opening weekend. The film ultimately beat its $30M 5-day projection.
Same wait-and-see rule can be applied to Peter Rabbit 2 as far as possible momentum. While the first movie’s first day of $5.7M was higher than the sequel, its Saturday hopped up 97% over Friday to $11.2M, and resulted in being a game-changer for its opening weekend, which ended at $25M.
Peter Rabbit 2 earned an A- CinemaScore, same as its first installment, with PostTrak exits of 73% positive and a 44% recommend for the general crowd. Kids under 12 were more upbeat about it at 84% positive, 64% recommend. Moms came out at 56%, with close to half the crowd under 17.
Diversity demos were 46% Caucasian, 31% Latinx, 13% Black and 10% Asian/other. But, Peter Rabbit 2‘s biggest hurdle: it’s a sequel to a child-skewing movie. It’s not a broad-appealing family title like Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level. Keep in mind that no matter how dynamic the theatrical release window is for a movie, its box office is always a factor of being product-driven.
Disney’s third weekend of Cruella at 3,307 theaters (-615) took in a Friday of $2.1M (-35%) on its way to a projected $6.8M in 5th place, -38%, for a running total of $56.1M.
Universal’s second weekend of Spirit Untamed at 3,394 (+183) theaters made $830K on Friday (-66%) on its way to $2.9M sixth place (-52%) for a ten-day of $11.3M.
Making a notable pop in 7th place is The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 from Deon Taylor, distributed by his Hidden Film Group. The comedy sequel did $358K yesterday on its way to a $1.07M opening at 420 theaters for a $2,5K per theater. The pic played in 98 markets and has a 28-day window. Meet the Blacks 2, which stars Mike Epps and Katt Williams, played best in the East and South.