3rd Update expanded writethru, Saturday AM: Warner Bros.’ Chinese co-production The Meg keeps getting larger, swelling from the $15M Friday and $36M 3-day we saw at midday to a first day of $16.5M and a three-day of $40.7M projection tonight. The Meg received a B+ from CinemaScore audiences which is the same grade earned by Warner Bros./Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island, another title which also smashed its tracking (mid $40M) for a final $61M opening. Right now some are expecting the shark movie to perform like a front-loaded genre title, easing 20% tomorrow. We’ll see.
Below are your top 10 pics per industry estimates for the weekend of Aug. 10-12:
RelishMix reports that the word-of-mouth on social media shows that audiences “are having a very seasonal, popcorn/air-conditioned feeling fun. Fans of ‘Shark Week,’ the original Jaws, horror films, thrillers, Jason Statham action pics, all things Ruby Rose – they’re all showing up for The Meg. This movie gives the sense it’s almost a thinking fan’s Sharknado. It knows it’s ludicrous, but it has genuinely funny lines in its clips – and a superb cast everyone can root for. Moviegoers who are going to see it cite their fear of sharks, ‘Dwight from The Office,’ the 3D offering and more as reasons they’ll be going this weekend.”
Should The Meg get beached and become a global colossal loser for Warner Bros in the end, stateside exhibitors won’t feel the sting: There’s a wonderful halo effect in the movie’s overperformance with this weekend’s overall estimated B.O. projected to be around $141M, +21% from the second weekend of August a year ago. The Burbank studio cut some hysterical, fierce trailers for The Meg, selling the fun and differentiating this prehistoric underwater beast from every other shark film in Hollywood’s evolution chain, and well, tip of the hat to marketing– it’s showing at the turnstiles.
Meg‘s biggest problem though is itself: At an estimated cost of $178M per several finance sources with knowledge of the top sheet (Warners says $130M net) before P&A, this shark movie is more expensive than Sony’s thrifty The Shallows ($17M) and even Warner’s own Deep Blue Sea from 1999 ($60M production cost, $19.1M opening, $73.6M domestic, $164.6M global). Global P&A for Meg is estimated around $140M. Why isn’t Meg cheap? Some finance sources attribute it to the freewheeling spending nature that goes on with Hollywood pictures built for Asian markets, read Warcraft, The Great Wall, etc. Others peg it to Warner’s track record of not curbing its cash on tentpoles (“At any other studio, they would have spent $120M, no more than $135M on this film,” cried one packager today).
That said, let’s give Warners a bit of credit for laying off risk in signing a multi-picture Sino-Foreign pact with China Media Capital (CMC), of which The Meg was the first movie (The Chinese companies on Meg getting credit here are China Gravity which is a division of Flagship, which is a division of CMC). Finance sources tell me that the production budget split between U.S. and China on a pic like Meg is really 49% studio to 51% Chinese partners. The upside here? Warner Bros. collects 43% of the China box office and also a percent of the pic’s Middle Kingdom ancillary revenues as the title falls outside the regular mandated China quote of Hollywood pics. CMC also covers The Meg‘s P&A in the PRC. Typically, a studio only receives 25%-27% from a pic’s China B.O. Earlier, I was hearing that if The Meg gets to around $400M worldwide it could potentially breakeven, and that’s because of the favorable structure with regard to the China box office. A $50M+ opening would be truly sweet for Meg, essentially the bigger the opening, the greater the legs. China is expected to be around $40M, which is fine, I’m informed.
Currently, Meg is beating the openings of Pacific Rim ($37.2M), and its sequel Uprising ($28.1M) as well as Skyscraper‘s $24.9M — studio pics built for booming Asian cinema markets. The Meg is also ahead of the first weekend of New Line/Warner Bros.’ Rampage ($35.7M). Exit polls to date from Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak show 30% males over 25, 26% females over 25, 22% females under 25 and 21% males under 25. Overall score is three stars with the diversity breakdown being 53% Caucasian, 18% Hispanic (we hear a number of Latinx markets are overperforming in San Antonio and Corpus Cristi), 13% African American and 10% Asian.
Meg arrives in cinemas at a critical juncture when President Donald Trump is waging a trade war with China, putting a 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, and threatening to slap $500 billion more. China retaliated with plans to put a 25% tax on U.S. goods worth $16B. Some in Hollywood are concerned that Trump’s trade tirade will impact the movie business, which looks for its 25% cut from titles in the $8.6B Chinese theatrical market. “It hasn’t hit intellectual property, but some are edgy it could,” one film finance executive told us today. Quota talks to increase the number of Hollywood film imports and rental share have stalled. China has already pulled back on lavish Hollywood investments including the Wanda Group shelling out $3.5B for Legendary Entertainment and $2.6B for AMC Theaters, but money is still available for co-productions. Let’s hope that doesn’t change. Should Meg overperform around the world, it will bring a bit of life that these Sino co-productions are worth it for both sides. God knows they’ve gone sideways (Great Wall lost close to $75M in the end) Note, Universal/Legendary’s $125M budgeted misfire Skyscraper was not a Sino-co-production, but considered to be part of the Hollywood quota to the PRC.
The shark isn’t eating up all of the weekend’s business: Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is looking at a third weekend of $19.2M in 2nd -45% for a running total by Sunday of $161.2M.
Disney’s Christopher Robin is eyeing a second weekend in 3rd place between $12.6M, -49%, for a 10-day on the high-end of $50.2M.
Screen Gems’ Slender Man is also looking at an opening in fourth place of $10.8M for the weekend after a $4.7M Friday at 2,358 theaters. This isn’t good for a horror pic which we hear cost between $28M-$30M before P&A. Variety‘s Brent Lang wrote a great piece about how the pic’s producers, led by William Sherak and James Vanderbilt, disagreed with Sony’s distribution and marketing for the film, and shopped the movie around. However, Sony’s head of Screen Gems Steve Bersch was reportedly a big fan of the film and wanted to keep it inhouse. Deadline sources inform us that the pic tested poorly (that said a studio will never throw good money after bad) with one prolific producer telling us “the movie is just so bad!” That, is likely what is hurting business, together with the pic’s 15% Rotten Tomatoes score, plus a D- CinemaScore and 38% overall PostTrak positive, more than the scandal that was brewing over the pic prior to its release: The movie arrives two years after a gruesome Wisconsin murder in which two 12-year old girls lured their friend Payton Leutner into the woods and stabbed her 19 times in an effort to impress the Slender Man urban legend. Critics are calling the film “boring,” “derivative” with the New York Times’ Glenn Kenny slamming “the most perfunctory horror picture I’ve seen in some time.” The studio shielded Slender Man from critics.
Bad word of mouth on social with RelishMix saying, “The majority’s feeling toward this film is negative. For those more conservative moviegoers, they take particular exception to Slender Man because it’s based on a real tragedy, which was covered in the news and even an HBO documentary. For horror fans, they’re asking, ‘where was this five or six years ago when I was really into these videos?’ And for others loyal to the genre, they feel Slender Man might go one step too far in offering a story that has not only been covered, but also can’t capture the fright they already experienced in finding the Man online years ago. In fact, Marcus Theaters in the hometown of the Wisconsin tragedy released a statement saying they won’t screen the film.”
BlacKkKlansman from Focus Features is looking at a $3.7M first day, including $670K Thursday previews, and an opening in 5th place of $9.9M which is OK for a feature that has a net production cost of $15M. I’m told it could leg out to $35M. The Spike Lee movie earned an A- CinemaScore on Friday, the same grade as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit a year ago with an overall four-and-a-half stars and 85% positive from PostTrak. Men turned at 56% to females’ 44% with the over 25 demo repping 77% of the crowd. African Americans repped 30% of all moviegoers after 47% Caucasian. The pic’s release date is timed to the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, VA violent riots.
LD Entertainment’s Ken Marino-directed feature Dog Days looks like $780k on its third day of release, Friday, for a 3-day of $2.5M and 5-day of $3.5M. Nothing to bark about here. We hear it cost around $10M before P&A.
Another big thing this weekend: Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is cracking past the $100M mark in its 23rd day of release (not 22nd), meaning on Saturday. It’s pacing 2% ahead of its first chapter at the same point in time which finaled at $144M domestic.
Disney’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is flying past $200M this weekend as well. Remember last year at this time? Who said movies couldn’t play during the summer?
1st Update, Friday 7:20AM: Warner Bros’ big shark movie The Meg starring Jason Statham swallowed a surprising $4 million last night at showtimes that started 7 PM. That’s a figure on par with the Thursday nights of 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which went on to do $55.5M, and Warner Bros/Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island which boomed a $3.7M preview before overindexing to an unexpected $61M.
Tracking has The Meg bound for No. 1 with a low- to mid-$20M take at 4,118 theaters (the second widest release ever for August after Suicide Squad‘s 4,255), but there’s a good chance based on last night’s previews plus presales that the movie will blow away forecasts and that middling 51% Rotten Tomatoes score since it’s the only fresh glitzy Hollywood wide release on the marquee this weekend.
The Meg’s Thursday blows away the Thursday night previews of other Hollywood co-productions built primarily for growing Asian cinema markets, read Skyscraper ($1.95M, $24.9M opening) and Pacific Rim Uprising ($2.35M, $28M opening). The Meg also eats up the last shark pic that hit the big screen, Sony’s The Shallows from two summers ago, which did a $1.3M Thursday and $16.8M weekend; already on Fandango, The Meg is tearing past the advance ticket sales of Pacific Rim Uprising and The Shallows. This is not the first shark movie for Warner Bros. Remember Renny Harlin’s 1999 Deep Blue Sea? That opened to $19.1M, finaled at $73.6M stateside, and $164.6M global off a $60M production cost that was 54% cheaper than Meg‘s.
Meg, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is largely financed by China Gravity, which is releasing the pic in the Middle Kingdom. Warner Bros has a 40% exposure on the production that reportedly costs a net of $130M.
Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is expected to file a third weekend in the low $20Ms. The movie was the top pic on Thursday among regular releases with an estimated $3.3M and a two-week running total of $142M. Disney’s family title Christoper Robin, after an estimated first week of $37.5M, is expected to ease 45% in Weekend 2 with $13.5M.
Also opening this weekend in roughly 1,500 theaters is Focus Features’ Spike Lee comedy-drama BlacKkKlansman, about a black Colorado Springs cop who together with a fellow white cop infiltrated the local KKK chapter in 1979, even duping the white supremacist org’s leader David Duke. Tracking has been in the $9M-$10M range. Critics love the 2-hour, 15-minute-running-time title at 98% certified fresh. The pic’s release date was timed to the one-year anniversary of the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. The pic made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
Sony’s Screen Gems has the horror pic Slender Man, which took in $1M off previews that started at 7 PM in 2,109 locations. The horror pic about a small group of friends in Massachusetts who set out to prove that the legendary boogeyman doesn’t exist, until one of them goes missing, is expected to file in the high single digits. Critics, who can be a horror film’s best friend sending genre titles to lofty B.O. openings off high RT scores, weren’t friends with Slender Man at 11% Rotten.
LD Entertainment has the Ken Marino-directed PG rated comedy Dog Days about a group of Angelinos whose lives intertwine due to their dogs. It opened Wednesday making $635K with another $405K yesterday for a two-day take of $1M at 2,255 theaters. Pic earned an A- CinemaScore and drew 58% females, 42% males, with 62% over 25. Of those moviegoers who turned up, 54% said they went because it’s a movie about dogs. Pic stars Thomas Lennon, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Vanessa Hudgens and Rob Corddry among many others.