Weekend Box Office (March 13 - 15, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Disney magic worked wonders on families around the world as the epic fairy tale film Cinderella opened big at number one with $67.9M, according to final studio figures, kicking off what should be a lucrative global run throughout the spring season. The PG-rated extravaganza averaged a fantastic $17,653 from 3,845 locations which included 358 IMAX screens.

Off by more than $2M from its weekend estimate, Cinderella came in just a bit below the $69.4M opening weekend of last summer's Maleficent which had the added benefit of A-lister Angelina Jolie plus a 3D option. Cinderella countered that by having the Frozen Fever short playing with it which was a strong draw of its own. Disney reported an optimistic Saturday-to-Sunday decline of only 26% in its weekend estimate which ended up being 34% when final grosses were tabulated. Still, it's a huge figure.

Just as Disney's Marvel unit is a leader in producing high-quality super hero films, the studio has also become adept at producing big-budget live-action event films based on popular fairy tales and similar material which boast a more female skew. Alice in Wonderland bowed to a stellar $116.1M in 2010 and Oz the Great and Powerful opened to $79.1M two years ago. Like Cinderella, both were released in early March to take advantage of the arrival of spring and the start of many school holidays. Alice and Oz benefited from 3D, though.

Directed by Shakespeare-loving Kenneth Branagh, Cinderella marked a new career high beating the $65.7M of 2011's Thor. Branagh is that rare director called upon to helm both princess and super hero blockbusters. Cinderella's cast included Lily James in the title role, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, plus Helena Bonham Carter and featured extravagant sets and costumes.

As expected, the new princess pic skewed heavily female - 66% according to Disney research. 55% were under 25. Critics and audiences agreed that it was a solid and entertaining film as reviews were strong going into the weekend and moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave a glowing A grade. With positive word-of-mouth and many schools closing for spring breaks in the weeks ahead, the long-term prospects are bright.

With cast and crew circling the globe over the past two weeks hosting red carpet premieres in Europe and Latin America, the massive Disney push paid off with Cinderella opening to a robust $62.4M from 31 markets with half of the top ten overseas territories still to come. More than half of that gross came from China and Russia delivering debuts of $25M and $7.3M, respectively. Korea opens next weekend while France, Australia, Brazil, Spain, and the U.K. launch on the following frame closer to the Easter holiday. With a $130M global launch and many lucrative markets still to come, Cinderella should be able to easily beat the $493M global haul of Oz.

Disney has no intention of quitting the fairy tale business. Next year, the Mouse House has Johnny Depp and company back for another Alice in Wonderland film slated for Memorial Day weekend and the studio is also developing a live-action feature based on Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson playing Belle. Add in Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar films and Disney will have mountains of cash to count for years to come.

Liam Neeson's particular set of skills do not seem to be in much demand anymore. The actor's latest revenge actioner Run All Night opened poorly in second place with $11M from 3,171 locations for a weak $3,473 average. It was well below the $20-30M range he has opened recent non-sequel action films at and is his worst opening as a lead since his career took a turn for the better with 2009's Taken.

Releasing just two months after Taken 3, there was softened demand to see Neeson so soon again in the same genre. Run - his fourth action pic in the past year - added Ed Harris to the mix, but audience interest was still muted. Lackluster reviews didn't help either. Studio research from Warner Bros. showed that the R-rated film skewed much older with 86% being over 25. The gender split was fairly even for an action flick with 52% being female. The CinemaScore was a good A-.

The spy hit Kingsman: The Secret Service rose back up one spot in its fifth weekend taking in $6.2M. Off only 25%, the leggy Fox hit has collected a remarkable $107.4M so far and still has not left the top five.

The Will Smith flop Focus dropped 43% to $5.7M in its third run giving Warner Bros. a disappointing cume of only $44M. The con man pic is still on track to be the actor's worst performance since at least 2001. Robot actioner Chappie tumbled from its number one spot from last weekend. The Sony title fell a steep 57% to $5.7M as well putting the total at $23.3M.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel added 449 more locations to its run and grossed $5.7M too, off 33%, giving Fox Searchlight $18M to date. Hit toon The SpongeBob Movie followed with $4M, off 40%, for a new total of $154.6M for Paramount. Kevin Costner's McFarland, USA held up well again slipping 31% to $3.6M putting Disney at $34.9M.

Two films rounded out the top ten with weekend grosses of $2.9M a piece. Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey fell 48% and has banked $161.3M to date, and an impressive $546M worldwide. Sleeper teen hit The DUFF declined by 40% and has taken in a solid $30.3M for Lionsgate and CBS.

Outside the top ten, American Sniper dropped 36% to $2.8M and boosted its remarkable cume to $341.4M lifting it a spot on the all-time domestic blockbusters list to number 28 just behind Transformers: Dark Of the Moon.

The top ten films grossed $115.6M which was up 17% from last year when Mr. Peabody & Sherman rose to number one with $21.8M; and up 25% from 2013 when Oz the Great and Powerful held the top spot with $41.3M.

Compared to projections, Cinderella opened close to my $64M forecast while Run All Night came in below my $16M prediction.

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Watch the NEW trailer for Inside Out.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Insurgent, The Gunman, and Do You Believe? all open.

# Title Mar 13 - 15 Mar 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Cinderella $ 67,877,361 3,845 1 $ 17,653 $ 67,877,361 Disney
2 Run All Night 11,012,305 3,171 1 3,473 11,012,305 Warner Bros.
3 Kingsman: The Secret Service 6,214,863 8,313,476 -25.2 2,635 5 2,359 107,388,101 Fox
4 Focus 5,739,006 10,007,276 -42.7 2,855 3 2,010 43,966,421 Warner Bros.
5 Chappie 5,703,935 13,346,782 -57.3 3,201 2 1,782 23,316,696 Sony
6 Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 5,686,043 8,540,370 -33.4 2,022 2 2,812 18,046,308 Fox Searchlight
7 The SpongeBob Movie 4,023,185 6,663,712 -39.6 2,659 6 1,513 154,614,557 Paramount
8 McFarland, USA 3,604,989 5,222,630 -31.0 2,455 4 1,468 34,887,096 Disney
9 Fifty Shades of Grey 2,863,875 5,520,513 -48.1 2,039 5 1,405 161,345,485 Universal
10 The DUFF 2,854,628 4,788,127 -40.4 2,301 5 1,241 30,272,035 Lionsgate
11 The Lazarus Effect 2,846,943 5,076,424 -43.9 2,054 3 1,386 21,771,261 Relativity
12 American Sniper 2,811,342 4,401,391 -36.1 2,001 12 1,405 341,380,905 Warner Bros.
13 Unfinished Business 2,315,953 4,772,613 -51.5 2,777 2 834 8,693,708 Fox
14 Still Alice 1,011,000 1,651,000 -38.8 740 9 1,366 16,440,000 Sony Classics
15 Paddington 701,829 1,263,985 -44.5 837 9 839 73,292,007 Weinstein Co.
16 The Imitation Game 665,205 1,119,243 -40.6 525 16 1,267 89,514,863 Weinstein Co.
17 Jupiter Ascending 509,233 1,117,047 -54.4 454 6 1,122 45,974,367 Warner Bros.
18 A La Mala 362,009 828,189 -56.3 273 3 1,326 3,204,083 Lionsgate
19 What We Do in the Shadows 321,925 318,453 1.1 126 5 2,555 1,375,381 Paladin
20 The Wedding Ringer 269,412 344,028 -21.7 277 9 973 63,922,493 Sony
Top 5 $ 96,547,470 $ 46,871,616 106.0
Top 10 115,580,190 72,251,923 60.0
Top 20 127,395,041 84,607,444 50.6
Top 20 vs. 2014 127,395,041 108,693,674 17.2

Last Updated: March 17, 2015 at 5:00PM ET

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