Weekend Box Office (December 16 - 18, 2016)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Legions of Star Wars fans flooded the multiplexes and powered the new franchise film Rogue One to number one with a colossal $155M opening in North America and $290.5M worldwide, according to estimates. The Disney release attacked 4,157 domestic theaters and averaged a stellar $37,287 per site.

The debut was down 38% from the record-breaking $248M launch for Star Wars: The Force Awakens from this same weekend a year ago. As the first spin-off film in the series, Rogue One was always expected to be smaller as TFA had more anticipation built up around it. For 2016, the new Death Star flick scored the third best opening weekend of the year behind Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M) and Batman v Superman ($166M). Overall, Rogue One's opening weekend ranks number 12 on the all-time list and second best ever for December after TFA.

The frame began with an opening day Friday of $71.1M which included $29M from Thursday night pre-shows starting at 7pm. Saturday dropped by 35% to $46.4M. That was a smaller dip than TFA's 43% from last year. Then Sunday is estimated to decline by 19% to $37.6M. TFA dipped 11% on its Sunday, however there were more schools closed on Monday at that time which helped Sunday traffic. Deadly winter snowstorms hit some regions of the country this weekend and some of the lost business is expected to be picked up in the coming days.

Critics and audiences alike have been very happy with Rogue One. Reviews were mostly positive and ticket buyers polled by CinemaScore gave an A grade, same as Force Awakens. 59% of the audience was male, almost identical to TFA's 58%. The share of the gross from 3D screens went down, however, to 38% from TFA's 47%.

With very few characters from past Star Wars movies, Rogue One entered the marketplace a little more like an original sci-fi film. That means upfront demand may not have been as strong as it was for TFA which returned beloved characters like Han Solo back into the fold for the first time in over three decades. If more of the Rogue One audience is fine with seeing the film later it could end up with better legs than TFA which went on to finish its domestic run with 3.8 times its opening weekend gross at $936.7M. A similar path forward would lead to a final domestic gross of around $580M since the holidays will be lucrative. Last year, TFA amassed nearly $300M from just the eight-day period of Christmas to New Years.

Marketing on Rogue One was strong. After seven episodes from the main Star Wars storyline, this was the first attempt at an offshoot with a story that took place around the same time period as the first film from nearly 40 years ago. Being darker and more serious, it has less kid appeal and also the mainstream appeal from general audiences is seen as less too. But the Jyn Erso film does hope to win over more moviegoers by having a good product and generating hot buzz.

Rogue One took off in all international markets except China and Korea this weekend and generated $135.5M led the $21M from the U.K. Last year, TFA saw a 55/45 split between international and domestic as the brand does play extra well in America. Action tentpoles often do 60-70% of their global business from foreign markets.

With the holidays ahead, Rogue One looks on track to become the highest-grossing film of 2016 both domestically and globally. Current records are held by Finding Dory with $486.3M domestic and Captain America: Civil War with $1.15B worldwide. In North America, the top three hits of the year should end up being Lucasfilm's Rogue One, Pixar's Dory, and Marvel's Civil War. All are owned by Disney which is capping off another spectacular year at the box office and once again has set up a promising slate for 2017.

The mighty Disney empire also took second place with the animated hit Moana taking in an estimated $11.7M for a commendable 37% decline against the opening of a massive tentpole. To date the toon has grossed $161.9M domestic and $280.3M worldwide. Falling 50% in its sophomore session was the comedy Office Christmas Party with an estimated $8.5M giving Paramount $31.5M to date.

Will Smith suffered the worst wide release opening of his career with his latest film Collateral Beauty which was dead on arrival grossing only $7M this weekend, according to estimates. Averaging a puny $2,312 from 3,028 locations, the PG-13 film was panned by critics and never generated much interest to begin with. Earlier this year, Smith starred in the ensemble smash Suicide Squad which became the highest grossing film of his career with $325.1M.

Dropping to fifth place in its fifth weekend was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with an estimated $5M, off 52%, for a new domestic cume of $207.7M. Warner Bros. smashed the half-billion mark overseas this weekend as the international tally climbed to $509.8M putting the global haul at $717.5M. The wizard film may be able to cross the $800M mark over the holidays.

Some major awards contenders followed after expanding their releases. The critically acclaimed Manchester By The Sea went from 366 to 1,208 locations and grossed an estimated $4.2M for a decent $3,440 average. The musical La La Land took its first big leap into broader release widening from five to 200 sites and collected an estimated $4M for a dazzling $20,100 average. Totals are $14M and $5.3M, respectively. Both earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture.

The sci-fi drama Arrival fell 50% to an estimated $2.8M giving Paramount a stellar $86.5M. Doctor Strange took in an estimated $2M, down 55%, for a new cume of $226.1M for Disney. Rounding out the top ten was the dark thriller Nocturnal Animals which dropped 56% to an estimated $1.4M. Focus has banked $8.8M.

Paramount platformed Denzel Washington's new film Fences in four theaters and saw strong business grossing an estimated $128,000 for a solid $32,000 average. Reviews have been positive all around and the studio will go nationwide on Christmas Day.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $201.5M which was down 33% from last year when Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted at number one with an industry record $248M; but up 65% from 2014 when The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies opened in the top spot with $54.7M.

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Watch the trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight.

Compared to projections, both Rogue One and Collateral Beauty opened below my respective forecasts of $175M and $10M.

Be sure to check back after Christmas for the next box office column and check Twitter daily for updates.


Last Updated: December 18, 2016 at 3:00PM ET

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