Combos To Watch - Week 6

Pete Johnson · January 04, 2017 · 4:52 am PST

Welcome to 2017, where the Fantasy Movie League Awards Season will earn its name over the next few weeks. Oscar voting starts Thursday, the Golden Globes take place on Sunday, and we have two more extended holiday weekends on the docket still to come. Expect a generally down box office this weekend but some kind of surprise isn't out of the question. Last year at this time "The Forrest" surprised and created one of the biggest Perfect Cinema to Most Popular deltas ever as well as "The Masked Saint" posting a horrible $4,268 gross-to-FML-Bux value.

What Did We Learn From Last Week?

That expanding releases are difficult to predict and "Rogue One" isn't holding its audience as well as it could. In his weekly Skynet thread, M37 breaks down different ways to look at smaller films as they expand, particularly films that expanded on Christmas weekend as a few we had to choose from this past week did. No two films ever expand quite the same way or in quite the same circumstances, so reading those tea leaves for each individual film is becoming a bigger indicator of what separates a Top 100 FML player from the pack.

In comments #22 and #23 of the same thread, M37 makes a case for "Rogue One" behaving more like a family movie than an established franchise sci-fi film. It certainly disappointed by $10M or so and think we can expect a drop in the low 50%'s this week as the lull between holiday weekends favors movies with heavy Golden Globes exposure.

What are the Combos to Watch this week?

With no newcomers last week to examine, it is somehow refreshing to have a few noobs to look at this week. "Hidden Figures", the long overdue story of Katherine Johnson's contributions to the space program has a Long Range Forecast of $11M, which indicates that ProBoxOffice.com thinks it has a trajectory similar to that of "Selma" from last year. I hope that is the case, although I fear that audiences unfamiliar with her story will stay away and that number will be lower despite my affection for anyone associated with NASA during that time.

2016 saw a market rejection of sequels nobody asked for and "Underworld: Blood Wars" gives us our first entry of that type of film in 2017. BoxOfficeMojo has the other four movies in the series categorized as "Action Horror" but this edition as "Sci-Fi Action", which is a little confusing. Late January is the more customary release window for these films and the lowest opening when adjusted for 2017 ticket prices is $23M but the theater count this time around figures to be lower at 2,300. When you apply the PTA of that lowest opener to that new theater count, you get $16.2M. That seems like a decent place to start an analysis.

The new film I'm having a hard time getting my head around is "A Monster Calls". Focus Features has a great track record for expanding dramas or comedies, most of them R-rated, at different times of the year, but not so much with a PG-13 fantasy drama like this. Its opening Friday/Saturday/Sunday PTA was below $5300 in only 4 theaters. That's well below the typical Focus small release, which seems ripe to drop 50% if the theater count is over 100, probably making it unplayable this week.

So what does all that mean? If you set all films value equal to that of the last "Hidden Figures" Long Range Forecast, here's a link to the Lineup Calculator you should use as a starting point. Take note that the actuals from last week are FSS, not FSSM because we have a FSS weekend we're forecasting this week. Now look at the "Est Change" column, which is what each of films in theaters last week would have to reach, percentage-wise, in order to meet that value of roughly $43.14K.

The hardest part about the pricing this week is that we have an abnormally hight lowest priced option, with "Collateral Beauty" at FB $36. That'll tempt you to have a blank screen, which I normally don't advocate but admit you have to consider this week. I like "Manchester" and "Fantastic Beasts" much better as low end fillers, though, which influences the following:

2016awardsweek6

If you like "Underworld: Blood Wars" to do $16.2M or better, you could justify playing it on three screens to go with 4x "Manchester" and a blank. "La La Land" seems to be the awards darling so far and is potentially expanding again this week, which puts lineups using it 4x in play. You could hedge a bit by playing one screen of "Underworld" with 3x "La La Land" and filling out your slots with "Fantastic Beasts".

On the chance that "Hidden Figures" finds a larger audience, about the best you can do there is to play it 3x with 5x "Fantastic Beasts". "Rogue One" still works as a top end filler in a few cases, as can "Sing" or if you like "Passengers" a more risky play has it fitting 6x.

More data later in the week will steer you in the right direction, but right now I like either that blank "Underworld" play or one of the 4x "La La Land" combinations, depending a lot on Thursday preview numbers for the former and theater expansion on the latter.

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