Box Office Guy: Fallen Kingdom

Patrick Reardon

There's only one new wide release this weekend, which I'll get to in a moment. But first a couple of box office related stories that have been in the news this week.

There's a Hit Out on Gotti? Really?

"Gotti," a biopic of infamous mobster John Gotti failed to muster up much business at the box office last weekend with a tepid $1.7m opening (in 503 theaters). The film also has a dubious 0% critic score on rotten tomatoes but a 67% audience score on the same site. That latter number is the far more suspicious of the two (especially for such a low grossing film). The films distributor (Vertical Entertainment) took umbrage with this critic score and is convinced that the critics put a hit out on the movie. Just take a look at this REALLY intimidating ad .

Good lord. This ad looks like it was put together by an actual mobster who was discovering both computers and social media for the first time. If you were to actually believe Vertical Entertainment, you'd have to think that the following scenario was possible:

A conclave of the nations most powerful film critics (aka The Film Critic Illuminati) got together for their monthly meeting. While sitting around a giant conference room table like the Stone Cutters (look it up non-Simpsons fans) Kenneth Turan, Richard Roeper, Manohla Dargis, Peter Travers, Owen Gleiberman, Joe Morgenstern, Amy Nicholson, Wesley Morris, A.O. Scott, etc. (plus the ghosts of Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert) collectively decided that the June film they were going to target for negative reviews was….a mobster biopic starring John Travolta that almost went straight to video?

Come on Vertical Entertainment, you're better than that. Maybe? Hopefully? Instead of conjuring up conspiracy theories among film critics take a good look in the mirror. John Gotti died 18 years ago. He hasn't been in the news in almost a quarter of century. Was there really a demand for this subject matter outside of people who came of age in the tri-state area in the 1990s?

John Travolta was once one of the biggest movie stars in the industry. But he's now sixty-four years old and hasn't had a legitimate hit in over a decade. Many of his films now go straight to video (which is where "Gotti" was headed until an eleventh hour buy-back). On what planet is John Travolta playing John Gotti in 2018 a cinematic event?

And the film's director is Kevin Connolly (E from "Entourage"). He made a decent '30 for 30' about the New York Islanders that I liked but his involvement here doesn't exactly scream, "the next Martin Scorsese!"

Vertical Entertainment, you didn't fail because of an organized hit by film critics. You failed because you're distributing a film with subject matter that few people care about, with a star past his box office prime with a director that doesn't move the needle. Man up, don't blame critics for your shortcomings and try harder next time.

You're Not Fooling Anybody "A Wrinkle in Time"

Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time" finally crossed the $100m on Monday after being in theaters for fifteen weeks. All it took was an aggressive expansion on Mother's Day weekend and yet another expansion last weekend to ride the coattails of the most successful opening of all time by an animated film ("A Wrinkle in Time" was paired up with "The Incredibles 2" at several drive-in theaters).

Why throw good money after bad to pass a box office threshold that doesn't mean as much as it used to? Two reasons: optics and money.

Whenever you're walking around the halls of a studio lot (or even a producers office) you'll see film posters touting box office success for various films. I'm sure there is somebody framing a poster on the Disney lot right now which reads, "A Wrinkle in Time $100m+ in Domestic Box Office Receipts!" It's vanity as much as anything.

The other reason is money. When a film crosses the $100m domestic threshold it can theoretically make a studio more money in terms of cable rentals, streaming deals and foreign sales.

When you combine these two reasons it makes sense why there are so few films in box-office history that have grossed $99m. There are only two films that have grossed between $99m and $100m ("Gnomeo and Juliet" and "Hercules"), whereas there are twenty-seven films that have grossed between $100m and $101m (a group that now includes "A Wrinkle in Time").

So congratulations "A Wrinkle in Time." You've joined the not as prestigious as it used to be $100m club. But you needed cheat codes to get there and you still lost money.

The only new wide release this weekend is the sequel "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." In the twenty-five year history of the "Jurassic" franchise only one film has been brave enough to open up directly against it (the forgettable 1997 rom-com "Addicted to Love" starring Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan). That's probably wise of rival studios since the "Jurassic" franchise is one of the most successful of all time (numbers adjusted for inflation since the first film debuted a quarter of a century ago):

1993 - "Jurassic Park" ($104m opening, $789m domestic total)
1997 - "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" ($144m opening, $$457m domestic total)
2001 - "Jurassic Park III" ($82m opening, $293m domestic total)
2015 - "Jurassic World" ($231m opening, $724m domestic total)

Notice the huge uptick between parts three and four. That's what fourteen years of pent up nostalgia can do for a movie. "Fallen Kingdom" won't enjoy the same nostalgia boost this time around but it should still deliver decent numbers.

Based on the advanced buzz it sounds like "Fallen Kingdom" is an action-heavy, plot-thin, entertaining (albeit forgettable) summer movie sequel. I expect a huge drop from the previous installment but don't feel bad for Universal because I think they'll end up in the $150m range this weekend, which is still a TON of money.

For FML lineups this weeks it's a question of whether or not "The Incredibles 2" can hold up well enough to best some combo of "Jurassic World" (which is split into daily pricing). While I think "The Incredibles" will continue to perform well I think "Jurassic World" will siphon away enough business to not make it worth the sky high price tag of FB$725. I honestly believe the floor for "Jurassic World" is safe so I'm leaning towards a strategy of 1x Friday, 2x Sunday, 1x my bonus pick (see below) and filler.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

  1. The Incredibles 2 (FB$725)
  2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Friday (FB$412)
  3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Saturday (FB$334)
  4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Sunday (FB$274)
  5. Ocean's 8 (FB$75)
    Bonus Pick of the Week: "Won't You Be My Neighbor" (FB$16) It's interesting that in a summer movie season packed with superheroes, dinosaurs, smugglers and thieves one of the brightest success stories could be…Fred Rogers? It's true. After a solid opening weekend in limited release ($475k on 29 screens) the Mr. Rogers biopic added an additional 67 theaters and grossed $1m last weekend. If it adds a significant amount of theaters this weekend (accurate theater count unavailable at press time) this documentary could be in bonus contention with a frugal cost of FB$16.

    Coming Attractions

    Next weekend we get a sequel nobody expected (but kind of wanted) in "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" and a comedy that nobody asked for (except maybe a few flat earthers) in "Uncle Drew."

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