Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

I was delighted to be off about "Yesterday" last weekend. It was refreshing to see an original idea with minimal star power survive amongst a sea of sequels and reboots. Granted a $17m opening doesn't quite qualify for blockbuster status but it was still nice to see an original movie avoid suffocation. But this weekend we're back to the status quo since the worlds most famous web slinger is poised to dominate Fourth of July weekend.

Marvel fans, your agonizing wait is over. After a whopping ten-week drought another Marvel movie finally hit movie theaters this week. "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is a follow up to 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" which successfully rebooted the Spidey franchise ($117m opening, $334.2m domestic total). In addition to the well-received "Homecoming" and several appearances in other Marvel flicks, Tom Holland has endeared himself as the most popular Peter Parker since the early Tobey Maguire days (i.e. before his "Spider-Man 3" emo turn). Between the positive response to "Homecoming" and its proximity to "Avengers: Endgame" (which is still inching towards the worldwide box office record of "Avatar") I expect "Far From Home" to post similar numbers to its predecessor. The trick for Fantasy Movie League purposes is figuring out how the 4th of July holiday will effect your Cineplex.

There is good news and bad news for FML players this week. The good news is that "Far From Home" opened this past Monday at midnight so players will have a full three-day sample size at their disposal before they have to set a lineup. The bad news is that everybody will have access to this information so it will be hard to sneak up on anybody with a bold strategy. Plus the FML pricing gods have split it into daily pricing. Before we get into the Fr/Sa/Su performance of "Far From Home", let's examine its performance thus far.

"Far From Home" had the biggest opening Tuesday of all time with $39.3m. The previous record holder was "The Amazing Spider-Man" (i.e. the Andrew Garfield one that didn't completely suck) which grossed $35m on this same day in 2012. Adjust those numbers for inflation and they're essentially even with one another. Thank god, a good comp!

By the end of the fourth of July weekend in 2012 "The Amazing Spider-Man" had grossed $137m. Adjust the weekend numbers for inflation and it comes out to roughly $158m in 2019 dollars, which seems like a realistic benchmark for "Far From Home." While I expect the overall numbers for "Far From Home" to be higher than "Amazing" I think the percentage breakdown will follow a similar trajectory.

The Fr/Sa/Su percentage breakdown for "The Amazing Spider-Man" was 33%/38%/29%. I am estimating an $85m weekend for "Far From Home," which if it follows the trajectory of "Amazing" it would break down as follows:

Friday $28.1m (33%)
Saturday $32.3m (38%)
Sunday $24.7m (29%)

Good numbers overall…but not great FML value. Bottom line, I think tons of people are already going to have seen this film before Friday. I still plan on using a single screen of "Spider-Man" but I'm going to hedge.

The only other wide release this weekend is "Midsommar" from writer-director Ari Aster, who was also responsible for the feel-bad movie of 2018. "Hereditary" opened last June to the tune of $13.6m on its way to a respectable domestic haul of $44.1m (and featured one of the most unsettling on-screen deaths I've ever seen). "Midsommar" tells the tale of a couple who attend a festival in Sweden….where it turns out to be run by a pagan cult. Just your basic feel good summer movie?

While reviews for "Midsommar" have largely been positive, I don't expect it to match the performance of "Hereditary." A dark two hour and twenty minute film about a bizarre Swedish festival would be a tough sell any time of year, but especially on fourth of July weekend which usually isn't kind to new horror movies. The high water mark for a horror/genre flick on Independence Day weekend was "The Purge: Election Year" with $31.5m in 2016. However that was part of an established franchise and tied in thematically to July 4th. The next highest gross for a horror movie on the fourth was "Deliver Us From Evil" which only managed a $9.7m opening in 2014.

My guess is that audiences are going to be in the mood for lighter fare this weekend (i.e. "Spider-Man," "Toy Story 4," "Yesterday") and "Midsommar" will get lost in the shuffle. I think it's going to fall well short of $10m for the three-day weekend which makes it a stay away for me at FB$85. Since the film opened on Wednesday there will be a full two-day sample size before you need to set your FML lineup. But the film only pulled in $1.1m in Tuesday night previews, which isn't enough to get me excited about it. And since horror tends to be front-loaded I don't expect "Midsommar" to build momentum through the weekend so this is a festival I'll be avoiding this weekend (although I'd still rather go to the Swedish pagan cult festival over Coachella).

As mentioned earlier while I expect "Far From Home" to dominate this weekend, I don't love the value/pricing. Of the three days I think Saturday provides the best value, so I'm going to use that as my anchor. But instead of doubling up on Spidey I plan to hedge with some old friends by the names of Woody and Buzz. Granted "Toy Story 4" opened up softer than expected two weeks ago and dropped 51% in its second weekend, but there is a strong track record of Pixar films holding up nicely over fourth of July weekend.

2007 - Ratatouille (-38%)
2012 - Brave (-43%)
2015 - Inside Out (-43%)
2016 - Finding Dory (-43%)
2017 - Cars 3 (-45%)
2018 - The Incredibles 2 (-39%)

This strikes me as a long weekend where parents will want to escape the heat and find a way to keep their tots occupied for two hours so I anticipate that "Toy Story 4" will stabilize and will keep it's slide under 50%. Which leads me to a lineup based around a screen of "Far From Home," two screens of "Toy Story 4" and a lot of filler (I think "Avengers: Endgame" might be able to draft a bit on "Spider-Man").

Enjoy your Independence Day, eat some stereotypical American cuisine, cheer on the Women's National Team at the World Cup on Sunday and please, please, please use up your entire fireworks supply by midnight on Thursday night! If I hear any more M-80s go off in my neighborhood (which has been going strong for about a month straight) past Thursday night I will hunt you down and force you to watch "Men in Black International" against your will.

Weekend Picks

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

  1. Spider-Man: Far From Home - Saturday (FB$348)
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home - Friday (FB$365)
  3. Toy Story 4 (FB$274)
  4. Spider-Man: Far From Home - Sunday (FB$275)
  5. Yesterday (FB$101)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Aladdin" (FB$59) It's quietly become the stealth hit of the summer having grossed $308m+ (and counting). Which is roughly $100m more than I thought it was going to make. It's been holding up remarkably well (dropped just 24% each of the past two weekends) and I think its strong hold will continue. Especially since it might be included as the second end of double bills at drive in theaters with either of its blockbuster studio-mates ("Far From Home" and "Toy Story 4"). With a reasonable price of FB$59 I expect "Aladdin" to be in the bonus hunt.

Coming Attractions

Next weekend is pretty low-key by mid-summer movie season standards. It's a post "Spider-Man," pre "Lion King" window where a pair of mid-level offerings will try to carve out some business. Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista will try to broaden their fan bases in the action comedy "Stuber" and some hungry alligators take center stage in the horror movie "Crawl."

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