“Barbie” (Warner Bros.) grossed $155 million domestically and $182 million overseas. Oppenheimer (Universal) earned $80.5 million domestic and $93.7 million foreign. Two non-franchise films released on the same weekend by two proven directors allowed their voices to be heard loud and clear despite $100 million budgets. This is mega.
We all know that prefix—it’s Greek for “million”—but the rise of atomic bomb testing in the 1950s brought “mega” into everyday use. It referred to the strength of TNT expressed as a megaton, or one million tons of TNT. It also meant massive impact or damage – and that’s absolutely true here.
“Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” have undermined studio truisms surrounding filming. The franchises, the familiar execution, the incentive to develop IP that can be replicated—all those reliable touchstones that Wall Street loves—suddenly, those models seem a bit of an albatross. The audience is less interested in goods, however expensive and bombastic.
Studios have a game-changing opportunity to channel audience passion, right now. Perhaps they might consider agreeing with the writers, who might offer their opinions?
“Barbie” had the biggest domestic opening weekend of the year, but “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” opened on Wednesday and earned $52 million ahead of its $146 million weekend for a total of $204 million. “Barbie” could break even by Tuesday, though that’s a tall order at $30 million a day.
This weekend’s box office total of over $300 million is rare. It’s the best since 2019 when “Avengers: Endgame” totaled over $400 million. Suddenly, wine is $10 million ahead of 2022, when last week it dropped six percent.
Year-to-date it now stands at 16 percent through 2022. If that continues, the year will end at $8.6 billion — despite the impact of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
Even adjusted for inflation, Greta Gerwig has the biggest opening weekend for a film directed solely by a woman. (“Captain Marvel,” co-directed by Anna Boden in 2019 opened to $153 million. That would be higher today, though it had the advantage of very little competition).
“Oppenheimer” is R-rated, three hours long, and is helped by higher ticket prices and hurt by less availability. Christopher Nolan overcame all of that, not to mention a story that’s clearly not commercial.
Still, the best compromise for this weekend’s best movies might be “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Easy Rider” — movies that challenged the late 1960s model and made studios realize their businesses were no longer keeping up with audiences. Granted, they were low-budget marvels, and no one would say that of the Gerwig and Nolan films — but they cost far less than their franchise competitors.
Underscoring this conclusion is the fate of “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount). Sure, we can pick at the strategic choices (a two-parter late in the franchise, the choice of date), but it was easily expected to be a $300M domestic/$700M worldwide success or better. It felt as confident as any release this summer.
Instead, after opening below expectations, it fell 64 percent. It missed out on premium screens (despite Tom Cruise’s valiant efforts), but the biggest challenges were far greater competition than anyone expected — and, like Disney’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny before it, audiences are losing their appetite for re-digesting regardless of the execution.
“Mission,” like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” received an A Cinemascore and Metacritic score of over 80. It is the seventh release in the franchise this summer with at least three previous entries (for “Mission,” #7). At least three of this summer’s franchise movies cost about $300 million before they’re even marketed. This is a massive bet on a fading model.
According to estimates, “Mission” is #4 this weekend with $19.5 million, just behind “Sound of Freedom” (Angel). Jim Caviezel’s Sleeping Beauty reports $124 million so far. Other studios believe “Mission” won “Sound” for the weekend, but the actual ranking here is a detail; that they are even close is the story.
As expected, Mission continues to perform better in foreign markets. Of its $372 million haul so far, 68 percent comes from abroad. The same factors play out (new competition, loss of some premium screens, franchise fatigue) and this looks like a possible $600 million global take. If so, that’s down from 2018’s $791 million for “Fallout.”
This weekend’s shocking results come at an uncertain time. The rest of this summer has a much stronger lineup than last year, but the lack of star promotion will hurt. There are already signs that studios may delay some films.
Shifting release schedules create new parameters, and with production delayed, it makes sense to rearrange titles to cover the gaps. Anything that gets in the way of this potentially huge comeback hurts theaters, and studio delay tactics can be done without due consideration.
There are vital role models beyond those of Gerwig and Nolan. Look at the long-term success of Quentin Tarantino, while Jordan Peele is an amazing voice who continues to make outstanding films based on nothing but his own creative skills. There’s more out there. And their movies cost less.
With studio films competing for sophisticated viewers, it’s hard to launch more limited films. Consider Searchlight’s “Theatrical Camp.” It expanded to 51 theaters and grossed $266,000 ($5,200 per theater); it has mostly prime locations in these startup cities. What remains to be seen is whether the initial audience response shows dividends as it comes out. Whatever the results, this weekend should show Disney executives how important it is to have a unit making non-franchise titles.
1. Barbie (Warner Bros. Discovery) NEW – Cinema: A; Metacritic: 81; East. budget: $145 million
$155,000,000 in 4,243 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $36,531; Cumulative: $155,000,000
2. Oppenheimer (Universal) NEW – Cinemas: A; Metacritic: 90; East. budget: $100 million
$80,500,000 in 3,610 theaters; PTA: $22,299; Cumulative: $80,500,000
3. The Sound of Freedom (Angel) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$20,141,000 (-26%) in 3,265 in 3,285 (+20) theaters); PTA: $6,131; Cumulative: $124,749,000
4. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$19,500,000 (-64%) in 4,321 (- 6) theaters; PTA: $4,513; Cumulative: $118,753,000
5. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$6,700,000 (-45%) in 2,885 (-980) theaters; PTA: $2,322; Cumulative: $159,019,000
6. Undercover: The Red Door (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$6,500,000 (-50%) in 2,544 (-634) theaters; PTA: $2,545; Cumulative: $71,002,000
7. Elementary (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #5
$5,800,000 (-36%) in 2,720 (-515) theaters; PTA: $2,132; Cumulative: $137,234,000
8. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #6
$2,815,000 (-53%) in 1,669 (-908) theaters; PTA: $1,687; Cumulative: $375,209,000
9. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount) Week 7; Last weekend #7; also in PVOD
$1,120,000 (-67%) in 834 (-1,207) theaters; PTA: $1,343; Cumulative: $155,643,000
10. There are no hard feelings (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #8
$1,075,000 (-67%) in 1,017 (-1,036) theaters; PTA: $1,037; Cumulative: $49,211,000
Other specialized titles
Movies (limited, expansions of limited releases, and price-oriented) are listed by week of release, starting with those opening this week; after the first two weeks, only films grossing over $5,000 are listed.
Theater camp (Searchlight) Week 2
$266,000 in 51 (+45) theaters; PTA: $5,200; Cumulative: $471,487
A fire (Janus/Sideshow) Week 2
$26,450 in 8 (+5) theaters; PTA: $3,306; Cumulative: $80,301
Club of Miracles (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2 678
$190,192 in 271 (-407) theaters; PTA: $702; Cumulative: $1,351,000
Lakota Nation v. United States (IFC) Week 2
$3,500 in 2 (+1) theaters; PTA: $1,750; Cumulative: $15,000
Have you received it yet? (Abramorama) Week 2 1
$8,652 in 3 (+2) theaters; PTA: $2,883; Cumulative: $17,989
Past lives (A24) Week 6
$166,361 in 176 (-210) theaters; Cumulative: $10,042,000