by Anthony D’Alessandro
Sunday Update: For previous weekend box office coverage, click here. Mid-August has proved to be an opportune time for Lionsgate and Millennium and their action titles in the past (think The Expendables franchise), so it stands to reason they would target that date on the calendar again, which is what they did this weekend with The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The Ryan Reynolds-Samuel L. Jackson action comedy bucked its sour reviews (39% Rotten) and came in above the industry’s high-teen expectations with$21.6M start at 3,377 locations. Also working in Hitman’s favor were 563 PLF screens.
All in, it was the lowest weekend of the year to date with $96M in total U.S./Canada ticket sales per ComScore, -27% from the same period a year ago. That’s lower than Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 3-5, which was the previous low of 2017 with $99.2M. But if we think this is low, just wait until next weekend and the Labor Day stretch, when there’s zero wide entries.
Hitman had a heartthrob draw in Reynolds and interestingly enough, the movie was in competition with another heartthrob wide release Logan Lucky which starred Channing Tatum. But star power alone doesn’t open movies as we know, and the film with the bigger P&A ($30M) and advance summer campaign won out over Logan Lucky which stalled at the bottom of its tracking with $8M after attempting to execute a $20M marketing plan that zoned in on a late push prior to opening and Midwest/South focus. Also, not helping Logan Lucky in any way was the fact that it was arguably after the same crowd as Hitman’s Bodyguard: Older males and females. PostTrak shows that both pulled in 70% over 25, with a mostly male skew in the low-to-mid 50 percentile. Logan Lucky director Steven Soderbergh along with EP and former Warner Bros. distribution czar Dan Fellman hired Bleecker Street to distribute the heist film stateside after they raised its estimated $29M production cost in foreign pre-sales, with an all-star cast that also included Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Hilary Swank and Riley Keough. That ensemble worked for scale with a potential back-end. Soderbergh oversaw the marketing of the movie in its creative and financial spend, which is unheard of for a director to do with his own theatrical release. We detailed Logan Lucky‘s parts in our previous update here. Essentially, NASCAR country alone doesn’t guarantee a hit, especially for a movie which had a Coen Brothers sensibility in its promotional execution.
Also faring well and breaking into the top 10 was Weinstein Co./Voltage’s Wind River from director Taylor Sheridan with $3M in weekend 3 at 694 locations, who was Oscar nominated for his Hell or High Water screenplay last year, and which also grab a best picture nomination.
Lionsgate acquired domestic and UK on Hitman’s Bodyguard for a mid-teens MG. I’m told by those with heavy film finance knowledge that with a start such as this, Lionsgate will be in a profitable standing after all ancillaries are counted. A B+ CinemaScore, which Hitman received, typically guarantees a 3.2x multiple so Loinsgate should wind up in the upper $60M on the film. Unless, Sony with its faith-based title All Saints is hiding another War Room rabbit in its hat (which was the case two years ago during the late summer), then expect Hitman to hold the No. 1 spot through Labor Day weekend. While Lionsgate/Millennium’s Expendables pulled in 60% men, having Reynolds in Hitman enabled more older females to come out and PostTrak showed that both men 25+ and women 25+ showed up equally at 35% each. Also the fact that both Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are both from Marvel movies and known for their sarcastic personalities as respectively Deadpool and Nick Fury is an added plus here: Their chemistry is undeniable.
Lionsgate first screened Hitman’s Bodyguard during the winter and they saw from the audience response they had a fun film on their hands. They knew they were never going to have the critics on their side (39% Rotten), so they brought they screened the film to CinemaCon to get the early word buzzing. Theater chains in turn held 350 word of mouth screenings their consumer movie clubs. Lionsgate also screened for a number of sports influencers including Ray Allen, Anthony Davis, Clay Matthews, The Denver Broncos, The Chicago Bears, LA Rams, Cleveland Browns, UCLA Bruins and The Miami Heat.
The teaser trailer harped on satire from the onset using Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from her iconic 1992 sudser The Bodyguard. The cross-platform video for that teaser surpassed 100 million views by opening night. There was also a hysterical teaser poster that Jackson and Reynolds, parodying The Bodyguard and also paying homage to Clint Eastwood action titles.
Marketing also zeroed in on African Americans and Hispanics, demos which are dependable turnouts for an action comedy. In addition, early preview audiences enjoyed Salma Hayek in the movie.
One means for Lionsgate to cut through the social media distraction that moviegoers face was by partnering with T-Mobile and Atom Tickets for their ‘T-Mobile Tuesdays’. They gained access to 50M impressions via T-Mobile’s promotional efforts. Eighty percent of Atom’s Hitman’s Bodyguard ticket buyers were 39 or younger. The mobile ticketing app has seen more than twice their movie ticket sale volume driven the T-Mobile promotion (which also included such titles as Wonder Woman, Transformers: The Last Knight and War for the Planet of the Apes). This is an indicator that the T-Mobile promotions are driving incremental ticket purchases among people who would likely not have gone on opening weekend. Other digital pushes included a Snapchat quiz along with a trailer drop on their newly offered Movie Trailer Pop-Up Channel. That promo was timed to San Diego Comic Con and the release of an all-new film trailer, plus a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the cast’s onscreen chemistry. Media integrations and custom content partnerships reached over 225 million viewers and aired across 23 networks. Highlights included a cross screen Shark week surround and programming stunt and cross-platform content with ESPN and Viacom properties, in addition to high profile sponsorships across FX, TNT, TBS, SYFY, USA, BRAVO and E!.
For the weekend of Aug. 18-20 per studio-reported estimates:
1.). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 3,377 theaters / $8M Fri. (includes $1.65M previews) /$7.8M Sat/$5.7M Sun/ 3-day cume: $21.6M/Wk 1
2.). Annabelle: Creation (NL/WB), 3,542 theaters (+40) / $5M Fri. /$6.4M Sat/ $4.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $15.5M (-56%)/Total: $64M/Wk 2
3.). Logan Lucky (BST), 3,031 theaters / $2.8M Fri. (includes $525k previews) /$2.9M Sat/ $2.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8M/Wk 1
4.) Dunkirk (WB), 3,271 theaters (-491)/ $2M Fri. / $2.8M Sat/ $1.8M Sun/3-day cume: $6.7M (-38%)/Total: $165.9M/Wk 5
5.). The Nut Job 2 (OR), 4,003 theaters (0)/ $1.65M Fri. /$2M Sat/ $1.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.1M (-39%)/Total:$17.7M/Wk 2
6.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 2,791 theaters (-428) / $1.4M Fri./$1.8M Sat/$1.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.35M (-33%) /Total: $71.7M/Wk 4
7). Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 2,341 theaters (-266)/ $1.2M Fri. / $1.8M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/3-day cume: $4.25M (-29%)/Total: $314M/Wk 7
8). Girls Trip (UNI), 2,010 theaters (-293) / $1.2M Fri. /$1.6M Sat/ $981K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.8M (-41%)/Total: $103.9M/Wk 5
9.). The Dark Tower (SONY/MRC), 3,143 theaters (-308)/ $1.1M Fri. /$1.6M Sat/ $1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.7M (-52%)/Total: $41.6M/Wk 3
10.) Wind River (TWC), 694 theaters (+649) / $1M Fri. /$1.1M Sat/$834K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3M (+386%)/Total: $4.1M/Wk 3
11.) Kidnap (AVR), 2,435 theaters (-73)/ $850k Fri. /$1.2M Sat/$780K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.86M (-44%)/Total:$24.4M/Wk 3
12.) The Glass Castle (LG), 1,461 theaters (0)/ $835k Fri. /$1M Sat/$690K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.55M (-45%)/Total:$9.7M/Wk 2