MOVIES

‘Bullet Train’ $30 Million Opening Can’t Sustain Summer Box-Office Surge

August is the month when schools reopen and the doldrums of September loom; the further we go into the August, the smaller the box office becomes. Even so, it usually brings in about two-thirds of July, which is often the biggest month of the year. So when “Bullet Train” (Sony) opens to $30 million domestic, it’s cause for concern — especially since the next film with similar potential is likely Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Black Adam,” which opens October 21.

“Bullet Train,” budgeted at $90 million pre-marketing, will need a strong multiple to support profitability as well as to exhibitors’ hopes; otherwise, this month will likely be the lowest grosser since March. After that bottoming out we’ve seen grosses increase to the point that July achieved 90 percent of the 2019 take. The hope is August openings show signs of lingering momentum.

Next weekend, we’ll know if that’s the case for “Bullet Train.” There was an opportunity to overperform; although the 58-year-old Brad Pitt may not be the draw of his peer, the 60-year-old Tom Cruise, the late-summer 2019 success of Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” raised hopes ($41 million opening).

On Saturday, “Bullet Train” was down 24 percent from Thursday/Friday. Last August, “Free Guy” opened to $28 million in a much weaker summer but fell only one percent its first Saturday. It also had an A Cinemascore; “Bullet” is a mediocre B+.

The lack of competition gives “Bullet Train” the opportunity to sustain a solid hold, but reaching $100 million domestic could be a challenge. It opened to $32.4 million foreign, hitting about three quarters of expected territories. Significantly, that does not include Japan, which provided the film’s source material (bestselling novel “Maria Beetle”) and its setting. It opens there September 1 and could provide much of the theatrical return that gets this into profit.

“Bullet Train” is an R-rated original and Sony has hinted at starting a middle-aged assassin franchise a la “John Wick.” So far, the returns don’t suggest sequels.

Ed Araquel/Universal Pictures

Jay Chandrasekhar’s “Easter Sunday” with comedian Jo Koy leading a story about a Filipino-American family gathering for the holiday, grossed a tepid $5,250,000 for eighth place. The lower-budget film ($17 million) might sustain some interest with a quick PVOD release. The film was made in the wake of the somewhat similar “Crazy Rich Asians,” released in August three years ago — a decision that likely influenced the choice of August releases for “Bullet” and “Easter.”

A24’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” a horror comedy from Dutch director Halina Reijn starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, and Pete Davidson, launched with a reported $226,000 in six New York/Los Angeles theaters. That’s a strong start — not quite at the level of their “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but good enough to anticipate wider success when it expands to 1,200 theaters next weekend.

The weekend’s total gross will be around $96 million, about 61 percent of three years ago. The shortfall contributes to a decreased 69 percent four-week rolling comparison to 2019, the lowest since May. The summer surge is over.

Holdovers were a mixed bag. “D.C. League of Super-Pets” (WBD) fell 51 percent, high for an animated film, “Nope” (Universal) dropped 54 percent in its third week, a big change from Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” but better than “Us.” “Nope” stands at $98 million, less than two thirds of “Us” at the same point.

And then there’s “Top Gun: Maverick.” In its 11th weekend, it fell only 16 percent and reached $662 million domestic. That’s the highest dollar amount any Paramount film has ever reached, surpassing “Titanic.” Of course, James Cameron’s film played when ticket prices were half or less than today, meaning “Maverick” has actually has sold far fewer total tickets (the vastly better gauge of success). That does nothing to discount its success and its vital importance to the industry, which extends far beyond Paramount’s grosses. 

Also holding quite well is best-seller adaptation “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony), down 25 percent in its fourth weekend at #7, just under $65 million so far. The $24 million-budgeted film should crest an $80 million domestic gross for a strong five-times multiple. Once again, female readers can sustain a theatrical release.

 

The Top 10

1. Bullet Train (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 49; Est. budget: $90 million

$30,125,000 in 4,357 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,914; Cumulative: $30,125,000

2. DC League of Super-Pets (WBD) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$11,200,000 (-51%) in 4,342 (+18)  theaters; PTA: $2,585; Cumulative: $45,102,000

3. Nope (Universal)  Week 3; Last weekend #2

$8,500,000 (-54%) in 3,016 (-791) theaters; PTA: $2,818; Cumulative: $97,969,000

4. Thor: Love and Thunder (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #3

$7,600,000 (-42%) in 3,400 (-250) theaters; PTA: $2,235; Cumulative: $316,065,000

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #4; also on PVOD

$7,110,000 (-35%) in 3,118 (-391) theaters; PTA: $2,230; Cumulative: $334,578,000

6. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) Week 11; Last weekend #5

$7,030,000 (-16%) in 2,760 (-248) theaters; PTA: $2,547; Cumulative: $662,510

7. Where the Crawdads Sing (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$5,650,000 (-25%) in 3,164 (-362) theaters; PTA: $1,786; Cumulative: $64,623,000

8. Easter Sunday (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 42; Est. budget: $17 million

$5,250,000 in 3,175 theaters; PTA: $1,654; Cumulative: $5,250,000

9. Elvis (WBD) Week 7; Last weekend #7

$4,000,000 (-30%) in 2,411 (-490) theaters; PTA: $1,659; Cumulative: $136,517,000

10. The Black Phone (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #10; also on PVOD

$1,460,000 (-42%) in 1,197 (-441) theaters; PTA: $1,220; Cumulative: $85,898,000

 

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

Bodies Bodies Bodies (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: South by Southwest

$226,526 in  6 theaters; PTA: $37,754

Claydream (Oscilloscope) NEW – Festivals include: Tribeca 2021

$4,550 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,500

Vengeance (Focus) Week 2

$710,000 in 1,003 (+5) theaters; PTA: $709; Cumulative: $3,268,000

A Love Song (Bleecker Street) Week 2   4

$20,195 in 18 (+14) theaters; PTA: $1,060; Cumulative: $40,375

Sharp Stick (Utopia) Week 2

$20,195  in 54 (+52) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (Focus) Week 4; also on PVOD

$560,000 in 669 (-202) theaters; Cumulative: $8,047,000

Fire of Love (Neon) Week 5

$70,500 in 143 (-48) theaters; Cumulative: $700,270

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$109,025 in 168 (+105) theaters; Cumulative: $484,881

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (A24) Week 7

$318,150 in 498 theaters (-323); Cumulative: $4,913,000

Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 19; also on PVOD

$129,350 in 347 (-1,143) theaters; Cumulative: $69,494,000

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