Transformers 4 drives lowly Fourth of July session
The first thing to note is the utterly dismal performance of the top 12 over the US holiday weekend, falling nearly 50% to combine for $118.5m (£69.2m), compared to $221.6m in 2013, when Despicable Me 2 opened top on $83.5m. People tend to leave town over the Fourth of July, and the weekend is never guaranteed to be the biggest of summer – that accolade usually goes to Memorial Day weekend or an outlier session when a blockbuster happens to click at the box office – but it can certainly be bigger than this.
In fact, this weekend was so bad that it broke a 26-year-old record for the most dismal results. Adjusted for inflation, this was the worst Fourth of July weekend since 1987, when Dragnet made a feeble second week chart-top and new entries failed to make a dent. Bad weather from a tropical storm in the north-east didn't help matters this time round, but it was the lacklustre performance of Transformers: Age of Extinction in its second session that proved most problematic. Last weekend Michael Bay's latest launched on $100m and seemed poised for a strong run, but a 64% fall in the second weekend for $36.4m leaves T4 on $174.7m. It will cross $200m for sure, but at this rate it will struggle to overtake the lowest score of the franchise, the first film's $319.2m in 2007. So what gives, robots?
• First look review: Transformers 4Surge in World Cup ratings proves costly
It's anyone's guess as to whether the US will finally shed its reputation as the last bastion to properly embrace football year-round. What we do know, based on ESPN ratings, is that while the World Cup is in play, audiences have been lapping it up. So there is a case to be made that potential viewers eschewed Age of Extinction and movie-going in general in favour of watching the quarter-finals. The Brazil-Colombia game on ESPN on July 4 drew a record 6.35m viewers – more than any other quarter-final on any US network in history. The France-Germany game earlier on July 4 enticed 4.89m. Games that were simulcast on Univision-Univision Deportes Network for Spanish-speaking viewers also set records: Friday produced an unprecedented 5.1m total viewers for a day of quarter-finals and overall World Cup coverage is tracking 40% ahead of coverage of the 2010 Cup in South Africa by the same stage.
Savvy audiences vote with their wallets
Tentpole releases tend to land lower down on the quality spectrum. That's nothing new, but what's we've seen in the last few years is that audiences have alternatives and aren't afraid to use them. Why fork out more than $20-$30 for two tickets or upwards of $100 for two tickets and a meal when you can sit at home and watch your favourite shows on Hulu, Netflix or iTunes? The US is the most mature movie market on the planet and that drips into the mind-set of audiences, regardless of age. The all-important millennial demographic knows what it likes and knows what it doesn't like and this group of consumers will only pay for content if it is worthy. If you're a teen or in your early 20s in the US you've seen a lot, and if a tentpole doesn't pack a punch, you won't pay to see more of the same. You sometimes hear people in the industry sneer that the audience are mindless idiots. I would suggest they reallocate the epithet. The international market is growing in many key regions, where a relatively immature industry is coupled with a greater willingness to embrace what US viewers would dismiss as generic entertainment. That's why Age of Extinction has raced to $400m at the international box office and more than $200m in China, where it is poised to overtake Avatar's $217.7m this week to become the biggest Hollywood release in Chinese box office history.
Snowpiercer climbs up the charts
The cream usually rises to the top and Snowpiercer, South Korean wunderkind Bong Joon-ho's first English-language movie, is getting its just desserts. The drama about a train that circles an uninhabitable world and serves as a microcosm of humanity is arguably the best thing in the top 20. RADiUS-TWC, the Weinsteins' distributor offshoot which specialises in edgy fare across digital platforms, knows how to make a noise. This is, after all, the distributor that released this year's Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom. Capitalising on the recent Los Angeles Film Festival opening night slot, RADiUS expanded Snowpiercer in its second weekend from eight to 250 theatres, adding around $1m for a $1.5m running total and climbing 10 places to number 16. The word of mouth will not abate, and the movie will climb further in the weeks to come.
• First look review: Snowpiercer
Tom Cruise bears down on $100m
Not that the milestone means all that much if the production and marketing costs are huge – as they are in the case of Edge of Tomorrow – but the sci-fi is on course to cross the once-hallowed threshold after reaching $90.9m total in its fifth weekend. The US performance has been pretty dismal – way below what Warner Bros executives need to recoup – but every little bit helps and the studio will keep it in theatres as long as it can enlist the cinema chains' support on this. The movie cost around $178m, rising to at least $230m when you factor in marketing. The US theatres get roughly half of the US box office, so this doesn't look good on the US side. The movie's international run has been the key driver here, as it almost always is with tentpoles these days, and that will help the bottom line. It's notched up close to $250m internationally, resulting in a $339m worldwide total. Years ago, Will Smith used to rule Fourth of July weekends, but he's left the building. The sluggish progress of Edge reminds us that the superstars of yesteryear cannot count on former glories. How Cruise must be yearning for Mission: Impossible 5 next year. If that doesn't work, it will be time for him to play a villain and/or decamp to the arthouse circuit.
North American top 10, July 4-6 2014
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction, $36.4m. Total: $174.7m
2. Tammy, $21.2m. Total: $32.9m
3. Deliver Us From Evil, $9.5m. Total: $15m
4. 22 Jump Street, $9.4m. Total: $158.9m
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2, $8.8m. Total: $140m
6. Earth to Echo, $8.3m. Total: $13.5m
7. Maleficent, $6.1m. Total: $213.9m
8. Jersey Boys, $5.2m. Total: $36.7m
9. Think Like a Man Too, $4.9m. Total: $57.2m
10. Edge of Tomorrow, $3.6m. Total: $90.9m
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