(Forbes) Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turtle-powered its way to a terrific $25.6 million opening Friday, including $4.6m on Thursday. Brief digression: For a summer box office that’s allegedly in some kind of slump, this is the fourth week of terrific debuts for the would-be new release. Will pundits still cry foul if this August turns out to be the biggest on record? Anyway, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the $125m franchise reboot produced by Michael Bay, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and starring Megan Fox, was projected to open at around $40-$45m over its debut weekend. But even with poor reviews and Guardians of the Galaxy offering buzz-stealing competition, the TMNT revamp is on track to earn around $60m-65m for the weekend. This is frankly the kind of “We should have seen this coming!” box office surprise that makes this game fun.
The big question for the weekend is how much the film plays like a kid-centric hit (with really strong Saturday matinee business and thus a higher multiplier) or a general hit (with the now standard 2.5x multiplier). 2.5x gives the film a robust $64m while 2.75x gives the film a somewhat insane $70m for the frame. But either way this is a dynamite debut weekend for a project that was the object of scorn from the moment of its inception. What was Paramount’s marketing strategy? No Fear. They didn’t respond to critics and pundits decrying Michael Bay as the ruiner of childhoods, the weird new designs, or who was or wasn’t playing Shredder and if the turtles were or were not aliens. Paramount knew that the vast majority of moviegoers (and in this case younger moviegoers who discovered the title characters through the newest animated incarnation) weren’t going to care about that stuff, even if a clearly “tinkered and re-shot in post production” final product implies that someone did.
Paramount also deserves kudos for a relatively restrained and exquisitely timed campaign. They dropped the first teaser on the opening weekend of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, guaranteeing that most of the $95 million-worth of ticket buyers saw the teaser to the upcoming TMNT movie. Then they waited, not dropping another wholly new trailer until the end of June right in time to be attached to their own Transformers: Age of Extinction, guaranteeing that every single ticket-buyer to Michael Bay’s fourth robot-smashing adventure would see the second TMNT trailer. Other than that, it was just a few TV spots and a well-timed “Shell Shocked” rap video that brought back nostalgic memories (and thus free advertising surrounding the new film) for Vanilla Ice “Go Ninja, Go!” rap video for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze back in 1991.
Paramount knew the characters are iconic enough to drive the curious, the fanatic, and the general movie goer into the theater with the same indifference to critical notices that drove Transformers 4 to a $100m debut. The only “flaw,” is that the film needlessly ended up with a PG-13, as the picture could have played even stronger to even younger children with a mostly-appropriate PG rating. Still, it was a pretty terrific campaign, certainly out in full force via various tie-ins (Pizza Hut, Pringles, etc.) and cross-promotions, but it was able to saturate the demographics and make everyone aware of the film without blatantly revealing much of the film’s plot or visual beats. The film played 61% male and 55% over-25 years old.
There were three other wide releases this weekend. The next biggest debut was Warner Bros.’ (Time Warner, Inc.) Into the Storm. The $50 million New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow tornado drama, positioned as a found footage Twister for the YouTube era, earned a relatively solid $6.5m on its opening day, including $800k worth of Thursday previews. The film should end the weekend with around $17m, which isn’t remotely shabby considering what a low-profile release it is. The Hundred-Foot Journey, from Walt Disney, earned $3.65m on is opening day. The Helen Mirren foodie drama is set to earn around $10m over its debut weekend, which isn’t terrible for the $22m Lasse Hallstrom picture. Disney was arguably hoping this one would be the proverbial Jules and Julia or Hope Springs of summer 2013. Although Helen Mirren isn’t quite the box office draw of Meryl Streep, we could still see a 4x weekend-to-final multiplier which would give the film around $40m by the time it leaves domestic theaters.
Step Up: All In earned just $2.84 million on its opening day for a probable $8m debut weekend. The fifth entry in the long-running dancing-and-drama series (the first three were Disney, the last two were distributed by Lionsgate) has sadly failed to build its audience over the last eight years, with each film opening less and earning less domestically than the prior installment. The good news is that this series is the kind that burns up the box office overseas, as the last three entries earned $140m+ worldwide without breaking $60m stateside. It’s the Resident Evil of hip-hop dance adventures. These films are a lot of dumb fun showcasing some stupidly talented dancers, and this fifth one is one of the best of the franchise (Step Up 3D is still the Empire Strikes Back of Step Up films). I don’t know the budget this time around (Step Up: Revolution cost $33m), but the film has already made $26m overseas prior to its US debut. In a world of mega-budget franchises, I’m quite glad a true B-movie franchise like this exists. I hope we still get Step Up: The Way of All Flesh in summer 2016.
In holdover news, we might want to put a moratorium on think pieces about all the wonderful lessons from Guardians of the Galaxy. Despite rave reviews and white-hot buzz, the Marvel adventure is still set to take a now-standard 55-60% tumble in weekend two. The film earned around $12.33 million on its second Friday, down 67% from last Friday (down 53% not counting the Thursday preview grosses) and bringing the film’s domestic total up to $146.7m. At best the film ends up with $40-$43m (-54% to -57% from last weekend’s $94m debut) for the frame, although that presupposes that the unquestionably overperforming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won’t leach the family audience today.
The opening last weekend was still a triumph of marketing and I still adore the film, but the fact that it didn’t hold much better than the likes of Amazing Spider-Man 2 (-61%) or Transformers 4 (-63%) may mean its merely another triumph of front-loaded interest and top-notch marketing as opposed to hitting any kind of cultural zeitgeist. But, and this is a very big “but,” it’ll still be at around $175m by tomorrow and it still may end up the year’s biggest-grossing domestic hit. That is nothing to sneeze at in any way, shape, or form. Yet the fact that the film didn’t display much staying power and the fact that we’re celebrating a film that debuted with $94m presumably hitting $250m-$260m domestic says something about the current marketplace.
Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy is falling pretty fast, having earned $2.8 million on Friday, setting itself up for a $9m weekend (-51% from last weekend). Still, the $40m Luc Besson thriller will cross $100m sometime in the middle of next week. Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules is falling hard too, with Paramount’s Brett Ratner-helmed project earning just $1.3m on its third Friday as it bleeds 662 screens in its third frame. Expect a $4m weekend and a $62m 17-day total, although the $110m picture was at $114m worldwide heading into the weekend.
Get On Up is falling hard too, with not enough buzz to hold strong after a somewhat weak opening weekend. The $30m James Brown biopic from Universal earned $1.5m on its second Friday (-66% from last Friday) and should earn $5.5m for the frame to push the film to $23m. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes should earn around $4.5m on its third weekend (-48%) after earning $1.25m today. Expect a new $198m domestic cume. It’s also at $451m worldwide going into the weekend, so I’m sure Fox isn’t too upset. The $170m sequel may even surpass the $480m global cume of Rise of the Planet of the Apes by tomorrow. Finally Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue should earn about $2.6m for the weekend to bring its domestic cume to $53m. No great shakes, but not a disaster either.
News Source: Forbes