Box-office eclipse: Hollywood has worst weekend in years

2017-08-28 10:09

New York — Hollywood effectively took the weekend off, resulting in one of the most dismal box-office results in 16 years.

An already slow August came to a screeching halt at the multiplex, where no major new releases were unveiled. That left the Samuel Jackson-Ryan Reynolds action-comedy The Hitman's Bodyguard to top all films for the second week with an estimated $10.1m in ticket sales.

But the entire slate of films grossed only about $65m in North America and the top 12 films generated just $49.6m. There have been similarly slow weekends in recent years, including early September in 2014 and in 2016. But not since September 2001 have the numbers been quite so dreadful.

Mid-August through early September is historically the sleepiest time of the year for the movie business, but it's been especially so this year. This August is down a whopping 35 percent from last year, according to comScore. Next week is expected to be just as bad: No new wide releases are scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

For many, the weekend's top entertainment option was Saturday night's Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor match. The Fathom Events simulcast of the fight was one of the more popular offerings in theatres, taking in $2.4m from 481 screens.

But the bigger problem was the death of significant releases. The six major studios have released only two new wide-release films this August: Sony's poorly received Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower and Warner Bros.'s successful horror spinoff sequel Annabelle: Creation. The latter came in second this weekend with $7.4m, bringing its three-week total to $77.9m.

The Weinstein Co. animated release Leap! was one of the few new films to hit theatres. It earned a scant $5m, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

"It's a black eye for Hollywood but not a knock-out punch," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "Make no mistake about it, there was little foot traffic in theatres this weekend. But the story line will change in two weeks when It opens."

That second recent King adaptation is the only near light on the horizon for theatres, which are struggling through the lowest-grossing summers in years. ComScore estimates that this will be the first summer in a decade not to cross $4bn in domestic ticket sales. The summer as a whole is running 14 percent behind last year — and the deadly quiet August is a big reason.

Hurricane Harvey had a minimal effect on nationwide grosses. Instead, mediocre offerings were largely to blame. The Bruce Lee homage Birth of the Dragon opened with $2.5m in 1 618 theatres for BH Tilt and WWE Studios. The low-budget Sony Christian film All Saints took in $1.6m from 846 theatres.

One of the few bright spots on the weekend was the expansion of the Weinstein Co.'s Wind River, Taylor Sheridan's thriller set on an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The Jeremy Renner-led film expanded to 2095 theatres and earned $4.1m in its fourth weekend.

Steven Soderbergh's heist comedy Logan Lucky also held well in its second week, taking in $4.4m. The film's $15m two-week total, though, isn't the movie industry game-changer its makers hoped it would be.

With so little action, Warner Bros. put one of the summer's biggest hits — Wonder Woman — back into theatres ahead of its home entertainment release. It added $1.7m, or about three times what the 3-D restoration of James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day made in 563 locations. 

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