news When Pixar and DC Failed to Be Sure Things and Wes Anderson Broke Box-Office Records

In theory, the Father’s Day weekend and Juneteenth holiday could boost Sunday’s grosses enough to prevent this weekend from falling below last year’s performance. However, even if that’s the case — and in all likelihood, it’s not — that’s a hell of a note when you’re looking at the debut of two new films from prime franchises, each costing over $200 million, and some vital holdovers.

For once, genuine joy can be found in specialized releasing. Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” (Focus) has a post-Covid best opening of $790,000 in just six theaters. With a per-theater average of $131,667, that’s the best of the year. (In recent history, it’s hard to find another film that did as well.)The slow expansion of “Past Lives” (A24), now in 85 theaters, added another $761,000. At this point it has an impressive PTA of nearly $9,000 and $1.9 million to date.

Based on adequate-at-best tracking for “The Flash” (Warner Bros. Discovery) and “Elemental” (Disney), we hoped for a minimum weekend of $200 million for all films. Current estimate is around $167 million.

a still from The Flash

“The Flash”Warner Bros.

It’s easy to blame the franchises: Both DC Comics (“Black Adam”) and Pixar (“Lightyear”) recently fell short (although even those had better openings). There’s also the unique challenge of “The Flash” lead Ezra Miller absenting himself from all promotion, and Pixar’s recovery from being perceived as a streaming property rather than a theatrical one.

However, a more existential concern may be to blame. Studios now spend $200 million-$300 million on what appear to be safe, audience-proven projects — only to find that an increasingly picky public, perhaps in response to our always-on entertainment industrial complex, have become increasingly expert at ignoring the hype.

Under James Gunn, a full-scale revamp is under way at DC. But how different can it really be? (On June 16, WBD announced that “The Flash” director Andy Muschietti will helm the latest “Batman” reboot.) Whether it’s Marvel or DC, comic-book success is no longer a given and that makes it harder to justify individual production and marketing investments that easily exceed $300 million.

Pixar no longer defines animated success, although it consistently makes the most expensive animated films. The top hits of the year to date, animated or otherwise, are Universal’s Illumination production “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and Sony’s Marvel title “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” They’re made and marketed as fun-first movies, something that Pixar seems to have lost.

The summer still has more than two months to go with several potential hits ahead, but it’s become increasingly unlikely that a domestic $400 million release will be among them. Our best hope lies once again with Tom Cruise and the new “Mission: Impossible” film.

This weekend’s openers did succeed in stealing market share from holdovers, with “Spider-Verse” and “The Little Mermaid” each falling by 50 percent. Last weekend’s #1 title, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” dropped 67 percent for fourth place and only $20 million.


11022640 – SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSESony Pictures Animation

“Spider-Verse” is a hit; “Mermaid” has a credible domestic performance; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” will be profitable if unimpressive. As for everything else — “Fast X,” “Transformers,” weak foreign for “Mermaid,” “Elemental” — this summer is seeing many sure-thing movies that aren’t.

For theaters, that may be enough for now. The summer remains six percent ahead of last year, with several promising July releases including the new “Indiana Jones” (another $300 million production). Year to date is now 23 percent ahead of 2022 (if that holds, a $9.1 billion year). The rolling four-week comparison to 2019 remains excellent at 98 percent, but that will drop; Summer 2019 saw three huge releases open later than June 18.

The problem is to get to this level, studios need to continue to expend on films, or try to figure out how to spend less and still have appeal. Add the WGA strike, and reaction to these weak results could result in a weakened pipeline ahead.

With the Juneteenth holiday on Monday, Lionsgate released their Tim Story comedy acquisition “The Blackening” to $6 million. They acquired the Toronto-premiered horror comedy for $5 million, with additional marketing expense. It placed #6. “Adipurush,” an Indian epic released in two languages came in #9 with $2.5 million in 960 theaters.

Wes Anderson’s latest bested another Anderson’s platform best (Paul Thomas, for “Licorice Pizza”) by a significant distance. This Anderson has a strong track record for opening strong. His three prior films were Searchlight titles with some level of initial limited release. His last film to open only in New York/Los Angeles was “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014, which (with lower ticket prices) opened to $811,000 in four theaters.

Much has changed in exhibition since then, including the loss of two major Los Angeles venues. “Asteroid City” also faces the challenge of getting enough seats in other theaters in a crowded week, along with decent but less exuberant reviews. That makes this weekend’s performance even more outstanding than figures suggest.

Anderson’s film expands nationwide to around 1,500 theaters next week. Audiences may not respond at “Budapest” levels (it grossed $173 million worldwide), but this debut is a victory for the concept of initial platform play — and for “Asteroid City” distributor Focus Features.

The Top 10

1. The Flash (WBD) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 56; Est. budget: $200 million

$55,100,000 in 4,234 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,014; Cumulative: $55,100,000

2. Elemental (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $200 million

$29,500,000 in 4,035 theaters; PTA: $7,311; Cumulative: $29,500,000

3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$27,800,000 (-50%) in 3,873 (-459) theaters; PTA: $7,178; Cumulative: $280,383,000

4. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$20,000,000 (-67%) in 3,680 (+2) theaters; PTA: $5,435; Cumulative: $100,622,000

5. The Little Mermaid (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #3

$11,600,000 (-50%) in 3,480 (-840) theaters; PTA: $3,333; Cumulative: $253,559,000

6. The Blackening (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 70; Est. budget: $5 million

$6,000,000 in 1,775 theaters; PTA: $3,380; Cumulative: $6,000,000

7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #4

$5,000,000 (-31%) in 3,175 (-915) theaters; PTA: $2,212; Cumulative: $344,360,000

8. The Boogeyman (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$3,800,000 (-47%) in 2,140 (-965) theaters; PTA: $1,776; Cumulative: $32,768,000

9. Adipurush (Vive) NEW – Est. budget: $60 million

$(est). 2,500,000 in 960 theaters; PTA: $2,604; Cumulative: $(est.) $2,500,000

10. Fast X (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$1,620,000 (-62%) in 1,550 (-1,272) theaters; PTA: $1,303; Cumulative: $142,003,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

Asteroid City (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes 2023

$790,000 in 6 theaters; PTA: $131,667

Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) (Utopia) Week 2 1

$5,400 in 2 (+1) theaters; PTA: $2,700; Cumulative: $23,960

Past Lives (A24) Week 3

$760,871 in 85 (+59) theaters; PTA: $8,951; Cumulative: $1,902,000

You Hurt My Feelings (A24) Week 4

$269,412 in 249 (-178) theaters; Cumulative: $4,351,000

Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Week 6; also on PVOD

$33,000 in 129 (-79) theaters; Cumulative: $17,519,000

It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6; also on PVOD

$62,316 in 97 (+36) theaters; Cumulative: $543,307