• DC Films Leadership – James Gunn and Peter Safran now CEOS – how did this happen, and what could this mean?

    James Gunn is having a very great week this week (this news dropped as the trailer for his new Guardians of the Galaxy Disney+ special), which shows that perhaps getting FIRED from Disney 4 years ago, ironically, led to the best possible career jump Gunn could have ever had.

    THE HOW:

    You may already recall in July 2018, when the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn was fired from Disney and Marvel, due to Tweets written by Gunn from years past which were seen as “too vulgar” and “immature” for Disney’s brand.

    Many fans and cast members begged Disney to reconsider, resulting in the studio and its execs eventually agreeing to hire James Gunn back after a month.

    But during that month of absence, the filmmaker allegedly became disinterested in Marvel, only promising to finish the Guardians of the Galaxy’s storyline, and nothing more. Can you blame him?

    After James Gunn was fired, he was very quickly picked up by Warner Bros. who immediately signed him on to direct DC’s The Suicide Squad. While the film bombed, it opened to critical acclaim (90% Rotten Tomatoes), and was the best reviewed DC project in years.

    Now jump to today, and James Gunn has produced a few successful DC shows (Peacemaker + Harley Quinn The Animated Series), along with his life-long producing partner Peter Safran, seen on the bottom photo on the right. Both Gunn and Safran have earned so much goodwill from Warner Bros. that their CEO David Zazlav, seen in the top image, has just signed them on for a 4 year contract, as co-CEO and Co-chairmen over DC Studios.

    This is a massive deal for the studio, even if the core talent essentially remains the same.

    Warner Brothers’ CEO David Zazlav has made no secret that he’s desperately been looking for showrunners to produce the next 10 years of DC storylines and films, as Kevin Feige has done so successfully with Marvel. 

    Personally, I don’t think James Gunn will be as successful as Kevin Feige, as there’s still too much baggage around DC, compared to Marvel. But James Gunn will soon have Kevin Feige’s level of exposure.

    James Gunn will be there to appear at every Comic Con presentation, every premiere red carpet, and every press junket for every DC project going forward.

    Let’s just hope James Gunn hires a very good publicist to watch what he says. Because as we’ve seen from his previous tweets, Gunn can be pretty vulgar and crude sometimes when saying things off the cuff.

    I’m also hoping future James Gunn / Peter Safran projects are capped at $100 million, as every artist had their creative limit.

    Just look at James Gunn’s own The Suicide Squad, which while well-received well by critics, the film was too expensive ($185 million budget) and earned practically no money ($168 million worldwide + HBOMax) to earn any profit.

    General Audiences who saw the film gave it a “B+” Cinemascore, indicating a mixed but positive reaction. The TV shows which he later produced (Peacemaker and Harley Quinn) similarly received great reviews but only “so-so” streaming numbers.

    Perhaps Gunn’s brand, and R-rated style and vision, might not be appealing for everyone or all DC fans. He has a a fun creative direction, and he clearly knows what characters he’s better at adapting (he himself admitted he couldn’t write many of DC’s female characters).

    This just means we’re going to get more films like The Suicide Squad or Peacemaker, less like Wonder Woman or Batgirl.  Whether this new focus translates to an expanding DC fan base remains to be seen.

    I think a very valid concern is Warner Bros. CEO David Zazlav: he has been selling off franchises and IP’s left and right, firing staffers, laying off the animation division, and restructuring up to $4 BILLION in content write-offs.

    He is trying to make Warner Brothers as lean and mean and digestible as possible, so that Universal Pictures can acquire and buy the studio soon. 

    I believe the most important thing now is to give James Gunn and Peter Safran safety, or protection, from leadership changes and shifting corporate priorities, after Universal Studios takes over DC and Warner Brothers in a few years. 

    POTENTIAL COLLABORATIONS with filmmakers in DC projects

    More Dwayne Johnson?

    Even after Black Adam had a solid start at the box office just last week, opening to $140 Million worldwide, it’s doubtful that The Rock would be immediately willing to work with Gunn.

    Both are incredibly self-promotional, and personal with their respective brands, have had no history working together, and it’s very likely The Rock wasn’t privy about the James Gunn deal at all! He might not have wanted Gunn in charge.

    I say give this relationship time to breathe.

    Zack Snyder / “The SnyderVerse”

    Yes, Zack Snyder still has a small but vocal fanbase, who loves his work and constantly yells online for Zack to continue making DC projects, within his (amusingly titled) world: “The SnyderVerse”.

    But based on Snyder’s personal history, and the films themselves (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League), and the negative reactions they each received from both Warner Brothers and a lot of audiences/DC fans, I still think Snyder’s return as a DC filmmaker is too soon. 

    So while Snyders return as a DC filmmaker is too hard to tell, I believe James Gunn will build upon the world that Snyder created.

    Margot Robbie will stick around as Harley Quinn, and Henry Cavill is fantastic as Superman (even if I’d argue that his portrayal as Clark Kent could use some work), and he has fans excited after his return in Black Adam.

    James Gunn would be wise to keep them both.

    Christopher Nolan

    Recall back in 2020: after Nolan’s own film Tenet underwhelmed, and the studio Warner Brothers announced they would premiere all their upcoming films on HBOMax (without telling any filmmakers), Nolan decided to quit and leave Warner Brothers.

    After 18 years of working under the studio, producing hits from Inception to The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan fled to Universal Pictures.

    Now is it possible in a few years, under new management from Universal Pictures, that Nolan might be more inclined to return to make more superhero blockbusters under DC, like The Dark Knight? It’s very well possible.

    But would Christopher Nolan even want to?

    Marvel crossover? 

    Now this it would be quite the feather in James Gunns’ cap, if he could pull this off. James Gunn has mentioned for years that merging these two superhero universes would be an amazing sight to see, even if a merger of this size would take more than 10-20 years to pull off. But man, imagine! 

    If Marvel’s quality somehow takes a nose-dive over the next 5 years, and DC’s rises back up, then an in-universe merger could be in the cards. As always, we’ll see…

  • Studios Winners and Losers: Before and After COVID

    Studios Winners and Losers: Before and After COVID

    With no new blockbuster releases planned for the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to take a moment to breakdown how the box office is so far for 2022, and to compare the 4 major studios (Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros and Disney). 

    So let’s compare their performances from 2019 (the last “normal” year), including money, reception, and expectations, to now.


    (a redemption story )

    WAS in 2019: C-/C 

    NOW in 2022:  A

    Even before 2019, it has been a rough decade for Paramount. They sold off their biggest franchises (Marvel & Dreamworks Animation), and their own big franchises bombed (Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.) , as the characters and top-of-the-line spectacle were seen as weak, compared to the more popular Star Wars or Marvel or Fast and Furious films.

    But NOW in 2022, Paramount is officially king of the world again! In 2019, Paramount only earned $1.35 billion. Top Gun Maverick alone has earned $1.38 billion

    The studio isn’t 100% depending on pre-existing franchises, as The Lost City was a solid original hit ($190.8 million global). 

    But all of their sequels are doing better than their previous movies, as well as just better than expected. (Scream 5 with $140 million Global, Jackass Forever $80.3 million, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 $401.8 million)

    Each of these were received well by critics and audiences, and had long legs.

    The best example though is Top Gun Maverick. Not only did it earn more ticket sales than the first Top Gun (even adjusted for inflation), but it just passed Titanic as Paramount’s highest grossing film ever!

    Paramount has clearly found great success from Tom Cruise’s movie-star charisma, working with him and his business partner/ writer/filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie for quite a long time.

    Paramount is also looking for new relationships and signing new deals with movie stars like John Krasinski, and Ryan Reynolds.

    Maverick is right now the biggest “part-two” sequel ever, and should end with $1.45+ billion. Your move, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water! Both those sequels will be released by Disney this holiday season.

    With this hot streak, hopefully Paramount can keep this up with their continuing franchises, and strong relationships with actors and creative filmmakers.


    (still rocking)

    WAS in 2019: A-

    NOW in 2022: A-

    Before the pandemic in 2019, Universal had a couple of big blockbuster hits (Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw, How to Train Your Dragon 3, Jordan Peele’s Us), well-received comedies (Good Boys, Yesterday) and some thrillers that underperformed (Glass, Ma, Black Christmas).

    Now in 2022, Universal has more popular franchises with movies coming out, and is continuing their luck with original films from Blumhouse and Jordan Peele. 

    In 2019 through the entire year, Universal earned $3.671 billion. Through the first half of 2022, Universal has already crossed $3 Billion

    Universal had two blockbuster sequels that met expectations (Jurassic World 3: Dominion is nearing a billion [$975+ million Worldwide] despite the worst reviews/reception of the franchise.

    Meanwhile Minions: Rise of Gru is expecting to end with over $800+ million worldwide. Even after over a decade or two, both franchises have characters and icons that still remain popular enough with today’s adults and kids (specifically, dinosaurs and minions).

    Universal is also continuing their luck with distributing Blumhouse’s low-budget horror films. The Black Phone is at $155+ million worldwide,  now the top horror film of 2022 internationally and globally, and is one of the biggest original Blumhouse films ever.  

    Another thriller, Jordan Peele’s Nope, should finish with $160-180 globally, which, while too expensive to be profitable in theaters (the budget was $69 million), should eventually break even on VOD and streaming. 

    Another highlight at Universal is DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys, with $246.8M worldwide.

    The cartoon was very well-reviewed and well-received, staying in the Top 10 U.S. Box Office for 10+ weeks. 

    Overall, Universal is still rocking up big numbers and box office successes, with strong potential relationships with filmmakers and talent.


    (frenetically figuring it out)

    WAS in 2019: C+

    NOW in 2022: C+

    2019 was a mixed year for Warner Bros. They released several small old-school dramas, many of which underperformed or bombed (Richard Jewell, Blinded by the Light, Motherless Brooklyn, The Goldfinch), as well as sequels with tepid interest (Godzilla 2, Lego Movie 2, Doctor Sleep).

    The only real solid success they had in 2019 was with DC films (Joker, Shazam).

    Fast forward to 2022: the theatrical movies are performing better (Batman, Elvis, Fantastic Beasts 3), however behind the scenes, Warner Bros./Discovery appears a mess. Films are being cancelled left and right, staff and titles are being axed at on HBOMax, while the future success of their DC films is still uncertain (The Flash, Batgirl).

    FIRST the good stuff. The Batman ($770 million global) was very successful and well-received (strong legs and SVOD sales) and should lead to a strong future relationship with Matt Reeves as filmmaker and director. 

    Elvis ($260+ million) has also been successful with long legs continuing throughout the summer.  

    NOW onto the bad/controversial.  Fantastic Beasts 3 ($401 million global) was critically panned, the lowest Harry Potter movie ever and has effectively ended Wizarding World films at least for the near future.  

    And although the studio has outlined a 10-year plan to build the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) into the next Marvel, two of their next films have implodedBatgirl, completed for $90m, was abruptly canceled with no plans for release, not even to streaming. 

    And The Flash‘s release, a film which is nearly completed for ~$300m, is still uncertain as its troubled star, Ezra Miller, faces criminal charges.  

    The killing of Batgirl by David Zazlav, the head of Warner Bros./Discovery (whose picture is on the RIGHT), is a signal this studio is cleaning up and refocusing.  Zazlav’s focus on “it’s not about how much, it’s about how good” has led to cancelling many completed film projects, film productions, HBOMax and Discovery shows.  And more content is likely on the chopping block.  

    Going forward, the company says it’s committed to using theaters as a driver of profit – not just dumping films immediately to streaming.  

    Emphasizing “theaters first”, plus the probable merging of HBOMax and Discovery into one streaming service, indicates it will take a while for the dust to clear on whether this “refocused” direction will yield future success.


    (failing to expand…)

    WAS in 2019: A

    NOW in 2022: C+

    In 2019 Disney had the most successful year for any studio ever. Their animated sequels rocked it (Frozen 2, Toy Story 4), their live action remakes rocked it (Aladdin, Lion King), Star Wars was mixed negative (Rise of Skywalker), but their Marvel movies were at the top of their game (Avengers: Endgame). 

    Now, it’s just Marvel that’s performing well in theaters.  Disney is perhaps a victim of their own expectations, with Thor 4 and Doctor Strange 2 still earning healthy numbers ($750+ million and $955 million respectively), but feeling like missed potential given both their budgets and expectations from Disney investors. 

    Perhaps Disney’s focus on streaming and success on Disney+ has hurt their theatrical films, with less of an urge to see their upcoming films right away. 

    It doesn’t help that Marvel movies are pretty much now banned in China or Russia, which is increasingly becoming a problem (that’s $150-200 million in box office for each movie left on the table).  

    After 2019, the Chinese government has gained an anti-Disney bias, arbitrarily banning future Marvel films from playing in the country, in order to emphasize their own blockbusters in cinemas instead.

    Hopefully this years Black Panther 2 will be big enough to do well without China. 

    But easily the worst blockbuster performance of the year though goes to the misfire Lightyear, the lowest grossing Pixar film ever with $230+ million global, on a $150-$200 million budget.

    I still blame Disney+ for diluting the Pixar brand (Pixar‘s last 3 films went straight to streaming for free), but the damage has already been done against the studio’s reputation.

    With the seemingly inexhaustible hunger for content to gain and retain streaming subscribers, AND stay on top at the box office, Disney may be running the risk of exhausting their brands (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar) by pumping out endless theatrical and TV content.


    While none of these studios are in danger of folding any time soon, Warner Brothers/Discovery and Disney stocks are at lows.

    It seems safe to say that there is a path for money to be made at the box office, at least for tentpole movie experiences.  And although studios continue to be dependent on franchises for ideas, there is still room for original content to do well if the right cast and story is there.

    But the era of “unlimited production of content” for streaming services seems to be ending, as studios and investors are finally realizing this feeding frenzy of content is not sustainable.  That doesn’t mean that great non-tentpole content won’t be made; it just may have to find a new home, now that streaming is now longer the priority for the studios.

  • Weekend Box Office (7/31/22) ‘DC League Of Super-Pets’ Flies To $23M Opening, ‘Nope’ falls down to earth with -58% drop

    DC’s League of Super Pets, the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart animated action comedy, opened this weekend. The film essentially pitched itself as “The Secret Life of Pets, but co-starring the Justice League,” and earned surprisingly okay reviews (72% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and “fine” reactions from audiences (an A- from CinemaScore). 

    The $23 million opening was lower than expected, probably because the film plays like a tired version of The Lego Batman, and The Secret Life of Pets.  

    Maybe the filmmakers thought having big comedy stars, like The Rock and Kevin Hart, combined with superheroes would add energy, but it’s not enough to create a really exciting few hours.

    It’s kind of funny that Dwayne Johnson was originally supposed to open this weekend with another Warner Bros./DC movie, Black Adam. (Talk about being all places at once). 

    But that project has been delayed until October, due to the backlog of special effects at post-production VFX warehouses.  Probably a good thing, as the positive buzz that began at Comic-Con last week will hopefully snowball over the next few months, so that more fans will be excited for Black Adam by its release in the fall.

    As for Super Pets, here’s a good comparison. The Bad Guys was another animated movie released in April 2022.  Both movies had little competition when it came to family films, and both cost $80-90 million to make.  Super Pets’ $23 million opening is equal to what The Bad Guys ran out the gate with.

    The Bad Guys had slightly better word of mouth (an A CinemaScore), but still flew high to eventually earn $96.6 million in the U.S. and $250+ million worldwide.  Based on that, one would hope Super Pets can pull in similar numbers, which would be pretty profitable – despite being a more tired and predictable film.

    In other news Nope fell hard, dropping a steep 58.2% in its second weekend.

    While Jordan Peele’s last film, Us, dropped 53% in it’s second weekend (a little better but in a similar ballpark), Us had a bigger opening ($71 million vs. $44 for Nope) and cost less (Us cost $20 million vs. Nope cost $69 million).

    This leads to the question – Why is Nope struggling to find an audience?  

    One theory I have is: the Jordan Peele brand is highly intertwined with horror. From Candyman, Get Out, to Us. Although Nope has a few scary moments, it’s a slower film, with a sci-fi bent, and complex themes that might leave an audience scratching their heads to get the point. 

    Most people like to know what they’re getting into, before trekking to the theater and paying their $15.  

    Maybe in Peele’s quest to be original and thought provoking, he’s made a film that leaves the audience not really sure they got the point.

    Peele has had a string of successes that have raised his profile as a director.  Yet if Nope continues to disappoint in the upcoming weeks, it will be interesting to see if he gets as open a check book for his next film.

    Thor 4 recovered somewhat in its fourth weekend, only falling 41.5% earning $13.17 million. The Taika Waititi-directed sequel is still expected to finish above what Thor Ragnarok ended with: $340-350 million domestically, and around $750 million worldwide (without China/Russia).

    That’s a win, even if it’s less than Disney likely would have hoped for.

    Minions: The Rise of Gru ran away with another $10.98 million weekend (39% drop) for $321 million so far.  It aims to finish near the ending totals of Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me 2 ($365-$370 million), as one of the biggest hits ever for Illumination Animation.

    Top Gun: Maverick earned another $8.2 million (-20%) in its 10th weekend (!!), and is soon flying past $650 million domestic.

    That puts it within a week of passing Jurassic World ($652 million in 2015) and Titanic ($659 million) to later become the 7th biggest film of all time in the U.S. box office. Wow!

    The word of mouth is still on fire, plus with plenty of sky still to cover throughout August and September to earn more money. Can Tom Cruise be stopped?

    Sony’s Where the Crawdads Sing continued to leg out, helped by being the summer’s only “big” movie for adult women. The Daisy Edgar-Jones $24 million melodrama earned $7.56 million (-27%) in its 3rd weekend, and should pass $70 million domestic by the end.  

    That’s a terrific result for the kind of drama that has spent the last two years getting banished to streaming, and should encourage Sony to release more of their films to theaters first.

    Warner Bros. Discovery’s Elvis is also benefiting from adult audiences trekking out to the theater, as the Baz-Luhrmann-directed epic earned another $6 million weekend (-12%, a phenomenal hold). 

    At this rate, the $85 million Austin Butler/Tom Hanks musical biopic could reach $150 million domestically even before it becomes a major awards season player. 

    As for next weekend, Sony’s Bullet Train will open as the last “big” movie of the summer. The action thriller has a stacked cast of Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Bryan Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

    It’s also from director David Leitch, the filmmaker behind John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2

    The hope would be that this $80-100 million budgeted action film would open with around $30 million, to then leg out for the rest of summer. But even if Bullet Train falls short of that, the film has clear sailing for the rest of August and September to find moviegoers.

    And that’s it for the weekend box office. What films are you still interested in seeing or hearing about? 

  • Weekend Box Office (7/24/22) Nope flies to $44 million debut, nice for an original thriller

    Weekend Box Office (7/24/22) Nope flies to $44 million debut, nice for an original thriller
    Keke Palmer NOPE trailer Universal Pictures/Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In8fuzj3gck

    Universal and Monkeypaw’s Nope flew off to a promising start, as the well-reviewed (83% on Rotten Tomatoes) and *mostly* well-received by audiences (B from CinemaScore – okay for a Horror movie) Jordan Peele adventure earned $44 million over its opening weekend.  

    It’s far less than Jordan Peele’s last film, Us (that opened to $71 million), but Us had a lot more publicity, star-power, less cryptic marketing, compounded with the anticipation and expectation of the movie as a metaphorical sequel to Get Out.  But for an original thriller in this day and age, Nope’s opening is encouraging.

    Nope is less a horror movie and more of a slow burn, sci-fi thriller, with interesting questions about the unknown and predators in nature (like a Spielberg adventure, ala Jaws or Close Encounters). 

    It has a fun, original script (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play Hollywood horse wranglers, who try to film footage of a predatory UFO), and has some satisfying ending twists and spectacularly filmed sequences of suspense. 

    Yet it’s not a traditional horror movie, as it requires the audience to be patient for the “acts of terror”.  It will be interesting to see how audiences respond in the weeks to come.

    Nope officially cost $69 million to make, and has open real estate to make serious theatrical money during August and September, as there are few competitors for moviegoers looking for a thriller/scary film this summer. 

    As a filmmaker, Jordan Peele is easily comparable to M Night Shyamalan, or maybe Christopher Nolan.  It’s not like many high-concept filmmakers have risen over the last 20 years, who consistently make original chilling thrillers that also become box office smashes.

    While Nope clearly isn’t as popular as Jordan Peele’s previous 2 horror films, it does point to a positive relationship between Universal Studios and Peele in the years to come. 

    The $250 million budgeted Thor: Love and Thunder earned another $22.55 million (-51.6%) in its third weekend, and has $599 million worldwide so far. 

    We’re still looking at a fourth Thor movie that should end up just over/under the total of Thor: Ragnarök, both in the U.S. ($315 million) and worldwide ($712 million without Russia and China). That’s damn good for any fourth entry of any franchise. Word-of-mouth and audience reactions have been more mixed than previous Marvel movies, but the film is performing well by any rational standard.

    Plus after yesterday’s Marvels’ Comic Con presentation, which announced almost 5 new exciting projects (including Fantastic Four and two new Avengers), fans now have less reason to be pessimistic about the franchises’ future.

    Minions: The Rise of Gru earned another $18 million (-33%) in its 4th weekend for $298 million in the U.S. It’s earned better reviews and legs than the first Minions (which earned $288 million at this point), pointing to plenty of more life in this franchise. The $80 million budgeted prequel/sequel should end above $900 million worldwide. Despicable Me 4 is coming in summer 2024.

    Where the Crawdads Sing earned a $10.5 million (-39%) in its 2nd weekend. With good word of mouth, this $24 million thriller should end with $65-70 million domestically. That’s a terrific result for the kind of movie that has spent the last two years getting banished to streaming, and should encourage Sony to release more of their films to theaters first.

    Tom Cruise proves again that he’s unkillable, with Top Gun: Maverick dropping -16% (a phenomenal hold), earning earn another $10.27 million in its 9th weekend, for $636 million so far in the U.S. The film just passed $1.283 billion worldwide.

    The word of mouth is still on fire, plus with plenty of sky still to cover throughout August and September to earn more money. Can Tom Cruise be stopped?

    Warner Bros.’ Elvis earned another $6.58 million (-17%) over its 5th weekend (also a phenomenal hold), as the Baz Luhrmann-directed musical biopic has $119 million in the U.S. so far. Still expecting to finish with over $140 million, and much more worldwide.

    As for next weekend, DC’s League of Super Pets opens. Animated movies have done well at the box office as of recently (The Bad Guys, Sing 2, Minions 2 etc.), and from what I’ve been told the movie is cute. It’s sold as The Secret Life of Pets but with superheroes, starring Kevin Hart and The Rock. 

    I’m not sure what the budget is for this, but a $35-40 million opening would be pretty great. I would laugh hard if this film opened bigger than the $200 million budgeted Lightyear.

    And that’s it for the weekend box office. What films are you still interested in seeing or hearing about? 

  • Weekend Box Office (7/17/22) Thor has pretty terrible second weekend drop (for Marvel), are Disney+ and fan fatigue to blame? Meanwhile Crawdads sings to an excellent debut

    Note: I admittedly had too many headlines to choose from this weekend (Thor crashes down to earth, Thor shows Marvel isn’t worthy anymore, Thor shows not all gods are immortal), so don’t begrudge me for not being edgy with my opening headline.

    Thor: Love and Thunder is again the top movie at the U.S. box office, earning another $46 million, dropping a “really bad” -68% from last weeks opening. While that’s the worst second weekend drop ever for a Marvel-Cinematic-Universe movie, it’s still earned $233 million for its first 10 days in theaters. That’s solid by most rational standards, but not good for Marvel. 

    How bad is this? Well, Marvel movies that open in mid-July tend to crash in their second weekends. Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Widow all took drops between 61% to 67% in their second weekends.

    But Ant-Man 2 and Homecoming both recovered, and earned around 1.6x their first respective 10-day totals. Both were seen as hits. Black Widow (which had Disney+ cut into its box office) did not recover as well, only making 1.4x its first 10 days. That’s a difference of nearly $50 million.

    With bad reviews and audience reactions (only a B+ CinemaScore and 3.5 stars on PostTrak), plus anticipation for Thor 4 streaming for free on Disney+, the film may have legs closer to Black Widow, or the much disliked Eternals last November.

    That could mean an ending total of $315-$330 in the U.S. box office, on par with Thor 3 in 2017, despite this film opening bigger.

    I’m concerned how much of a factor Disney+ will be on this film’s longevity. Maybe only the hardcore Marvel fans are showing up, while the casual fans are waiting until the movie is streaming free on Disney+.

    Or, is fan fatigue happening, by this being the 29th movie in this saga? With over 4 movies and 5 Disney+ shows a year, it’s tough to know which projects moving forward are crucial to watch to understand the ongoing Marvel narrative. In the end, these are self-inflicted problems caused by Disney. 

    It helps there’s basically nothing left playing in theaters as far as “superheroic fun for families”, beyond the animated DC League of Super-Pets on July 29 and The Rock’s Black Adam on October 21.

    Because of that, Thor 4 could have longer legs throughout August and September.

    I also wrote HERE about how the film’s mixed word of mouth is similar to 1997’s Batman 4: Batman and Robin. We’ve been down this road before.

    I could be over-thinking how audiences are responding. Thor 4 has already passed $500 million worldwide, and should likely top the last Thor film’s worldwide 2017 total (without China and Russia) of $715 million. 

    This could simply be another well-received “It’s entertaining, whatever” Marvel sequel, that will only perform a little better financially than Thor 3. They can’t all be Spider-Man: No Way Home.

    Compare this to Top Gun Maverick, which has had no date planned for streaming / Video-On-Demand, and has been doing great with audiences all summer long.

    Top Gun Maverick earned another $12 million (-23%) in its’ 8th-weekend, for $617.9 million in the U.S. and $1.236 billion so far, the biggest movie of the year. Easily one of the most impressive box office runs in my lifetime.

    As for the rest of the box office, Minions 2: Rise of Gru earned another $26 million (-44%) in its third weekend, for $263 million so far. That’s a solid hold and a strong overall gross. Presuming it legs somewhere between Minions 1 and the last Despicable Me, this will likely end between $336 million and $380 million. Ironically, that would theoretically be more than Thor 4.

    In smaller news, Sony’s $24 million budgeted Where the Crawdads Sing (starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, featuring a new Taylor Swift single, and based upon a very popular Delia Owens novel [12 million copies sold] ) debuted with an excellent $17 million over the weekend. Audiences reactions are good (A- CinemaScore, and 4 1/2 stars, 87% positive, 70% recommend on PostTrak).

    The film, about a young woman raising herself in the marshlands after being left alone with her abusive father, is a character-focused story aimed at female adults. Considering this is one of the only “big” movies this summer aimed at adult women (that’s embarrassing), we can expect solid legs for this old-school potboiler/melodrama.

    Not to be outdone, Warner Bros.’ buzzy and well-reviewed Elvis just passed $100 million in the U.S., earning another $7.6 million (-32%) in its 4th weekend. Interestingly, 71% of the audience has been women.

    The musical biopic starring Austin Butler / Tom Hanks, directed by Baz Luhrmann, will soon become Warner Bros.’ biggest U.S. box office earner since Joker ($335 million in 2019) and behind The Batman ($370 million). Fantastic. This is a much needed win for the studio, and for bringing older audiences back to theaters.

    Universal’s The Black Phone also passed $100 million worldwide this week, which propelled the Blumhouse studio’s lifetime total past $5 billion. This acclaimed and buzzy horror flick earned another $5.3 million (-31%) over its 4th weekend, a fantastic drop, despite now debuting on streaming. That gives the $19 million, R-rated flick a $72 million domestic cume, and much more money to come. That is assuming Universal’s own horror film Nope doesn’t take away its audience next weekend.

    And that’s it for the weekend box office. What films are you still interested in seeing or hearing about? 

    I’m personally most hyped for Nope next weekend. To me, the concept of “an epic original alien invasion thriller”, directed by Jordan Peele, sounds like an entertaining time at the movies and a great summer popcorn blockbuster. It also helps it has one of the better trailers I’ve seen so far this year.

    But let’s see if the reviews are good, or if audiences even choose to show up. It cost $68 million to make, so I’m hoping for at least a $40-50 million debut. As always, we’ll see.

  • ANALYSIS – with similar tonal comedy issues, is Marvel’s Thor 4 equivalent to 1997’s Batman and Robin? Hear me out…

    I do enjoy hearing the notion of Thor 4 being compared to Batman 4: Batman & Robin. It’s not an exact comparison (Thor as a character is nowhere near as bad or annoying to sit through), but hear me out…

    With each franchise, a new director was brought in to “fix” the franchise (Taika Waititi and Joel Schumacher respectively), after a disappointingly received second film.

    They were then acclaimed for “saving” the franchise, by making a lighter, more comical third film (Thor: Ragnarok and Batman Forever). Both were successful enough for the studio to allow the filmmaker to do whatever they wanted with the next film, albeit with a time constraint. “Get the fourth film out fast”…

    And then with the fourth film, it wasn’t just the studio to blame; the writer/director was seen as going “too far” in the comedy and tone, even for general moviegoers. The comedy just didn’t mix as well with the material, undercutting the story, disappointing fans, and weak legs at the box office.

    Hell both Thor 4 and Batman 4 have a bald monochromatic tragic villain, weird jealousies from the sidekicks, a terminal-illness subplot, gay subtext, a campy secondary villain [Zeus / Poison Ivy] who makes uncomfortable sex jokes… the comparisons goes on.

    To me it’s an interesting comparison as far as superhero downgrades from the 3rd-to-4th movie, but also shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve gone down this path before. There’s room to improve with the next movie, hopefully by adding a new director.

  • Weekend Box Office (7/10/22) Thor opens with Solid opening weekend, but Lackluster Word of Mouth – Cause for Concern?

    Most franchises would be thrilled to have a comedy-sequel earn mixed-positive reviews, and open 17% bigger than it’s predecessor. But with mixed critical and audience reactions, why did the film not earn the positivity that was expected?

    This new Thor movie was my most anticipated sequel of the summer, given how much the last film Thor: Ragnarok was such a fun comic book blockbuster, and showed there was still life to find in this franchise. That film opened with $123 million in 2017, with fans loving it in context of how its story took place in preparation before the new Avengers. 

    Now it’s 2022, and Thor 4 Love and Thunder opened to $143 million this past weekend, a bit below the optimistic projections from Disney (expecting $150-170 million), but still, a 17% higher debut than Ragnarok is fine.

    It’s the third biggest opening of the year, and for what is considered ”just” a Thor sequel, with little feeling of “you gotta see this immediately”, Love and Thunder opened about in line with what it expected to this weekend.  

    However, there are possible signs of peril going on. The film pulled lousy reviews for a Marvel comedy (69% Rotten Tomatoes) but it’s the weak audience reactions (B+ CinemaScore) that scare me. 

    That’s one of the worst audience reactions for a MCU movie. It’s one thing when a polarizing space odyssey like Eternals earns a B, or a horror fantasy like Doctor Strange 2 earns a B+, as those genres were seen as somewhat “experiments” for Marvel. But Thor is a “generic” crowd pleasing superhero comedy, so its weak reaction is a bad sign. 

    It’s been years after the “Infinity Saga” of Marvel ended with Avengers: Endgame in 2019, where we used to grade each film on a curve as part of a grander achievement in storytelling. Now in 2022 as the MCU begins to lack focus or direction with each project in an ongoing narrative, are audiences beginning to become harsher and more discerning? 

    Is it due to the director Taika Waititi’s absurdist sense of humor? Maybe not every joke is landing.

    Is Marvel overextending itself in pumping out too many movies and Disney+ series? Do we blame the pandemic feature production rush here? 2022 alone has 4 Marvel movies and 5 Disney+ shows.

    Thor: Love and Thunder is another wake-up call to the MCU development department. If films become too cookie-cutter, ticket sales will decline.

    PostTrak, which tracks general audiences seeing the film, has Thor at 3 1/2 stars with a 77% positive, not far from Eternals’ 75%. Kids are ONLY making up 4% of the audience, which is terribly small, given the film’s narrative about saving Asgard’s children. 

    See the proportion of ages and genders as % of the audience:

    Men Over age 25Women Over age 25 Men Under age 25Women Under age 25
    33% 25% 25% 17%

    The most encouraging score for Thor: Love and Thunder is coming from women over 25 at 82% positive, who could be really connecting to Jane Foster’s Cancer storyline and arc in this movie.

    On the bright side, 53% of those who saw Thor: Love and Thunder bought their tickets the day they saw the movie. To me that indicates a lot of people are seeing the movie when they can, with high “walk-up” business and legs for the rest of summer. The film also earned stellar business overseas, earning $302 million Worldwide.

    I’m still expecting a BIG significant 2nd-weekend-drop next week (-65% or more), than it should level out throughout July and August, given the lack of *big* family friendly competition besides DC’s Super Pets until Black Adam in October. 

    Either way, theater owners aren’t complaining, as the Box Office overall has reached pre-pandemic levels! The overall marketplace is around $236 Million, above the same post-4th-of-July weekend in 2019 with $183 million where SpiderMan far From Home was #1. But it’s not just superhero movies helping theaters, thanks to 3 other movies also grossing above $10 million this weekend.

    Minions: Rise of Gru earned another $45.5 million (-57%), with $210 million so far, and the potential to end with $325-335 million in the U.S. On an $80 million budget, this Minions sequel / Despicable Me prequel is already a hit at $400 million Worldwide, even it’s still performing better in America than overseas.

    The #GentleMinions trend likely helped last weekend, and is still assisting the generational nostalgia present here. Expecting Despicable Me 4 in 2024. 

    Top Gun: Maverick is nearing $1.2 billion worldwide, as the $170-million-budgeted legacy Sequel, earned another $15.5 million in its 7th weekend, -40%, the first “normal” drop in its entire run. 

    Still with another $15 million, that’s the third biggest 7th weekend ever behind Titanic ($26 million) and Avatar ($31 million). Still expecting to end with over $700 million in the U.S. Wow!

    Elvis earned another $11 million (-40%) in weekend three for a $91.122 million 17-day cume. With word that the Baz Luhrmann-directed rock-n-roll biopic will NOT be heading to HBO Max after 45 days, it should continue to hold along Top Gun for the rest of summer as “event movies for older adults”.

    This is a great win for Warner Brothers, whose Elvis could end with around $130-140 million domestic, and maybe some Oscar nominations.

    Universal’s Jurassic World Dominion earned $8.41 million (-49%) with a  $350 million 31-day U.S. cume. The $185-million-budgeted Dino finale will arrive on “rent it for $20” PVOD this coming Thursday. Still, history shows that shouldn’t hurt the theatrical run much. 

    We’re still looking at an over/under $370 million domestic end, and a global total of over/under $925 million.

    Universal and Blumhouse’s The Black Phone earned $7.66 million (-37%) for a terrific $62 million domestic and $99 million worldwide so far. This one might drop on PVOD this coming Thursday, but the $19-million-budgeted crowd-pleaser has had solid legs for an original, R-rated thriller. 

    Walt Disney’s Lightyear earned $2.9 million (-55%) in weekend four for a miserable $112.2 million domestic and $202 million global cume. Those who blame its LGBT content should look at those Thor 4 and Jurassic World 3 grosses. The sci-fi actioner/Toy Story spinoff should remain the lowest Pixar grosser ever.

    At this point, Disney is now becoming even more financially reliant on Marvel / Avatar / Star Wars projects, but that’s a conversation for another day.

  • Weekend Box Office (7/4/22) It’s Official! COVID may no longer be a problem for moviegoers

    Hollywood has been worried and biting their lip since COVID about if older adults (55+), and especially kids and families, will return to theaters with the pandemic, especially given the availability of streaming. And now, we’ve just had Top Gun 2, and Minions 2 of all movies, break box office records over Memorial Day and Independence Day, and will likely become the two BIGGEST movies of the summer. Take that, streaming!

    Minions 2: A lesson in social media marketing

    Starting with the raw numbers, #1 was Minions: Rise of Gru, earning $107 million over the 3-Day weekend. Again, the biggest Independence Day opening weekend ever. (beating Transformers 3’s $97 million opening in 2011) And Hollywood was worried this franchise might be getting stale… Throw in positive reviews (71% Rotten Tomatoes) and solid word of mouth (“A” grade from CinemaScore), the film may likely cross a billion after this.

    Has the heart simply grown fonder for these little yellow minions? Or is there generational nostalgia for the Despicable Me franchise, for kids who grew up on it and now are adults? I’m willing to say that’s what happened, with young men dressing up in business suits and posting themselves on TikTok, while making memes and posting about how important the film is. 

    Social Media Trends and games like this will likely be discussed for years to come, compared to another memed about movie Morbius, also joked about earlier this year on social media as the beginning of “summer of Morbius.” Hell Sony even re-released the movie earlier in June in the hopes those jokes would translate to more ticket sales. It didn’t, as that film then bombed again. 

    The key difference here is the ironic Minions memes were joked about and made out of love, while it seemed Morbius was joked out of spite. Lessons learned from social media games…

    Either way, this opening is a huge win for Universal’s marketing team, Illumination Animation’s brand, and is encouraging for upcoming animated films at the box office. 

    Top Gun 2: the film that just won’t stop flying in $

    It’s impossible to predict the legs of Top Gun Maverick, as every optimistic prediction I’ve had for it at the box office just keeps getting topped. It may end up being the biggest movie of the YEAR (give or take Black Panther 2 or Avatar 2), but it’s become a cultural phenomenon, on par with a James Cameron movie, having remarkably small drops throughout the month of June and now July. It’s… just not stopping.

    Another $25.8 million -14% from last week, with $570 million so far and $1.1 billion worldwide. A phenomenal drop over the 4th of July holiday, for what is easily Cruise’s biggest movie ever. What a win for the star/filmmaker/producer.

    It should pass Titanic eventually ($659 million) to become Paramount’s biggest hit ever in the U.S. too, and might be nominated for a few Oscars when all is done. Who knows how high this Tom Cruise jet will keep flying…. Maybe $700?

    #3 Elvis had a nice holiday hold, again encouraging for older audiences returning to movie theaters. The well reviewed (78% on Rotten Tomatoes) and received by audiences (A- CinemaScore) earned another $19 Million over the weekend, and may end around $110-120 million in the U.S. 

    It cost $85 Million to produce, and will likely earn above Rocketman’s $195 Million worldwide finish. It’s a hit for Warner Brothers, and may even earn Austin Butler an Oscar.

    #4 Jurassic World: Dominion (the finale?) had a healthy drop, earning another $15.7 million (-41%) for $331 million so far. It’ll probably end under $1 Billion (blame the fact it earned less money in China, not the word of mouth, audiences thought this movie was sufficiently fine [A- CinemaScore]), so a finish in the $950~ million range is still pretty good, and over 4x it’s budget. Expect another Jurassic movie from Universal down the road, although probably disconnected from this trilogy.

    #5 The crowd pleasing horror-chiller The Black Phone earned $12 over the holiday (-48%), for $50 million so far in the U.S. That’s a big win for Director Scott Derrickson and Universal Studios/BlumHouse, and a reminder how thrillers like this shouldn’t go straight to streaming.

    #6 Speaking of lessons that should be learned from not going straight to streaming, Lightyear, the origin story around the toy who can’t fly, had another ugly fall this weekend, -64% for $6.6 million, with “only” $190 million worldwide. The worst theatrical bomb in Pixar Animation history.

    Yeah, the anticipation of its Disney+ release, and the poor concept killed this. Disney+ received the better, more interesting Pixar flicks (Soul, Luca, Turning Red) to increase streaming subscriptions. But conditioning families to stream animated tentpoles for FREE was a massive long-term mistake, and leads me concerned for their upcoming Strange World sci-fi adventure this Thanksgiving.

    It’s ironic how much Disney and Hollywood in general have emphasized streaming as a priority since COVID began. And now this Summer, the films that were instead delayed and did NOT go to streaming, are soaring to infinity and beyond at the box office. And save for Marvel and likely Avatar, Disney is the one studio that hasn’t yet recovered, partially because they’ve emphasized streaming releases first.
  • Intro

    Nice to meet everyone on here! My name is Zander Levy, and for the last decade or so I’ve enjoyed writing and the box office, films and their financial success, and what it takes for a studio to succeed! This is my Film Blog, attempting to be thought-provoking.

    As I’m typing this it’s 2022, and over the summer we’ve had SEVERAL big blockbusters over-performing, meeting expectations, and working in saving movie theaters! I think we’re at the point where it’s safe to say COVID doesn’t have much of an effect anymore, at least for the big movies. Keep reading to hear my thoughts Essays, Reviews, Commentary, and original analysis!