FAST X, the tenth installment of the famous car chase movie series, delivered a first-place finish by grossing $67.5M in its opening weekend. Episode 10 brings back Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto, with a bountiful supporting cast including Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Momoa, John Cena, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Brie Larson and Rita Moreno. In this chapter, Dom and his family face their most formidable opponent in the person of Dante Reyes, played by Jason Momoa. Dante is fueled by revenge as he commits to destroying everything in his path and everyone who has meaning in Dom’s life. As typical for the series, audiences are showing more enthusiasm than professional reviewers, with FAST X scoring 88% from moviegoers and 56% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Universal’s franchise began in 2001 with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, and the nine movies to-date have grossed more than $6B worldwide. However, these movies may be showing their age with the FAST X opening weekend total of $67.5M ranking seventh in the series. When we look over results from the last four films, the downward direction is noticeable.
FURIOUS 7 – Opening $147M, Domestic Total $353M, Worldwide Total $1,515M
FATE OF THE FURIOUS – Opening $99M, Domestic Total $226M, Worldwide Total $1,237M
F9: THE FAST SAGA – Opening $70M, Domestic Total $173M, Worldwide Total $726M
FAST X – Opening $67.5M
Since the highwater mark of FURIOUS 7, each subsequent movie has shown steadily declining results.
At last months’ CinemaCon conference, Vin Diesel made an impassioned speech thanking exhibitors for their support over the years and proclaiming his personal commitment to continuing the series. He explained that FAST X is the first of a trilogy of movies over the next several years. However, considering FAST X’s staggering production cost of $340M, it may no longer make economic (or creative?) sense to carry on.
On the one hand, the appeal of FAST & FURIOUS movies relies on the combination of a large cast of well-known performers and eye-popping special effects. On the other hand, the expense involved in assembling the A-list cast and creating the intense CGI effects represent a challenge to the bottom line. Despite a sluggish domestic opening, more than 75% of the box office will come from its huge international appeal. This could still result in FAST X turning a profit. With some belt tightening, the series may still live on so that Diesel’s vision is fulfilled Universal’s all-time leading franchise continues.
Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 dropped down to second place in its third weekend by earning $32.0M, a drop of 48% from last weekend’s results. After a 17-day total of $266M, we remain bullish about the final tally for this $250M project. We expect to see a good hold over next weekend’s is Memorial Day holiday, followed by solid ticket sales through the middle of June.
Universal’s THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE came in third, with a gross of $9.8M in its seventh weekend, a drop of only 22% from last weekend. The sterling performance of SUPER MARIO has exceeded all expectations, with a worldwide gross of $1.2B to-date. In fact, we are so positive about the potential for SUPER MARIO that we can well imagine it taking the baton from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS to become Universal’s most important franchise going forward. While it is easy to envision SUPER MARIO in future iterations, the $6B box office from the F&F franchise illustrates how far the Nintendo star would have to go to lap the action series.
After last week’s perfectly timed Mother’s Day weekend opening of BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER, the adult-oriented sequel dropped into a fourth place in its second weekend with a three-day gross of $3.0M and a decline of 55%. This gives Universal/Focus an extremely rare three out of four top finishers in the same weekend. After ten days, THE NEXT CHAPTER has grossed $13.1M, which is a mere 41% of the original BOOK CLUB from 2018 that grossed $32.2M in its first ten days. We can now estimate that THE NEXT CHAPTER will gross $22M domestically and $40M worldwide over its total run. Given its modest $20M production budget, will most likely eke out a profit, but it will be a tough call when considering whether to write any additional chapters.
Warner Bros.’ EVIL DEAD RISE finished in fifth place with $2.4M, down 36% from last weekend. After 38 days, EVIL has produced a strong $64.1M and we expect it to wind up with a domestic total somewhere near $70M domestic and $125M worldwide. Last weekend EVILD DEAD RISE surpassed the third film in the series, EVIL DEAD, which earned $54M in 2013 and had previously held the title as the best performer among the four EVIL movies. Look for the next EVIL movie to appear about two years from now.
All movies playing in theatres this weekend grossed $122.6M compared to $77.6M from the same weekend in 2022. Last year’s top movie the third weekend of DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS was the weekend’s top earner with $31M followed by DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA which opened with $15.9M.
|Rank||Title (Distributor)||Week||# Theatres||Weekend $||Per Theatre Average $||Total $|
|1||Fast X (Universal Pictures)||1||4,046||$67,500,000||$16,683||$67,500,000|
|2||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney/Marvel)||3||4,450||$31,980,000||$7,187||$212,402,569|
|3||The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal Pictures)||8||3,540||$9,800,000||$2,768||$380,439,440|
|4||Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus Features)||2||3,513||$3,000,000||$854||$9,677,580|
|5||Evil Dead Rise (Warner Bros.)||5||2,173||$2,375,000||$1,093||$48,609,847|
The New York Times published an exit interview with NATO’s outgoing President and CEO John Fithian, as he steps down after spending the last thirty years advocating for exhibitors. Fithian highlights some of the biggest challenges that the industry has faced over that time.
These include making the expensive conversion from film to digital projection and the shrinking window studios provide theatres during which they have exclusive access to play their new releases.
Fithian commends exhibitors for making continued investments to improve the moviegoing experience, by upgrading their projection and sound, providing increasingly comfortable seating, and introducing new concessions, beverage, and dining options.
His biggest concern has come recently when studios were rethinking their businesses to focus on streaming at the expense of cinemas. In the early days of the pandemic, some execs flirted with the idea that “the only thing that mattered as a competitive business model was the number of subscribers to streaming services.”
The winds have changed since that time, and Hollywood has come back to the viewpoint that theatrical releasing is the most effective way to launch a new movie, producing revenue from the box office and increasing interest for its eventual appearance on streaming.
Heck, even Amazon and Apple have jumped on the bandwagon, with recent announcements from each that they will spend $1B annually to produce new movies to be released in theatres before they hit Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+.
As he now hands over NATO’s reins to incoming President Michael O’Leary, Fithian is enthusiastic about the future of cinemas. “If the studio partners keep making really good movies that appeal to diverse audiences, and we keep innovating and upgrading cinema experiences, I’m very bullish on the long-term health of the industry.”
On Tuesday, the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival kicked off with an opening night screening of the historical drama JEANNE DU BARRY from French director-actress Maïwenn who co-stars alongside Johnny Depp in the role of France’s King Louis XV.
As is typical, many of the most-anticipated movies of the year will have their premieres at Cannes this week. Last year, TOP GUN: MAVERICK, ELVIS, and TRIANGLE OF SADNESS were all able to leverage the buzz created at Cannes last year to have successful theatrical runs.
A number of renowned filmmakers will unveil their latest movies at the festival, including Wes Anderson with ASTEROID CITY and Martin Scorsese with KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. While ASTEROID arrives in theatres next month on June 16th, FLOWER MOON will be released later in the year on October 6th, positioning itself for consideration at next year’s Oscars. Some are doubting the box office potential of these movies after a number of movies from famous filmmakers have generated unimpressive results over the past several years.
Disney is bringing to the festival two of their most important movies for the year, INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY starring Harrison Ford, and Pixar’s newest animated feature ELEMENTAL. DIAL OF DESTINY is expected to become one of the highest-grossing films of the year, while ELEMENTAL brings hope for a return to form for Pixar, after last year’s disappointment with LIGHTYEAR.
The fate of Disney’s movie business in 2023 will depend on the success of these two films. Recognizing this, a number of Disney’s top execs including CEO Bob Iger flew to Cannes to make an appearance at the premiere of DIAL OF DESTINY.
While applause for Ford at his introduction was enthusiastic, the audience’s reception for the film was “muted.” Critics have been unenthusiastic in their initial round of reviews, which does not bode well for its prospects when it arrives in theatres on June 30th.
See also: Cannes 2023: The Films We’re Excited About Seeing (New York Times)
This interesting article from IndieWire enumerates the many costs involved in running a movie theatre, beginning with the expense of installing and maintaining modern digital projectors. While the transition from film to digital that took place 12-15 years ago saved the studios a lot of money, it increased cost and complexity for exhibitors, who were forced to become adept with the new technology.
Because a film projector ran more like a machine, exhibitors could themselves repair and replace broken parts when necessary and be back up and running within a few hours. By contrast, digital projectors are complex computers, which must be serviced by specialized technicians, adding to their cost of operation.
In some cases, theatres have to wait weeks or even months for a technician to be available to address their issue. The cost for parts also presents a challenge for the bottom line, such as media blocks ($7,000-$40,000), digital library servers ($12,000-$27,000), and xenon bulbs ($450-$1,300).
Pressures are now building for exhibitors to migrate to the next development in digital projection, laser, which can cost $40,000 – $150,000 for each projector. Vendors such as Cinionic, Christie, and Barco tout better image quality and lower cost of operations as primary selling points, with lower costs from a reduction in electricity usage paying for the initial investment within 2-4 years.
However, the up-front costs involved in migrating to laser projection are a big barrier to entry for exhibitors. Exhibitors may not have a choice, with studios such as Sony and Paramount already refusing to support older models of digital projectors. Since moviegoers are showing a strong preference for fantastical blockbusters when they go out to the theatre, exhibitors may be forced to adopt these high-end technologies to deliver the big-screen experience audiences are looking for.
In another sign that the writers’ strike may not be resolved anytime soon, the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) voted unanimously this week to recommend their own strike in advance of the June 7th kick-off to their own negotiations on a new studio contract.
SAG leadership announced that their recommendation was made in “solidarity” with the writers who are currently embroiled in their own strike with the studios. While this is only a recommendation from the SAG’s leaders, it is still a significant step in light of the fact that the actors did not join the writers in 2007 when they last went out on strike.
In fact, the last time that the actors went on strike was 43 years ago, in a walkout that lasted 95 days over a dispute focused on compensation paid for pay-TV and videocassette distribution. Currently, it’s streaming that is forcing a rethink of business models, with significant impacts on both writers and actors.
The studio’s perspective on current negotiations is clouded by their significant challenges in turning a profit in the streaming era, having invested massively to create direct-to-consumer, digital services.
While the impact on exhibitors is minimal at this point, a long strike could begin to jeopardize the pipeline of new movies scheduled for release in 2024 and beyond.
|The Little Mermaid ( Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures )||PG||135||Wide|
|The Machine ( Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) )||R||112||Wide|
|Kandahar ( Open Road Films )||NR||150||Moderate|
|Close to Vermeer ( Kino Lorber )||NR||79||Limited|
|Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ( Columbia Pictures )||140||Wide|
|The Boogeyman ( Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures )||PG-13||98||Limited|
|Rise ( Blue Fox Entertainment )||NR||117||Limited|
|Simulant ( Vertical Entertainment )||NR||95||Limited|
|Past Lives ( A24 )||PG-13||106||Limited|