Eternals Eyes $27M+ Second Weekend; Clifford Woofs $20M 5-Day: Is Theatrical Hybrid Model Really The Answer For Family Movies?

Refresh for more analysis and chart Despite the worst reviews for a Marvel movie, and a B CinemaScore, the second weekend of Disney/Marvel’s Eternals didn’t implode, now on track for a -62% weekend, which is on the high end of where we were expecting it with $27.4M. The pic made $7.8M yesterday, -75%. Through ten days, the Chloe Zhao directed movie will stand at an estimated $118.7M.

Meanwhile, Paramount/eOne’s Clifford the Big Red Doglooks to clear $20M in five days, which bests the $15M-$17M the studio was eyeing, and that’s with the movie on Paramount+. The 3-day on the Walt Becker directed kids film is $14.5M after a $4.2M Friday.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek doesn’t have a dog in this box office race with Clifford, but has a studio which is the leader in family product, and thus has the power and leverage to determine how the industry releases films in the future. Earlier this week during Disney’s Q4 earnings call, Chapek expressed that the conglom is sticking to a flexible theatrical/Disney+ distribution plan in the near future because “we’re still unsure in terms of how the marketplace is going to react when family films come back with a theatrical first window.”

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I call B.S. on that one. It’s OK for the theme parks to be open during COVID (which doubled revenue to $5.45 billion in Q4), but families are hesitant to come to the movie theater? I don’t buy that. The box office numbers are proof that there’s an audience out there for family numbers, and if Clifford could do close to $20M in five days, we know it could have done more without Paramount+. Even Disney’s Ron’s Gone Wrong, which was a clunker in its opening weekend with $7.3M, is seeing solid holds: after a 4.6% decline last weekend in weekend 3, the movie has only eased -40% in weekend 4 with $2.1M, taking its total to $20.6M; and that’s a niche family movie. The Biden administration announced earlier this week that close to 1M kids 5 to 11 have already received their first Covid shot within its first week of eligibility with another 700K appointments booked for those to receive their first dose. The figures are based off of 20K pharmacies and clinics. All of this bodes well for Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday box office.

What I need to emphasize here is that November after Eternals, and following a huge $638M October during the pandemic that was beefed up with summer-event films, isn’t going to really dazzle at the box office, not until Sony/Marvel/Disney’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, and that’s all because of product. I know it sounds like I’m repeating myself, but it’s something worth baring as whenever there is a misfire, or lackluster gross, the fear is that studios (or Disney) will use that as an excuse to go hybrid. Disney has Encanto coming up for Thanksgiving, and what’s important to remember is that original animated movies are a challenge to launch. Disney’s original animation movie Encanto is currently expected to do $37M-$40M in five, but will likely leg out. But just because it’s lesser IP, is no reason to go collapse the window. The riches are in the long run through windows, not in the mere collapsing of marketing costs.

“While Covid will be in the rearview mirror, God willing, I think change in consumer behavior will be more permanent,” added Chapek earlier this week, I don’t exactly agree with that; I think it’s more about Disney missing their subscriber numbers, which sent their stock tumbling 10% from $176.87 at the close of Monday to $159.63 by Friday close, and that’s due to the backlog of their production series line. Disney in Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, etc has brands that are the envy of the entire town. Disney needs to be careful not to dilute that. If you’re making a film available in both homes and theaters simultaneously, then what’s the premium value of that? Did Black Widow trigger more sign-ups than the availability of Labor Day theatrical release Shang-Chi this weekend on Disney+? Or is the better question to ask: Will binge Marvel series Hawkeye and Lucasfilm’s The Book of Boba Fett which are exclusively on Disney+ this holiday season, and not in theaters, spur more subscriptions? Exclusivity, whether it’s theatrical or simply Disney+ are the respective drivers to either medium. Disney will get their stock back up. I don’t think it’s down on account of keeping their movies on a theatrical window, they just need more new product on Disney+, and that will flood will certainly come. But in the meantime, don’t burn the Mouse House down to keep warm.

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Meanwhile, Focus Features’ black and white Kenneth Branagh movie Belfast is putting up solid numbers in arthouses with $1.6M at 580 theaters. Friday earned $640K, which is higher than the opening day for Focus’ The Card Counter which posted a $422K Friday and $1M opening weekend at 580 sites.

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