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Our Guide To A Movie Weekend In Crisis

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

Remember Halloween back in the day, where there was that one house in the neighborhood that always handed out the full-size candy bars to trick-or-treaters instead of the snack-size? That was pure milk-chocolate bliss.

It’s too bad Hollywood doesn’t adopt a similar philosophy during the haunting season, as all the films released in multiplexes around this time seem to be all trick and little treat. In fact, over the last two weeks of this month, studios might as well have been handing out  apples with razor blades to audiences.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but there is no denying last weekend was an absolute horror show for Hollywood, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and the kind only Stephen King could appreciate.

Universal’s “Gem and the Holograms” and Open Road’s “Rock the Kasbah” were two of the worst openings in history of cinema, debuting with $1.3M and $1.5M respectively.  That’s coupled with the critically acclaimed  “Steve Jobs” not computing with audiences in wide release, Vin Diesel’s latest “The Last Witch Hunter” (which cost somewhere between $50M and $90M, seems no one has an answer to that) having a $10.8M weekend opening, and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” becoming the lowest wide opening of the franchise.

This weekend’s slate of new sacrifices doesn’t look like it will stop the box office bloodletting, as three flicks are literally being flung into theaters—Sandra Bullock in the political dramedy “Our Brand is Crisis,” Bradley Cooper front and center cooking up drama in “Burnt,” and something Paramount is daring theater owners to put on their marquees, “Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” All of these arrive with very little marketing support and awareness boarding on a flat line.

“Our Brand is Crisis” might fare the best of the new releases; however, political potboilers that are vetoed by reviewers (Rotten Tomatoes score is just 42%) often fail to capture public support.

Interestingly, David Gordon Green is at the helm, who is most known for his indies (“All the Real Girls,” “Prince Avalanche,” “Manglehorn”) but has also helmed one studio hit, “Pineapple Express.” But let us never forget he also directed “Your Highness.”

And while Sandra Bullock is usually a big draw, this isn’t exactly a genre that does any favors for anyone. Billy Bob Thornton adds credibility, but not enough to win over the undecided. In over 2,200 theaters, the $28M film will be lucky to hit the campaign trail with $6M in the coffers.

Bradley Cooper is endlessly entertaining as an actor. No doubt, he will be in top form in Weinstein’s “Burnt.” However, with so many cooking reality shows on TV these days, do we really need another intimate portrait of a celebrity chef?

Jon Favreau’s “Chef” was the perfect dish and that came out a year and a half ago.

Cooper’s star power alone should drive this film towards $7M-$8M as it plates up in 3,000+ venues; however, it too is suffering from poor reviews (currently 33% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), which still greatly affects adult dramas.

And then we have Paramount’s chill pill “Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” Like “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” last week, the studio is tinkering with the distribution model, and offering the film 17 days after its release onto VOD.

Many of the major theatrical chains are not on board with that paradigm, and thus not screening the $15M film for their patrons. Turns out, it will be in about 1,500+ theaters–roughly the same as “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” last weekend–but probably will gross less than half of the $8M that the 6th film in the franchise scared up.

Everyone in Hollywood knows why Paramount is attempting to try a new distribution model, as they have significantly less bankable titles than the other “Big 6” studios.

Quite honestly, the horror genre is a good place as any to start; it just seems that with Paramount’s last two releases there is a lot more confusion about what’s going on with their distribution model and less focus on marketing these films—which isn’t a solid plan of attack. This VOD manifest should have been ironed out long ago, so it isn’t the driving force behind these films.

Hey, “Paranormal Activity 6” is already a money-maker—that’s not the issue—as the $10M production debuted with $18M overseas last weekend; however, it looks like it will accrue significantly less than previous installments in theaters.

Now, to be fair, we’ll all have to wait and see what kind of money Paramount does with the digital release of these two films in the weeks to come. Hopefully the studio will be transparent with these numbers, so everyone can see—including theaters—exactly what has been gained or lost. It’s an interesting gamble that had to be done eventually by a major studio, and this may be just the beginning of theatrical “Tinker Time.”

Remember, this is a franchise that has grossed an incredible $800M worldwide..and it looks like it was shot on video from the 1980s.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. The Martian – $10M
  2. Goosebumps – $9M
  3. Bridge of Spies – $8
  4. Burnt – $7M
  5. Hotel Transylvania 2 – $7M

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DEEPEST CUT OF THE WEEK: Starz’ “ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” (Oct. 31)

With Halloween dropping trou on a Saturday this year, like most folks, you’ll probably be out partying or trick-or-treating…not going to the movies. That’s ok, because the most fulfilling thing that you can gouge your eyeballs with is Starz’ “Ash vs. Evil Dead” which continues Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy, and begins where 1993’s “Army of Darkness” left off.  Bruce Campbell is back, baby. Groovy.

Oh, and it’s already been renewed for Season 2 before its boob tube premiere. Thank you, “The Walking Dead,” for making all this gory greatness palatable to millions. We are now mainlining the macabre, and thus truly living in the golden age of gruesomeness. High five yourself, folks.

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CHINCY CUT OF THE WEEK: Netflix’s “THE RIDICULOUS 6” (Dec. 11)

The thing is, on paper (or parchment as it were), this should be good. After seeing the trailer, you know it isn’t. Having a chance to lampoon all these old westerns, not to mention Quentin Tarantino, and possibly make the most important contribution to the western comedy genre since Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” Sandler and crew can’t even manage a couple of laughs in a two-minute trailer.

This horse is beyond dead, it’s straight up jerky already, and now everyone will have a whack at it in December.

Remember, folks, this is just the first of a multi-picture deal that Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions has with the streaming juggernaut. Let’s hope Sandler trades in his saddle for a spaceship, as the sci-fi genre could use a good spoofing after “The Martian,” “Gravity” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” just around the corner. Whoops. Mel Brooks already perfected that, too. Someone get that fellow on the phone, pronto. I know for a fact he’s eating sushi in adjacent Westwood right now.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“Our Brand Is Crisis” Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by The Refinery