SUNDAY UPDATE: Refresh for chart and more analysis Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II in its third weekend has beat Warner Bros. highly-publicized Jon M. Chu directed, Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights for the top spot at the weekend box office, $11.7M to $11.4M, in a defeat no one really saw coming, heading into the weekend. A Quiet Place Part II‘s domestic running B.O. stands at $109M.
As one rival marketing exec told me this weekend, “Warner Bros. was everywhere with In the Heights. Everywhere I turned, on every network there was an ad.” And that’s not a ding to the Burbank, CA lot; it’s what a filmmaker wants, especially on a diversity project such as In the Heights with a fresh face cast: They want to know that the studio truly has their best intentions.
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Essentially, as we mentioned yesterday, In the Heights’ underperformance, after lofty $20M+ opening weekend projections, boils down to its IP: It’s not Miranda’s Hamilton which redefined the Broadway musical and became a sensation by taking an American founding fathers story, setting it to rap, with diverse casting; rather it’s a smaller musical, beloved by the composer/lyricist/multihyphenate’s core fan base. In an ideal box office marketplace, it would have been best for Warner Bros. to platform the movie off of the fall film festival troika word-of-mouth, much like Lionsgate’s did with La La Land. However, even in pre-pandemic times, what’s been hanging around the release calendar, which Warners had to always stay clear of, is another Hispanic themed musical, and that’s Amblin/20th Century Studios/Disney’s reboot of West Side Story from Steven Spielberg, which is currently scheduled for theatrical release on Dec. 10. Again, a fresh-faced cast isn’t the reason why In the Heights didn’t pull in crowds here; rather the IP doesn’t boast the renowned, hummable songs that Hamilton does.
Also, let’s not forget that the core audience for musicals is an older demographic. But that group is more cautious than younger people and less likely to go to cinemas during a pandemic. Fifty-one percent of In the Heights‘ audience on PostTrak fell between 18-34. On CinemaScore 67% were over 25, 49% over 35. Females at 63% gave the movie an A+. PostTrak audiences gave it 4 1/2 stars. There’s a lot of audience and critical good will, though it’s clear the fans and a strong 40% Hispanic fanbase came out for In the Heights. How that translates into legs seems cloudy given how the movie is also on HBO Max. Maybe a 5-day launch in August like Crazy Rich Asians would have done the trick for In the Heights? Crazy Rich Asians in its first 3 days of Wed-Friday made $16M, with $5M Wednesday, $3.7M Thursday and $7.2M Friday. That movie didn’t hold previews. Warners listed In the Heights on Fandango as having an opening day of Thursday, with showtimes at 2PM and rolled all that money in the Friday first day.
In the Heights did very well in the Northeast theaters; NYC DMA being king. I hear the Hispanic theaters, such as those in Texas where Conjuring 3 overindexed last weekend, didn’t overperform with In the Heights this weekend.
Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which is also available on a theatrical window, also didn’t massively beat its Sony projection, coming in at $10.4M. The studio held onto the sequel, rather than selling it to a streamer because the first film was a $351M-grossing success. The muted performance of both In the Heights and Peter Rabbit 2 also underscores how product-driven the theatrical business remains; this after a pandemic which has sidelined many people at home, who are now fully returning to their leisure routines as the U.S. opens back up.
A Quiet Place Part II‘s repeat at No. 1 reps a win for a movie released on a pure theatrical window (even if it’s 45 days). Sure, there are questions about how much the HBO Max release might have stolen here from In the Heights’ box office, however, Warners was on a streak showing that they can open these simultaneous theatrical-day-and-date movies to No. 1 and beat projections, i.e. Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat and Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that HBO Max subscribers weren’t diverting too many B.O. dollars from the Chu-Miranda musical at all: The service doesn’t boast the number of subscribers that Netflix and Disney+ does.
WarnerMedia doesn’t report figures on HBO Max viewership, and it would be disingenuous if they claim some sort of win this weekend for In the Heights anecdotally; it’s a hollow victory. The weekend premiere viewership for these HBO Max/Warner Bros. slate movies per Samba TV are as follows for those who tuned in for at least 5 minutes (the third party stat org measures 3M households): Mortal Kombat (3.8M 3-day), GvK (3.6M 5-day), Wonder Woman 1984 (2.2M U.S. households 3-day), Justice League: The Snyder Cut (1.8M 4-day) and Conjuring 3 (1.6M 3-day). Juxtapose these numbers, though not fully complete, to the ones that Netflix is putting out for its 4-week global draw of its movies; recently Snyder’s Army of the Dead is set to hit 72M households.
While Warner Bros has said it’s committed to a theatrical window for its movies in 2022, the fear with something like the box office underperformance of In the Heights —a potential awards darling if you will, geared at adults– is whether the studio takes all movies like this in the future and relegates them to the streaming service. As long as the Academy Awards provides loopholes allowing streaming titles to compete (they did so, even pre-pandemic), it won’t be shocking if more studios with OTT services opt to skip a theatrical release with an awards contenders so they can avoid the tarnish of box office headlines. And that would be truly unfortunate. Even with the lackluster weekend performance of In the Heights, I have to think that Miranda is over the moon that In the Heights, a musical which he hatched in college in 1999, is playing on the big screen this summer, and had the big Tribeca Film Festival premiere that it did. Theater owners as well, who I here are still starving despite any glowing headlines the box office had provided in recent weeks, would rather have In the Heights in theaters, making whatever money they can. After a 31-day run on HBO Max, In the Heights will be exclusively in theaters.
SATURDAY UPDATE: While it appeared that the summer box office was dusting itself off from the pandemic over the last two weeks, both newcomers Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated Jon M. Chu- directed, Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights and Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway are currently filing less than spectacular results, respectively with a No. 1 rank of $5M Friday, $13M 3-day, and No. 4 place of $4M Friday, and $10.2M 30-day.
Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II, as we told you, crossed $100M yesterday after a third Friday of $3.75M, -40%, on its way to a $12.5M 3-day (-35%) weekend in second at 3,515 (-229) theaters. Don’t be surprised if the sequel reclaims the No. 1 spot this weekend, beating In the Heights, with a running total of $109.8M.
If there’s anything positive to say about the marketplace, the top four films are each grossing over $10M at the weekend box office, which should, in all, total an estimated $60M, off 11% from last weekend. New Line’s second weekend of Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It did $3.6M yesterday (-63%), on its way to an $11.3M (-53%) weekend in third place at 3,237 (+135) for a $45M running total by tomorrow.
Now, why all of this? Several reasons. But chiefly, distribution analysts are having a hard time reading tracking and projections in a marketplace where 5,88K theaters are 75% open and capacity restrictions (average 50%) are still in effect. Oh, let’s not forget the whole simultaneous theatrical-HBO Max day-and-date of it all for In the Heights. No one knows precisely how much the streaming service is siphoning away from movie ticket sales.
Interestingly enough, one of the first projections I heard for In the Heights, in hindsight is the most correct which was $10M to mid teens at 3,456 theaters. However, other box office sources, as the week went on, had In the Heights doing over $20M+, and that might have been on account of the estimated $20M Warners added to their P&A toward the end of their marketing blitz for this feature musical, which is a celebration of diversity. The studio really put its heart in marketing this movie. In no way was In the Heights orphaned, teeing off this past week with a huge in-person Tribeca Film Festival world premiere.
Don’t forget Warners closed a $50M deal for the movie rights after a bidding war took place for the IP around town. This included studios’ marketing departments pitching the filmmakers and dressing their backlots up like scenes from the Tony-winning Broadway show in an effort to show what they could do with In the Heights. The musical’s feature rights were extracted ahead of the Weinstein Co’s bankruptcy in May 2018. Before that, Universal almost made In the Heights, but found it to be too expensive at $37M back in 2011, with Miranda in the lead role as the bodega owner with big dreams, Kenny Ortega as director, and big Latinx stars in smaller roles. It would have helped a bit if Miranda did have a lead role in the movie now, versus supporting. His face is absent on the main ensemble one-sheet, though his character of Piraguero received a standalone poster.
Similar to the social media push to turn Black Panther into an event for African American moviegoers, and Crazy Rich Asians a must-see for Asian American audiences, there’s a #LatinxGoldOpen hashtag going around for In the Heights, with tastemakers holding screenings, according to RelishMix. Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding posted on Facebook:
Oprah Winfrey held a virtual block party for the movie:
Sony always saw Peter Rabbit 2 in the $8M-$10M opening range at 3,346 theaters. But rivals believed, like they did with In the Heights, that it could get higher. Peter Rabbit 2’s Thursday night preview of $900K also provided hope that the sequel could best expectations.
Now, In the Heights has an ‘A’ CinemaScore, indicating that the musical’s fans showed up, and it may take a while for some word of mouth to click-in. Warner Bros. has a unicorn here in regards to great critics’ score at 97% certified fresh, and great Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits of 88% positive and a 67% recommend, along with a strong turnout from the Latinx community at 33%. It’s elements such as this which could keep the In the Heights train going.
However, unfortunately working against In the Heights is that it’s a small Broadway musical IP, which doesn’t have the sensational legacy behind it like Miranda’s Hamilton. Some may say that the fresh-faced cast is a factor for curbing business. But we’ve seen big musicals like Universal’s Cats get tricked out with stars like Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and Jason Derulo, and it didn’t spur any more want-to-see.
Also, I hear a bulk of In the Heights business is coming from NYC this weekend, which is no surprise. Imax and PLF repped a third of In the Heights‘ business to date. At the end of the day, In the Heights arguably has a cult following.
Other intel on In the Heights: The feature musical leaned 62% female, 60% over 25 with half of all moviegoers between 18-34. Outside of Latinx demo, the movie drew 46% Caucasian, 12% Black, and 9% Asian/other.
In all fairness to Warner Bros. in regards to In the Heights, Crazy Rich Asians, which is the logical comp, also touted a fresh-faced cast, but opened on a Wednesday, and in its first 3-days only made $16M. In the Heights made the same amount as Crazy Rich Asians in day 1: $5M. That said, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison: Crazy Rich Asians didn’t have previews, In the Heights did around $1M+ in Thursday previews, I understand. Also, Friday is a bigger day at the box office than Wednesday, duh. Crazy Rich Asians, in the end, posted a $26.5M 3-day, $35.2M opening weekend. The film ultimately beat its $30M 5-day projection.
Same wait-and-see rule can be applied to Peter Rabbit 2 as far as possible momentum. While the first movie’s first day of $5.7M was higher than the sequel, its Saturday hopped up 97% over Friday to $11.2M, and resulted in being a game-changer for its opening weekend, which ended at $25M.
Peter Rabbit 2 earned an A- CinemaScore, same as its first installment, with PostTrak exits of 73% positive and a 44% recommend for the general crowd. Kids under 12 were more upbeat about it at 84% positive, 64% recommend. Moms came out at 56%, with close to half the crowd under 17.
Diversity demos were 46% Caucasian, 31% Latinx, 13% Black and 10% Asian/other. But, Peter Rabbit 2‘s biggest hurdle: it’s a sequel to a child-skewing movie. It’s not a broad-appealing family title like Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level. Keep in mind that no matter how dynamic the theatrical release window is for a movie, its box office is always a factor of being product-driven.
Disney’s third weekend of Cruella at 3,307 theaters (-615) took in a Friday of $2.1M (-35%) on its way to a projected $6.8M in 5th place, -38%, for a running total of $56.1M.
Universal’s second weekend of Spirit Untamed at 3,394 (+183) theaters made $830K on Friday (-66%) on its way to $2.9M sixth place (-52%) for a ten-day of $11.3M.
Making a notable pop in 7th place is The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 from Deon Taylor, distributed by his Hidden Film Group. The comedy sequel did $358K yesterday on its way to a $1.07M opening at 420 theaters for a $2,5K per theater. The pic played in 98 markets and has a 28-day window. Meet the Blacks 2, which stars Mike Epps and Katt Williams, played best in the East and South.