Counterprogramming ‘Crawl’ & ‘Stuber’ Collateral Damage In Superhero Summer As ‘Spider-Man’ Sees $44M+
3rd Update Saturday AM: Refresh for chart and more analysis Counterprogramming continues to be a casualty in a tentpole-dominant summer, making many in the industry wonder: Should we have just designated these films to streaming?
Like we said last weekend in our mid-summer report, when smaller films like Paramount’s Crawl (estimated $10.6M opening in 3rd) and Fox’s Stuber ($8M) fail to pop, much of that has to do with what they are inherently as product, or a distribution/marketing fumble. And, yes, you still have behemoths like a Sony/Marvel movie Spider-Man: Far From Home and Disney’s Toy Story 4 still vacuuming up most of the dollars in a given weekend respectively making $44.8M and $21M. We’ll get into that further down, but there’s chatter out there that exhibition should break out of their old ways and start experimenting with prices for lower-budgeted movies. In no way are audiences in an Avengers: Endgame $849.5M marketplace going to spend the same amount of money ($15-$20 a ticket) to see a smaller film like Midsommar, Crawl, Stuber, Long Shot, the list goes on. Such mid-budgeted and lower-budgeted fare should be designated at cinemas with lower prices. The concern here by some is that in order for these movies to work, and to make them attractive to streaming audiences/potential moviegoers at home, you have to charge a lower price and that entails exhibition –and distribution, because they’re part of this conversation as well as they rule the roost on film rental terms– to change their old ways of thinking. At least experiment with this and find out what happens.
‘Stuber’ Red Band Trailer: Bullets Fly In The Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista Comedy
If you want to see a clear example of how audiences come out to smaller movies at lower tickets prices, just glance at Tuesday’s box office when theaters around the country host bargain or $5 Tuesdays. Last week, Universal/Working Title’s Yesterday saw a 55% gain over Monday’s sales, Rocketman a near 40% daily jump, and Annabelle Comes Home a 41% surge.
Now if you have a piece of counter-programming, this was the weekend to release it in between the gorilla breathing stops of Far From Home and the upcoming Lion King. But Paramount and Disney/Fox didn’t realize that full opportunity.
Paramount’s Crawl, which played best in the South despite Tropical Storm Barry in the Louisiana Gulf, had an awesome trailer out of CinemaCon. It’s literally a never-before-seen (at least for younger audiences) Jaws like movie with a great high stakes premise: alligators infesting an underwater house during a Hurricane 5. So why isn’t this The Meg? Something doesn’t seem right here and the movie feels like a missed opportunity: Outside of the one trailer released online (which RelishMix says had a high viral rate of 67:1), Paramount really didn’t eventize this movie like they did with Rocketman. In fact, you could argue that A24’s Midsommar had more of a digital presence; everytime you logged onto Facebook, a trailer played. Crawl ads seem to pop up just this week. There were no advance critics screenings, this despite the fact that the 56 who ran out to see it enjoyed the croc exploitation film at 89%. Audiences were so-so with a B CinemaScore (Meg had a B+) and PostTrak lower at 2 1/2 stars and a 46% definite recommend. Again, why isn’t this Meg? Meg was a very expensive movie that Warner Bros. really needed to work, plus it had a star in it, Jason Statham. More high stakes there for a studio to get animal monster water movie to work. That’s not the case here with Paramount and Crawl which cost $13.5M.
Now, Stuber is another Fox orphan in the Disney gobbling. R-rated action comedies aren’t Disney’s forte so they let what was left of the Fox marketing department to do the heavy lifting (don’t expect this to become a trend with Fox movies. We hear Disney loves Ford v. Ferrari and they’re aiming to make that work during awards season. Also, Ad Astra is a New Regency and Brad Pitt movie. Those two have a lot on the line, and they’re going to see that that pic works). The creative campaign for Stuber, like Dark Phoenix, was uninspiring and mailed-in with the initial one sheets showing a close-up shot of stars Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. Also, a big factor missing: What the hell does Stuber mean? The campaign never really transmitted that: Nanjiani is a guy named Stu, who drives an Uber. It would help to incorporate that. One could argue that Bautista and Nanjiani aren’t leading stars, that they’re just supporting players, but in all fairness, this was their opportunity to graduate to leading man status. It just stinks that Stuber is in a situation where the film has been taken over and left to wither by another studio. Many are dinging STX over moving Bautista’s next movie My Spy out of the August marketplace due to their money problems. But if you were a distributor, and you had My Spy, and saw that Stuber wasn’t going to work, wouldn’t you also move My Spy? (Yes, I know, some will answer, well My Spy shouldn’t have been there in August in the first place). CinemaScore crowds gave Stuber a B, and PostTrak was better at 3.5 Stars and 51% definite recommend.
Refresh for chart
2nd Update, Friday Midday: In the wake of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, and heading into the colossal Lion King, counterprogramming remains the freshest stuff on the marquee, but it’s not king. Paramount’s Sam Raimi-alligator production Crawl is seeing $4.5M-$5M today (including $1M from last night) for a 3rd place start between $11M-$12M at 3,170 locations.
Disney/Fox’s R-rated action comedy Stuber with $3M-$3.5M today and $7.5M-$9M for the weekend at 3,050 is far worse in 4th place. Far From Home, as expected, has No. 1 in its web with around $40M, -56% for a running total of $269.2M by Sunday at 4,634 theaters.
Disney’s Toy Story 4 has 2nd place in weekend 4 at 4,210 with $20M, -41%, for a $345.7M running total.
Universal has Yesterday in 5th place with $6M, -40% in weekend 3 at 2,755, for a running total of $47.6M.
1st Update, Friday 7:17 AM: Paramount’s Florida hurricane/alligator thriller Crawl is off to a solid start with $1M from 7 PM previews Thursday night. Industry tracking has the Alexandre Aja-directed movie in the $10M-$12M in the shadow of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s second weekend, which is expected to be in the low $40Ms, down in the low 50%-tile.
We hear that exhibitors really enjoyed Crawl, and if there’s a pic that could over-index this weekend, that’s the one. The Kaya Scodelario starrer is booked at about 3,000 theaters. We hear that Paramount kept the Sam Raimi-produced R-rated pic at a very responsible $13.5M before P&A.
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes currently give Crawl an 88% fresh score, which is great for a genre movie. Box office comparisons off of last night’s previews include Screen Gems’ Slender Man ($1M Thursday, $11.3M opening) and 2016’s The Shallows ($1.3M Thursday, $16.8M opening).
Spider-Man: Homecoming two Julys ago posted a $44.2M second weekend, -62% from its $117M opening. Through 10 days, the Jon Watts Marvel sequel counts $229.2M with $8.9M Thursday, -3% from Wednesday.
Disney has Fox’s action-comedy Stuber starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani opening today. The pic is expected to file in the $7M-$10M range and is not expected to change the fate of comedies at the box office. Previews were $750K last night and are just above the $700K made by Warner Bros.’ action comedy The Nice Guys back in May 2016, which opened to an underwhelming $11.2M. Critics don’t find the movie funny at 45% Rotten. The Michael Dowse-directed pic follows an Uber driver whose car is commandeered by a burly LAPD detective for a crazy night. The pic will be in play at 3,050 theaters.
Dave Bautista Pic ‘My Spy’ Slips Out Of Summer Away From ‘Stuber’
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