If you read most of the movie headlines for today, you would find some websites screaming stuff like “Exodus: Gods and Kings dethrones The Hunger Games” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings conquers weekend box-office”. How misleading can such headlines be! True, the recently released Exodus: Gods and Kings has topped the box-office in North America, but its battle was against a movie running in its fourth weekend — The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. The other wide release of the weekend Top Five opened in less than a third of the theatres as compared to Exodus: Gods and Kings, so there was no competition at all. A movie’s box-office performance has to be judged more on the basis of a comparison with its production and marketing budgets, and less by its relative ranking on the charts. So that’s what we are going to do.
Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is an expensive film with a $140 million production budget alone; keeping that figure in mind, the opening weekend earning of $24.5 million in North America is quite poor. Such an opening suggests that the movie may struggle to even reach $100 million in the domestic market. We could draw a direct comparison with another biblical tale that released earlier this year, Noah, which had a slightly lower production budget of $125 million, opened with $44 million in North America, and barely managed to cross the $100 million figure. Exodus: Gods and Kings has started way below and so has a really big mountain to climb. But the month of December usually sees lower falls in subsequent weeks, as the holiday period approaches, so that may somewhat help. I estimate that the movie may need something around $400 million to $450 million worldwide to achieve break-even, and for that to happen, it will have to rely heavily on Christian Bale’s global appeal. Can Exodus: Gods and Kings manage a $300 million plus figure outside North America? Tough question to figure out as of now; the movie has earned $50 million so far in foreign markets, and it would really need things to go right in all the big markets to manage such high earnings. Noah did manage $261 million in foreign markets alone, so it would be too early to dismiss of Exodus: Gods and Kings. Nonetheless, however further the movie manages to reach, it has really not been the biblical miracle Ridley Scott would have been hoping for!
The other domestic wide release of the weekend was Chris Rock’s comedy film Top Five, though it released in only 979 theatres. A low budget movie, made with $10 million, it had a pretty decent opening with $7.2 million. Paramount Pictures has plans to gradually increase the screenings of the film, which coupled with very strong reviews (89% score on Rottentomatoes), could lead to healthy returns for the studio. It would definitely top Chris Rock’s previous film as a director, I Think I Love My Wife, that barely earned $13 million. Now a quick roundup of the holdover films. The Hunger Games, Mockingjay – Part 1 stands at $611 million worldwide, with still a lot of strength left in its legs. Penguins of Madagascar is doing better business outside than at home and has earned $175 million globally, but it needs way more to even achieve break-even. The outlook for Horrible Bosses 2 remains dismal. A final word on the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, which has scaled to more than 1,000 theatres over the weekend. It’s a low budget movie ($15 million), and with the award buzz, it has been building its reputation slowly and confidently. The gross earnings currently stand at close to $20 million, but expect more attention to come its way when the Oscar nominations are announced.
Next weekend, a saga comes to a conclusion with the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in North America, and the dull box-office could finally wake up. The movie opened in a few countries this weekend, and has already grossed $117 million. To USA, it heads next!
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Exodus: Gods and Kings ($24.5 million)
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 ($13.2 million; fourth weekend)
3. Penguins of Madagascar ($7.3 million; third weekend)
4. Top Five ($7.2 million)
5. Big Hero 6 ($6.1 million; sixth weekend)