We had two new wide releases this weekend in North America, both with their own set of committed fans. One were the followers of the Maze Runner series, the other wanted to catch a glimpse of Johnny. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to the surprise hit of last year, took the top domestic spot at the box-office with a $30.3 million opening. It’s a tad lower than the $32.5 million opening of 2014’s The Maze Runner. Nonetheless, the sequel has had a fantastic opening in overseas markets from where it has already earned $78 million, which brings the worldwide earnings to a bit more than $108 million on the first weekend. While the movie may not reach $100 million domestically, it should still earn more than $300 million globally, in line with the previous movie’s performance, which would equate to a great return on the $61 million production budget. What comes to me as a surprise, however, is the jump in production budget from $34 million for The Maze Runner. Actors’ salaries would not have scaled up in such proportions in a year’s time, I bet! Along with the increase in production budget, the marketing costs too would have proportionately increased, which means Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is not going savor the same returns which its predecessor had achieved ($341 million worldwide earnings on a $34 million production budget). It’s still a hit film though, setting the path for the third and final edition next year.
Competing with the young-adult “YA” genre was the more serious-toned R-rated Black Mass. The movie has been in the news for marking Johnny Depp’s return to better movies, at least for now. It earned $23.4 million in North America over the weekend, which ain’t bad for a $53 million budget movie. It also ain’t the kind of opening that would have made it absolutely clear that Depp rules the box-office again, and the movie might need $70-80 million from foreign markets to achieve breakeven, so we need to wait and watch on this one. Nonetheless, compare the openings of Depp’s recent movies to their production budgets, and you can easily see how much better Black Mass has fared. The opening to production budget ratio of Black Mass stands at 0.44 time, far superior to that of Mortdecai (0.07), Transcendence (0.11), The Lone Ranger (0.14), and Dark Shadows (0.20). Just like M. Night Shyamalan marked his return to successful movies last week with The Visit, it seems the tide has turned in favour of Johnny Depp too.
Along with the two wide releases, there was a limited Imax-only release of Everest which earned a dazzling $7.6 million from 545 theatres alone. The movie opens in more theatres next weekend, and knowing that 2015’s top studio Universal Pictures is distributing the movie, not many would want to bet against the film’s success. Shyamalan’s The Visit dropped by 55% in its second weekend which actually indicates a strong hold for a horror movie, a genre where drops are usually at 60%+. This $5 million budget movie has already earned $46 million globally and could easily double that tally before the theatrical run ends. Last weekend’s leading movie The Perfect Guy fell sharply by 63% over the weekend, though for a $12 million production budget film, its $41 million box-office earnings over 10 days look quite good. War Room continues to add theatres each weekend which has arrested its fall in weekend earnings, and so far the total is almost $50 million (production budget was only $3 million!).
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials ($30.3 million)
2. Black Mass ($23.4 million)
3. The Visit ($11.4 million; second weekend)
4. The Perfect Guy ($9.6 million; second weekend)
5. Everest ($7.6 million)