There were two wide releases in North America over the weekend and both were franchise films – the animated Penguins of Madagascar and the R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses 2. What this weekend has proved is that it ain’t so easy to find love from the audience simply on the strength of your predecessors. DreamWorks Animation must have thought the opposite when the studio decided to launch the spin-off story on the crazy penguins from the successful Madagascar series. It wasn’t a completely bad idea, after all the Penguins were a delight to watch in the previous movies, but Penguins of Madagascar seems to have been a tepid effort in this highly competitive animation industry. A 69% score on Rottentomatoes indicates a moderate approval from the critics, and a $25.8 million domestic opening shows a similar reaction from the audience. This is the lowest opening in the Madagascar franchise, and looks all the more weak if you compare it with the $60 million plus openings of the last two movies of the franchise. On top of that, the reported production budget of Penguins of Madagascar is about $132 million; so I estimate that the studio must be looking at $400 million worldwide earnings to achieve breakeven (close to $100 million earned worldwide so far). The spin-off will have to rely heavily on the foreign markets now, as the domestic market earnings may not even reach $100 million. The only hope would lie in the knowledge that 2012’s Madagascar 3 had earned $530 million in foreign markets alone, and so there might be an audience who is still warm to the idea of a spin-off after all. Nonetheless, DreamWorks Animation is going through a horrid period indeed!
The other release was the sequel Horrible Bosses 2 which opened to a disappointing $15.7 million in North America that puts it in the fifth position on its first weekend itself. The opening is way below the $28.3 million figure for its 2011 predecessor. It seems like an unnecessary sequel to have been thrown in front of the audience, lacking completely in its freshness to excite the viewers in a way that the first movie did. Despite the wonderful and wide acting cast which the movie carried, its reviews were largely negative (34% on Rottentomatoes), nor is it expected to have any good word-of-mouth. Maybe the fact that a R-rated comedy in the form of Dumb and Dumber To ($36.1 million domestic opening, just to draw a comparison) had been released only two weeks prior, could have also affected this movie’s earnings. The only saving grace for Warner Bros. is that the budget for Horrible Bosses 2 was only $43 million, and so a decent enough foreign run could help the studio limit its losses.
As the newcomers failed to impress, the top position was retained by last week’s release The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. The movie dropped by 53% in its second weekend which is similar to the drop seen by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It has raked in $226 million in North America so far, and is expected to cross the $300 million mark, though may not be able to jump above Guardians of the Galaxy which is nearing the end of its domestic theatrical run with collections close to $332 million. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 has earned $254 million in foreign markets too, which brings its worldwide total to $480 million till date. This movie should be heading for a $700 million worldwide tally, that is what I had said last week too, which would bring great returns for Lionsgate as its production budget was $125 million. So whether you liked the studio’s decision to split the final book into two movies or not, from a financial point of view, it seems to have made a lot of sense! A final word on our other two heavyweights that continue to feature in the top five spots – Big Hero 6 has a $224 million worldwide collection so far, with many foreign markets yet to be tapped, while Interstellar is soaring high abroad for a $542 million worldwide earnings figure till now. Oh, and Gone Girl slips out of the top five positions on the domestic box-office charts finally, in its ninth week. With worldwide collections of $334 million, it is now the biggest film by David Fincher. Kudos!
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 ($56.9 million; second weekend)
2. Penguins of Madagascar ($25.8 million)
3. Big Hero 6 ($18.8 million; fourth weekend)
4. Interstellar ($15.8 million; fourth weekend)
5. Horrible Bosses 2 ($15.7 million)