As a studio, you greenlight a sequel with the minimum expectation that the movie would earn more than its predecessor. The reason you are contemplating a sequel is on the back of the success of the first one, and so you believe that the people who loved the first movie would revisit the second one, and the positive word-of-mouth would get a handful more to the cinema halls. Blue Sky Studios would surely have expected this logic to work for Rio 2. It did for the sequel to Ice Age, it worked with Toy Story 2, it went according to plan for Shrek 2. But that is always not the case. The success of a sequel depends also on how much the first movie was really loved so that it does not fade away over the years, how much of an appeal is the sequel generating on its own, and what kind of competition is the movie opening to. As it turns out, Rio 2 has pretty much achieved the same set of initial numbers of 2011’s Rio, opening with an estimated $39 million weekend earning in North America (as compared to $39.2 million earned by Rio). Not better nor worse. The movie’s budget has not inflated by much, at $103 million for the sequel as compared to $90 million for the predecessor. Rio had however fallen by only 33% on its second weekend, and that is something which I feel a sequel is unlikely to achieve considering that many who loved the first movie would have already made their way to the theatres on the opening weekend. Further, Rio 2 has modest reviews, with a score of 50% on Rottentomatoes (the previous film has 72%). But the domestic earnings are not what the studio is after, for even with Rio, it had formed less than a third of the movie’s overall earnings. So even if Rio 2 falls short of the domestic collection of $144 million of its predecessor, it would be aiming to eclipse the $341 million earnings in the foreign markets, which would make the film a success. Rio 2 seems to be on track to do so, having earned $124 million so far in foreign markets, and this is the space where in a couple of weeks things would get clearer as to the potential of building a grander franchise around the blue macaws.
Rio 2 could not outmatch its predecessor nor could it get the better of Captain America: The Winter Soldier which despite a 56% fall in its second weekend, earned a solid $41 million, keeping it on the top of the box-office charts in North America. The second weekend fall for the movie is slightly better than Iron Man 3 (58%) and Thor: The Dark World (57%). The movie is also doing exceptionally well in foreign markets, and its earnings of $318 million outside of North America is way way better than the meagre $194 million the first film had collected. The movie has grossed $477 million worldwide so far, already higher than the earnings of Captain America: The First Avenger by $100 million, and you do expect this film to do even better than Thor: The Dark World ($645 million). Would be interesting next few weeks to see how far is Marvel’s reach!
Besides Rio 2, there were two more wide releases on the weekend though they stood no chance in the battle between the macaws and the Marvel superhero. But even on such tough weekends, it pays well to be a horror flick. And that is the case with Oculus. It earned $12 million domestically over the weekend, which is hardly a number to boast of, but the studio would not be complaining when its investment in the film was only $5 million. Another low-budget horror movie that is likely to do enough to give the studio decent profits. With this formula working so well for quite a number of years now, it makes me wonder as to why aren’t more and more studios jumping into the supernatural genre. It bears minimal risk (the production budgets are less than $10 million), and could reward you with bumper return on investment. And there is enough space in the movie calendar to push in more horror movies; in fact Oculus has released three months after the last wide release of a horror movie which was Devil’s Due in January of this year (which wasn’t a big success, though still earned $33 million worldwide on a budget of only $7 million). Maybe the big studios are still sceptical of how much more spooks the audience can take in, though if the trend of hit films continues, we should see this genre explode further on.
While Oculus benefits from its low budget, it ain’t the same story for sports film Draft Day. With a production budget of $25 million, the movie has opened to a dismal $9.8 million in North America. Kevin Costner is facing a tough year with none of his three releases so far managing to sparkle at the box-office. Draft Day now has the lowest opening of the three, behind Jack Ryan: The Shadow Recruit ($15.5 million) and 3 Days to Kill ($12.2 million). The movie could also face a tough time in the foreign markets, considering that the concept of a “draft day” in American football would be alien to many outsiders. How many countries would Lionsgate open this film in, is the first question, as this number could be reduced considering the weak start on the home turf. Can only wish Costner good luck for his upcoming flicks and hopefully they will not face the rather bleak fortunes of his releases so far this year.
Divergent lands up in the fifth place at the box-office and has earned a solid $125 million in North America so far. It has also slowly started expanding internationally with $50 million gathered till now. How well does this movie fare in foreign markets is going to be interesting, since the novel’s popularity internationally cannot be compared with that of the other popular Young Adult literature which have been adapted into movies too. The studio Lionsgate though has recently announced that it would divide the final movie of the trilogy into two parts, which does show its confidence in the franchise. Noah on the other hand is dipping quite sharply over the weekends, with another 56% fall this weekend, that takes its domestic tally to $85 million. On its opening weekend, we had envisaged the movie to manage the $100 million earnings figure easily, which now is clearly in danger. The film has grossed $247 million worldwide so far, not good enough yet for the studio that had put in $125 million in the production budget itself, and the ship that seemed to be safely heading for shores a couple of weeks back, may be sinking. No such problems for Frozen which is still running in theatres in many countries and has moved to eighth place on the all-time list of worldwide earnings, eclipsing Skyfall. Take a bow, again!
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($41.4 million; second weekend)
2. Rio 2 ($39.0 million)
3. Oculus ($12.0 million)
4. Draft Day ($9.8 million)
5. Divergent ($7.5 million; fourth weekend)