Our heroes amid the ticket sales rubble

 

This is Hollywood’s holiday season and we are sure to see two kinds of releases on a steady basis: Mass appeal crowd-pleasers, and “serious” independent titles vying for awards season recognition.

We saw a number of smaller pictures open to surprising performances, while the arrival of a blockbuster superhero epic was sure to dominate headlines this week. However, one studio surely did not want these kinds of banner announcements. Usually that kind of release, in this portion of the calendar, leads to your standard money-counting. Instead, industry experts are counting the reasons a mammoth production failed to hit expectations. Let’s gather all the titles and measure the league of top films this weekend.

 

1.  JUSTICE LEAGUE – $96.6million
There is no way of looking at this otherwise — this is a major disappointment for Warner Brothers. It is the studio’s version of Marvel’s “The Avengers”, taking a decade to develop with new characters launched and a sprawling storyline that will spin off into its own cinematic universe. The precursor, “Batman vs. Superman”, drew over $165million, so for the film to come in under $100million is a bad sign.

For comparables the title comes in near 25% lower than “Thor: Ragnarok” from just weeks earlier, and the numbers are closer to (though still lower than) “Wonder Woman” from earlier this year. That movie cost the studio roughly half as much. It will be very interesting to see how the film plays out now and what the studio will be facing in regards to profitability. And earlier this week the biggest issue was the  hilarity of stars who battle epic villains cowardly avoiding the press during the red carpet premiere.

 

2. WONDER – $26m
On the other side of the ledger is this Lionsgate adaptation. Glowing advance word had this tracking for a decent opening, but this has exploded, in comparison. Industry estimates had this earning around the $12-15 million range. For this kind of debut ahead of the holidays means it should be a cash cow. Schools and large groups came out to see this and it has already earned back its filming budget. It will be all gravy going forward.

 

3. THOR: RAGNAROK – $21.78m
Surely taking a good chunk of ticket interest away from the League, Marvel’s god is thundering along nicely. Considering it faced off against a massive competitor’s franchise launch and still drew this much in its third week speaks to the problems DC has on its hands.

 

4.  DADDY’S HOME 2 – $14.8m
A -50% drop in the second week against blockbuster competition is actually very decent. In balance though, the star-choked cast gave this a relatively bloated budget for a comedy, so it will need to linger for some time to turn a profit.

 

5.  MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – $13.8m
While not an explosive blockbuster this is chugging along nicely enough. Doing decent business, and slightly better overseas, means Fox will be in good shape. They kept the costs down and there is international appeal.

 

6.  THE STAR – $10.02m
A faith-based animated holiday film that Sony took a big gamble releasing this weekend, against two comic films dueling and the other family draw in “Wonder”. All told this was a better return than projected, and it may still be an overall success by running through the holidays.

 

7.  A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS – $6.89m
It is holding well enough as it is just starting to shed screens. Imagine how much more they could have made had Mila Kunis not riled up controversy while selling the film!

 

8.  LADY BIRD – $2.53m
A highly raved about independent film that is getting the structured release normally seen for those looking to earn industry award nominations. It added another 200 theaters this week, and the screen average was the third highest for the weekend.

 

9.  THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI – $1.11m
Another independent hopeful, this from Fox Searchlight. Still hitting the top list while only expanding to a very modest 53 screens the average was so high it nearly matched “JL” for the weekend.

 

10.  JIGSAW – $1.07m
We are finally sweeping off these Halloween horror holdovers. Given this made money however there will be more chapters to this non-story.