Photo by Wilson Webb – © 2017 TriStar Pictures, Inc. and MRC II Distribution Company L.P. All Rights Reserved.. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES
First, the bad news. Sony and MRC’s The Dark Tower took a grim tumble in its second weekend, falling 58% for a $7.875 million Fri-Sun frame and a mere $34.31m ten-day cume. So, no, this one won’t be the beneficiary of any August legs, as any “last movies of summer” goodwill will get swallowed up by Annabelle: Creation and next weekend’s Hitman’s Bodyguard and Logan Lucky. The film took a similar drop to Ben-Hur (-59%) last August. If The Dark Tower continues like Ben-Hur or Fantastic Four, then it’s looking at a $46m domestic total.
The best-case-scenario is that it recovers like last summer’s Suicide Squad (which plunged 68% in weekend two but held out for a 2.45x multiplier). But that still only gets the Idris Elba/Matthew McConaughey picture to $51 million domestic. The saving grace for the poorly-reviewed/poorly-received fantasy horror adventure is that it only cost $60m to produce. It still needs to pull a glorified Inferno overseas to make it a sound investment. Even if that happens, it’s yet another Sony release (Inferno, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Smurfs: The Lost Village) that bombed in North America only to find salvation overseas.
That’s not a good look for the studio, and this isn’t a new franchise in the making. Fans hated it, critics trashed it and audiences are clearly indifferent. Now, to be fair, it is entirely possible that the planned television series will be a commercial and critical success, as a longform episodic will have time for all the mythology and nitty-gritty details that the 95-minute feature had to omit for the sake of a relatively stand-alone/newbie-friendly actioner. But as a movie studio, Sony is gaining a reputation for releasing big would-be tentpoles that don’t connect critically and barely skate by commercially.
All of this makes the other bit of Sony news that much more important. Sure, Spider-Man: Homecoming has over $306 million domestic, and is over/under $700m worldwide at this juncture, but that was Marvel production and Sony arguably gets more credit for the deal making than the artistic result. But Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a critically-acclaimed old-school studio programmer, the kind of movie that used to be the industry’s bread-and-butter. And said $34m production, an R-rated heist caper with just a dash of romance and not a little violence, just crossed $100m domestic this weekend.
The picture has made over/under $160 million worldwide thus far, or around 4.7x its budget. It’s also double Wright’s previous worldwide best, the $80m gross of Hot Fuzz back in 2007 (which incidentally, was his only outright hit before this summer). So yeah, it’s one thing to score with James Bond movies and Spider-Man installments, but the ability to successfully market and distribute an old-school “movie” like Baby Driver, which was a wholly original, high-concept, R-rated action dramedy with great reviews, is the kind of thing that Sony should attempt more often.
The Ansel Elgort/Lily James/Kevin Spacey/Jon Hamm/Jamie Foxx film is (not yet accounting for inflation) the second-biggest live-action Independence Day opener (behind last year’s Legend of Tarzan) since The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012. Yes, that’s partially due to Despicable Me sequels dominating the weekend this year and in 2013, and due to the Transformers films and Independence Day: Resurgence going a week early in the (false) hope of getting holiday legs, but that’s still an impressive achievement.
With a $21 million Fri-Sun opening ($30m Wed-Sun), it is (along with Magic Mike XXL from 2015) one of the leggier Independence Day openers in a while. So yeah, it was a good news/bad news weekend for Sony. Because Sony can’t survive on Spider-Man alone.
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