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‘Boss Baby’ Bullies ‘Beast’ With $50M+ Opening; ‘Ghost’ Shell-Shocked With Low $18.6M

Deadline logo Deadline 4/2/2017 Anthony D'Alessandro
© Provided by Deadline

Writethru Sunday, 8:00 AM: Sunday estimates are in and we have a new boss at the top of  the box office with DreamWorks Animation’s 34th title The Boss Baby will cash an opening weekend check of $50.3M at 3,773 theaters via 20th Century Fox. (Fox thinks it’ll end the weekend with $49M). Disney’s Beauty and the Beast isn’t far behind in second with $47.5M and the weekend gross brings ever so closer to the $400M mark with a $395.4M after only 17 days in play. It’s also getting close to the $500M mark overseas.

Some believed that this would be a close battle for No. 1 all weekend long, however, Alec Baldwin’s tough guy baby will be the last man standing. Not cracking at the box office is Ghost in the Shell from DreamWorks/Reliance/Paramount with a much lower than expected three-day of $18.6M at 3,440 locations and a listless B CinemaScore. The picture dropped 13% Friday to Saturday. Paramount estimates $19M. It played on 380 IMAX screens which accounted for $3M of its domestic total. We’ll do an autopsy on that cyborg movie in a bit.

Three pictures were in their second weekends of play. Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers, from which the distributor was hoping to generate a new franchise, fell 64% and now sits at $65M. While, CHIPS from Warner Bros. dropped less (if you can believe it) with a 48% decline to nab only $14.3M to date and Sony’s Life (which last week garnered only a C+ CinemaScore) was down 55% with a total cume of only $22.3M. Sayōnara.

This past week at CinemaCon — the annual convention where distribution and nation’s exhibition industry come together — some industry insiders were surprised how Boss Baby was rallying in its advance ticket sales with the potential to upset Beauty and the Beast. Let’s face it: Fox in conjunction with DWA ran a hysterical campaign, with Baldwin’s charisma at the center of it. In addition to the traditional PR appearances, the multi-award-winning actor did extra voice-over recordings in support of custom animated content pieces, trailers, Vlogs, radio spots, and media promotions.

The movie over-indexed in some markets including in Chicago, Indianapolis, Denver. Top-grossing theaters came from Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Houston. With roughly 20% Kindergarten through 12th grade out of school in the U.S. and Spring Break on the horizon over the next three weeks, Fox expects a nice run for its baby. Sixty-two percent of its audience were under 25 whereas the primary audience for Ghost in the Shell was ages 18 to 44.

And while it’s a hoot to hear Baldwin’s baby scream ala his Glengarry Glen Ross executive in the trailer, “Put that cookie down, cookies are for closers!”, the ultimate comedic coup in Fox/DWA’s marketing was trailering on Beauty and the Beast two weeks ago, and reaching that enormous moviegoer bandwidth with a brand new trailer that knocked the Disney movie. In it, Baldwin’s toddler character mischievously plays with the clock and candlestick from the Disney movie, telling the audience that they made “an excellent decision” to see Beauty and the Beast, but that when it comes to Boss Baby, “We don’t have any talking candlesticks, but if that’s a deal breaker, we’ll cram one in there.” Sixteen percent bought tickets because they’re Baldwin fans according to CinemaScore, with 73% attending because Boss Baby is an animated film. Overall, moms are repping the majority with 61% females turning up, 54% over 25. Those under 18 who made up 41% of Boss Baby‘s attendees gave it an A+.

Even though Jeffrey Katzenberg has long left the DWA building, it’s great to see that the toon house hasn’t lost its sense of humor. Most of the animated movies that Katzenberg put his fingerprints on possessed a satirical sense of humor in the Airplane-sense of the word, going back to Disney’s Aladdin and continuing well beyond Shrek. Boss Baby‘s campaign continues to carry that comedic sensibility, and that’s paying off at the B.O.

Social Media monitor Relish Mix points out that in regards to online conversation for Boss Baby, “Baldwin’s performance of a know-it-all baby in a suit comes at a very opportune time. Convo confirms that his portrayal of President Trump on SNL, now coupled with his iconic voice as a Boss Baby speaks to parental moviegoers. Couple this casting/portrayal with DreamWorks Animation’s social reach – and automatic access to millions of kids’ eyeballs, and the campaign was off and running early, with millions and millions of views for the teaser and other quick clips posted to DWA’s YouTube channel.”

The teaser trailer for Boss Baby debuted online on Oct. 17th, and in theaters Nov. 4th with Trolls, becoming the best-performing trailer online in DWA’s history at over 100M Views. The full trailer followed online in sync with the opening of Rogue One and at 71M, it charted the second-highest performing trailer online in DWA’s history.

On top of these social strengths came Jimmy Kimmel’s activation (he stars in the film as the baby’s father) with the late-night talk show host interviewing an animated-version of Baldwin’s baby. Over the last four days, that bit has earned 3.1M views on Facebook. RelishMix is gobsmacked by the size of Boss Baby‘s social media universe which counts 344.3M, well above last year’s average for a family-animated films (263M). “It is a little unusual for a film to be without an official Twitter and Instagram page, but, DreamWorks Animation has completely rolled over their official feeds on TW and IG to promote Boss Baby with a sizable social reach (7.9M),” reports RelishMix. Pic’s videos are going viral at a rate of 13:1 which is higher than the average for the genre last year (9:1).

Now for the bad news. Once again we have a situation where Paramount has a very expensive picture on their hands, and it’s not opening. “When Jim Gianopulos settles in, this type of thing isn’t going to happen!” roared one rival distribution executive today. Talk about deja vu. It was only two months ago when xXx: Return of Xander Cage with a reported production cost of $85M and the social media star power of Vin Diesel made zero impact stateside with a $20.1M opening/$45M final domestic, but all the difference overseas with a $301M take. Hopefully, Ghost will have the same luck abroad where Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy sparked to $336.69M in its international run. For a look at all international and worldwide tallies, read my colleague Nancy Tartaglione’s overseas box office report.

In November, Johansson traveled to Tokyo for a massive Ghost in the Shell event where the global trailer was first dropped ultimately earning 1.2M views. So Paramount will be hoping and praying that its overseas audiences will come running.

Frankly, it’s baffling to see Ghost in the Shell going to hell domestically: The visuals rival Blade Runner and it wasn’t too long ago that we saw Johanasson opening movies (original IP no less!) on her own with Lucy ($43.9M opening, $126.7M domestic take off a $40m cost) sans the Avengers gang. Furthermore, Paramount was very passionate about this movie, and made waves during the Mr. Robot finale back in September with enigmatic glitch commercial interstitials (pieces from the film). Online it was revealed that the glitches were in fact related to an early brilliant promo for Ghost.

Currently, LAX is blitzkrieged with Ghost one-sheets and banners. There’s an even an Osculus Rift virtual experience that was produced for the film, putting users into the shoes of Johansson’s Major character whereby she swan dives from the rooftop and battles geisha robots.

But somewhere along the way, Ghost fell apart whether it was in the marketing or the film itself. Some might point to the white-washing controversy that bubbled on the internet in casting Johansson in a Japanese anime feature adaptation. But really, that type of thing doesn’t weigh heavily on average moviegoers’ minds (but it did on critic’s — the film started out with 71% on Rotten Tomatoes before critics continued to hammer away on the controversy of the casting). Despite the uber-cool, visual trailers that were cut for Ghost, rivals believe it was all eye-candy with zero substance. “You don’t know what the storyline was. Is Scarlett’s character good, or is she bad?” assessed one marketing maven who added the look of Ghost was “too Wachowski-esque.”

RelishMix sharply observed that the film was challenged by an overall non-social and inactive cast. Even though Johansson doesn’t shy away from PR when it comes to her movies, there’s a wasted opportunity here in regards to her absence from social. This is an actress who is a millennial pin-up girl, beloved by males and she’s not meeting that audience head-on with a Dwayne Johnson promo sensibility. The proof of her fanbase resides in the audience polls: On CinemaScore, 39% came out to Ghost because of Johansson with 61% males attending, 76% over 25. Meanwhile, Screen Engine/ComScore’s Posttrak showed 62% males buying tickets with the pic’s largest demo being guys over 25 at 42%.

Now a studio will always make-up for a star who is personally non-social by doing other social media stunts with them, but this movie (and Johansson’s career here) could have benefited from her own personal tubthumping, and igniting even more fans to attend. Six years ago, in an Interview with Arianna Huffington, Johansson dissed social media: “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less than have to continuously share details of my everyday life. I’m always surprised that certain actors have Twitter accounts. I guess they use it in a way that works for them. But I’d rather that people had less access to my personal life.” However, social media is whatever you make it, and it’s certainly the best currency for a star and a wannabe tentpole nowadays (duh).

Another reveal here is that despite the box office-to-production cost fail here with Ghost, if a Johansson film is made for the right price ala a Resident Evil, a fanbase will show up and shell out a certain amount of cash.

Lastly, in regards to Ghost, whenever a studio hides a movie from the press, you know something is up. Here in L.A., Paramount scheduled an all-media screening last Wednesday when the bulk of the industry’s vital press corps were covering CinemaCon. Well, there’s no such thing as a coincidence, and Paramount didn’t offer up any earlier screenings for those journalists wanting to see the film ahead of the exhibitor confab. The studio also didn’t screen the movie at CinemaCon because they were holding their exhibitor screenings ahead of time. All of this was odd given the Melrose Lot’s mojo for selling Ghost back in the fall. But then it was clear: Ghost logged a 41% Rotten Tomatoes score with high brow critics declaring “It gets bogged down in aesthetics that are stimulating only for the sake of stimulation, seemingly without a flicker of thought behind them. Shell indeed, but there’s no ghost at home” (Tribune News’ Katie Walsh).

On the specialty side, Focus Features’ Jessica Chastain movie The Zookeeper’s Wife looks to break into the top 10 with a solid $3.2M on 541 runs. That weekend gross is 66% better than the $1.8M logged by Chastain’s fall title Miss Sloane, and that movie was playing on close to three times the amount of theaters than Zookeeper. Another movie with similar themes to Zookeeper that played to upscale spring audiences was Weinstein Co.’s Woman in Gold two years ago. That pic opened to $2M at 258 sites and legged out to $33.3M.

Zookeeper is based on Diane Ackerman’s New York Times bestselling book about Antonina Żabińska and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the WWII German invasion of Warsaw. Among the pic’s campaign highlights, there was an extensive outreach to Jewish thought leaders and institutions including screenings at several key U.S. Jewish film festivals, the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, the Anne Frank Center & Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, UJA Federations of Los Angeles and New York and International Rescue Committee. Focus reached out to fans of the book on social with special screenings at the American Library Association and New York Public Library. In addition, there were digital activations surrounding International Women’s Day on March 8th including custom content featuring Chastain, a Facebook Live with the Oscar-nominated actress and thesp Niki Caro, as well as numerous partnerships with outlets including SmartGirls and NowThis.

For the weekend of March 31-April 2 based on industry estimates as of Sunday AM:

1.) The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox/DWA), 3,773 theaters  / $15.6M Fri. (includes $1.5M in previews) / $20.2M Sat. (+28%) / $14.15M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $50M+ / Wk 1

2.) Beauty and the Beast (DIS), 4,210 theaters  / $13.1M Fri. (-34%) / $19.6M Sat. (+51%) / $14.7M Sun. (25%) / 3-day cume: $47.5M (-47%) / Total cume: $395.4M/ Wk 3

3.) Ghost in the Shell (PAR/DWA/REL), 3,440 theaters / $7.6M Fri. (includes $1.8M) / $6.67M Sat. (-13%) / $4.3M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $18.6M /Wk 1

4.) Saban’s Power Rangers (LGF), 3,693 theaters  (0) / $4M Fri. (-73%) / $6.1M Sat. (+53%) / $4.3M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $14.4M (-64%) / Total cume: $65M / Wk 2

5.) Kong: Skull Island (20th/Legendary), 3,141 theaters (-525) / $2.3M Fri. (-37%) / $3.78M Sat. (+59%) / $2.6M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $9.1M/ Total cume: $147.78M / Wk 4

6.) Logan (Fox), 2,323 theaters  (-840)/ $1.71M Fri. (-34%) / $2.5M Sat. (+55%) / $1.8M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $6.2M / Total cume: $211.8M / Wk 5

7.) Get Out (UNI), 1,844 theaters (-630) / $1.73M Fri. (-31%) / $2.48M Sat. (+44%) / $1.6M Sun. (35%) / 3-day cume: $5.8M / Total cume: $156.8M / Wk 6

8.) Life (Skydance/Sony), 3,146 theaters  (0) / $1.65M Fri. (-63%) / $2.3M Sat. (+45%) / $1.5M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $5.5M (-55%) / Total: $22.3M / Wk 2

9.) CHIPS (WB), 2,464 theaters (0) / $1.1M Fri. (-55%) / $1.68M Sat. (+43%) / $1.77M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day: $4M (-48%) / Total: $14.3M / Wk 2

10.) Zookeeper’s Wife (FOC), 541 theaters / $998K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. (+31%) / $800K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day: $3.2M / Wk 1

2ND Update, Friday 12:08PM: With 20% of K-12 schools off, DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox’s The Boss Baby is having a vibrant day with $13.5M including last night’s $1.5M, putting it on course for a $42.5M opening. Even though Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is ahead based on matinees with a $44.3M third weekend and a $12M Friday, it won’t be shocking if Boss Baby dashes past the Disney couple, given tomorrow’s daily business.

Paramount/DreamWorks/Reliance’s Ghost in the Shell is looking at $8M-$8.5M for today, including last night’s $1.8M. This puts the Scarlett Johansson film at a $23M three-day. That number in regards to the pic’s $110M production cost before P&A, isn’t going to cut it in regards to stateside success, but the pic has all the eye candy for an overseas audience. Lucy, even though it crossed $120M at the domestic B.O., accumulated 72% of its global take ($463.4M) overseas, and it’s conceivable that Paramount — after it saved xXx: Return of Xander Cage‘s hide with a $301M foreign take to its $44.9M domestic cume — will practice the same M.O. in ensuring that Ghost in the Shell is an overseas destination.

Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers is filing fourth with a $14.8M second weekend, down 63%, evidently a mega-front-loaded film. The cume by Sunday should stand at $65.4M.

1st Update, 7:28AM: Spring break is still in effect, and even though it’s not in full bloom, we’re bound to see another great weekend at the box office.

Last night, Paramount/DreamWorks/Reliance’s Ghost in the Shell grossed $1.8M in previews at 2,229 theaters, but DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox’s The Boss Baby refused to be squashed earning $1.5M from 2,700 locations starting at 5pm.

Ghost in the Shell marks another solo effort for Scarlett Johansson post her success with Luc Besson’s Lucy ($43.9M, $126.7M), is based on the 1989-1990 Manga series by Masamune Shirow, which spawned a series of anime films beginning in 1995.

How Ghost in the Shell stacks up: Johansson’s Lucy minted $2.8M in Thursday previews before delivering a $17M Friday, but the thought is that this Rupert Sanders movie isn’t going to make it that high. Par is comping Ghost in the Shell to last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane which posted a $1.8M Thursday night before generating a $9M Friday and $24.7M weekend.

Ghost in the Shell, which Paramount has been tubthumping since the fall, arrives with a reported estimated budget of $110M and estimated stateside start in the mid-$20m, maybe $30M in third place. At that range, and with a mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score of 49% rotten, Ghost in the Shell needs to hope it catches an overseas B.O. wave in the 50 countries it’s also surfacing in this weekend. Added bonus for Ghost‘s B.O.: It has a China date on April 7, as well as the stateside benefit of 3D and Imax surcharges. Ghost in the Shell is rated PG-13.

Family animated films outside of summer rarely have huge starts on Thursday, but Boss Baby‘s booty is pretty remarkable blowing away DWA/Fox’s Trolls ($900K Thursday, $12.3M Friday, $46.5M weekend) and the spring 2015 original Home which made $650K.

On paper, the Alec Baldwin-voiced title is expected to rank second with a mid-$30M opening to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast which is projected to finish first with $42.5M (-53%) in its third weekend. But don’t be surprised if Boss Baby swells and tosses Beauty from No. 1, even if it does have a 44% Rotten Tomatoes score: DWA’s Home was projected in the mid-$30M range, had a 47% Rotten Score and then opened to $52.1M beating GetHard‘s $33.8M debut  (By the way that Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy also had Thursday previews of $1.8M).

Yesterday, Beauty and the Beast posted $6.1M taking its two week tally to $347.9M. If the Emma Watson movie hits its weekend forecasts, pic will raise to $390.4M at the domestic B.O.

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