By Brent Lang
(Variety.com) - Disney’s “Zootopia” cruised to another box office victory this weekend, picking up $50 million and barreling across the $100 million mark domestically.
After two weeks of release, “Zootopia,” the critically acclaimed story of a plucky rabbit policewoman, has earned $142.6 million stateside. In its second weekend, “Zootopia” only dropped 33% — an impressive show of endurance at a time when major releases routinely see their grosses cut in half after a big opening. The animated offering is benefiting from a lack of family fare. It’s been more than six weeks since “Kung Fu Panda 3” landed in theaters and the next big film aimed at younger audiences doesn’t hit until April 15 with “The Jungle Book.”
“Family audiences have been underserved for months, so this movie is perfectly timed to get more bang for the buck,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
Despite the continued strength of “Zootopia,” Paramount and Bad Robot’s “10 Cloverfield Lane” was able to connect with audiences, earning $25.2 million from 3,391 locations. That’s a strong return given that the film about a woman who finds herself trapped in a doomsday bunker, waiting out the apocalypse with the neighborhood survivalists, cost $13 million to produce. The studio also kept marketing costs in check, holding off its campaign until eight weeks before the film opening, with its biggest spending coming with a Super Bowl teaser.
Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore credited Bad Robot chief J.J. Abrams with coming up with the concept for the twisty thriller while he was in production on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” He said the key was to make sure that none of the advertisements revealed any of the film’s surprises.
“We wanted to give people just enough clues to keep them excited, interested, and wanting more,” said Moore. “That’s rare in this day and age, when so much [information] is given out so early.”
All was not well with “The Brothers Grimsby.” The Sony spy comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen opened to a terminal $3.2 million from 2,235 locations, raising questions about the comic mind behind “Borat” and “Bruno’s” continued bankability.
“We certainly wanted more,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “Sacha is amazing and we love him, and we tried to crack the code on it, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
Cohen’s most recent starring effort, 2012’s “The Dictator,” disappointed with roughly $180 million on a $65 million budget, and he tends to have a long period of time between projects, which may have diminished his popularity. Whatever the case, “The Brothers Grimsby,” with a $35 million budget, ranks as the biggest flop of Cohen’s career. He will try to rebound with a supporting turn in next summer’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a sequel to “Alice in Wonderland.”
Focus’ faith-based play, “The Young Messiah,” had a lackluster launch, debuting to $3.4 million from 1,761 locations. Also opening, Lionsgate’s romance “The Perfect Match,” which unfolded in 925 locations to $4.2 million for the weekend.
In limited release, Bleecker Street’s drone thriller “Eye in the Sky” generated $117,050 from five locations for a $23,410 per-theater average. Roadside Attractions and Sony’s Stage 6 Films also opened “Hello, My Name is Doris,” an off-beat comedy about an older woman (Sally Field) who becomes smitten with a young co-worker, in four screens in New York and Los Angeles, where it pulled in $85,240 for a per-screen average of $21,310.
The domestic box office year-to-date was up more than 9% after last weekend. However, those gains have largely been on the backs of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which opened in 2015, but did more than $400 million worth of business this year, as well as recent hits like “Zootopia,” “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “Deadpool.” That’s led to a severe case of haves and have nots. There have been a litany of wide releases that have stumbled or fallen flat in recent months — a collection of also-runs and bombs that includes “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Gods of Egypt,” “The 5th Wave,” “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” and “Eddie the Eagle.”
“It’s a traffic jam out there,” said Dergarabedian. “The marketplace is monumentally overcrowded and there are too many films that don’t have a solid chance to do well.”