'Suicide Squad' and 'Sausage Party' Look to Take Down Newcomers, 'Kubo', 'War Dogs' & 'Ben-Hur'

by Brad Brevet

August 18, 2016

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Leading the weekend's newcomers, Warner Bros' War Dogs brought in an estimated $5.5 million on Friday, heading toward an opening weekend around $14.5 million. This is likely going to place the film in third place behind WB's Suicide Squad, which is looking at a $20+ weekend after an estimated $6 million on Friday and Sony's Sausage Party, which should finish around $15.5 million for the weekend.

Focus and Laika's Kubo and the Two Strings brought in an estimated $4 million on Friday and is looking at a $11.5-12 million weekend. While this puts Kubo behind Paramount's Ben-Hur on Friday, which brought in an estimated $4.1 million, it should be able to push ahead of Ben-Hur for the three-day. In fact, Ben-Hur is likely looking at a sixth place finish behind Disney's Pete's Dragon and an opening weekend around $11 million.

Additionally, it is looking like word really is spreading for CBS's Hell or High Water which added an additional 440 theaters this weekend and pulled in an estimated $742,000 on Friday from 472 theaters and is looking at a weekend around $2.3 million. This won't be enough to move it into the top ten, but it's a noteworthy performance.

You can check out our chart of Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a full recap of the weekend.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Thursday results are coming in with Warner Bros' War Dogs leading the charge, delivering $1.25 million from Thursday night showings which began at 7PM in approximately 2,800 theaters. Among fellow August releases, this compares to 2013's 2 Guns, which brought in $1.28 million on Thursday night before opening with $27 million. It's unlikely War Dogs will climb as high, but it does speak to the film's potential.

Paramount's Ben-Hur delivered $900,000 from 2,389 locations with showings beginning at 7PM. Given some of our comparisons below, this is behind the $1.2 million Exodus: Gods and Kings started with before opening with $24.1 million. Otherwise, comparisons in the same range are difficult, though, while not exactly the best genre comparison, WB's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. also brought in $900k in Thursday previews last August before opening with $13.4 million.

Finally, Kubo and the Two Strings brought in $515,000 from 2,100 domestic locations on Thursday evening from screenings that began at 6PM. This is only the second Laika film to have taken part in Thursday previews with The Boxtrolls bringing in $270,000 from early showings in 2014 before opening with $17.2 million. Comparisons among animated titles, however, have yet to display much of a correlation between Thursday previews and final weekend results.

For example, Planes: Fire & Rescue brought in $500k from Thursday previews last year before opening with $17.5 million while The LEGO Movie started with $400k before opening with $69 million.

We'll be updating this article tomorrow with Friday estimates, just below is our complete weekend preview and forecast.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Three new wide releases are hitting theaters this weekend with Focus Features' and Laika's stop-motion animated project Kubo and the Two Strings serving as the widest debut of the lot. Fellow openers include Warner Bros' War Dogs and Paramount's Ben-Hur, though none of this weekend's new releases are likely to find themselves atop the box office. The DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad is looking to threepeat as the weekend's #1 film while Sony's R-rated animated feature Sausage Party hopes to hold off Kubo for a second weekend in the runner-up position. Overall this weekend should be yet another improvement over the same weekend last year with the top twelve pulling in around $125 million altogether.

Before we get to the weekend's new releases we'll begin with a couple of carryovers, starting with Suicide Squad, which, along with 19 other wide release films in 2016, dropped over 60% in its second weekend. Of those 20 films, eleven opened in over 3,000 theaters and the average third weekend drop was 52.8% including the massive 80.5% third weekend drop for Hardcore Henry as well as last weekend's 32.3% drop for Jason Bourne on the opposite end of the spectrum. Given Henry also dropped 2,496 theaters in that third weekend it's best to leave it out of the equation, giving us an average third weekend drop of 49.7%.

Narrowing that grouping down specifically to superhero films, X-Men: Apocalypse dropped 56.6% in its third weekend and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice dropped 54.5%. All things considered, including the film's "B+" CinemaScore, all the indicators we're looking at suggest a third weekend drop around 48-50% for another weekend at #1 with approximately $22 million.

Second place is where we have something of an interesting story. Last weekend's $34.2 million opening for Sausage Party was an impressive debut for the R-rated animated feature as Sony took advantage of social media and strong word of mouth ever since the film's SXSW premiere in March. Keeping a close eye on the film's daily performance on IMDb it is maintaining strong interest and looking to drop somewhere around 48% or even better for a weekend around $17-19 million. Question is, will this be enough for second place?

At this time Focus is expecting their 3-D, stop-motion animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings to open somewhere in the low teens. The film is opening in 3,260 theaters and earlier in the week it was looking like a very strong performer based on IMDb page view data where it was outperforming all previous Laika releases as well as 2014's The Book of Life at the same point in the release cycle. Over the past couple days it has come back down to Earth a bit but is still looking like a strong performer that could very easily match the $17 million openings for The Boxtrolls and Book of Life. Whether it will have enough energy to top Sausage Party is a tough call at this point, but if reviews mean anything the film's 94% rating on RottenTomatoes at this time makes it the best reviewed Laika film yet.

Targeting a fourth place finish is our next new release, Warner's War Dogs in which Miles Teller and Jonah Hill play arms dealers for director Todd Phillips (The Hangover series, Due Date). Good comparisons here feel like Michael Bay's Pain and Gain ($20.2m opening) on the high side and this year's The Nice Guys ($11.2m) on the lower end of the spectrum. Splitting the difference between the two is likely to provide something of a high end expectation around $15+ million while we're expecting an opening closer to $13.5 million. Mixed reviews delivering a 59% rating on RottenTomatoes at this time are unlikely to move the bar too much one way or another.

Finally we come to Paramount's Ben-Hur, a remake of the 1960 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Director and the list goes on and on. Budgeted at $100 million, Paramount brought aboard Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) to direct Jack Huston in the title role and early reviews have not been kind with film currently holding a 28% rating on RottenTomatoes. To go by studio expectations, the film, which is being released in 3,084 theaters this weekend is expected to open around $20 million, but no matter how we crunch the numbers a result that large doesn't seem feasible.

One basis for comparison is to look at the $24.1 million opening for Exodus: Gods and Kings on the high end and Pompeii's $10.3m opening on the lower end with IMDb data suggesting a performance much closer to Pompeii. The big question, however, is to wonder how well Paramount has penetrated the faith-based market and just how much that segment of the marketplace could possible add to the film's weekend tally.

Faith-based comparisons are tough to come by considering Ben-Hur is being sold as an action-epic compared to the dramas that were Heaven is for Real and Miracles from Heaven, both of which took advantage of their well-timed release dates. Meanwhile, Ben-Hur has every appearance of a blockbuster having to settle with a release date at the tail end of a summer that is winding down.

All told, Ben-Hur is looking like a $12-13 million opener that has the potential to open a little higher just as much as it could open even lower. How it all plays out will determine whether it finds itself in the weekend top five or if it's nudged out by another remake in Disney's Pete's Dragon, which opened with $21.5 million last weekend and is looking at a drop right around 40%, pushing for a $13 million second weekend.

Elsewhere, Lionsgate is expanding the well-reviewed Hell or High Water into 472 theaters (+440) after a solid debut last weekend where it brought in $621,329 from 32 theaters. How exactly it will perform this weekend is really tough to say as the safe bet is to expect a performance around $1.2 million or so, but a $2 million second weekend wouldn't be the least bit surprising as positive word of mouth is spreading and it holds an impressive 98% rating on RottenTomatoes.

Opening in limited release this weekend A24 will premiere Morris from America starring Craig Robinson in two theaters and Focus will release Natalie Portman's A Tale of Love and Darkness, also in two theaters. For a complete look at the release schedule click here.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Suicide Squad (3,924 theaters) - $22 M
  • Sausage Party (3,103 theaters) - $17.8 M
  • Kubo and the Two Strings (3,260 theaters) - $17.2 M
  • War Dogs (3,258 theaters) - $13.5 M
  • Pete's Dragon (3,702 theaters) - $13 M
  • Ben-Hur (3,084 theaters) - $12 M
  • Bad Moms (2,811 theaters) - $7.8 M
  • Jason Bourne (2,880 theaters) - $7.75 M
  • The Secret Life of Pets (2,397 theaters) - $6 M
  • Florence Foster Jenkins (1,528 theaters) - $3.9 M

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.

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