Spectre pits 007 against his greatest adversary – international exchange rates

In this week’s roundup of the global box-office scene:
• Strong dollar may prevent new Bond film from topping Skyfall
• The Peanuts Movie makes strong claim for new generation of Snoopy fans
• The Martian becomes Ridley Scott’s highest grosser

The blockbuster

Spectre’s Skyfall-topping feats in the UK last week may have got everyone prematurely worked up. The US reviews for the 24th Bond film have been less forgiving – one obvious reason why, with a $73m (£48m) debut this weekend, it didn’t match its predecessor’s $88.3m series zenith. That said, $73m is still the second highest opening for the franchise. Skyfall, as detailed in last week’s column, came with a set of exceptional circumstances and performed accordingly; Spectre’s US opening places it back inside the steadier pattern of growth 007 has enjoyed since the start of the Brosnan era. (Though with inflation in play, 2008’s Quantum of Solace would have opened at $74.6m, not $67.5m.)

So it will be a big ask for Spectre to match Skyfall’s $304.3m stateside total. Before that, no other Bond film had taken more than $170m in the US, a big factor in Skyfall’s astonishing $1.1bn worldwide take. Spectre is already more than $300m globally – just as well, as it cost $240m. To match Skyfall overall, it would have to prise open emerging markets that Bond has struggled to seduce in the past. This week’s Mexico opening – the country’s capital leading the line for Spectre in the film’s pre-credits sequence – hints at a breakthrough: $4.5m against Skyfall’s $2.6m. Unfortunately, it’s not been replicated uniformly, with both developing territories (Brazil: Spec, $2.9m; Sky, $3.1m / Russia: Spec, $5.8m; Sky, $8.2m / Malaysia: Spec, $2.3m; Sky, $2.5m) and developed ones (Italy: Spec, $5.7m; Sky, $7m / Spain: $3.3m; Sky, $4m) heading downwards.

Spectre - video review

Even if Spectre doesn’t best Skyfall numerically, the true picture may be more complex. The current strong dollar disguises the fact that the new film has beaten the older one in local-currency terms in several of these places (this has been an issue for several recent blockbusters, but Spectre/Skyfall’s close-run overseas figures brings it into especially sharp relief). With reviews of the film so divided, it’s tempting to use Spectre’s broadly identified flaws – especially its reversion to formula – as justification for a negative reading of its box office. But the local-currency argument suggests the series’ popularity may still be on the rise worldwide. In which case, Spectre’s eagerness to deliver glossily packaged, heavily distilled eau de 007 may emerge as a strength. But even if Spectre, disadvantaged by exchange rates, “only” ends up doing $800m, that still has the ring of consolidation, not failure.

The childhood favourite

Peanuts may still be syndicated in newspapers across the world 15 years since creator Charles Schulz’s death, but is nevertheless in a battle for the time and affections of new generations. There hasn’t been a Charlie Brown movie since 1980, during which time children’s entertainment has grown increasingly sophisticated, knowing and digitally hyperactive. So a $45m US start for Fox’s The Peanuts Movie, critically agreed to be faithful to a fault, is encouraging. That’s close to what the studio’s first Alvin and the Chipmunks adaptation, of a similar vintage but more brashly overhauled, did in 2007; it also had strong competition still in play from the unexorcisable Hotel Transylvania 2.

Watch the official trailer for The Peanuts Movie

It puts the film in the middle ranks of CGI animation: nowhere near the $70-100m openings enjoyed by Pixar, but high enough to suggest that a combination of culturally ingrained fondness and a few new Snoopy-besotted young fans might kick off a new Peanuts cycle. It also opened simultaneously in China, where its $2.8m take – against the likes of $7.4m for Paddington, let alone Minions’ $31m – means there’s work to do to establish Schulz as a kids’ staple there. And $1.2m from Italy also suggests that Peanuts may have been away for a little too long. The American figures should be enough to balance out a $100m budget that sounds like an over-larding of Schulz’s apple-pie simplicity. But in the light of Peanuts’ $2bn annual earnings, $100m looks like a prudent investment.

The old master

The Martian – video review

The Martian sneaked quietly past Gladiator this week to become, with $458.5m, Ridley Scott’s most successful film. That ignores inflation, but his sci-fi survival tale joins the neo-swords’n’sandals epic as a waypoint in the director’s long career; another one where he broke beyond masterfully art-directed genre dabblings to wider mainstream impact. (Arguably, this happened with Thelma and Louise, too, but no global figures are available.) Science fiction has been fertile ground for Scott, with Alien the US’s No 5 film in 1979, Blade Runner flopping commercially, but since growing to lofty stature, and so-called flop Prometheus mustering a very respectable $403m in 2012. At $108m, $22m cheaper than Prometheus and seemingly assembled from production design and CGI leftovers of that film, The Martian might not resonant like Alien or Blade Runner in 30 years’ time, but it is echoing more widely than all three at the moment (and China has yet to open). Canny casting (Matt Damon, missing in action again, after Saving Private Ryan and Bourne), universal themes of survival, and a cheerfully MOR tone (disco music and inventive definitions of piracy supplying laughs) seem to have done the trick. Gladiator, reviving an antique genre with a star-making Russell Crowe turn and similarly universal driving motivations (family), had a similar magnanimous audience embrace. If the recent terrific work rate can be sustained as he enters his 80s, The Martian might just kick off the fourth age of Ridley Scott.

Beyond Hollywood

Watch the trailer for The Priests

China’s The Ex-Files 2, another entry into the country’s burgeoning romcom boom, took $17m for global sixth place – almost beating writer-director Tian Yusheng’s original ($19.3m) in a single weekend. Also lining up in time for Singles Day, the country’s Valentine’s equivalent, on 11 November, was more hankie-orientated romance The Last Women Standing, at 14th globally with $6.3m. Adapted from the bestseller, and directed by author Luo Luo, it has thirtysomething Shu Qi falling for her younger co-worker. South Korean exorcism spooker The Priests was the only other non-Hollywood new entrant, at No 9, with an impressive $11.5m. Presumably a bit of Latin-intoning fun for the country’s majority Christian population, it’s not deterred by the fact that most Hollywood demon-outing fare has not been very successful there in recent years. Not on Rentrak’s chart, but also worth a shoutout in the light of a likely Oscar run is Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley and showcasing Saoirse Ronan. It made $652,000 in Ireland this weekend, the highest opening Irish film since 1996’s Michael Collins (which eventually drummed up $4.1m).

The future

In the coming frame, Spectre adds France, South Korea, Australia and, crucially, China – where it will be looking for a substantial advance on Skyfall’s $59m (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has just done $136m there, remember). That’s it on the blockbuster front until the final Hunger Games begins its rollout the week after next. In India, it’s Diwali week; having conquered Eid with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, now the third highest grossing domestic film ever, India’s top Alan Cumming lookalike Salman Khan is making eyes at his Hindu fanbase across the world with his new film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Budgeted at $15m, the low end of the Bollywood top end, it’s a Prince and the Pauper-style affair featuring Khan as the “Prem” character he has played in several other films. A wide-eyed innocent of a type seen in many Indian films, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, like Bajrangi, feels like something of an antidote to the actor’s off-screen life, in which his conviction for culpable homicide dating back to 2002 is still pending on appeal.

Top 10 global box office, 6-8 November

1. Spectre, $190.8m from 78 territories. $296.1m cumulative – 75.3% international; 24.7% US
2. (New) The Peanuts Movie, $49.6m from 12 territories. $49.6m cum – 9.3% int; 90.7% US
3. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, $21.9m from 12 territories. $298.3m cum – 73.2% int; 26.8% US
4. The Martian, $18.6m from 51 territories. $458.5m cum – 57% int; 43% US
5. Hotel Transylvania 2, $18.6m from 81 territories. $404.2m cum – 60.1% int; 39.9% US
6. (New) Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back, $17m from 4 territories. $17.3m cum – 100% int
7. The Last Witch Hunter, $13.4m from 79 territories. $84.4m cum – 72.1% int; 27.9% US
8. Everest, $13.3m from 47 territories. $190.9m cum – 77.6% int; 22.4% US
9. (New) The Priests, $11.5m from one territory – 100% int
10. Goosebumps, $10.8m from 45 territories. $92.3m cum – 28% int; 72% US

• Thanks to Rentrak. This week’s figures are based on estimates; all historical figures unadjusted, unless otherwise stated.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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