Zootopia Breaks Box Office Records

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Once again, only Hollywood executives are surprised when a great family film wins at the box office. “Zootopia” now has Disney Animation’s best opening box office ever, with over $73 million.

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This Week at the Box Office — The G Sweet Spot

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Why why why why why is it so hard for Hollywood to figure out that there is a wildly enthusiastic audience for G-rated movies? The only major G-rated release of the year is “The Peanuts Movie,” which opened last Friday (Pixar’s “Inside Out” and the upcoming “Good Dinosaur” are both PG). And even up against the new James Bond, it did very well, $45 million, one of the best openings of the year. (Bond did a respectable $73 million, less than expected but still very strong.)

Industry observer The Wrap attributes it to “masterful marketing, nostalgia and pitch-perfect reviews.” I’d put it differently: good quality, family-friendliness, and careful updating of beloved characters.

Studios are so cynical about the G-rating they intentionally put one word or joke into a film just to mak sure kids (or their parents) will not think it is too babyish. Here’s hoping the lesson, or I should say 43 million lessons from this week results in more G-rated films in the next year.

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This Week at the Box Office — Record-Setting Flops

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The Wall Street Journal reports that none of the new nationwide releases reached the top of the box office last weekend and one or two of them may end up breaking the record for worst-ever ticket sales.

A frightening showing at the box office this weekend featured five disappointments—including two of the biggest flops in history.

“ Steve Jobs,” “The Last Witch Hunter,” “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” “Rock the Kasbah” and “Jem and the Holograms” all fell short, with only “Witch Hunter” cracking $10 million. “Kasbah” and “Jem” now rank among the worst openings of all time, and “Paranormal” missed expectations after weeks of anticipation over its divisive distribution strategy.

Instead, holdovers “The Martian” and “Goosebumps” came in first and second place, respectively. “The Martian” grossed an estimated $15.9 million in the U.S. and Canada, bringing the space drama’s total to $166 million.

What happened? There’s a lot of speculation. Poor reviews may explain the lack of interest in “Jem” and “Kasbah” and the weak showing for “Witch Hunter.” And the last in the “Paranormal Activity” series suffered from a dispute with theater owners, who were angry that it was being made available by VOD only 17 days after the theatrical release. The one that is hard to understand is “Steve Jobs,” which had mixed but mostly positive reviews and an all-star team on screen and behind the camera.

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This Week at the Box Office: Goosebumps Beats Crimson Peak and Spielberg/Hanks

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Once again, a PG-rated film wins the box office. “Goosebumps” came in ahead of the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks drama, “Bridge of Spies,” and last week’s other scary movie, the big budget “Crimson Peak.” They were third and fourth, with holdover blockbuster “The Martian” at number two.

Hollywood needs to be reminded again that there is an audience for family films. You’d think $23.5 million in ticket sales, almost twice the combined sales of the other new releases, would send that message.

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Who is Surprised that a Faith-Based Film Beat Zac Efron and Owen Wilson?

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The end of August is traditionally one of the year’s low points when it comes to Hollywood releases. So it was not surprising that the powerhouse “Straight Outta Compton” lead the box office, far ahead of the two new releases, the Owen Wilson/Pierce Brosnan action film “No Escape” and the Zac Efron EDM DJ movie, “We Are Your Friends.” But the people who predict box office returns for a living were surprised that a small faith-based film was #2, ahead of both studio films, with a healthy $11 million. The more important number was per-theater, where it made more than double what “Straight Outta Compton” took in. The numbers guys always underestimate faith-based films, but the rest of us were not surprised. “The War Room” was made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, whose films like “Fireproof,” “Mom’s Night Out,” and “Facing the Giants” have not just reached audiences — they have reached audiences too often overlooked by Hollywood, and, as they have shown, audiences looking for faith-based entertainment. It is especially good to see a primarily African-American cast, as well. The Kendricks make movies that show the role of faith in complicated, sometimes painful lives. Their films do not promise to fix everything or everyone, but their stories show how faith can help, and clearly, that is a story more welcome than another shoot ’em up or coming of age story.

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This Week at the Box Office
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