Dissecting the Worst Weekend of 2015
It’s a little bit overdue to be analyzing the movies of 2015, since most thinkpieces and articles about that came out in the first week of January, but there is one part of 2015 that I want to focus on that Hollywood isn’t necessarily very proud of: the weekend of October 30th to November 1st.
For this article, I’m going to look back at the year for the box office to find one weekend that truly stood out to me out of all the weekends in 2015: October 30th to November 1st (Click this chart and read it alongside this article). Even with all the record-smashing weekends of American Sniper, Furious 7, Jurassic World, Straight Outta Compton, The Martian, and many others, this weekend made more of an impression on me than any of the weekends that made bank.
The weekend of October 30th to November 1st was one of the worst weekends for the box office this decade so far, and it’s actually worse than it sounds.
October 30th to November 1st had a total gross of all movies playing of just $74,042,759. In a year where 45 of the 52 weekends grossed over $100 million, this number is pretty pathetic. In fact, only two weekends this decade have been lower: September 5th to 7th, 2014, when Guardians of the Galaxy took the first place spot in its sixth weekend, and September 7th to 9th, 2012, when the Bradley Cooper movie The Words flopped with a $4 million opening. (Coincidentally, all three of these weekends featured a movie with Bradley Cooper, and two of the three had Zoe Saldana.)
October traditionally isn’t a bad month for movies, and the beginning of the month started strong with The Martian, Hotel Transylvania 2, and The Intern all making a ton of money in the first couple weeks. But then something happened.
The Something That Happened
On October 9, Pan opened to $15 million and flopped. The Walk expanded to 2,500 theaters and became one of the biggest bombs of all time with just $3 million. Then on October 16, four movies opened in theaters: Goosebumps, Bridge of Spies, Crimson Peak, and Woodlawn, with Goosebumps being a bit of a disappointment and Crimson Peak being a flop. Then on October 23, we had FIVE new movies in wide release: Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Rock the Kasbah, Jem and the Holograms, and Steve Jobs. Every single one of these was a flop.
Then we get to that special weekend of October 30th. Four movies went into wide release this weekend, as well: Burnt, Our Brand is Crisis, Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, and Truth. The first three of these rank among the worst openings of all time for movies playing in over 1500 theaters, while Truth disappointed and lost its chances at being an Oscar contender. There were nineteen films playing in wide release this weekend, compared to twelve films the first weekend of October, which is the typical number for most weekends throughout the year.
It wasn’t just that there were more movies than usual; 2014 actually had a few more movies, 77 compared to 2015’s 75. The problem wasn’t strictly quality, either, because movies like The Walk and Crimson Peak, despite being critically-acclaimed, ended up with little money to show for it. Moreso it was that there were too many movies that crossed over into the same demographics. And further compounding this issue, most theaters only have ten or fifteen screens; with nineteen movies showing at once, most theaters were going to have to pick and choose between a lot of these, giving some of them only one or two showtimes a day, or excluding some of them entirely.
Out of movies for kids and families on October 30th, Hotel Transylvania 2 was making a ton of money, even in its 6th weekend. Goosebumps, which covered similar subject matter (both were comedies involving monsters), was impacted by that and made less than it probably would have otherwise. Pan bombed alongside these two, though it was mostly due to its own quality and the fact that Peter Pan movies never seem to do very well besides Hook. Jem and the Holograms had terrible marketing that confused its target audience, and was a terrible movie anyway. While Hotel Transylvania 2 was crowned the winner of these movies, all of them ended up cannibalizing each other’s success.
The same exact thing happened when Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse premiered just one week apart. Both of them were already relegated to a mere 1500 theaters because of Paramount’s strange new VOD plan, and releasing them so close together was a terrible decision. On this weekend of October 30th, they made a combined $5.2 million, or half of what Ouija made in 2014 on Halloween weekend.
The box office success of The Martian and The Intern was greatly celebrated throughout the month, at least until the rest of the adult-skewing fare came out and collapsed. Bridge of Spies started out small but still carried itself strong, staying in 3rd place for three weeks in a row; none of the other adult movies were this lucky. These three movies did so well that once Burnt, Rock the Kasbah, and Our Brand is Crisis came out, there was no need for the average moviegoer to see them, especially since they weren’t very well-reviewed. Crimson Peak was also probably impacted by this, though it was probably more because of its terrible marketing campaign trying to pretend that it was a horror movie.
The Last Witch Hunter, the only straight action movie out of the bunch, was also badly-reviewed and Vin Diesel didn’t have the star power to propel it to any success. Its grosses weren’t cannibalized by any other similar movies, but the sheer number of other movies around it kept it from even reaching $30 million in the end.
Even “Oscar Movies”, or movies that are supposed to break out based on critical acclaim, were lacking. Sicario dominated the early part of the month, though it had faded by the 30th. However, once again, there were too many movies all trying to tout themselves as the latest Oscar contender. Steve Jobs bombed when it expanded to wide release, and Truth didn’t even make $1 million in over 1000 theaters. The Walk, which only went into wide release on October 9th, had already dropped down to 91 theaters. Plus, these movies all crossed over to the adult-skewing movie demographic, which was already loaded with way too many movies.
That Really Sucks
While there were way too many major movies at once, and too many of them were bad, the fact that so many of them were trying to target the same audiences is what did them in. While most moviegoers were still reeling from The Martian or preparing to watch Spectre and The Peanuts Movie, these other movies ended up destroying themselves all at once. One day, Wal-Mart will probably end up devoting an entire section of their bargain bin to DVDs of movies from October 2015.
And for a closing note, to show the fatality rate that all this overloading had, here’s a list of the Worst Opening Weekends for Movies at 2,000+ Theaters October 2015 records (As of February 10th, 2016):
Burnt – #141
The Walk – #56
Our Brand is Crisis – #37
Rock the Kasbah – #5
Jem and the Holograms – #4