This weekend is a textbook example of major studios running away from head-to-head competition with a blockbuster to avoid surviving on the crumbs that it left behind. In days past, this would only happen on the opening weekend of the tentpole, but now it seems that this has expanded to include the week before and after as well. With Disney/Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS opening next Friday, there were no significant new openings this weekend, leading to quiet results.
Open Road/Briarcliff saw this as an opportunity to release MEMORY, the latest action thriller starring Liam Neeson. Alas, the results were less thrilling, generating only $3M, good enough for eighth place on the weekend box office charts. Part of the problem may have been the film itself. Liam Neeson’s box office appeal appears to be trending down after a run of less-than-stellar performers, including BLACKLIGHT ($10M), THE MARKSMAN ($16M), and HONEST THIEF ($14M). After this soft opening, MEMORY may struggle to earn $6M for its entire theatrical run.
Is MEMORY’S poor return due to the film being just another flop or because of DOCTOR STRANGE’s opening in only a matter of days? It seems likely that both factors played a role and that studio execs will persist in their approach of avoiding major title releases.
Performance from holdover titles appears to have benefited from the lack of new competition because of next week’s looming blockbuster opening. THE BAD GUYS, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2, and FANTASTIC BEASTS all dropped less than would normally have been expected, at 33%, 28%, and 41%, respectively. This weekend’s total gross for all pictures in the release will finish at approximately $68M, the lowest for the past 13 weeks.
The timing could not have been worse when measuring current results to those from 2019. AVENGERS: ENDGAME opened on 4/26/2019, pulling in an astounding $357M over three days and leading the overall weekend results that year to $400. After enjoying three weeks in a row of high 80% comparisons to 2019, the score for 4/29/2022 – 5/1/2022 was only 17% compared to 4/26/2019 – 4/28/2019.