This summer carries more than a handful of box office surprises, but nothing like Sony Screen Gems’ Slender Man, which nobody is talking about. This reminds me of last year’s Jigsaw, the eight film in the Saw franchise that several websites declared a flop even though it grossed $100M on a measly $10M budget. (They were wrong in their reporting and a ninth film is currently in development.) While Slender Man isn’t exactly a hit (yet), it’s performing well enough that we should take note. We’ve talked about this several times prior, but the Sylvain White-directed Creepypasta was butchered by the studio heads out of fear of public retaliation (2018 for the win). The studio also pulled back on the marketing spend and quietly dumped the film in theaters with the expectation of taking one to the chin. Yet, with minimal marketing, horrendous reviews and terrible word of mouth, Slender Man has just topped $42.6M worldwide. With a reported $10M budget, and a less than typical marketing spend, the Joey King-starrer is well into the profit territory for the studio. Reflecting on this yet again, can you imagine if Screen Gems backed this little movie and didn’t fuck it up? It could have been a massive hit. While some are calling Slender Man (the character) dead before he even had a chance to spook audiences, I say it’s possible that this is just the beginning. A sequel – whether it be theatrical or direct-to-video – is more than likely at this point.
Speaking of sequels, let’s talk about Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Meg for a second. Good or bad is irrelevant in this conversation, but as of this writing, it’s touched $465M worldwide. That’s pretty wild for a film about a giant shark. Unfortunately, the budget was out of control with it costing a reported $130-$180M – the latter more likely. Meeting it in the middle, the studio and investors were all-in at around $300M, which means the box office gross (total before net) would need to be approximately $500M-$550M. As you can see, the film is still light of break-even, but it’s looking more than likely with each passing week.
The Meg is an interesting film in comparison to IT, which was in a similar boat. When Cary Fukunaga was originally attached to direct, the budget was ballooning to $150M. Warners made the smart move and shifted the project over to New Line Cinema and brought the budget down to a reported $35M (I’ve heard it’s actually around $60M). While IT was a bonafide hit, the studio set it up for success by recalibrating the budget and making it for a more reasonable price. While I don’t have insight into the executives’ mentality, it’s possible the success of IT gave them too much confidence in pulling the trigger on the supposed-to-be-R-rated The Meg. It’s interesting in retrospect because, if you recall, the studio allegedly got cold feet mid-shoot and targeted a more general PG-13 audience. At some point, they must have come to the realization that they’ve made a mistake and did whatever they could to fix it. The point I’m trying to make is this: if The Meg had a more reasonable budget (like IT), it would have been a tidal wave of a hit. The good news is that it’s treading water and keeping afloat in hopes of breaking even, which means that a refocused sequel with a smaller budget could be in the cards. (I’d also note that nobody knows the dynamic between the studio and the Chinese investors – how much did each entity invest? Who has what territories? What was the box office percentage recoup? Who gets first back? etc. etc. etc. There’s a lot of grey area and nobody knows exactly the interworkings of the deal.)
Digressing quite a bit, nobody is laughing about The Happytime Murders‘ box office numbers, with it sitting at $18M on a whopping $40M reported budget. Flop is an understatement. There is no way this film hits $125-150M worldwide.
In other genre disappointments, the director of Room saw his The Little Stranger open in only 474 locations to an abysmal $417k. That is only $880 per theater average, which is less than all three previously mentioned films in their third or fourth week of release. Chalk this one up as a film we’ll never talk about again, ever.
Oh, hey, and just for laughs, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is sitting at $485M worldwide, and Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom just topped $1.3 BILLION. Whoa.