Weekend Box Office: 'Sausage Party' Beats 'Pete's Dragon' With $33.6M
'Suicide Squad' falls steeply in its sophomore outing even as it approaches $500 million worldwide; 'Florence Foster Jenkins,' starring Meryl Streep, opens on par with last year's 'Ricki and the Flash.'
David Ayer's much-debated Suicide Squad may have stayed No. 1 in its second outing, but the true hero of the late summer box-office barbecue was Sausage Party, which came in ahead of predictions to score the best opening for an R-rated comedy in at least a year with $33.6 million from 3,103 theaters.
Originality paid off big-time for Sausage Party in a season otherwise dominated by a slew of sequels and remakes that have disappointed.
Case in point: Disney's CG/live-action hybrid Pete's Dragon, an update of the studio's 1977 film, opened to a subdued $21 million-$22 million from 3,702 locations despite being the first new family offering since July. At the same time, the film's cost, $65 million, was less than most Disney offerings.
Overall, Suicide Squad claimed the weekend crown with $43.8 million from 4,255 theaters — a 67 percent drop from the $133.7 million collected last weekend. It's one of the biggest declines for a studio superhero movie, and for Warner Bros. and DC, it's deja vu all over again after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice tumbled 69 percent earlier this year in its second weekend.
That doesn't mean Suicide Squad is a slouch. The movie has now earned $465.4 million worldwide, including $222.9 million domestically and $242.5 million overseas, where it took in another $58.7 million over the weekend from 62 markets, easily enough to top the foreign chart. Placing No. 2 overseas was Illumination and Universal's The Secret Life of Pets, which grossed $40 million from 47 markets for a foreign total of $256.2 million and global tally of $592.6 million.
Sausage Party, which cost a modest $19 million to make, is a needed boost for Sony and another win for Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, which developed the project on behalf of producing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This Is the End, The Interview). Comparisons are difficult since there haven't been a slew of R-rated animated comedies; in 1999, South Park — Bigger, Longer and Uncut debuted to $11.3 million ($19.3 million when adjusting for ticket-price inflation).
"It shows that if you are really original and take risks, it can pay off really well in today's marketplace. The humor was smart and elevated," said Sony worldwide president of distribution and marketing Josh Greenstein.
Generally speaking, R-rated comedies have been in a slump. Sausage Party, a pic about a brave sausage who is determined to find out what happens to hot dogs once they leave the grocery store shelf, is an exception. Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon directed the raunchy movie, which drew strong reviews but only a B CinemaScore from audiences (considering the subject matter, the grade from moviegoers isn't a huge surprise).
Pete's Dragon earned a glowing A CinemaScore from those who did turn out, as well as strong reviews (it boasts an 85 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 82 percent for Sausage Party). Disney is hopeful that this will spark strong word-of-mouth before kids return to school. David Lowery directed the film, which stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley and Robert Redford.
"I know we are usually in more of the home-run tentpole business, but this is a solid single, maybe a double, pending the 75 percent of overseas business to come. If anything, this result gives us a business case to consider other library titles that warrant the singles/doubles treatment," said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, adding that Planes (2013), also released in the month of August, had a four multiple.
Overseas, Pete's Dragon opened to $5.1 million from its first 12 markets for a global debut of $26.6 million.
The weekend's third new nationwide entry, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, debuted to a subdued $6.9 million, on par with last summer's Streep film, Ricki and the Flash. Florence Foster Jenkins is an adult play, so it rolled out in far fewer locations than its rivals, or 1,528 locations.
Stephen Frears directed the pic, which is based on the real-life story of a New York heiress who bought a career as an opera star only to be ridiculed. Produced by Pathe and BBC Films and distributed by Paramount, Florence Foster Jenkins, which earned an A- CinemaScore, skewed female (61 percent), while just 3 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.
CBS Films and distribution partner Lionsgate scored at the specialty box office with director David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water, the critically acclaimed heist thriller starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham. Sidney Kimmel Entertainment developed, co-financed and co-produced the film with OddLot Entertainment.
The modern-day Western, opening in both traditional art house theaters in New York and Los Angeles as well as in commercial theaters in the Southwest, debuted to $592,000 from 31 locations for a stellar location average of $18,500. Hell or High Water, which got a jump on awards season by opening before the crush of fall films, boasts a 99 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Back on the top 10 chart, Universal's Jason Bourne placed No. 4 behind Suicide Squad, Sausage Party and Pete's Dragon with $13.6 million in its third weekend for a domestic total of $126.8 million.
And STX Entertainment's raunchy female comedy Bad Moms rounded out the top five, falling a slim 18 percent in its third frame to $11.5 million for a domestic total of $71.5 million (like Sausage Party, it's overcoming the R-rated comedy blues).