Box Office: ‘Finding Dory’ Dominates ‘Tarzan,’ Spielberg’s ‘The BFG’ Bombs

The BFG
Courtesy of Disney

Finding Dory” dominated the Independence Day box office, overcoming a trio of new releases to provide the weekend’s biggest fireworks.

The Pixar release swam to the top of the charts for the third consecutive weekend, picking up $41.9 million to bring its domestic total to $372.2 million. The follow-up to “Finding Nemo” should end the four-day holiday with another $50.5 million in receipts. It is on pace to surpass “Toy Story 3” and its $415 million haul as the highest-grossing Pixar film in history on a domestic basis.

“It’s showing no signs of slowing down,” said Dave Hollis, distribution chief at Disney, Pixar’s parent company. “As people are weighing what to see, it stands out as the only option that’s going to entertain everyone.”

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The July 4th weekend is traditionally one of the movie business’ biggest, but this national holiday suffered from a weak crop of new releases, as costly adventures such as “The Legend of Tarzan” and “The BFG” failed to excite audiences. The influx of new releases did lift industry-wide grosses, and the weekend should be among the five biggest.

“There’s a lot of product out there,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “That leads to a lot of fragmentation and cannibalization, and a lot of spreading the wealth.”

With a smaller budget, “The Legend of Tarzan” might rank as a hit. But Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow spent lavishly to update Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle king stories, shelling out a reported $180 million to produce the picture and millions more to market it.

Despite the high costs, the film did better than projected, earning $38.1 million for the three-day weekend to take second place. It should make $44 million for the holiday, roughly $10 million more than analysts expected it would generate, but that may not be enough to cover the massive budget. David Yates, who directed several Harry Potter installments, was behind the camera on the film, with Alexander Skarsgård donning Tarzan’s loincloth and Margot Robbie serving as his Jane.

To make a profit, the film will have to resonate with foreign crowds. In its first weekend of international release, “The Legend of Tarzan” pulled in $18.8 million from 19 markets, including South Korea and Russia.

“You have to look at the whole worldwide results,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president, noting that the film has yet to open in major territories such as China.

“At the end of the day we always looked at this as a bigger play internationally,” he added.

The weekend’s biggest disaster was Disney’s “The BFG,” Steven Spielberg’s $140 million adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. The story of a friendly giant (Mark Rylance) who befriends an orphan (Ruby Barnhill), got solid reviews, but was overshadowed by “Finding Dory.” It collapsed at the box office, eking out $19.6 million over the weekend and should earn a paltry $23.6 million over the four-day holiday for a fourth place finish. It will rank as one of the biggest flops of the summer and of Spielberg’s career, raising questions about his drawing power after a decade spent making historical dramas such as “Lincoln” that are geared at older crowds.

Disney’s Hollis acknowledged the studio was disappointed with the results, but hopes that the film would get a lift in the coming weeks as families seek out entertainment options to keep children occupied during their summer vacations.

“We’ve seen the way people are speaking of and rating the film,” he said. “We’re hoping to be the beneficiary of some good word-of-mouth.”

One new release did score with audiences. Universal’s “The Purge: Election Year” debuted in third place to $30.9 million and should make $34 million over the holiday. That’s a solid return for a film that cost a mere $10 million to produce and another summer success for Blumhouse, the micro-budget purveyor of “Insidious” and “Paranormal Activity.” The two previous installments, “The Purge” and “The Purge: Anarchy,” debuted to $34.1 million and $29.8 million, respectively.

James DeMonaco, who directed the other two Purge films, returned behind the camera, with Platinum Dunes co-producing the project. The sequel follows a presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) campaigning to end  the purge, a legally sanctioned night of lawlessness. It may have benefited from interest in the White House battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In a summer where sequels such as “Alice Through the Looking Glass” or “X-Men: Apocalypse” have struggled to entice audiences, the third “Purge” bucks the trend.

“The magic of the Blumhouse model is that it allows us to be subversive and think outside the box when it comes to interesting audiences,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief.

He credits an off-kilter marketing campaign, where spots for the latest “Purge” ran in conjunction with the presidential primary debates, with driving interest in the picture.

In its second weekend of release, Fox’s “Independence Day: Resurgence” rounded out the top five, earning $16.5 million. The follow-up to the hit alien invasion thriller has made $76.3 million domestically and should close the holiday with more than $20 million in receipts.

On the art house front, A24 expanded “Swiss Army Man,” from three theaters to 636, where it earned $1.4 million. The comedy about a suicidal man (Paul Dano) who befriends a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) drew a mixed response at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, prompting some walkouts. The publicity, however, appears to be helping the film cut through the clutter, in addition to inspiring countless articles about Radcliffe’s flatulence.

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  1. Chad says:

    It’s a little too early to call BFG a bomb…

    It’s been out for three days…

    by this authors logic, he would have called titanic a bomb too

    Typical press out looking for attention and not being accurate.

    Not saying it won’t bomb, but the only reason it is getting called a bomb is because it was a smash hit like many of spieldburgs movies have been in the past. Tarzan technically bombed too if it cost 180 mill and makes only 70 mill Labor Day weekend and has no legs. But the author won’t say Tarzan bombed because it wasn’t made by a Hollywood heavy weight. Typical press out looking for attention and not being accurate.

    • jhs39 says:

      BFG is definitely a bomb. It had been tracking weakly for weeks and the only question was how low it would open. The film is not likely to have legs since children have shown little to no interest in it. Foreign box office might be better. The Legend of Tarzan is hard to peg as a bomb since it came in above expectations. The high cinema score also suggests that word of mouth might be better than the reviews–plus action adventure films tend to play well overseas. At the outside, it could be a Pacific Rim type film that has legs in the US and does well enough overseas to count as a modest hit. That is very unlikely to happen for BFG. The Legend of Tarzan could still end up losing a lot of money but it’s too early to call.

      • Chad says:

        Bfg hasn’t been released in most of western civilization. France, UK, Germany, AUS and Japan combined could be enough to make BFG break even. I’m not saying you’re going to be right or wrong. I’m saying it’s too early to tell. You can bet BFG won’t be a massive hit but no movie so far this summer except purge will make decent money. Maybe a few others to come.

        Warcraft may not break even, even with China. ID42 bombed.

        I should say that the author of this article was right in saying BFG bombed this weekend, but based on the information he has at this point, so did Tarzan technically. I really meant to just call the author of the article out on pinpointing a Steven Spielberg movie because it is just that.

      • Chad says:

        Right you can see the future

    • Chad says:

      Typo:

      Because it was not* a smash hit

  2. MY SUMMER OF B.O.F.S. says:

    Stunning to read that TARZAN cost about $200 million to make if not more when all ancillary costs are totalled.
    Hopefully it doesn’t PURGE a lot of moviegoers next weekend like INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE with its -60% 2nd weekend freefall. That one also cost close to $200million. And speaking of expensive flops, WTF, BFG? A couple of more $200 MILLION dollar flops and Disney will make history for being the first studio to lose a billion dollars in a single year. First the ALICE IN WONDERLAND 2 fiasco and now they add this Big Flop Giant Fail to the list. And Disney newsfash; the ROGUE ONE trailer looks God-awful!

    • jhs39 says:

      Disney also released Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, all of which have or will gross more than a billion dollars internationally. They can actually afford a few pricey flops.

  3. EricJ says:

    “It will rank as one of the biggest flops of the summer and of Spielberg’s career,”

    It would have to be one HECK of a film to make us forget 1941, AI, Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, or the big bad daddy of ’em all, Lost World: Jurassic Park II. (We’ve already forgotten Always, Amistad and The Terminal.)
    I saw Lost World in a theater. I lived through those two hours. Sitting through Lost World was a personal experience of mine. BFG…you’re no Lost World.

    • therealeverton says:

      Most f the films you mention were not flops, in fact they were big financial successes. #you not liking them, or them being poor to average films (very debatable foe some on your list) has doesn’t make them flops, being failures at the box office does, and they mostly weren’t.

  4. John says:

    The biggest problem with BFG was the studio waited too long to provide information about the movie. I’m not familiar with children’s books, so initially I didn’t even know it was an adaptation. The BFG posters were in theaters since last year, but there were no photos, graphics, or any type of attractive marketing slogan, it was just plain BFG. As late as this March, there was still no trailer for the film. I think Disney’s marketing department blew this, they probably thought by keeping the three letters BFG it would create certain mystique that audiences would want to find out more about the movie themselves. It turned out the audiences didn’t care, Disney’s marketing strategy backfired.

  5. gabe says:

    still seeing bfg

  6. Sandra Cullen's says:

    British film r 4.75. Star’s I really enjoy the actors and actress performaces…Thank Sandy Cullen’s Xxopkkklol

  7. Michelle says:

    Frankly, the giant was ugly and a bit off-putting. And I am completely over the British kids and their accents in these types of films. Just my 2 cents.

    • therealeverton says:

      Your over films set in Britain? Or just England? That’s an odd thing to be over it seem. He’s meant to be uglier than they made him, it’s one of the points of the story.

  8. stevenkovacs says:

    What a group of dull films.

  9. Cath says:

    “Dominates?” Come on. Last time I looked 41 and 38 are pretty close. “Tarzan” is doing better than the forecasts.

  10. sumeet says:

    This year horror titles both sequels like conjuring 2 & purge 3 n original like the shallow performed above expectations and early releases like the boy n the forest also performed solid considering their budgets,, i think the darkness did decent business.

  11. MrCrane says:

    For me personally, there’s something deeply off putting about the face of the giant in the BFG. He clearly looks like Mark Rylance but it looks like Rylance’s face is contorted and twisted. I enjoyed Rylance in Bridge of Spies but he already has an unusual face and piling on cgi is just creepy. Also, what is the atory hook with BFG? Giant kidnaps and befriends lonely girl and then…? Don’t tell me to read the book, the trailer should make that blatantly clear. The amazingly well done Jungle Book trailers didn’t assume familarity. It clearly showed the stakes and the central plot comflict while keeping it’s many gems hidden. Don’t assume that merely having a trailer saying “It’s speilberg making BFG and look go buy your ticket will ya?” will hook audiences.

    • EricJ says:

      “Also, what is the story hook with BFG? Giant kidnaps and befriends lonely girl and then…?”

      The last trailer did explain that: “We (BFGiants) bring good dreams.” “Then…who brings the nightmares?”
      The LAST trailer. At the very last minute. Like, two weeks before opening.
      When a movie gets more trailers than it should, it’s because there’s a lot of story to explain, and the first one did too much teasing and not a very good job of explaining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave much time left.

      And again, they thought most parents had kids who knew the book. It’s usually in most fourth-grade libraries.

    • therealeverton says:

      Hey I agree with the poor trailers. I said, more than once, that they assume you know the book and that showing they’ve faithfully adapted it will be enough to get you in. YES there are issues with not wanting to showcase unfinished effects, but they needed to tell the story, as far as possible, in their trailers and failed.

      They banked on it being a massively popular book, it is, being enough to sell the film – alongside Spielberg’s name. I see that working around the world, it didn’t work here./ A

      Also , again, Disney are bunching their films too close together. It took some box office away from Jungle Book (and possibly Captain America, and it likely will see Finding Dory taking some from The BFG and possibly vice versa internationally.

      I will say though that it’s a massively popular, award winning book, so I’m surprised you don’t know of the tale and look of the giant, the BFG, is probably a little unfaithful as he looks far less “ugly” than he should…appearances not being important / all they seem being one of the points of the story after all.

    • me says:

      It’s supposed to look like the BFG, not Mark Rylance.

      The trailer is not supposed to give away the story. It’s supposed to make you curious enough to go see the movie…which is exactly what it did for you apparently, since you asked.

      Finally, you sound bitter and angry and weird. It’s just a movie.

      • Nick says:

        a very bad movie that has creepy, unappealing character designs.

      • Britt says:

        ” It’s supposed to make you curious enough to go see the movie…which is exactly what it did”

        Judging by how hard if flopped in North America, it didn’t.

  12. therealeverton says:

    ” It will rank as one of the biggest flops of the summer and of Spielberg’s career,”

    Serious question…In today’s global market, at what point can you still call a film a “flop” based solely on ANY one market? If the B.F.G. makes $100m in North America (and is the global hit originally expected) is that still a flop to you? $50m?, $150m?S the B.F.G. makes $550m global, is a hit, but “only” makes $75m of that in North America will you still call it a flop? even though it isn’t a flop.

    • Ronnie says:

      Do you think The BFG will even reach $100 million in America? At its not showing signs of doing any better in the smaller markets.

      • therealeverton says:

        Your missing the point of the question. The question is at what point in modern cinema do you call a film a flop based on one market? I actually stated amounts from $50m to $150m for North America, as making a prediction wasn’t what was happening at all.

        Also it’s a family film, in summer, with good word of mouth. A high multiple is possible, byt again, it isn’t relevant. The question is if you’re calling this a flop now, based on a few days, why is that? Are you playing by outdated rules (You being Variety and Co.) because you’re so eager to take shameful joy in calling films flops? Or do you have a certain amount? Because it seems that when you have a film that could easily (again NOBODY is saying it WILL) make a profit if you didn’t release it in North America at all, calling it a flop because it won’t cover its shooting budget in North America seems asinine right?

        Also, as far as I can see t hasn’t opened in the major markets yet, because of Euro 2016 and the release dates crush and school holidays around the globe being later than in North America. So the idea that this film (and Fantasy has always fared better outside North America (even with those two “exceptions, Harry Potter and the Lord of Rings counted) is incapable of grossing $400m from the major markets including China, The U.K South Korea and so on, where it isn’t out for a few weeks yet is a silly one. The last Spielberg film based on something everyone else in the world loved was the extremely well liked Tintin. That only made $77m in North America, after a smaller opening weekend than this had, but about $300m outside. Based on the cost of this film the same gross would see this film make a profit, however small.

    • Ana says:

      I agree. BFG is a beautiful Dahl’s children’ s book and if anyone could translate it successfully to the big screen it surely is Spielberg. Honestly, I was rooting for both the LoT and BFG and was surprised to see BFG referred to as one of the biggest flops. I really hope it will do much better overseas (and it is a very popular book in the UK).

      Regarding the global market and financial expectations, I will just say this: They are totally unrealistic. Why should the US market financial result be more relevant then the worldwide box office? I hope

      • jhs39 says:

        A high multiple is extremely unlikely given that the film was tracking poorly for weeks and children have shown no interest in seeing it. Foreign markets also bring in less money per ticket than the North American market. The studios make 25% of the box office take in China compared with 50% in North America. Also to consider is that sometimes the same studio isn’t releasing a movie in every country in the world, so the same movie can be a money loser for its US studio but a hit for whoever released it in China or Japan or Europe.

  13. Ana says:

    Also, apologies for two typos in my comment.

  14. Ana says:

    “….as costly adventures such as “The Legend of Tarzan” and “The BFG” failed to excite audiences.”

    With all due respect Sir, but I beg to differ. Since Tarzan stands at 74% Audience Score at RT (vs. 35% critics score) and has a strong A- Cinemascore, so it seems it has succeeded in exciting the audience. Maybe BFG failed to do that (unfortunately), because I thinks it’s a wonderful movie.

    Looking forward to watch the Legend of Tarzan next week.

    Thank you for these most recent data.

    • therealeverton says:

      It seems they both excited the people who bothered to go, but somehow failed to get enough people to go in the first place. As you say, a shame, but outside North America they may do better. And word of mouth may help there too.

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