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Attendance is Down for the Latest ‘M:I’ and DC Movies

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ and ‘Teen Titans Go! to the Movies’ disappointed at the box office over the weekend.
Teen Titans Go
By  · Published on July 30th, 2018

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ and ‘Teen Titans Go! to the Movies’ disappointed at the box office over the weekend.

Did the MoviePass outage crash the box office? Even though the service interruption was on Thursday, ahead of the weekend except where previews are concerned, the issue may have scared off a lot of subscribers over the subsequent few days. Complaints of too many peak pricing screenings, continuing blackouts for new releases, and the general disappearance of showtimes from the MoviePass app certainly didn’t help matters. But it’s unclear if the debacle kept enough people home that box office was down all around compared to tracking for not just the new but also continuing titles.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, while seemingly posting a franchise-best in monetary form ($61.5 million), the truth is that its opening attracted possibly the worst attendance of the series. Ticket sales for the sixth installment, according to Box Office Mojo, were about 6.6 million. That follows direct predecessor Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘s opening weekend attendance of 6.7 million, so it was close. The first two M:I movies drew debut crowds of 10.3 million and 10.7 million respectively in 1996 and 2000. Mission: Impossible III, the one that reignited the franchise, then sold 7.3 million tickets in its opening weekend in 2006.

The fourth installment is a little tricky for comparison. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol opened with a large-format-only preview week to promote the movie in IMAX before going into wide release. So the sequel initially drew 1.6 million fans at just 425 theaters (for an average of 3,800 per screen) its first weekend and then brought in 3.8 million the next weekend via 3,448 locations (an average of 1,100 per screen). Should those weekends’ attendances combined be the figure to compare to the others’? If so, Ghost Protocol looks like it had the worst debut, but its opening is also complicated by having its wide release falling over a Christmas weekend. All-in, ticket sales were great, and anyway, the movie went on to be the series’ biggest hit overall worldwide.

Fallout isn’t too far off the franchise train, and its global box office should still be huge regardless, but it deserved to perform much better. Reviews for the movie have been remarkably favorable, giving not just the franchise its best Rotten Tomatoes score (98%) but also delivering Tom Cruise a new career peak, while for its genre overall it’s up against Mad Max: Fury Road for the best-reviewed action/adventure movie of all time. Fallout also had the series’ best CinemaScore grade, receiving an ‘A’ from opening night polls of moviegoers compared to the last three receiving ‘A-‘ and first two respectively earning a ‘B+’ and a ‘B.’

At least Fallout‘s opening was relatively close to Box Office Pro’s recent forecast for $70 million, which translates to about 7.5 million tickets. The other big new release, the animated DC feature Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, is much more of a disappointment. Despite its expectations to bring in a gross of $17.5 million, or about 1.9 million moviegoers, the cartoon TV series spin-off sold only 1.1 million tickets. That’s a negative difference of 40% versus Fallout‘s failing of just 12%.

Not only is it Warner Animation Group’s worst opening, but Teen Titans Go! To the Movies had one of the worst debuts for a DC Comics-based movie — falling below even Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Supergirl, though at least bettering Jonah Hex, Steel, and fellow animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. On the plus side, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies didn’t cost much to produce, if its reported $10 million price tag is genuine. Its debut is, unfortunately, lower than anticipated and desired, but we can’t exactly label it a flop.

But why did it underperform so terribly? Did parents not see any appeal? Did kids not care? MoviePass may not have caused much harm considering the service still isn’t too accommodating for family moviegoing anyway. Yet adult fans of DC properties might have avoided the feature due to MoviePass issues. Reviews for Teen Titans Go! To the Movies are pretty good for what it is (Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%), with critics highlighting the animated feature as a smart and fun effort that could appeal to more than the younger primary target audience. However, its CinemaScore grade is only a ‘B+’, meaning it didn’t meet the expectations of a lot of its fans (or parents of fans).

Speaking of the fans, there’s also the matter of the movie not being enough of an exclusive attraction. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is technically a feature-length, big-screen episode of the ongoing Teen Titans Go! cartoon series and is said to take place during the events of the fifth season. That season just began a month ago too, so fans are getting fresh feedings of the property at home and therefore may not see any need to also spend money to see the same characters in theaters right now. Warner Bros. would have been better off releasing this as a TV movie like they did with Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo, a feature which served as the finale for the previous Teen Titans cartoon.

The interesting thing is, attendance-wise, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies has already sold more tickets than the new season’s average episode viewership. The Teen Titans Go! series has never had ratings equating to more than 2.8 million people tuning in, and its audience has decreased in recent years. Maybe Warner Bros. hoped to attract more of its former audience or sought to introduce the property to new, uninitiated moviegoers, who’d possibly, in turn, go back and watch the show. Either way, this was never going to be a huge sell at the box office.

Outside of the two major new releases, the current top ticket sellers including ongoing titles were all down in relation to Box Office Pro’s projections. Respectively in second and third place, the sequels Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and The Equalizer 2 dropped tremendously in their sophomore weekends. The former should have drawn 1.8 million people and only did 1.6 million. The latter likewise should have sold 1.7 million tickets and only sold 1.5 million. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation was forecast for 1.4 million and really only did 1.3 million. All could have fallen so slightly short due to MoviePass, but that’s not a definite excuse.

One more thing that is noteworthy is that movie attendance for the year has dipped a bit in its ratio to the past five years’ box office. By the end of April, this year was on top compared to years 2014 through 2017. That continued to be the case until recently. At the mid-year point, 2018 was the champion. As of this weekend, which marks the end of July, the year’s attendance is only slightly above that of 2016 and is far below that of 2015.

Maybe that’s because fewer blockbusters are showing long legs following their debuts, particularly sequels Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Ant-Man and the Wasp, which are slowing down in contrast to their 2015 counterparts. Maybe MoviePass, which forbids repeat attendance, is to blame there, too.

Here are the past weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – 6.6 million (6.6 million)
2. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – 1.6 million (7.5 million)
3. The Equalizer 2 – 1.5 million (6.8 million)
4. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – 1.3 million (12.7 million)
5. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies – 1.1 million (1.1 million)
6. Ant-Man and the Wasp – 0.9 million (19.5 million)
7. Incredibles 2 – 0.8 million (61.1 million)
8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – 0.7 million (42.4 million)
9. Skyscraper – 0.6 million (6.3 million)
10. The First Purge – 0.2 million (7 million)

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.