Universal No Longer Needs Legendary’s Help in China, Studio’s Filmed Group Chairman Says

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Universal Pictures signed its financing and distribution deal with Legendary Entertainment in 2013, with two things in mind: Money and China. And Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal’s Filmed Entertainment Group, said Thursday during the Bank of America Merril Lynch media, communications and entertainment conference that the studio no longer needs either from Legendary.

“There were two reasons we did the Legendary deal originally: One was it was a pure financing deal and the second was at the time they were bringing big original movies that we had not shown an ability in the past at Universal to do successfully,” Shell said.

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“If you fast forward now five years, we don’t need either of those things,” he continued. “We love the people at Legendary, I think it’s been a good relationship, but I’m happy for them they found a new home over at Warner Bros.”

Legendary is taking its deep pockets and its slate of films back to Warner Bros. after five years in bed with Universal. In December last year, Legendary tapped veteran Hollywood lawyer Joshua Grode to take the reins as CEO, and Grode was quick to bolster the company. In May, the company secured a $1 billion loan from a collection of banks led by J.P. Morgan.

The deal replaced a previous $585 million credit facility, but with better terms, including industry-low interest rates and significant production credits that will allow the studio to borrow on the estimated performance of an upcoming film or TV release.

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Universal’s last blockbuster with Legendary was Dwayne Johnson’s “Skyscraper,” which flopped in North America, grossing $67.4 million, compared to $98.2 million in China. The film had a production budget of $125.0 million.

But Shell pointed out that the two highest grossing U.S. films in China are Universal films, on which the studio didn’t partner with Legendary. “The Fate of the Furious” is No. 1, which made $392.8 million in China, with “Furious 7,” which brought in $390.9 million, at No. 2.

“We have a deal with Perfect World in China, so we don’t need the Legendary money, and separately, we’ve shown the ability in the last five years to be pretty successful at making big tent pole movies and don’t really need help with that.”

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Shell said that parting ways with Legendary doesn’t really change Universal’s approach to the Chinese market. He’s out on following the trend of big co-production deals and said Universal wants to cultivate relationships with filmmakers in China as a way to learn how to better navigate the Middle Kingdom.

Universal teamed with an early group of filmmakers in China and licensed the rights to them the rights to remake the 1985 comedy “Brewster’s Millions,” starring Richard Pryor and John Candy.

The film is about a minor-league pitcher, Montgomery Brewster (Pryor) who learns his great-uncle left him $300 million. To inherit it, he has to spend $30 million in 30 days under a complicated set of rules. The filmmakers changed the pitcher to a soccer goalkeeper, titled it “Hello Mr. Billionaire,” and the film has earned roughly $370.0 million in China so far.

“So I think we’re doing just fine in China,” Shell said.

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‘Skyscraper’ tops China Box Office with $48 Million Opening

Read on: Variety.

“Skyscraper” comfortably topped the Chinese box office on its opening weekend. It enjoyed a 50% market share and earned $48 million, according to local data tracker Ent Group. The prospect of a burning tower block should terrify audiences in China, whe…

‘Skyscraper’ Gets Chinese Boost at Box Office With $45 Million Opening

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

After a lackluster domestic performance, Universal/Legendary’s “Skyscraper” got a Chinese boost, opening to a $45 million start in the lucrative territory this weekend to push the film to a $176.8 million global total.

Co-produced on a $120 million budget by the two studios, with Legendary handling Chinese distribution. “Skyscraper” has been a relative disappointment for its star, Dwayne Johnson, compared to his past films. After “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” grossed just under $1 billion worldwide, Johnson’s box office draw wasn’t able to win over audiences for “Skyscraper”‘s domestic release, earning a mediocre $25 million opening and a $46.7 million 10-day total.

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As for the action thriller’s Chinese run, the jury is still out. Its $45 million launch is less than the $55 million made in that country by Johnson’s last film, “Rampage.” However, that film went on to make $156 million in the Middle Kingdom and $425 million worldwide. While “Skyscraper” isn’t likely to match that global total, having legs in China will give it a chance to avoid finishing its theatrical run deep in the red.

On the flip side, Universal’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is looking like it will perform as well as its 2008 predecessor with a $76.8 million global start. The first “Mamma Mia!” endured for over two months at theaters worldwide thanks to the global appeal of ABBA, earning $615 million. The sequel’s top overseas territories were the U.K. and Australia, which are home to ABBA’s biggest fanbases and combined for $18 million.

Also Read: Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ Performance Praised by Critics as Support for ‘Silly’ Movie

Back in the U.S., the $34 million opening for “Here We Go Again” pushes Universal past $1 billion on the domestic gross charts. While Disney has pulled far in the lead with $2.55 billion off its stable of blockbusters, Universal has earned its eighth straight billion-dollar year off of a diverse set of films. Along with franchise titles like “Fifty Shades Freed” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the studio has also released microbudget Blumhouse titles like “The First Purge” and female-directed films like Kay Cannon’s “Blockers.”

That diversity will continue through 2018 with films like the family horror film “The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy “Night School,” Jamie Lee Curtis’ return to “Halloween,” and the Robert Zemeckis-directed awards play “Welcome to Marwen.”

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Pop & Rock: ‘Mamma Mia! 2’ Plays $42M On Offshore Jukebox, ‘Skyscraper’ Tops China – International Box Office

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‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ To Hit The High Note At Weekend Box Office With $30M+

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After weathering a setback with Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper last weekend, Universal is expected to take the upper hand at the weekend box office with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which is poised to make between $30 million-$36 million at 3,200 lo…

Paralympian Actress Katy Sullivan Chides Dwayne Johnson For Playing Amputee In ‘Skyscraper’

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Korea Box Office: ‘Ant-Man’ Stays Bigger Than ‘Skyscraper’

Read on: Variety.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” remained on top of the South Korean box office for the second consecutive weekend. The Walt Disney release earned $8.35 million from 1.06 million admissions between Friday and Sunday, accounting for 46% of the total weekend box o…

4 Reasons Why ‘Skyscraper’ and Dwayne Johnson Couldn’t Scale Box Office

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Dwayne Johnson got his 2018 off to a huge start when “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” became Sony’s biggest hit in years with $961 million grossed worldwide. But he’s followed it with two straight box office underperformers: First New Line’s “Rampage” in April and now Universal’s “Skyscraper,” which opened this weekend to $25 million domestic and just $65 million worldwide from 57 countries.

With a $120 million budget before marketing costs, Universal and Legendary face an uphill battle toward profitability for this action film. (“Rampage” had the same reported budget and topped out under $100 million domestically — though it grossed an impressive $327 million overseas.”)

While audiences who did see “Skyscraper” were fairly positive with a B+ on CinemaScore, that’s below the A given to previous Johnson films like “Rampage” and “San Andreas,” meaning word-of-mouth is weaker.

What led to this disappointing result for Hollywood’s biggest box office star? There are several factors…

1. Weak pre-release buzz

“Skyscraper” may be the only major July release that isn’t attached to a pre-existing franchise, but the trailers failed to draw up any pre-release buzz for the film. In addition, critics said that outside of Johnson’s performance as an amputee former FBI agent trying to stop terrorists, there’s not much to separate the film from previous high-rise action thrillers like “Die Hard.”

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“‘Die Hard’ endures — and has spawned scores of imitators — because it had top-notch action, great characters (including one of the most charismatic villains in screen history), palpable suspense and a heroic story of one good guy facing insurmountable odds taking on a team of baddies,” said Detroit News’ Adam Graham. “Director John McTiernan brought it all to a steady boil with a kinetic, fluid sense of motion and delivered an action movie classic. All ‘Skyscraper’ has going for it is a tall building.”

That sense of “I’ve seen this before” can be poison to a film’s box office chances, especially when you’re facing…

2. Heavy competition

“Hotel Transylvania 3” probably didn’t cut all that much into “Skyscraper”‘s totals, considering Sony’s animated film caters mostly to out-of-school kids and their families. But “Skyscraper” was going up against a second-weekend “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which made $29 million this weekend, while June hits “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and “Incredibles 2” continue to endure at the box office with $16 million each.

All three franchise films have had better word-of-mouth than “Skyscraper” and ended up serving as major four-quadrant competition for the action film both in the U.S. and internationally. But those films weren’t the only entertainment options available this weekend.

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3. The World Cup Final

This is more for the film’s overseas launch than it is for its North American performance, but with Belgium and England competing in the third place match of the FIFA World Cup, and France and Croatia competing for the title this weekend, soccer was likely on the minds of many potential moviegoers.

Disney has held back the release date of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in Western Europe until next weekend, while “Skyscraper” did not earn more than $5 million in any single overseas market. The film opened to $2.3 million in the U.K., while Korea was the top international market with $4.6 million. The film now turns to China, where Legendary East will handle distribution when it comes out next weekend.

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4. Too much Dwayne?

It would be an overreaction to say that audiences are growing tired of Dwayne Johnson. The runaway success of “Jumanji” is proof of his box office draw in an era of franchises. But “Skyscraper” may have shown the limits of his drawing ability, and the fact that this is his fifth film in 14 months might have had something to do with it.

“Dwayne’s work ethic is second-to-none in this industry right now. The guy ensures that there’s no lack of his presence with ‘Ballers’ on TV and several films coming out each year,” said comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian.

“But as with any popular franchises or stars, there can be too much of a good thing. ‘Jumanji’ had a very long run in theaters to start off the year, and then Johnson was right back in theaters with ‘Rampage,’” Dergarabedian continued. “Audiences might have already gotten their fill of him for now, and the weaker reviews for ‘Skyscraper’ served as a sign for audiences that there’s no need to go right back to theaters for another round.”

After “Skyscraper,” Johnson will be absent from cinemas for about a year. But in July 2019, he will be back with Universal to release “Hobbs & Shaw,” a spin-off of his and Jason Statham’s “Fast & Furious” characters that will serve as the studio’s summer tentpole. Expect The Rock to get back to his money-making ways then.

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‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ Registers Sony Animation Record; ‘Skyscraper’ Scrapes Up $40M – International Box Office

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Box Office: ‘Skyscraper’ Gets Rocky Start as ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ Checks In at No. 1

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‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ At $44M+ Knocks Down Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ – Sunday Update

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Sunday Update: Sony, the studio responsible for delivering Dwayne Johnson’s biggest movie at the domestic box office of all-time earlier this year, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($404.5M), beat the family action star’s Skyscraper this week…

‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ Headed for No. 1 as ‘Skyscraper’ Struggles at Box Office

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Dracula has taken a bit out of The Rock at this weekend’s box office, as Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” opened to $16.6 million from 4,267 on Friday and is estimated to take No. 1 this weekend with $41 million, nearly matching the $42 million of the first “Hotel Transylvania,” which came out in 2012.

While critics have been muted in their reviews of the film, giving it an 59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, family audiences have given it characteristically strong praise with an A- on CinemaScore. Sony has kept the budget for the film relatively low compared to their Disney/Pixar rivals with an $80 million price tag, as the film looks early on as though it will match the ~$150 million domestic run of its two predecessors.

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Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson’s latest film, “Skyscraper,” is looking very unstable with an estimated $25 million opening from 3,782 locations, putting it in third place this weekend and below the $35-40 million launch expected by independent trackers. Opening day totals clocked in at $9.2 million as audiences gave the film a B+ on CinemaScore.

Co-produced by Universal and Legendary on a $120 million budget, “Skyscraper” will likely have to rely on better numbers from China and other Asian markets. Such was the case for Johnson’s last film, “Rampage,” which saw China grosses beat out the U.S. $161 million to $99 million. On the domestic side, this is Johnson’s lowest stateside opening since last year’s “Baywatch,” which opened to a four-day $23 million opening on Memorial Day weekend.

Sitting between “Transylvania” and “Skyscraper” on the charts is “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which is falling 62 percent in its second weekend to an estimated $28 million. While this performance is well below recent Marvel Studios releases, this estimate would still be higher than the second weekend total for the first “Ant-Man” and 25 percent ahead of the pace of that film’s domestic run.

Also Read: Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ Performance Praised by Critics as Support for ‘Silly’ Movie

“Incredibles 2” is in fourth with an estimated $15 million in its fifth weekend in theaters. That will make the film one of the top ten highest grossing films in domestic box office history, passing the North American runs for “Rogue One” and “The Dark Knight” to take the No. 9 spot on the charts. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” sits just behind in fifth with an estimated $14.9 million.

Sitting in seventh this weekend is Annapurna’s “Sorry to Bother You,” which begins its wide run after a week in limited release. Expanding to 805 screens this weekend, the Boots Riley film is looking at a $3.9 million weekend, which would bring its total to around $5 million.

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Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ Blazes to $1.95 Million at Thursday Box Office

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Dwayne Johnson’s “Skyscraper” grossed $1.95 million at the Thursday box office, while Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania 3” earned $2.6 million in previews.

In comparison, Johnson’s last movie “Rampage” earned $2.4 million in previews before opening to $35.8 million. Perhaps another comparison is “The Legend of Tarzan,” which earned $2.6 million in previews before grossing $38.5 million its opening weekend in 2016.

Legendary and Universal’s “Skyscraper” is looking to open in the $35 million to $40 million range, against a reported budget of $120 million.

Also Read: Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Skyscraper’ Performance Praised by Critics as Support for ‘Silly’ Movie

The action film stars Johnson as Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent and amputee who gets a job as head of security for the tallest building in the world. But when terrorists attack the building and frame him for the crime, Sawyer must both clear his name and save his family from danger. Rawson Marshall Thurber wrote and directed the film, which has a 52 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Neve Campbell also stars.

The animated film “Hotel Transylvania 3” is also opening this weekend and is expected to open in a similar range as “Skyscraper,” with both films contending against “Ant-Man and the Wasp” for the No. 1 spot. $35-40 million opening would be a solid start for “Hotel Transylvania 3,” given it had a budget of $65 million.

By comparison, the first “Hotel Transylvania” opened to $42 million in 2012, while the 2015 sequel opened to $48 million, the best opening for an animated Sony release.

Also Read: Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Improbable’ Crane Jump in ‘Skyscraper’: ‘We Did the Math,’ Says Director Rawson Thurber

“Hotel Transylvania 3” sees Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his family take a break from running the monster getaway spot and head on a cruise vacation. Along the way, Dracula falls in love with the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), not knowing she is the great-granddaughter of Dracula’s archrival, Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan).

Genndy Tartakovsky directed the film and co-wrote it with Michael McCullers. The film also stars an ensemble cast featuring  Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, and Mel Brooks, all of whom reprise their roles from the previous films in the series. The film has a 59 percent RT score.

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‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ $2.6M Thursday Night Taller Than Dwayne Johnson’s $1.95M ‘Skyscraper’

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Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3 grossed $2.6M in previews that began at 5PM last night, towering over Universal/Legendary Entertainment’s Skyscraper which minted $1.95M last night at 2,950 theaters from showtimes that kicked off at 7P…