SATURDAY AM: Refresh for chart…and more analysis Disney/Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is still bound to open at the bottom of end of tracking’s projection of $60M as this morning. I saw an estimate in The Flash vicinity of $55M last night and took an Alka Seltzer out of shock. Hopefully Dial of Destiny doesn’t fall apart tonight and at least stays on course for a Mission: Impossible – Fallout type opening in the $60M range over three days. That figure might be good for exhibition and popcorn sales over the five-day holiday weekend, but it stinks for a movie that has a reported cost of $250M to near $300M before P&A.
However, since the movie world premiered to lackluster reviews at Cannes, and landed like a wet towel on tracking three weeks ago and didn’t budge its projections despite having significantly louder marketing and publicity global campaign than The Flash, including $90M from promotional partners — it’s been baffling how a storied franchise can end on a downer note at the box office in its finale. I found the movie out of Cannes to be too plug-and-play, laden in tropes of the franchise from the kid sidekick to videogame-like action; completely lacking the breath and nuance that Steven Spielberg provided in action scenes of the older films. And I’m a James Mangold fan! He knows how to make a styled and dramatically charged movie just like Spielberg whether it’s Logan, Ford v. Ferrari and Walk the Line.
I’m not too far off in my take on the film: CinemaScore audiences gave Dial of Destiny a B+, which isn’t that far from the previous unloved 2008 installment, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which landed a B.
So what the hell went wrong here with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? Lucasfilm is so precious and fastidious when it comes to developing Star Wars properties, and the legend with Indiana Jones is that these movies could never be made unless George Lucas and Spielberg (and Harrison Ford) saw eye-to-eye on the script. Remember all the TLC that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kadsan took in hatching Force Awakens? There were stories of them walking down NYC streets, hatching storylines. Given the black eye that Lucasfilm took on Last Jedi, Rise of Skywalker and Solo from fans, they’re careful not to just rush and dump sequels nowadays (thus the safety of building out the franchise on Disney+), which is why it’s taken them so long to bake the next Star Wars sequels. Which makes the misfire here with Dial of Destiny so concerning.
I’m told from a few insiders that this movie did not have the behind-the-scenes calamity melodrama of such Lucasfilm titles as Rogue One (which had Tony Gilroy doing reshoots and rewrites on the Gareth Edwards film) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (which had the ungracious firing of Lord & Miller and Ron Howard rescue), installments that required major surgery during production. Spielberg loved and signed off on the script by Mangold and his Ford v. Ferrari scribes, Jez and John Henry Butterworth, and that’s a challenging enough bar to clear. At least from my end, I didn’t hear anything about Dial of Destiny having an impossible cut that couldn’t be cracked.
I’ve heard some scuttle bucket that one of the questions surrounding Dial of Destiny and Elemental were over-inflated test scores, which encouraged Disney to brazenly send both movies to Cannes — in hindsight, a huge mistake. I’m still looking into this, however, the studio with its top secret franchise MCU and Lucasfilm fare typically uses a ‘friends and family’ testing system so that no spoilers are leaked in advance. Perhaps, it’s time to look under the hood and see if that sampling is still working. It’s so not like Disney to stick their head out there on a chopping block with a movie on a global stage when it’s not ready. The studio plots the marketing campaigns for their tentpoles like D-Day. Both of these planned tentpoles’ commercial potential went out the window the minute Disney took them to Cannes. True, the band-aid would have been ripped off at some point in time, however, perhaps keeping the lid longer on these lukewarm movies from the press would have increased some box office revenue here on this crazy expensive sequel.
But here’s the consistent problem Indiana Jones has had at the box office, and with critics, and that is he’s always been in competition with himself. Raiders of the Lost Ark really blew audiences away back in 1982, bringing new life to the old adventure serial movies. The pic grossed over $212M in its initial release and had multiple reissues making its way to $248.1M. That’s been the gold standard against which all Indy sequels have been compared, and well, he generally comes up short. Read on.
I think to this day that part-two, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is still the best sequel to this day; it’s as edgy as hell. C’mon, it has a villain who pulls hearts of people and makes human sacrifices! It’s a PG movie that prompted the MPA to create a PG-13 rating because it scared the heck out of kids. However, I’ll never forget back then in the whip and buggy days before Rotten Tomatoes that critics loathed the movie. Variety’s then critic, Deadline’s current, Todd McCarthy slammed Temple of Doom, writing, “the pic comes on like a sledgehammer, and there’s even a taste of vulgarity and senseless excess not apparent in ‘Raiders.’” That sentiment played out at the box office where Temple of Doom saw its final domestic gross of $179.1M off 15% from Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s first-run gross. Temple of Doom didn’t receive the re-releases at the box office like Raiders did as it has its fans and non-fans. Spielberg and Lucas were able to please fans with the Sean Connery co-starring Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which landed an A CinemaScore in 1989 (during the exit poll firm’s early days) and boost domestic box office by 10% to $197.1M.
So why did the critically not-loved Crystal Skull (77% on RT, just like Temple of Doom), wind up being the franchise’s highest grossing film with a massive $100M-plus opening, and 3x legout to $317M stateside? Because it was coming off of Last Crusade, which was quite beloved, and there was an appetite from moviegoers to see the sequel because there hadn’t been an Indiana Jones film in close to two decades. But despite its blockbuster success in a stadium-seating, vibrant exhibition era, not many people liked Crystal Skull — hello, B CinemaScore. And that sequel too also doted and joked around about Indy going gray. Unlike 007, the same actor has always played Indiana Jones. The franchise’s legacy with Ford has prevented it from being rebooted with a new leading actor.
Which leads us to Dial of Destiny‘s meh results. Why so low? Because it’s coming off of a sequel not many loved, and it’s playing the same game of Indiana Jones getting older. Couple that with sour reviews coming out of Cannes, plus the finale’s older skewing audience (42% over 45) who are slow to come to cinemas, and here we are with a less-than-stellar box office result.
While Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak exits show a 93% recommending Dial of Destiny (combined from the yes or probably recommend category) and 8% not recommending, dig further in this AM’s report and you’ll find a more-telling stat about how no one is rushing to Dial of Destiny: Only 9% heard it was good from friends and family.
However, don’t be surprised if the long-in-the-tooth franchise sequel Transformers: Rise of the Beasts continues to uphold its reputation this summer of opening higher ($61M) than some of these more expensive, and glossier sequels (The Flash at $55M).
Dial of Destiny‘s problems to a certain degree aren’t that different from Flash‘s: More than Ezra Miller’s lack of publicity on that DC film and tabloid dilemmas, that DC movie at the end of the day was a B CinemaScore film and way too long at 2 hours and 24 minutes. Dial of Destiny has a similar grade and is also too long at 2 hours and 34 minutes.
More diagnostics on Dial of Destiny:
–PostTrak’s audience is 79% and four stars. The leading guy 25+ ticket buyers at 43% are giving it a 77% grade. That’s not good. Overall men at a 58% turnout are giving a 74% grade.
–Here’s what’s interesting: Even though 10% came to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the female lead in the movie, women like Dial of Destiny better than men with a 85% grade. Women over 25, who showed up at 35%, give it an 86%.
–The older Dial of Destiny‘s audience gets, the better the grades with the 45-55 sect (19% turnout) giving it 83% and the over 55 people (at 23%) giving it 89%.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Harrison Ford’s swan song as the man in the hat, the guy with the whip, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (read the review), is looking very similar to a pair of other older-leaning franchise pics aimed at guys, 2021’s No Time to Die and 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, with a Friday of $24M. That’s around the neighborhood of the first Friday of those two movies.
That means last night’s previews repped 30% of today’s gross. The $250M installment directed by James Mangold and produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas still is on track for a $60M-$65M 3-day and, rolling in Monday and July 4th Tuesday, should see around $85M for the 5-day. The Disney/Lucasfilm finale sequel is booked at 4,600 theaters.
Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (read the review) isn’t wowing as expected with a $2.5M Friday (including Thursday previews of $725K) and $6M Friday-Sunday take outside the top five.
We’ll have more as it comes. Here’s the chart:
1.) Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Dis) 4,600 theaters, Fri $24M, 3-day $60M-$65M/Wk 1
2.) Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) 3,405 theaters, Fri $3.6M (-37%), 3-day $12.4M (-35%)/Total $340.7M /Wk 5
3.) Elemental (Dis) 3,650 theaters, Fri $3.3M (-41%), 3-day $10.5M (-42%), Total $87.9M/Wk 3
4.) No Hard Feelings (Sony) 3,208 theaters, Fri $2.3M (-63%), 3-day $7.6M (-50%), Total $29.4M /Wk 2
5.) Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Par) 2,852 theaters, Fri $1.85M (-42%), 3-day $6.5M (-45%), Total $135.6M/Wk 4
UPDATED after EXCLUSIVE: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny came in at $7.2 million in previews Thursday, per Disney. We heard last night that the pic was heading for $6 million-$7.5 million. That’s where previous older-skewing action-guy comps live.
We’re specifically referencing the Thursday night starts of No Time to Die, which grossed $6.3M (started at 4 p.m.) before its $55.2M opening weekend in October 2021, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which made $6M before its $61.2M weekend start in 2018. Dial of Destiny, which started previews at 3 p.m. Thursday, is expected to gross between $60M-$65M at 4,500 theaters, making is the second-highest stateside opening for the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas franchise after 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which posted a five-day opening of $151.9M, after a 3-day of $100.1M.
Crystal Skull didn’t have previews but opened fully on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend with $25M at 4,260 theaters.
Dial of Destiny‘s Thursday night is below recent dude movies John Wick 4 ($8.9M, $74M 3-day) and Fast X ($7.5M, $67M).
Also previewing last night was Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, with $725,000 from 2,700 theaters that started at 2 p.m. yesterday. No one is expecting this movie, which looks like it used the same animation style as Disney’s bomb Strange World, to do well, with an outlook in the single digits. Yes, original animation is hard to launch, but parents will see that 65% Rotten Tomatoes critics score and not waste their time. The pic’s Thursday is higher than the previews for Paramount’s toon misfire last July Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, which did $505K from previews that started at 3 p.m.; that pic opened to $6.3M and finaled at $17.8M.
Why aren’t weekend projections for Dial of Destiny up to the same level as the previous chapter? It’s twofold: Part of that has to do with this Indy getting the worst reviews ever at 66% coming out of its Cannes Film Festival world premiere, but also, its audience is graying and on par with 007 franchise. You can’t say that Mission: Impossible is getting older just yet because a franchise-best start is expected for Dead Reckoning, with more than $100M over five days starting July 12. That sixth sequel should nab a Top Gun: Maverick halo effect.
Hopefully audiences are better on Dial of Destiny. Crystal Skull was slammed with a B CinemaScore after 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Sean Connery landed an A. Dial of Destiny is OK so far: 88% with Rotten Tomatoes audiences. Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak shows 78% with general audiences and 3½ stars and a 59% definite recommend, while parents and kids under 12 are slightly better at 4 stars apiece and 82%. Turnout on Thursday night was 59% guys to 41% women.
What’s social media saying about Dial of Destiny? RelishMix reports: “Chatter on Indy 5 runs mixed-leaning-positive with fans who think ‘this will be a masterpiece, filled with heart-pounding action’ and that Ford as Indy will be missed as one the best heroes ever — along with adoration for John Williams’ historic contribution and career. Plus, there’s excitement for James Mangold at the helm as fans talk about their lives over the 39 years [of the] franchise and wish there had been more episodes. Hecklers are taking pot shots at everything from the story, throwback elements and cliché comments about sequels, but are nowhere as loud as lovers of the franchise.”
Social media universe for Dial of Destiny counts 296.4M across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube views “predominately on Lucas channels and cross-promoted on several Disney movie channels with brand tie-in spots which are also well integrated into the push,” says RelishMix. That figure is above Fallout‘s SMU of 234M but well below that of No Time to Die (692.5M), Top Gun: Maverick (401M) and Hobbs and Shaw (961.4M).
No Time to Die‘s Thursday previews repped 27% of its $23.3M first Friday, while Fallout‘s previews repped 26% of its $22.8M Friday. Indy here will, of course, have the extra legroom of the Monday and Tuesday in the extended holiday, though July 4th is always a downer day for moviegoing. No Time to Die, released in October 2021, drew 64% guys, 57% over 35, and Fallout pulled in 58% men, 41% of that demo over 25, and 17% under 25. Crystal Skull skewed 66% over 25 and with a third of its audience comprised of kids under 12 and parents.
Dial of Destiny will have the exhibition treasures of 400 Imax auditoriums, 900 PLF screens, 280 D-Box theaters and 85 Screen X hubs in its theater swath.
Logan filmmaker Mangold took over directing the finale from longtime franchise architect Spielberg. In this latest installment, Indy teams with his goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and is on the search for a device which, as Cher has always sung, “can turn back time.” If you thought Indy was old in Crystal Skull, he’s even older here, with the action taking place in 1969. That said, he’s still dealing with Nazis, one of them played by Mads Mikkelsen.
The rest of Thursday and this week:
Sony Animation’s Spider-Man: Across the Universe (read the review) wins the week with an estimated $30.6M at 3,785 in Week 4 after a Thursday of $2.38M, -16% from Wednesday and a running total of $328.3M.
Disney/Pixar’s Elemental (read the review) is second with a Week 2 of $30.4M, a Thursday of $2.4M and running total of $77.4M, 22% behind last summer’s Lightyear at the same point in time. The pic is booked at 4,035 theaters.
Sony’s No Hard Feelings (read the review) at 3,028 theaters ends Week 1 with a hearty $21.8M. While The Flash‘s second weekend edged out No Hard Feelings, $15.1M to $15M, Flash‘s second week ends with $21.8M as well after a $1.1M Thursday, -29% from Wednesday at 4,256 theaters. No Hard Feelings‘ Thursday was $1.37M, -13%.
Paramount’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (read the review) at 3,523 theaters did $1.2M Thursday, -12%, for a third week of $17.7M and a running total of $129.1M.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (read the review) ends Week 5 at 3,275 theaters with $14.2M after a $1.2M Thursday, also -12% for a running total on the Rob Marshall-directed musical of $275.8M. While his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is his highest-grossing movie ever at $1.05 billion, stateside that title belongs to Little Mermaid.