After three weeks on top Lions Gate's (LGF) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 dropped from the top slot courtesy of Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) (NASDAQ:FOXA) religious pic Exodus: Gods and Kings, yet both films remain impacted by the same audience apathy that has plagued many a movie in 2014.
Exodus became the first big tentpole release of December and entered (as most films this year have) with high expectations, but wasn't able to produce high totals. The movie will top the $24 million mark over its first three days, which is on the lower end of expectations. Some predictions had the film expected to go off near $30 million, which even Fox had doubts about going into the weekend.
So what impacted the final totals? First, the film took a hit from reviews… both critical and consumer. Rotten Tomatoes has the film currently sitting at a 28% rating and Cinemascore has audiences rating the film a B- (which isn't as good as it may sound).
In addition, while director Ridley Scott wanted to make the film as "realistic-esque" as possible it didn't come across as well as hoped, which turned off the religious crowd that usually supports this type of movie. According to Deadline.com, just 30% of audiences described themselves as deeply religious. Noah, which opened for Paramount (a subsidiary of Viacom (NYSE:VIA) (NASDAQ:VIAB) back around Easter also saw challenges from the religious community, but still bowed to $34 million (even with a lower Cinemascore rating of a C).
I know all of the above doesn't sound that promising for a film made for estimated $140 million, but there is a silver lining and that is its potential international take. Last week, the film saw a $23 million haul overseas in just 10 key markets with another $43 million coming in this weekend. Combined that places the film at over $90 million, which should help its long-term success… and long-term is the key word.
Exodus is finding itself in the same boat as Interstellar and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 in that it opened under expectations, but should be fine as the weeks go on when all interested audiences are accounted for. Look at Mockingjay - Part 1 specifically as this weekend the film crossed the $600 million mark overseas. That gives Lions Gate its third consecutive year of amassing over $1 billion in international grosses.
What investors need to remember is that every film released in the last few weeks has had to overcome low openings whether it is because of a lack of interest or a desire to shop for better holiday deals, but audiences will likely come back… at some point.
It's also not the fault of one studio, it's the collective group. The box office is down sharply year to year, but again even that is understandable as last year this weekend saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug storm into theaters. Next week the final film in The Hobbit series The Battle of the Five Armies unspools and as a result we should see a higher bounce. That will be better news for Warner Brothers (a subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)) than Fox, but then again that studio still has one final card to play and that's the last film in its Night at the Museum trilogy.
With the weeks getting fewer and fewer before 2015, we are beginning to see a clearer picture of how the studios will end the year financially. I'll go into more detail about that later on, but for now it's looking like the fourth quarter isn't going to be the savior some had hoped, but maybe over time things will at least even out.
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