LOS ANGELES — “Stuber” stalled at the box office over the weekend, accentuating a problem with movies coming off the 20th Century Fox assembly line: They aren’t very good.
“Stuber,” an R-rated buddy flick starring Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista that cost about $25 million to make, also raised new questions about the theatrical viability of modestly budgeted comedies in the Netflix age. North American moviegoers have given a cold shoulder to one such comedy after another this summer, including “Late Night,” “Long Shot,” “The Hustle,” “Shaft,” “Poms” and “Booksmart.”
As usual, franchises dominated multiplex marquees over the weekend. The No. 1 movie was “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (Sony Pictures), which collected about $45.3 million, for a 13-day domestic total of $274.5 million ($847 million worldwide). “Toy Story 4” (Disney-Pixar) was second, generating about $20.7 million in ticket sales, for a four-week global total of $771.1 million, according to Comscore.
Among new wide releases, “Crawl” (Paramount) did the best, capitalizing on surprisingly strong reviews. A horror movie about alligators on the loose during a hurricane, “Crawl” took in roughly $12 million, enough for third place. Paramount spent $13.5 million to make the R-rated movie, which the studio supported with a shrewd marketing campaign that positioned the film as a frothy summertime diversion.
“Stuber” arrived in fourth place. It collected $8 million.
Distributed by Disney, which took over the Fox movie factory in March, “Stuber” had a marketing campaign that cost at least $30 million. Disney aggressively went after men, releasing trailers during WrestleMania and the N.B.A. Finals. Disney-owned ESPN was a marketing partner. The film’s crass tagline: “Saving the day takes a pair.”
“Stuber,” about an Uber driver named Stu who picks up a detective, received largely negative reviews, according to the criticism-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a movie consultancy, called it “an extremely weak entry.”
[Read our “Stuber” review.]
The previous Fox film released by Disney was the superhero movie “Dark Phoenix,” which collapsed under withering reviews last month. It cost an estimated $350 million to make and market worldwide and took in about $250 million, roughly half of which goes to theater owners.
Another Fox film, “Woman in the Window,” starring Amy Adams as an agoraphobic psychologist who witnesses a crime, was pulled from Disney’s 2019 release schedule last week and sent for reshoots. Instead of being released in October as planned, the movie will now arrive sometime next year.
Disney declined to comment on Fox’s output. Insiders say they have high hopes for “Ford v Ferrari,” a Fox bio-drama starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale that is scheduled for November release, among other films. Next up on the Disney-Fox roster is the drama “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a dog-focused movie adapted from the 2008 novel of the same name.
To be fair to “Stuber,” even critically acclaimed comedies like “Booksmart” and “Late Night” have fizzled at the box office in recent months — and ticket sales for comedies and romantic comedies have been on a steady slide for the past decade, according to a recent analysis by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2009, comedies grossed $2.5 billion at the domestic box office; last year, the genre generated only $1 billion.
Some studio executives point to original comedies on Netflix, which make it easy for those looking for laughs to skip theaters. The relentless focus on big-budget franchise films has made it hard for comedies to find any multiplex oxygen. There has also been a melding of genres: Marvel movies and the coming “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” showcase a great deal of comedy along with the action.
But there are exceptions. “Yesterday” (Universal), a quirky romantic comedy with a Beatles soundtrack, has now taken in more than $48 million in North America, including $6.8 million over the weekend. “Yesterday” could collect as much as $150 million worldwide by the end of its run, box-office analysts say — not bad for a film that cost $26 million to make.
Brooks Barnes is a media and entertainment reporter, covering all things Hollywood. He joined The Times in 2007 as a business reporter focused primarily on The Walt Disney Company. He previously worked for The Wall Street Journal. @brooksbarnesNYT
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