'Finding Dory' Takes No. 1 as 'The BFG' Flops in a Muddled Weekend for Disney

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Box office earnings for July 4th weekend came in surprisingly strong, with the top twelve movies grossing $214.7 million from the Friday to Monday period. Leading the pack again was Disney/Pixar's "Finding Dory," which has been an unstoppable box office force thus far. The weekend newcomers took spots 2 through 4, while the Top 5 was rounded out by a weak sophomore performance from "Independence Day: Resurgence." Overall, revenue was up 41% from the same weekend last year, although this summer is still lagging considerably behind the summer of 2015.

"Finding Dory" has arguably been the most impressive box office performer of the summer thus far, and it continued to show great holding power with a holiday weekend that was down 31% from last weekend's three-day frame. The animated sequel grossed $50.2 million from Friday to Monday, more than doubling the take of Disney's new film "The BFG" (more on that later). "Dory" has grossed $380.5 million through its first 18 days, as it sets the all-time box office record for an animated movie (the $441.2 total of "Shrek 2") in its sights. "Finding Dory" will have tough competition with 'The Secret Life of Pets" making its debut on Friday, but it should still glide to the all-time animated record within the next couple of weeks.

Taking second place in a bit of a surprise "The Legend of Tarzan" from Warner Bros. The $180 million jungle adventure swung to a $45.6 million total over its first four days, as it played pretty evenly across gender demographics and brought out an older audience (55% were over the age of 35). The film beat the projections of most box office analysts--including this one--and, with an A- CinemaScore, it may hold well in the weeks to come.

However, in the bigger picture, the financial prospects for "Tarzan" are still murky. It's worth noting that the four-day performance of "Tarzan" was pretty much in line with that of "Independence Day: Resurgence," and the latter film, ironically, didn't have the advantage of the Independence Day holiday. "Resurgence" cost $15 million less than "Tarzan" to make, it and was still generally considered a flop in the wake of its opening. Therefore, it's certainly too early to call "Tarzan" a win for Warner Bros. just because it made more money than it was predicted to. The movie likely still needs to cross $500 million worldwide to be considered a true winner and will likely top out around $130 million in America. The people at Warner Bros. are sure to be looking closely at the international results of "Tarzan."

So far, the action-adventure film has performed decently overseas, opening in 19 territories since Thursday. "Tarzan" pulled in $19.3 million from foreign markets this weekend, opening well (but not spectacularly) in Russia and Korea. The film is having a slow overseas rollout, opening throughout Europe over the course of the month and debuting in China on July 19. "Tarzan" will hope to match the $350 million foreign performance of last Independence Day's "Terminator: Genisys," but that seems like a best-case scenario given that "Genisys" was part of an established brand.

Turning back to the domestic side, Universal's "The Purge: Election Year" was a strong No. 3 with $34.8 million over the holiday weekend. That opening is right in line with TheStreet's projection and demonstrates the continuing appeal of the "Purge" franchise. Although many sequels have opened well below their predecessors this year, follow-ups to horror films have done well. "The Conjuring 2" opened about even with the first "Conjuring" and is closing in fast on $100 million. And now, the latest "Purge" has opened above its predecessor and not far behind the first film.

Of course, this may be due as much to the timely nature of the film's release as it is to the strength of the "Purge" brand. The release of the film over the Independence Day weekend was an inspired move on Universal's part, as the film's darkly satirical take on patriotism was well-matched with the holiday. It remains to be seen how well "Election Year" will hold up now that Independence Day is in the rearview mirror. The film's B+ CinemaScore is great for a horror film, but the "Purge" movies have a history of dropping quickly at the box office. "Election Year" may end up around $70 to $75 million domestically, a superb result for a $10 million production.

Disappointing in fourth place was Disney's "The BFG," which could only muster $22.3 million over its first four days. That's a very weak result for the $140 million fantasy movie and is arguably director Steven Spielberg's largest box office miss since "Amistad" way back in 1997. "The BFG" marks Disney's second high-profile flop of the summer, following the disastrous performance of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" in May. The usually-reliable studio has more than made up for its financial losers with blockbusters "Captain America: Civil War" and "Finding Dory," but the low result for "The BFG" has still got to sting. On paper, the film looked like a surefire hit. An adaptation of a widely beloved Roald Dahl book, with dependable director Steven Spielberg at the helm, was almost certainly an easy project to greenlight.

However, the Roald Dahl book is now over 30 years old, and is certainly past the height of its popularity. And the Spielberg brand of whimsy is arguably also past its peak, as colorful animated offerings are more likely to catch the eye of young children. Indeed, it was always going to be difficult for "The BFG" to perform well sandwiched in between the releases of "Finding Dory" and "The Secret Life of Pets." Disney may have been better off holding its release for a less-crowded corridor later on in the year. With competition from "Pets" next weekend, "The BFG" is likely to fade quickly from the box office and may only earn about $55 million when all is said and done.

Limping into the fifth spot this weekend was "Independence Day: Resurgence," which tumbled over 50% from its opening, even with the benefit of an extra day. The sequel from Fox made $20.2 million over the four-day weekend, bringing its total to a weak $76.4 million. At this point, it's not even guaranteed that 'Resurgence' will pass $100 million domestically, a terrible result when considering that the first film crossed $300 million all the way back in 1996.

Next weekend, the widely anticipated animated film "The Secret Life of Pets" will hit theaters and is sure to wrangle the No. 1 spot from "Finding Dory." The raunchy comedy "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," from Fox, will open further down the box office charts and may struggle to emulate the success of similar R-rated summer comedies. Check back on Thursday for official box office predictions.

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