Indiana Jones, and executives at the Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm, made a somewhat dispiriting discovery this weekend. Moviegoers didn’t rush to the theatre in significant numbers to see ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ and say goodbye to Harrison Ford as the iconic archaeologist.
The film, reportedly budgeted north of $250 million (Dh918.25 million), came in on the lower end of projections with $60 million (Dh220.38 million) in ticket sales from 4,600 North American theatres, according to studio estimates.
Including $70 million (Dh257.11 million) from international showings in 52 markets, ‘Dial of Destiny’ celebrated a $130 million (Dh477.49 million) global opening. It easily earned the No. 1 title but was not the high-rolling send-off for one of modern cinema’s most iconic actor/character pairings that anyone hoped. Disney is projecting that it will make $82 million (Dh301.19 million) domestically through the fourth of July holiday and $152 million (Dh558.3 million) globally.
‘Dial of Destiny’ is the long-delayed fifth instalment in the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas-created adventure series that began in 1981, and the first Spielberg himself hasn’t directed. Veteran James Mangold stepped in to take the reins overseeing the Spielberg-approved script, which finds an older Dr. Jones retiring from his university job and swept up on a new adventure with his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge).
“It’s impressive that a franchise that’s over 40 years old is No. 1 at the box office. But there’s no question there were higher hopes for the debut of this movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “This is Indiana Jones. This is a summer movie icon.”
The film made its splashy premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, with a fitting celebration of Ford, who has said this was his last time playing the character.
But then it was hit with lukewarm reviews. This was an unexpected and unwelcome hurdle, considering it was coming after the maligned fourth film, 2008’s ‘Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. Another contributing snag was that a significant portion of the target audience, older viewers, don’t tend to buy many tickets on opening weekend for big blockbusters. But even ‘Crystal Skull’, budgeted at a reported $185 million (Dh679.51 million), managed to gross over $790 million (Dh2,901.67 million).
“Sometimes reviews don’t matter, but the sentiment coming out of Cannes was very powerful,” Dergarabedian said. “It set off a narrative where people were already feeling disappointed and they hadn’t even seen it.”
Aside from ‘Dial of Destiny’, the weekend’s other main new opener was the animated ‘Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken’, which debuted in sixth place with $5.2 million (Dh19.1 million).
‘Dial of Destiny’s’ underwhelming debut comes just a few weeks after both Warner Bros.’ ‘The Flash’ and Disney/Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ had lacklustre openings in North America. ‘Elemental’, like Indy 5, also premiered at Cannes to middling reception.
And yet, ‘Elemental’ in its three weeks in theatres has held on much better than ‘The Flash’, which plummeted again to $5 million (Dh18.37 million), bringing its domestic total to $99.3 million (Dh364.73 million). Disney also saw similarly promising holds with ‘The Little Mermaid’, now at over $280 million (Dh1,028.44 million) domestically and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ which has grossed over $345 million (Dh1,267.19 million). After the holiday, Disney will be responsible for nearly half of the summer box office earnings.
“The entire story isn’t told on the opening weekend,” Dergarabedian said.
Disney has a “clear weekend” ahead with no competing blockbusters, when studio heads can reasonably hope for more families and older audiences to buy tickets. But things will only get more challenging for ‘Dial of Destiny’ in the coming weeks with a crowded July. ‘Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part I’ opens on July 12, followed by ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie’ on July 21.
“The ups and downs at the box office are giving us whiplash,” Dergarabedian said. “And we’re still on the cusp of some of the biggest movies of the summer.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore.