Paramount’s ‘Ninja Turtles’ Opens to Slow Sales Over Weekend

  • Movie is one of three major summer releases for the studio
  • New ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Ben-Hur’ remake are next for Paramount

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” opened to disappointing weekend sales in North American theaters, a setback for beleaguered Viacom Inc. and its struggling Paramount Pictures film division.

The live-action film featuring four masked, crime-fighting turtles produced weekend sales of $35.3 million in U.S. and Canadian cinemas, researcher ComScore Inc. said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. That was less than estimates of as much as $41 million, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

The picture is one of three major summer releases from Paramount, including a new “Star Trek” and a remake of “Ben-Hur.” Viacom executives have made a turnaround of the money-losing studio one of their priorities and have sought to sell a stake in the film division to finance more production. That’s triggered a fight with Viacom’s controlling shareholder, billionaire Sumner Redstone, who opposes such a move.

“Turtles” is “an important franchise for Viacom. It’s a sequel franchise, and they don’t have a lot of sequel franchises,” Matthew Harrigan, a Wunderlich Securities analyst, said before the weekend results were announced. “A lot of people feel that this movie and the next ‘Star Trek’ are absolutely essential for the studio and even for the management.”

Slow Start

While the weekend’s take was enough to lead the box office, it’s a slow start for a movie that cost $135 million to make and tens of millions more to market. Hollywood studios are leaning heavily on sequels and revivals this year, yet most have come up short. Paramount’s 2016 slate features at least five such films, including “Turtles.”

Last weekend, Walt Disney Co.’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” bombed in theaters and 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” failed to match the prior picture in the series. Paramount’s three biggest movies of the summer are all sequels or revivals.

Analysts had modest forecasts for “Turtles,” ranging from $27 million at BoxOfficePro.com to $41 million at the Hollywood Stock Exchange. The film didn’t play well with critics, earning 34 percent favorable reviews at RottenTomatoes.com and 41 percent on Metacritic, though it fared better than its predecessor in that regard.

Studio Forecast

Paramount was forecasting $35 million to $40 million in weekend sales and will need a long run in domestic theaters, as well as a strong performance overseas, to come close to its predecessor.

“The last few months, a number of sequels have done less than their prior chapters, especially in the U.S.," Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, said. “It reminds us all that the challenge is to take the characters and stories and make sure we keep putting them in unique, fresh and fun situations.”

About 40 percent of the audience was under 18, compared with about 27 percent for the prior film, he said. That may have hurt because the school year hasn’t ended yet.

Paramount’s first “Turtles” feature, released in 2014, opened with weekend sales of $65.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and grossed almost $500 million worldwide, including $302 million outside North America. This “Turtles” grossed $34 million overseas this weekend in 40 markets. The studio expects the film to mirror the performance of its predecessor in most of the world, and perform even better in China, where it will open July 2.

In the latest version of the series, the four turtles -- Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael -- go up against the Shredder and the evil Krang, who’s trying to open a space portal for world domination.

The family film will have only two weekends before it faces stiff competition. Disney’s “Finding Dory,” a sequel to the Pixar hit “Finding Nemo,” opens on June 17.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” beat out two other new releases, “Me Before You,” a Warner Bros. film starring Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones,” and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” a parody of concert films.

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