The Quorum

CHALLENGERS Has Been Struggling. Will Stellar Reviews Help?

Let’s give a special shout-out to MGM for doing what few studios do anymore. Last week, they published the stellar reviews for CHALLENGERS two weeks before the film’s release. It could end up being one of the year’s best reviewed movies.

For the past few years, embargoes have restricted when critic reviews can be released. And in most cases, that embargo is lifted the Wednesday before a film’s release.

If the film doesn’t work and the studio knows the reviews will be bad, it makes sense to wait as long as possible to lift the embargo. Especially in this age of presales, where tickets are sold as early as a month before a film’s release. The strategy of booking as many presales as possible before word spreads that the film isn’t very good is highly logical.

The opposite can be true as well. If the movie works, it would be reasonable to think that letting people know early could prop up those presales. MGM is undoubtedly hoping that’s the case for CHALLENGERS.

Think of it this way. Audiences fall into one of three categories: those wanting to see a film, those not, and those on the fence. Bad reviews can move those on the fence towards not seeing the movie, while good reviews can be the push needed to convert them to ticket buyers. If the reviews are there, there is only upside, yet so few studios publish reviews more than a few days before a film’s release.

With that said, it will be interesting to see how the tracking for CHALLENGES moves (or doesn’t) over the next two weeks. As of last week, The Quorum was projecting an opening between $6M and $8M for the film. How did we arrive at that number, and will the forecast increase? Let’s take a closer look.

Let’s start by looking at some historicals. The chart below shows the dramas that opened in April between 2013 and 2024. The list excluded faith-based films and titles with production budgets above $100M. Most films open to $10M or less, with an average of $9.7M and a median of $7.5M.

Some films breakthrough with big numbers. We saw that this past weekend. Part of what made the $26M debut for CIVIL WAR so jaw dropping was that openings for dramas in April rarely get that high. It’s also worth noting that films about, or tangential, to sports have done well in April. The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 sits at the top of the list, with PAIN & GAIN and AIR right behind. And the woefully underappreciated DRAFT DAY performed above the median as well.

The success of CIVIL WAR, the history of April sports films, and the good reviews all bode well for CHALLENGERS. So why is the projection only $6M – $8M? That’s because the tracking still hasn’t taken flight.

CHALLENGERS belongs to the “Low” group meaning we believe it to have a budget below $50M. The median opening weekend for films in this group is $7M. With that in mind, let’s look at the numbers.

Awareness for the film is at 26%. That’s up 2 points from last week, though it’s 6 points lower than the average of 32% for titles in the Low group at the same distance from release. Of all the films currently being tracked by The Quorum, CHALLENGERS ranks 27th in awareness.

Things don’t look any better on the interest side. Currently, interest in CHALLENGERS is at 38%, down 1 point from last week. It’s also 6 points below the group average of 44%. It ranks 42nd among all the films being tracked by The Quorum.

Combined, these two metrics suggest that CHALLENGER will struggle to open to the group median of $7M. In fact, these numbers make it seem like the film would be lucky to get to $6M. So why is the projection at $6M – $8M?

There is one metric where CHALLENGERS is doing well, and that’s unaided awareness. Currently, the film is registering 2% unaided, which is not too bad. CIVIL WAR had the same unaided score at two weeks out. The unaided number is giving some lift to the forecast.

As we always say, tracking is a snapshot of where things are today. CHALLENGERS may be at an inflection point. How the stellar reviews will impact the tracking remains to be seen. Hopefully, the early embargo will help lift CHALLENGER to the same heights as the other successful April sports films.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.