While three new studio releases started off shockingly slow, the strongest showing was "2016: Obama's America," an anti-Obama polemic that– on just over 1,000 screens– rose to eighth place after several weeks of more limited play.
Overall business was typical of the summer dog days. The top ten films grossed around $73 million, $3 million better than last year. The last weekend of August is usually deadly as the studios hold back from releasing top product and the summer hits are on their last legs.
What is shocking is the low placement of the new films, which so far are placing 7th, 10th and 12th (Warner Bros.' dumped "The Apparition" in less than 1,000 theaters). This weekend last year, three of the top five places were taken by fresh films. But the relatively good holdovers for several other higher-ranking performers compensated for these.
1. The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) – Week 2; Last weekend #1
$13,500,000 (-53%) in 3,355 theaters (+39); PSA (per screen average): $4,024; Cumulative: $52,314,000
Retaining the #1 spot after falling 53% from a somewhat disappointing opening is both unusual and reveals the weak playing field. The fall is similar to the original's (-51% off of a $6-million higher opening weekend), which is about par for an action seque.
What comes next: Millennium Productions will need fabulous foreign results to justify another entry in the franchise. (There's talk of an all-femme edition.)
2. The Bourne Legacy (Universal) – Week 3; Last weekend #2
$9,300,000 (-45%) in 3,654 theaters (-99); PSA: $2,522; Cumulative: $85,500,000
Not a bad hold for the third weekend for this series reboot. But the Jeremy Renner "Bourne" still lags behind Matt Damon's last "Ultimatum" three years ago, which fell less than 40% its third weekend with a $164-million total. Still, snagging the #2 spot (for the moment) counts as a positive for Universal.
What comes next: International, rolling out gradually with many territories still to open, will determine the ongoing fate of this Bourne revamp. The domestic returns (Universal splits the gross with exhibitors) will fall short of the reported $125 million production budget.
3. ParaNorman (Focus) – Week 2; Last weekend #3
$8,546,000 (-39%) in 3,455 theaters (+26); PSA: $2474; Cumulative: $28,274,000
Hanging on to the #3 spot for the second weekend bodes well, with a 39% fall (family films tend to hold better) compares to the 12% drop of Laika Studio's first animated feature "Coraline" (also distributed by Focus), which had a holiday weekend boost. "Coraline" was at $35 million after 10 days, so this is 80% of that.
What comes next: With the summer grinding to a halt (many schools already open), this will have to count on hanging on as a prime family film for the next few weekends to get to $50 million, which would be 2/3s of what "Coraline" grossed.
4. The Campaign (Warner Brothers) – Week 2; Last weekend #5
$7,440,000 (- 43%) in 3,302 theaters (+47); PSA: $2253; Cumulative: $64,543,000
Not a bad falloff for the third weekend of this comedy, which looks like a mid-range success for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Again though, maintaining position for the weekend is more a factor of the weak new openings than an impressive achievement for this film.
What comes next: Most of these actors' mainstream comedies have hit $100 million or more, so by that standard, this will come in a bit short. Still, this has performed at or above industry expectations, with the late summer release date being a factor in somewhat lower grosses.
5. The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros) – Week 6; Last weekend #7
$7,150,000 (-35%) in 2,606 theaters (-551); PSA: $2744; Cumulative: $422,188,000
A modest drop, even though it lost hundreds of theaters. This still has a shot at as many weeks in the top 10 (10) as "The Dark Knight" (which however was #3 in its sixth week).
What comes next: Though the domestic take, great as it is, will fall short of "The Dark Knight," passing the $1 billion mark and moving ahead of the previous entry remains possible.
6. The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Buena Vista) – Week 2; Last weekend: #6
$7,125,000 (-34%) in 2,598 theaters (no change); PSA: $2742; Cumulative: $27,080,000
Another position holder, with a not-bad falloff from a weak start. This has been a tricky film for Disney, which relies on pre-sold fare, plus reports that its unconventional narrative (for a family film) have resulted in mixed audience response. This weekend could indicate that these drawbacks are not that serious.
What comes next: With only "ParaNorman" out there among new family films and going into a holiday weekend, this looks like it could ultimately reach a higher level than its opening suggested.
7. Premium Rush (Sony) – NEW (Metacritic score: 64)
$6,300,000 in 2,225 theaters; PSA: $2794; Cumulative: $6,300,000
Not good news for Sony nor for star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a popular risng star. After significant roles in "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises," lead roles in "(500) Days of Summer" and "50/50," Gordon-Levitt is looking to carry a studio movie. Despite upbeat reviews for this edgy, high energy tale of a NY bike messenger fighting for his survival, the initial results are below expectations. Something about the marketing turned off moviegoers; perhaps audiences weren't expecting a smart film as a late August release. And with Sony coming back quickly with a more expensive lead vehicle (Toronto-opener "Looper") this film will have to generate strong word of mouth.
Writer-director David Koepp is a successful writer of smart blockbusters ("Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible," "Spider-Man," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"). HIs fifth effort as a director will come in below his most successful ("The Secret Window"), but should easily surpass his most recent ("Ghost Town").
Producer Gavin Pallone has worked with Koepp on several of his past films (including "Panic Room," the David Fincher-directed adaptation of his script). He is better known for his TV work as executive producer for series like "Curb Your Enthusiam" and "The Gilmore Girls" among many others.
What comes next: With a modest $35 million budget, a big boost from WOM and foreign response could salvage this. But this still is below what was anticipated.
8. 2016: Obama's America (Rocky Mountain) – Week 7; Last weekend #13
$6, 238,000 (+401%) in 1,091 theaters (+922); PSA: $5,718; Cumulative: $9,075,000
In a weekend when new releases ranged from disappointing to disastrous, weak even for this slow time of the year, the standout success is this right-wing polemic which for many observers came out of nowhere to achieve a top 10 ranking as it goes wider after six weeks in more limited playoff.
Still, at just above 1,000 theaters, this has the top PSA for the weekend, and considerable bragging rights and media attention. It is the biggest achievement yet for Utah-based Rocky Mountain Pictures, which over the last seven years has found a niche for itself releasing faith-based films such as "The End of the Spear"), the anti-Gore response "An Inconsistent Truth" and the ill-fated "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," which cater to underserved conservative moviegoers.
With high pre-sales for Friday matinees with large groups organized to attend this was #4 for that day. Most films that dominate advance ticket sales end up #1 for the weekend, yet this was only number 8. Other films promoted using the same effective grassroots marketing and publicity on conservative media have also shown first-day strength with later fall-offs.
The filmmakers credit ideological opposite Michael Moore as an influence. But if comparisons are to be made, this is not remotely at the same level of impact. "Fahrenheit 9/11" opened at #1 in fewer theaters (868), grossed $24 million its first weekend (inflation adjusted over $30 million) on its way to $119 million. And while Moore had also hoped to influence the presidential election that year, his target G.W. Bush won reelection.
What comes next: The attention these grosses bring pushes the film toward a wider audience beyond the initial marketing push. And in a weak market, the opportunity to expand further from the relatively low number of theaters is there.
9. Hope Springs (Sony) – Week 3; Last weekend #8
$6,000,000 (-34%) in 2,402 theaters (+41); PSA: $2498; Cumulative: $45,000,000
Bolstered by steady weekdays and a modest falloff, this is at $45 million, better than the initial numbers suggested. Once again, Meryl Streep fans, reliable and loyal, are turning out in later weeks.
What comes next: Though this will fall short of several of Streep's recent hits, all of which were boosted by broader younger appeal, this already has grossed more than her Oscar contenders "The Iron Lady" and "Doubt."
10. Hit and Run (Open Road) – NEW (Metacritic score: 51)
$4,675,000 in 2,870 theaters; PSA: $1629; Cumulative: $5,868,000
Tenth place looks very weak, but less so when compared to the $2 budget for this Dax Shepard starring and co-directed action comedy. However, marketing costs add to the expense for distributor Open Road (owned by theater chains AMC and Regal), who have had an uneven track record so far (Liam Neeson-starrer "The Grey" is their standout).
With previous box office draws Bradley Cooper and Kristen Bell buttressing the cast, and a Wednesday opening designed to build buzz, this failed to take off, with little chance for improvement.
What comes next: The Open Road model remains an alternative for the major chains, and "Hit and Run," by opening in a weaker time period does provide revenue above what else might have filled these screens.