Four new films opened this August weekend to overall decent if not sensational results, and several long-running performers yielded a top 10 slightly ahead of last year ($149 million vs. $129 million), bringing the year-to-date total about even with 2012. But the four new films before marketing boasted production costs of $300 million; budgets increased dramatically. So far the summer has yielded six flops.
Sony’s “Elysium” led the way at the weekend box office with $30 million, slightly below expectations for acclaimed young “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp. The comedy “We’re the Millers” and two family-oriented films, “Planes” and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” added to the totals, with only “Millers” showing any real strength.
Just below the top 10 was Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” (Sony Pictures Classics), with an amazing per screen average of $21,000 on only 116 theaters. Already up to $6.2 million, SPC’s slow release pattern so far is working great for this acclaimed film that looks to be a factor for months ahead, both for audiences and awards.
1. Elysium (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B ; Criticwire:B-; Metacritic: 60
$30,500,000 in 3,284 theaters; PSA (Per screen average): $9,527; Cumulative: $30,500,000
Sony has had a turbulent summer. They scored two solid hits with “This Is the End” and “Grown Ups 2.” But the jury is out on he internationally-driven “The Smurfs 2,” and they suffered big-budget flops “After Earth” and “White House Down.” None hit #1 for their openings. So it’s a relief that their not inexpensive pickup from Media Rights Capital ($115 million reported acquisition cost) is #1, Sony’s first since “Evil Dead.”) Initial foreign reports suggested a better relative performance in initial territories (particularly Russia) for Blomkamp’s futuristic sci-fi/action film, so this has gotten off to a promising start overall.
This #1 August opening falls short of last year’s “The Bourne Legacy” ($38 million) and 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” ($55 million). In fact, there was a higher anticipation for this film that the rest of the month’s entries, because of Blomkamp and his earlier film’s success. The reviews fell short of “District 9″‘s, which might have lessened interest a bit. The B Cinemascore is not a good sign for positive word-of-mouth.
This is something of a comeback for its two stars. It marks Matt Damon’s best opening weekend since “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), although Christmas release “True Grit” more recently was a bigger hit. In unadjusted figures, it is Jodie Foster’s best ever, although “Inside Man” and “Panic Room” with similar totals came with lower ticket prices.
What comes next: Most of the international rollout starts next week, and with that the determination of whether this turns out to be a success.
2. We’re the Millers (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire; C+; Metacritic: 43
$26,555,000 in 3,260 theaters; PSA: $8,146; Cumulative: $38,044,000
For the second time in a month, Warner Bros. has scored with a lower-budget ($37 million) film that could end up with a total gross above some of the $100 million+ cost summer entries. Coming on the heels of “The Conjuring,” it is further good news for a studio that has rebounded this summer after a rough start for 2013.
This New Line-produced comedy looks like it could become Jennifer Aniston’s sixth $100 million + film (which puts her in rare company among contemporary actresses) and should enhance the profile of “Saturday Night Live” alum Jason Sudeikis, who as a co-star has previously had hits with “Horrible Bosses” and “The Campaign.” Director Rawson Marshall Thurber has had only two notable previous films – “Dodgeball” and the much more limited “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” with this likely to push him more to the forefront.
The uptick on Saturday from Friday – after already having had two earlier days of play – suggests the kind of word of mouth that should keep this around for the rest of the month.
What comes next: This will face competition from the even raunchier “Kick Ass 2” next weekend.
3. Planes (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 39
$22,525,000 in 3,702 theaters; PSA: $6,085; Cumulative: $22,525,000
Disney is noting that this is the highest opening ever (in unadjusted figures) for an animated film released in August, which is an accomplishment, more so for a film originally intended for the still-lucrative direct-to-DVD market for kids. This DisneyToons production switched to theatrical release after a strong Comic-Con reaction (and additional post-production work likely helped add to the $50 million production cost, inexpensive for animation but high for something with no theatrical component intended).
But the numbers indicate a lesser grossing cartoon entry. August — with some schools already back in business — is not prime time for animation. More significantly, even with the potential Friday business reduced by schools to some extent, Saturday’s gross, which even in summertime normally jumps for kids’ films, was basically even with Friday. Even with a strong initial Cinemascore, negative reviews (similar to “The Smurfs 2” last week) had some impact.
The gross is in the same range as the last two somewhat disappointing domestic animated openings. “Smurfs 2” did $17.5 million and “Turbo” $21.3 million (both were Wednesday openings, diluting those numbers somewhat).
What comes next: This still looks like a worthwhile gamble for Disney, with DVD sales and international still ahead, but will end up as one of the lowest recent total domestic animated grossers.
4. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Twentieth Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 39
$14,600,000 in 3,031 theaters: PSA: $4,817; Cumulative: $23,457,000
This falls way below the earlier “Percy Jackson” film opening ($31 million), with the five-day gross this time only 75% as good, and the weekend less than half. With a production budget of $90 million (co-financed by the Seelig Group) and no guarantee of a sustained performance, this could wind up a disappointment.
Director Thor Freudenthal provided Fox with two lower-budget family successes with “Hotel for Dogs” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” replacing original director Chris Columbus (who remained a producer) this time around. It again starred Logan Lerman — who had a more specialized success last fall with “Perks of Being a Wallflower”
What comes next: The first entry did 60% of its business internationally. This time around, they’ll need to be a higher portion to do what is needed.
5. 2 Guns (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend: #1
$11,100,000 (-59%) in 3,028 theaters (+3); PSA: $3,675; Cumulative: $48,500,000
A not good hold after an average opening last week for this Denzel Washington-starring bank robbery actioner, suggesting like other leading male actors this summer he is not always surefire (co-star Mark Wahlberg is also inconsistent). Falling to #5 in its second weekend is not a positive sign either.
What comes next: Most of the world has yet to open, so this under-$100 million production still has a chance to break even.
6. The Smurfs 2 (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend: #3
$9,500,000 (-46%) in 3,867 theaters (+1); PSA: $3,675 Cumulative: $46,600,000
Animated films tend to hold better their second weekends than average, so the 46% drop, coming on the heels of a disappointing opening, is not impressive. What is keeping this from being a total failure (the production budget was $105 million) is a much stronger foreign take, which could get this up to around $300 million or more worldwide total before it’s through. It is already at $156 million combined.
What comes next: The series could continue, but it needs new elements to stay afloat.
7. The Wolverine (20th Century-Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend: #2
$8,000,000 (-62%) in 2,867 theaters (-1,057); PSA: $2,790; Cumulative: $111,986,000
A bad falloff, both in position and percentage drop in the third week for this latest “X Men”-related entry, which will end up in the black because of a better performance internationally (with Japan and China still to open, this should get to around $400 million worldwide).
What comes next: The worry for Fox has to be that, despite decent reviews and audience response, this has taken a steep nosedive, not the best result for a franchise they hope to maintain for several more films.
8. The Conjuring (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend: #4
$6,700,000 (-38%) in 2,650 theaters (-455); PSA: $2,528; Cumulative: $120,745,000
Still holding in well, particularly for its genre, with strongly favorable audience reaction continuing to add to the totals for a film already (and atypically) likely in profit from purely domestic results.
What comes next: Most of the international openings still lie ahead.
9. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) Week 6 – Last weekend: #5
$5,700,000 (-43%) in 2,395 theaters (-812); PSA: $2,400; Cumulative: $338,300,000
Now approaching $750 million worldwide, and still decent at home even with two other more recent animated release, this will end up having sold about as many tickets in the U.S. as the year’s #1 grossing film “Iron Man 3” (with the large number of kids’ price tickets holding down the total gross).
What comes next: Expect a despicable future, as this is clearly a franchise for Universal.
10. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend: #6
$3,700,000 (-53%) in 2,192 theaters (-973); PSA: $1,760; Cumulative: $123,800,000
Though this is going to end up below the impressive $160 million the first go-round amassed, this is still a solid number for Sony and Adam Sandler & company.
What comes next: International so far has been lagging behind the previous film, so this at this point to be a more modest money maker in comparison, with the increased budget ($80 million) also a factor.