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Weekend Box Office: ‘Expendables 2’ is Lackluster, ‘Sparkle’ Shines UPDATED

Weekend Box Office: 'Expendables 2' is Lackluster, 'Sparkle' Shines UPDATED

It’s the dog days of August. Four new openings aimed at three sets of audiences opened to varying results. None rose above expectations. And the biggest one, Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables” sequel, came up short.

Still, after three weekends competing with the Olympics, the total gross for the top ten came in at over $127 million, which was better than last years’ total of $97 million. That’s partly because “The Expendables 2” was more robust than any of last year’s new releases, but also indicates some pent-up interest in returning to theaters after London’s many distractions.

1. The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) – NEW (Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 53)

$28,750,000 in 3,316 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,670,000; Cumulative: $28,750,000

The opening weekend for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” of testosterone action films will come in at about $6 million under its predecessor, as well as below expectations, despite the addition of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a major rather than cameo role this time around.

Financeer and producer Millennium Films sold US/Canada rights to Lionsgate (who also handled the earlier film) for a reported $35 million. That investment shouldn’t be at risk, but this doesn’t look to be a goldmine for its distributor. The $90 million estimated production cost likely was covered by presales to the rest of the world.

For all the anticipation about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return, it has been nine years since “Terminator 3.” But it had been seven further years back (“Eraser”) when a film in which he was the lead grossed $100 million (even inflation adjusted) in domestic release. So though his presence certainly added a marketing hook, his added marquee value was marginal. This movie serves as a reintroduction, not a test of his drawing power. We won’t see that until he opens a movie in which he stars alone.

Simon West, taking the director’s reins from star Sylvester Stallone, began his film career with three consecutive $100 million+ films (“Con Man,” “The General’s Daughter,”  “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”). After two sub-$50 million entries, this takes him a tad closer to his earlier successes.

What comes next: Particularly with likely front-loaded grosses, this could end up below $65 million domestically. International would need to be considerably bigger to justify an “Expendables 3.”

2. The Bourne Legacy (Universal) – Week 2 (last weekend: #1)

$17,000,000 (-55%) in 3,753 theaters (+8); PSA: $4,535; Cumulative: $69,600,000

Good news/bad news department – this outperformed three of the four new openings this weekend and ended up #2), but the falloff of $55% still doesn’t suggest great legs. The final Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon “Bourne” entry, which started off much ahead of this, fell a more typical 52.5% on its second weekend, coming off its opening which was $30 million better than this series reboot.

What comes next: A close call on whether this hits $100 milliion domestically, and all eyes on mostly upcoming international openings to determine whether to continue the series. With more than 2/3s of territories still to open, this has taken in an additional $28 million overseas so far.

3. ParaNorman (Focus) – NEW (Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 74)

$14,008,498 in 3,429 theaters; PSA: $4,085; Cumulative: $14,008,498

The opening weekend gross looks like nearly $3 million less than that of “Coraline,” the previous 3-D stop-motion animated film from Portland-based Laika Entertainment, despite showing in over 50% more theaters. The widest release ever for the usually-platform opening Focus Features, the number of course is also elevated by 3-D surcharges. Despite that, the PSA pales compared to “Coraline” – $4085 compared to $7,329.

“Coraline” ended up at $75 million in the US/Canada, but got to it 5-times its opening weekend gross by holding extremely well for several weeks. Its February release included a strong holiday weekend in its second stanza.

Focus is releasing this, as they did with “Coraline,” as a distribution-deal between Laika and Focus’ parent company Universal. Laika is also paying all marketing costs, making this a low-risk, high potential benefit release for Focus/Universal.

What comes next: International for “Coraline” was about two-thirds of the domestic take, which means its domestic gross needs to be disproportionately strong for Laika. “Coraline,” with somewhat better reviews (although “ParaNorman” fared well critically) was a 2009 Oscar Animated Film nominee.

4. The Campaign (Warner Brothers) – Week 2

$13,385,000 (-50%) in 3,255 theaters (+50); PSA: $4,112; Cumulative: $51,684,000

Down 50% from its better than expected opening, this ended holding better than “The Bourne Ultimatum” and other recent second weekends.

What comes next: This should top out somewhere around $70-75 million on a reported $50 million initial production budget, meaning with international and other revenues this still could end up as a modest recouper.

5. Sparkle (Sony) – NEW (Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 54)

$12 million in 2,224 theaters; PSA: $5,348; Cumulative: $12 million 

With a PSA for the weekend second only to “The Expendables 2,” a production cost of only $14 million and a chance of ending up higher than fourth for the weekend, this remake of the 1977 musical that, long before “Dreamgirls” chronicled the rise of a Supremes-inspired group, came close to grossing  its cost the first weekend (remember, Sony takes back only about half of that).

With a supporting performance by Whitney Houston increasing interest, this had been expected to open in this range. Sony along with Lionsgate seems to have the most regular success with African-American marketed films, most recently with “Think Like a Man,” which opened in February to $33 million to a $91 million domestic total.

This is the second film from director Salim Akil, whose Sony-released “Jumping the Broom” grossed $37 million on a budget of under $7 million. The producers include the two from “Jumping” plus Debra Martin Chase, whose previous credits include “The Princess Diaries” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” so this marks another success for all involved.

What comes next: The initial Cinemascore A grade suggests good word of mouth to help this ahead. While Houston’s role aided awareness, it is possible some potential ticketbuyers were reluctant to rush to this before hearing good reaction from others first. Also, with fewer than normal theaters in its first week, Sony could decide to expand next week.

6. The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Brothers) – Week 5

$11,140,000 (-41 %) in 3,157 theaters (-533); PSA: $3,529; Cumulative: $409,916,000

Down another 41% with a sizeable theater count decline, by any standard other than super-high expectations remains a big success. Still, week 5 of “The Dark Knight” was #2, with a gross totalling $16 million, far better than this will do.

What comes next: “The Dark Knight” remained a top 10 film for an amazing 10 weeks, and grossed just over $1 billion worldwide. This is going to fall short on both counts, though still a major hit.

7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Buena Vista) – NEW (Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 48)

$10,909,000 in 2,598 theaters; PSA: $4,199; Cumulative: $15,187,000

This throwback to an early time when Disney regularly produced family-oriented lower-budgeted films as its mainstay opened on Wednesday in order to get two extra summer weekdays, as well as to help generate word of mouth. Significantly, this dropped from sixth place on Friday to seventh for the entire weekend, very unusual for a family oriented film, which usually pick up business on Saturday.

Likely needing a bit more critical support than it got, and faced with competition from the opening of “ParaNorman,” this will make an eventual at best modest return on its $25 million production expense.

This is Disney’s second effort with director Peter Hedges, who came out of modest indie success “Pieces of April” to score with “Dan in Real Life,” an early Steve Carrell-starring film similarly budgeted to “Odd,” which went on to gross $68 million worldwide. This is his first film aimed at families, which can be a tricky transition.

For adult lead Jennifer Garner, this continues an eclectic career mix (“Valentine’s Day,” “The Kingdom,” “Juno” among the more recent) that makes her difficult to pigeon-hole. Australian Joel Edgerton, still in career-upswing after “Animal Kingdom” propelled him into “Warrior” and “The Thing” and a major role in “The Great Gatsby,” plays a much more domestic role than he has done so far.

What comes next: Word of mouth will determine the film’s fate, and could alter Disney’s willingness to take a chance with such unconventional projects.

8. Hope Springs (Sony) – Week 2

$9,100,000 (-38%) in 2,361 theaters (no change); PSA: $3,854; Cumulative: $35,051,000

The 38% second weekend decline is slightly better than how much “Julie and Julia” fell in its second summer weekend, which indicates decent audience response so far despite initial confusion on how comedic this film is. This is a case where position in the top ten might not be the best indication of success – an eventual gross of over $60 million still is within its possible range.

What comes next: Good enough to boost regular contender and recent winner Streep or the even more acclaimed Tommy Lee Jones into Oscar nomination contention? Performing below the totals of “Julie and Julia” and “The Devil Wears Prada” won’t help, nor will Streep’s recent win, but without at this (early) stage many contestants she remains in the running.

9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (20th Century-Fox) – Week 3

$3,850,000 (-52%) in 2,737 theaters (-664); PSA: $1,407; Cumulative: $38,762,000

Down 52% while losing about 20% of its theaters and facing two newly-opened family films is not an unreasonable showing for this third “Wimpy Kid” entry.

What comes next: This looks like it will achieve around 90% of the total gross of last year’s sequel, a quite respectable result, and encouraging the possibility that this won’t be the last installment in the franchise.

10. Total Recall (Sony) – Week 3

$3,500,000 (-59%) in 2,434 theaters (-1,167); PSA: $1,438; Cumulative: $51,782,000

Considering the major theater loss, falling almost 60% from last week might qualify as a minor triumph. But since this already opened below hopes and fell a similar amount its second weekend, any relief from this would seem misdirected.

What comes next: This still has most of the rest of the world to open, but it’s going to take a major rebound to justify the $125 million budget.

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