Led by Paramount franchise sequel “Star Trek Beyond,” the box office should soar back into summer blockbuster territory.
After a 16% drop off from 2015 last weekend caused by the sole new wide studio release “Ghostbusters” doing decent but not stellar business, the late summer surge could finally arrive. Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond” should be the easy #1 film, but two other new entries, animated sequel “Ice Age: Collision Course” (20th Century Fox) and horror flick “Lights Out” (Warner Bros.) —the genre has been rebounding — along with some decent holdovers should elevate the totals ahead above both last year and last weekend.
Year to date numbers remain a scant 1% ahead of 2015, which means that with slightly higher ticket prices, fewer people have attended movies this year. The big shortfall runs from May through summer. Through April grosses had increased over 9%, momentum reversed over the last two months.
Three new movies including two franchise entries will add up to good totals, but individual performances may vary.
“Star Trek Beyond” numbers will be compared to the most recent “X-Men,” more than the last two “Star Trek” entries, which delivered $70-million plus openings. “Apocalypse” retained core elements from previous films, and with a decent but unspectacular pre-release response grossed $65 million. That was down 28% from the 2014 “X-Men” following a rise in grosses for the previous two entries (“Apocalypse” was the seventh go-round in the series).
A similar drop for “Beyond” from its most recent predecessor would put it at $50 million for the weekend— $4 million ahead of “Ghostbusters”‘ initial take. But “Beyond” cost $41 million more ($185 million production budget). But at that level, even a high end result of $60 million would bring into question how well this third film in the current Abrams-piloted series is maintaining the franchise that dates back, including TV, nearly as long as James Bond.
Advance reviews have been favorable (unlike this year’s “X-Men: Apocalypse”). “Star Trek” is a core asset in Paramount’s tentpole-light stable. At the premiere in San Diego at Comic-Con, the cast led a huge open-air crowd to a minute of silence in tribute to the horrific recent death of Anton Yelchin (Chekov), which stands akin to the loss of Heath Ledger ahead of the opening of “The Dark Knight.”
With Justin Lin (“Fast and Furious”) directing from Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung’s script, this installment marks a return to a more analog, human-scale “Star Trek,” even if there’s plenty of action and visual effects. (While J.J. Abrams went on to make “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” he’s still producing the series.) Core Trekkies will be happy, but it remains to be seen of this approach will satisfy a global audience.
“Beyond” should end the recent five week dominance of two animated smashes, “Finding Dory” and “The Secret Life of Pets,” atop weekend charts. The fifth time around for Blue Sky’s “Ice Age” series had its best opening in 2006 ($68 million unadjusted), with most recent entry “Continental Drift” opening to over $46 million in 2012. That came with less intense cartoon competition. Its $161 million total domestic take alone would have indicated continuing the series. But the “Ice Age” films are an international juggernaut. The last “Drift” amassed $715 million abroad. (That’s $300 million more than “Deadpool” did overseas.) So even a 40% drop to a under $30 million would prove only a minor setback for Fox. And with the way animation has been clicking all year, doing better would be no surprise. It could be a close battle between “Collision Course” and “Pets” for second spot.
Third opener “Lights Out” is not a sequel but an original concept horror feature (debut director David F. Sandberg graduated from an early short version of this film). It is produced by most recent “Fast and Furious” director James Wan, whose June release “Conjuring 2” has already passed $300 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable efforts of the summer. The low-budget entry could see decent results between $15-20 million, with its family-set unknown external invader story attuned to current sensibilities.
Among holdovers, all eyes will be on “Ghostbusters.” Last July, the Judd Apatow/Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck” dropped 42% its second weekend off a $30 million opening, and ended up with better than a 3.5 multiple ($110 million). “Ghostbusters” starts from a higher number and could fall more and still not be considered damaged goods (“Pets” fell 51% its second weekend), but with its fate still in doubt anything closer to the lower end will aid its uphill climb to success.
The biggest impact among limited releases will come from Fox Searchlight’s national release of the movie version of the British comedy favorite “Absolutely Fabulous.” Bringing back most elements of the original (similar to the film renditions of “Sex and the City” and “Entourage”), this opens in about 250 theaters. The show has a strong fan base in certain communities and the timing is right for its brand of R-rated younger, female and gay fans.
More limited openers include the French lesbian romance “Summertime” (Strand) and the Korean vampire thriller “Train to Busan” (Well Go). The top advance review attention has gone to “Don’t Think Twice” (Film Arcade), from actor/director Mike Birbiglia (“Sleepwalk With Me”). It opens at one Manhattan location.