With sequel “Jason Bourne” leading the way, this weekend’s three new wide studio releases should provide an uptick during this seesaw summer season, which is down from 2015 despite a surge of animated blockbusters, continues to stage a rebound this weekend.
Last weekend saw “Star Trek Beyond” at $59 million pushing Top Ten grosses up significantly from the previous year. Now “Jason Bourne,” which is projected to end up in similar territory, could be joined by two other openers, STX’s R-rated femme comedy “Bad Moms,” and younger-audience thriller “Nerve” (Lionsgate) combining to gross what last week’s other two openers (“Ice Age: Collision Course” and “Lights Out”) took in (just over $40 million combined). That plus reasonable holdover totals should propel the weekend substantially above the $136 million brought in last year at the same time.
The question is whether “Jason Bourne” will measure up to late July 2015’s “Mission: Impossible—”Rogue Nation, which brought in a total domestic take of $195 million, about 6% down from “Ghost Protocol.” The “Bourne” franchise has also taken a James Bond-like spy into international intrigue situations; the results haven’t been quite as big as the “Mission” entries, particularly internationally, where Tom Cruise still boasts vital appeal.
“Jason Bourne” sees the return of Matt Damon in the role after a one-film hiatus (Jeremy Renner led the last sequel), rejoining director Paul Greengrass, who commandeered the biggest second and third entries. So this marks a retooling, not radical, but something different than last time. The rejiggering of Justin Lin as new director helped “Star Trek Beyond” last week perform better than this summer’s “X-Men” entry did, which had little added value.
“Jason” is trickier to predict. Matt Damon’s return is presumably welcome for audiences, but Greengrass’s reviews are coming in below his usual level of praise.
Damon’s old-fashioned star turn in “The Martian” added to the film’s appeal (much Sandra Bullock did in “Gravity”). That movie opened to $54 million in October, then had a 4X multiple to go along with $400 million more worldwide. Not bad for a film with a relatively small $108 million budget.
With $120 million “Jason” coming in at a lower cost than this summer’s “Trek” and “X-Men” sequels at $120 million, anything close to a similar opening (“X” hit $65 million) would look good to Universal, assuming decent foreign returns. But it still feels a stretch to assume this level. The series is not as big as the other two, and the Renner entry in 2012 opened to $38 million (with a decent 3X multiple).
“Jason Bourne” is trickier to guess than other recent action sequels. Don’t be surprised if this opens under $50 million —not bad if so, but not stellar either. Audiences have been fickle this summer, to state the obvious. Greengrass is coming off a hit in “Captain Phillips” ($219 million worldwide on a $50 million budget). Damon’s last summer lead release was “Elysium” in 2013, which opened to $30 million and $93 million total, with double that from foreign. And recent Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander adds global appeal.
R-rated “Bad Moms” (led by Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell) marks another raunchy comedy targeting women. Co-directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote the “Hangover” films and later debuted as directors with “21 and Over” (they have written all their films) shift to a women’s story. Focusing on three moms who rebel against the domineering over-achieving mothers running their local PTA, they decide not to live up to their maternal behavior demands.
$33-million “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” would be the latest benchmark for what an R-rated male comedy can expect ($16 million-plus opening, $41 million so far). “Bad Moms” cost $20 million, and with STX having shown the ability to maximize the goods when they have them (though “The Free State of Jones” flopped), this could easily top its lowball $20 million initial weekend estimate.
Another writing/directing team, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, are behind “Nerve,” a thriller about a teen trapped into a deadly online game of truth or dare. The duo first got attention with “Catfish,” then were charged with the third and fourth “Paranormal Activity” entries. It opened Wednesday, with an encouraging $4.85 million (including Tuesday previews). It comes from Lionsgate, which has been having a problematic year. But genre films with young adult appeal (it’s adapted from a novel) is their sweet spot, and with a lead cast including Emma Roberts and Dave Franco — not A players but also well-enough established to elevate a potentially interesting concept—this could do well enough to justify its sub-$20 million cost. The mid-week jump will take a bit away from the weekend (although its strong A- Cinemascore might push word of mouth). But it could battle “Bad Moms” for second best opener.
On Monday, with little attention from mainstream business media, Warner Bros. presented parallel to its streaming release the 76-minute animated feature “Batman: The Killing Joke” in 1,325 theaters. Sold mostly via social media and including an added video with Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker in the film, it grossed over $3.6 million for two days. This is an out-of-the-box way to add theatrical revenue and promotional value for a streaming title and soon-to-come DVD/Blu-Ray release. This was presented with Fathom Events, and marks the biggest theatrical gross in their history.
The specialized scene looks to be led by three diverse films from top distributors, all well-placed in top theaters.
The best early reviews by a slight margin belong to “Gleason,” the Sundance-premiered documentary about an ex-NFL lineman dealing with mortality and a new child after a life-changing ALS diagnosis. With the combination of emotional story and top reviews, Amazon/Open Road could have the kind of doc that turns into an Oscar frontrunner. Going beyond the usual New York/Los Angeles initial dates it also opens in San Francisco, Seattle and Gleason’s NFL base in New Orleans.
“Indignation” (Roadside Attractions) is the directorial debut of veteran independent producer and Focus Features founder James Schamus. Also premiered at Sundance to positive reviews, it’s an adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel about a working class Jewish student at Oberlin in the early 1950s. It boasts top New York/Los Angeles theaters.
A third Sundance 2016 film is hitting top theaters in LA and NY, Meera Menon’s “Equity” (Sony Pictures Classics), stars Anna Gunn as a woman exec playing hardball on Wall Street.