It’s the dog days of summer. This last weekend in August’s box office will top last year’s meagre $63 million. But if it squeaks past February’s Superbowl Weekend take ($74 million)—the worst weekend of the year so far—it won’t be new openers driving the numbers.
At best, only one film, $10-million Sony horror entry “Don’t Breathe,” about a break-in gone awry, will exceed $10 million. It looks to battle “Suicide Squad” (Warner Bros.) for the top spot. “Don’t Breathe” is the latest in a string of lower-budget horror films that have propped up the box office, including “Lights Out” and “Conjuring 2.” “Breathe” comes from rising Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, whose 2013 “Evil Dead” managed $54 million, nearly $100 million worldwide, on a $17 million budget.
Should “Suicide” repeat, it would be the first four-week #1 since “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” achieved the same in January. But it would be a lesser achievement: “Force” grossed $42 million, about four times what “Suicide” can hope for, though it is approaching a strong $300-million in domestic gross.
The other wide opener, not expected to compete in the same range as the two anticipated leaders, is “Mechanic: Resurrection” (Lionsgate), a typical late season filler that should fall short of $10 million. A Millennium production handled but not financed by Lionsgate, is the almost-six years later sequel to the Jason Statham remake of an early 1970s Charles Bronson vehicle. Statham has kept his brand alive in two “Expendables” films, “Furious 7” and “Spy” since then, but none of his lead role films since have topped a $10 million opening. (“Mechanic” managed just over $11 million in January 2011). Figure “Resurrection” to end up closer to $5 than $10 million and fall behind some other holdovers including “Sausage Party,” “War Dogs” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
Opening in under 1,000 theaters are “Hands of Stone” (Weinstein) and “Southside With You” (Roadside Attractions), which could both reach the Top Ten. Also in the mix is the third week expansion of “Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate).
Rico Torres/The Weinstein Company
“Stone” stars Edgar Martinez as troubled boxer Roberto Duran. It is Weinstein’s widest opening since “Jane Got a Gun” last January (indeed the widest that any new film has played even in expansion since then). They scaled down their initial wider break by two-thirds (the remainder to open next weekend). It has been getting mixed reviews since its Cannes debut, in the range of last summer’s Jake Gyllenhaal boxing film “Southpaw,” which managed to get to $52 million. This will target minority, particularly Latino, viewers.
“Southside With You” retells the first-date courtship of Barack and Michelle Obama in Chicago. This Miramax (post-Weinstein) production premiered at Sundance, where it got positive reaction that has continued with more recent reviews. Roadside partnered with Miramax last year for the initially more limited “Mr. Holmes,” which ended up close to an impressive $17 million. This is also starting in 800 theaters, with particular but not exclusive attention to African-American ticket buyers.
Topping them in theater count is “Hell or High Water,” as the CBS Films acquisition nearly doubles to 909 total. Through Thursday it will be approaching $5 million in just two weeks. This weekend will determine how much of a breakout/crossover success it could be and indicate whether it could top “Eye in the Sky” as the top initially limited release of 2016.
Among more limited openers, two more Sundance 2016 premieres — “The Hollars” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “Intervention” (Goldwyn) and the Italian Cannes 2015 competitor “Mia Madre” (Music Box) — look to have the most prominent theater placement in New York and Los Angeles.