The box office has taken a significant downswing recently, and it actually has nothing to do with the movies. I mean, most of them are still terrible, but no more so than usual. In all honesty, this summer has been one of excess without ecstasy. Usually there’s at least one film that gets people clamoring positively, or at least builds a didactic conversation. Last summer had The Avengers, Prometheus and The Dark Knight rises bolstering conversations, while still allowing for smaller films to breath. This summer, there has been no break from the exorbitant blockbusters, and the only one to build anything close to a compelling conversation was Man of Steel. More compelling than any conversation the films started is the conversation over the routine sameness of this year’s blockbusters.
Generally August serves as a transitional month for the summer and fall seasons. Light awards bait starts landing while smaller budgeted actioners fill out the remains of the season. This month, however, needs to serve as a return to level-headed cinemagoing. It’s been hard getting excited about seeing movies when they all look painfully similar, so hopefully there will be some semblance of diversity in this month’s 17-film selection. With an average of 4 films being doled out a week, there’s got to be something worth holding onto, right? Unfortunately, this will not be that weekend. Before we get into this weekend’s big winners and losers, though, I wanted to note that Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine did remarkably well in its 2nd weekend, pulling in $2 million from 50 theaters and beginning to set itself up as indie successor to Fruitvale Station and The Way, Way Back.
This is about as surprising as my cat eating some diseased plant and then later walking into the living room and hacking on the rug. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg making bank may not be as disgusting a mess as that example, but in either case, I’m getting tired. Even audiences are getting tired. In a dryer February landscape, this film would’ve easily surpassed $40 million upon opening. This is what comes of a beleaguering summer. Audiences just get too tired of the same thing, and it’s hard to greet films like this as true winners of the weekend. Still, it’ll keep audiences busy till next week, when the cycle will continue again. It’ll take some considerable effort for a film to remain on the public consciousness for the more than a week this month.
The only thing unremarkable about this opening is that it didn’t do better, which isn’t at all a disappointment. Sure, the Sundance buzz and teen appeal could’ve formed this into a teen sensation, but since when do teens in New York seek out indie dramedies at art house venues? If this film does become a huge hit, we’re not seeing the full effects of that just yet. Still, $50,295 per each of 4 theaters is nothing worth scoffing about. The film is said to deliver on its cheerful buzz out of Sundance, so it’s as much of a surprise that it performed so outstandingly upon opening as it will be when the film maintains spectacularly well over the rest of the summer. The opening is behind Fruitvale Station and above Before Midnight, and it should prove both happier fare than the former and more easily accessible fare than the latter. Trust me, this isn’t the last we’ll hear of The Spectacular Now.
Is it already too late for Sony to put the breaks on The Smurfs 3? Let’s hope not, because this film is not doing the business the first film did by a long shot. For that matter, it’s not even doing the business Turbo did, and what’s even more, kids don’t even seem to like it (evidence to that effect). Sure, you could look at the A- CinemaScore and say otherwise, but those CinemaScores are becoming less indicative of audience interest as they trounce on. Even if some people do like it, Planes is going to be swooping kids away in another week, so don’t be surprised if this film ends just shy of $70 million.
Assuming you’ve seen the film, then yes, both narratively and financially. If The Wolverine truly had staying power, there’d be a lot more conversation on how this film would change studios’ feelings about standalone character-centric superhero films. Personally, that’s the main reason I want this film to succeed, but matters aren’t looking positive for the X-Men spinoff. The film took a nearly 60% dive in its second weekend, and what’s more, it’s currently tracking behind horror standout The Conjuring. As I said above, there needs to be something for deeper conversation to branch out of in order for the film to hold interest for more than a week. People need to want to revisit it to uncover something new they didn’t see the first time through. The Wolverine put all its cards on the table, and even those who dug it aren’t necessarily heading back for more.
Box Office History
This frame will always have the same relationship between competing films. There will always be two, and the more action oriented film will always surpass the lighter comedic fare. Such was the case last year, when the Total Recall remake opened to $25.6 million, even less astounding than the non-spectacle driven 2 Guns. That film would go on to make less than half its budget back, clotting any franchise potential it might have imagined for itself, as well as any cult status similar to what the Schwarzenegger joint received. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days did $14.6 million in the same frame, but with strong enough legs to double its $22 million budget.
The year prior made much more considerable business, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprising everyone to becoming a reboot sensation. It opened to $54.8 million, and in spite having the most stunningly realized visual effects of its year, only cost $93 million. That made its $176.8 million total a true phenomenon in a summer where Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 cracked $1 billion, but neither formed the same kind of passionate following as Rise of the Apes. Unsurprisingly, a sequel is slated for release next July, and with a budget that’s barely any bigger, no-less. Considerably less of a story (and a film) was The Change-Up, which opened to a depressing $13.5 million and ended with $37.1 million. Any deeper and we’re giving the $52 million budgeted film more attention than it deserves.
Pulling back to 2010, there was a slight change to the typical formula of this weekend. The Other Guys may have been a comedy, but its action nature sets it clearly amongst the ranks of 2 Guns and Total Recall. People really went for Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s zany antics, opening to $35.5 million, but finishing up with $119.2 million to its name. By comparison, Step Up 3D did not do nearly the same business, opening to just $15.8 million. That said, the film was only budgeted at $30 million, so its $42.4 million total wasn’t so much of a downcast. This relationship between releases has worked well in the past, and will likely continue to do so in coming years. Next year Guardians of the Galaxy and Fifty Shades of Grey are slated for the spot. Expect similar outcomes. And on a side note, does Fifty Shades of Grey have an actual plot, because I haven’t heard any.
Box Office Top 10 – August 2-4, 2013
Results via BoxOffice.com
1. 2 Guns (1st Weekend: $27.3 million)
2. The Wolverine (2nd Weekend: $20.5 million)
3. The Smurfs 2 (1st Weekend: $18.2 million; Total: $27.8 million)
4. The Conjuring (3rd Weekend: $13.7 million; Total:$108.6 million)
5. Despicable Me 2 (5th Weekend: $10.4 million; Total: $326.7 million)
6. Grown Ups 2 (4th Weekend: $8.1 million; Total: $116.4 million)
7. Turbo (3rd Weekend: $6.4 million; Total: $69.5 million)
8. Red 2 (3rd Weekend: $5.7 million; Total: $45.2 million)
9. The Heat (6th Weekend: $4.7 million; Total: $149.5 million)
10. Pacific Rim (4th Weekend: $4.6 million; Total: $93 million)