So if we’ve learned anything from this summer, it’s that familiarity often sells while new properties struggle. No clearer evidence for that hypothesis exists than this weekend, when the most overly familiar comedy to hit the screens since the last Adam Sandler film to assault our screens unsurprisingly ended up trouncing a non-franchise property from a director who has yet to prove himself at the box office. There have been some exceptions, but they’re ones that play cleanly within Hollywood’s framework. The Great Gatsby etched by on Leonardo DiCaprio’s star power and the hip Jay-Z infused marketing. Now You See Me took a cool off-the-wall premise and turned it into an ensemble thriller, despite nothing actually happening.
And even though The Heat isn’t technically a sequel, it feels in body and spirit like a follow-up to Paul Feig’s 2011 film Bridesmaids. Same goes for This Is the End towards… well, everything Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have written up to this point. We just live in a culture that makes decisions based on prior works. It’s hard for something absolutely new to become a colossal hit anymore, at least outside of the Oscar field. The best we can hope for is a structurally sound, visually pleasing re-composition of recycled materials, unless something significant happens to change that. For the time being, it’s the indies that are making all that difference. Fruitvale Station has begun its slow-build on the market (read below for more), and The Way, Way Back has made good on its promise of bright family comedy, garnering $1.1 million on 79 screens. The film goes wide in two weeks, so we’ll see just how substantial a fun summer hit it is then.
Groan Ups 2 and… yep, that says it all.
Not that I’m surprised. I’m not, because at this point I expect viewers to go see any stupid ensemble comedy with a bunch of actors who are well regarded in VERY broad comedic circles. It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, offensive, lazy, or just pure evil. It’ll pull in $42.5 million opening weekend without a hitch opening weekend, they’ll probably make another one, and we’ll continue to mourn to defaced intelligence of American film audiences.
Pacific Rim is one of those movies that appeals to a very clear subset of people and not many others. It’s crafted specifically for young and old boys play with action figures and love giant robots and monsters. And you know what? That’s fine. My brother found it to be the best film of the year thus far, and I really have no great argument against people who do. I consider it frankly disposable fun, as stated in my C+ review of the film, but it certainly has its stylistic merits that are embedded pretty deeply into anime and monster movie cultures. It’s no District 9 caliber revelation, but anybody expecting such had weirdly bent expectations for this.
Now I’m not totally surprised it didn’t shoot up the market like gangbusters this weekend, pulling in a better-than-expected $38.3 million. It’s been tracking soft for weeks, to which I blame a marketing with little human interface. Then again, the film also lacks that human quality, so it’s understandable. That said, I can see this film becoming a sleeper hit of what remains of the summer. The people who love it are passionate about it, so don’t consider Guillermo Del Toro’s film a flop just like that. It’s still got time on the clock to cancel its apocalypse, and that’s why, for the time being, I’m considering it a winner, rather than a loser.
While I’d caution against building on-the-nose think pieces around the George Zimmer-Trayvon Martin case and Ryan Coogler’s similarly-themed true life tragedy, it’s unreasonable not to believe the recently resurgent case will build more substantial interest in Fruitvale Station. The Weinstein Company release already made a huge indie debut this weekend, opening to 7 theaters with a $53,898 per theater average, 2013’s third highest behind The Place Beyond the Pines and Spring Breakers. Response to the film at Sundance was wildly affected, with many walking out of the theater in tears. Response since then has been mild, with critics calling the film out being more emotionally manipulative than truly heartbreaking. Regardless, the film is opening to a particularly strong air of zeitgeist, which promises to do plenty of favors for it in the long run.
Box Office History
This weekend usually exists as a placeholder between the Independence Day frame and the prime mid-summer release weekend that’s launched films like The Dark Knight and many a Harry Potter flick. So usually it’s dominated by idle comedies and family fare, the former of which was the benefactor back in 2009, when Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno repulsed many a viewer with his openly offensive style of humour, pulling in $30.6 million over the weekend. After the sensation of Borat, everybody wanted to see what Cohen had up his sleeve, though that curiosity did little to help The Dictator last year. Failing to ignite that weekend was Chris Columbus’ high school comedy I Love You Beth Cooper at $4.9 million, proving that Heroes star Hayden Panettiere cannot open a film on her face alone.
A year later in 2010, the seeds were planted for this summer’s fluffiest success in at-the-time surprise hit Despicable Me, which won the weekend with $56.4 million. That it went on from there to haul in $250+ million total is proof positive of why we’re currently wading through its sequel. Its competition, R-rated sci-fi thriller reboot Predators, was no titanic failure either, pulling in $24.8 million over the competitive frame. Today it has something of a popular cult reputation alongside the original Predator.
The following year of 2011 brought a slight change in the weekend formula, pulling out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s record-breaking debut of $169.2 million. It was a major cinematic and cultural event, so it makes sense that it played so well, but that wasn’t such a fortunate thing for Winnie the Pooh. Disney’s small animated title was absolutely dwarfed by Harry Potter, pulling in just $7.8 million over the weekend, and being quickly forgotten thereafter. It’s one of those mediocre, mass-audience decisions that makes me hang my head in sorrow, especially since last year saw kid viewers taking more of a shine to Ice Age: Continental Drift at $46.6 million. It was met as small at the time, but the film made the bulk of its wealth overseas, guaranteeing yet another sequel for the kid-franchise behemoth.
Box Office Top 10 – July 12-14, 2013
Results via BoxOffice.com
1. Despicable Me 2 (2nd Weekend: $44.7 million; Total: $228.5 million)
2. Grown Ups 2 (1st Weekend: $42.5 million)
3. Pacific Rim (1st Weekend: $38.3 million) *REVIEW*
4. The Heat (3rd Weekend: $14 million; Total: $112.4 million) *REVIEW*
5. The Lone Ranger (2nd Weekend: $11.1 million; Total: $71.1 million)
6. Monsters University (4th Weekend: $10.6 million; Total: $237.8 million) *STATE OF 2013 ANIMATION ADDRESS*
7. World War Z (4th Weekend: $9.4 million; Total: $177.1 million)
8. White House Down (3rd Weekend: $6.2 million; Total: $63 million) *REVIEW*
9. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (2nd Weekend: $5 million; Total: $26.4 million)
10. Man of Steel (5th Weekend: $4.8 million; Total: $281 million) *REVIEW/SUPERHERO CRITIQUE*