The festival season is officially winding down, meaning that we’re finally reaching the end of that long stretch of dreadful releases that critics have been just to busy to ravage in their reviews. As prestige fall films like Prisoners, Rush and Gravity enter the fray in coming weeks, we can rest peaceful knowing that the cinema will now be a safe haven to escape the cold, rather than the heat. If you’re looking at this week’s box office top ten, however, you may be filled by an vacuous pit in your stomach. Not even Blue Jasmine can crack the lower ranks, which is why if you peer down to the very bottom of the page you’ll find a new feature! Before we get there, though, let’s dig into this weekend’s big winners and losers.
Insidious: Chapter 2 & Good Will to James Wan
James Wan is on a roll, so don’t try stopping him. The Conjuring built up some amazing good will that frankly nobody thought existed towards the horror director, so it’s sly maneuvering on FilmDistrict’s part to schedule the second film in his Insidious franchise right on the heels of that success. Needless to say the film hasn’t received the most ecstatic reviews, many complaining that it lacks the shock value of the first film, a notable side effect of sequelitis. That hasn’t kept audiences from flooding in, though I’m suspect to how it will maintain those viewers. It’s doubtful that Chapter 2 will meet The Conjuring‘s $135.4 million total, but it will easily surpass the first film’s $54 million finishing figure. At a meager price-tag of $5 million, that’s more than enough to secure yet another sequel in the pipeline, that is after Wan finishes up work on Fast & Furious 7.
Instructions Not Included: The #1 Indie Film of 2013… Seriously?
Okay, it exists, it’s doing well, and we seriously need to talk about that. I’m going to allow myself to go on a bit of a rant on this, because no indie film success has severely enraged me as much as this has. Admittedly I’m not really enraged at all by most indie hits. Maybe last year’s 2016: Obama’s America, which gave the incoming Oscar season a particular politicism that made it a rather nasty environment to be prognosticating in. This certainly will not have an effect on Oscar season, if not any effect at all, but it’s most revolting on the level of what it says about the people rushing to see it.
There are far more resonant and urgent films about life in Mexico, Miss Bala being a staggering recent example. Instructions Not Included is not even about life in a foreign country, and could just as well have been directed by an American for all the centrality placed on the United States in the film. If it exists for any reason, it’s to make white people feel like they have international cultural awareness. In a year where Call Me Kuchu and The Act of Killing offer harrowing glimpses of life in more oppressed parts of the globe, this is what will soon become the #1 indie film of the year. Does that not absolutely disgust you?
This comes with a caveat in that the $14.5 million opening of The Family isn’t inherently a bad sign. With enough audience interest generating, this could be seen as some moderate success, and I imagine it will do stronger in international territories than it does here. That said, there just hasn’t been much interest in this film heading up to it or dispersed throughout this weekend. That’s possibly because the potential was there for The Fifth Element director Luc Besson to take an untapped cast and put them to good work. Instead what we get is a generic “Witless Protection” dark comedy, something audiences are frankly somewhat exhausted with.
Box Office History
In the recent past this frame has housed two kinds of release dynamics. Last year’s such dynamic was easily comparable to this year, in that an R-rated franchise went toe-to-toe with lighter fare. Obviously The Family is comparably much darker than last year’s counterpart of Finding Nemo 3D, which was amongst the first warning signs that 3D re-releases were losing their muster. Opening to $16.7 million, the reissue went on to only $41.1 million in the end. A modest success, but I imagine Disney really wanted to have another film in the $1 billion club. That was still a happy alternative to the weekend’s “big” winner, Resident Evil: Retribution, which opened to just $21.1 million and finished at a mere $42.4 million. Bear in mind, though, the film made nearly $200 million internationally, so obviously there’s a sixth film in the video game franchise on the way.
While 2012 maintained that two film dynamic, 2011 carried with it four films seeking to attract audiences. With that kind of surplus of options, no wonder some of them fell as flat as they did. Horror-thriller remake Straw Dogs failed to capitalize on the sex appeal of Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden and Kate Bosworth all, a cardinal offense in and of itself, but made increasingly bitter by its mediocre $5.1 million opening. Its $10.3 million total didn’t come close to covering the film’s $25 million production budget. Still, there are worse failures in this weekend alone, equally budgeted and grossly over-titled romantic comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It opened to $4.4 million and closed with just $9.7 million.
I’d pity Christina Hendricks for being saddled with that kind of flop, but in that weekend alone she found redemption in Nicolas Winding Refn’s wildfire low-burn action drama Drive. Opening to $11.3 million may not sound like anything to boast about, but its $35 million domestic total, adding the $41.1 million international take, proved strong enough to balance its small $15 million budget. All that, and the film rocks like no blockbuster engine in that or any year. All that adulation aside, it wasn’t biggest opening of the weekend. The Lion King 3D took that title with a $30.2 million opening, single-handedly ensuring a long stream of 3D re-releases that would never reach the $94.3 million finishing number the Disney standout did. Still just $40 million shy of that $1 billion mark, but another re-release 30 more years down the line should change that. Though by then I suspect there will be 100+ titles in the club instead of the simple 17 we have now.
Box Office Top 10 – September 13-15, 2013
Results via BoxOffice.com
1. Insidious: Chapter 2 (1st Weekend: $41.1 million)
2. The Family (1st Weekend: $14.5 million)
3. Riddick (2nd Weekend: $7 million; Total: $31.3 million)
4. Instructions Not Included (3rd Weekend: $4.2 million; Total: $26.8 million)
5. The Butler (5th Weekend: $5.9 million; Total: $100.4 million)
6. We’re the Millers (6th Weekend: $5.4 million; Total: $131.6 million)
7. Planes (6th Weekend: $3.1 million; Total: $83 million)
8. One Direction: This Is Us (3rd Weekend: $2.4 million; Total: $26.9 million)
9. Elysium (6th Weekend: $2 million; Total: $88.3 million)
10. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (6th Weekend: $1.8 million; Total: $62 million)
Limited Release Top 10
Welcome to the newest feature, which you may see as a direct response to Instruction Not Included. Here is where I rank the top 10 limited release performances of the weekend. There are two restriction to this list: 1) no films in the overall Top 10 allowed. 2) No major studio releases allowed. What this does allow is films like Short Term 12 to be given their proper observation. There are some gray areas, I admit. Blue Jasmine gets a pass, but Closed Circuit does not. Why? Because one got notable mainstream marketing. The other has reached success on the strength of its own content.
So tabling the obvious successes of Allen’s film, The Way, Way Back and Fruitvale Station, the films that seem to be doing most extraordinarily well are The Spectacular Now, Austenland and Short Term 12. It makes sense that the sweetest, fluffiest films in independent release would play best with audiences, which is the same reason that Instructions Not Included (*woof*) has been doing such phenomenal business. Even with this new feature, not all box office successes of the weekend can be reported. Mother of George had the strongest per theater average of the weekend with $22,456 at one location. With luck that won’t be the last we hear of the film. There’s plenty of room for indie films to grow, even if the mainstream titles steal the majority focus.
1. Blue Jasmine (8th Weekend: $1.8 million; Total: $27.9 million)
2. The Spectacular Now (7th Weekend: $769,907; Total: $5.8 million)
3. The Grandmaster (4th Weekend: 465,000; Total: $5.8 million)
4. Austenland (5th Weekend: $381,191; Total: $1.2 million)
5. In a World… (6th Weekend: $308,719; Total: $2.1 million)
6. The Way, Way Back (11th Weekend: $290,000; Total: $20.9 million)
7. The Ultimate Life (2nd Weekend: $244,000; Total: $1.1 million)
8. Short Term 12 (5th Weekend: $164,227; Total: 0.5 million)
9. Fruitvale Station (10th Weekend: $73,000; Total: $15.9 million)
10. Wadjda (1st Weekend: $40,491)