In 2005 I was on the edge of 13, practically nonexistent in terms of cinematic intelligence, and typically distracted by anything big and flashy. The summer had already turned over mediocrity like Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Madagascar, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the first of which I naively loved and the third of which just scared me into believing the apocalypse would inexplicably happen any minute. I brightly anticipated War of the Worlds and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both of which let me down even at that benign age. The only theatrical experience I remember, though, was for Batman Begins. It was Father’s Day (as it is today), and even though my enthusiasm for the film has diminished greatly over time, the small connections I made to my own parental relationship stuck endearingly.
Why do I bring this up? Because today many dads will repeat this action with their sons, and at the age of 13 I would have probably loved Man of Steel and been inspired towards a career in film the way that Nolan did for me with Batman Begins. That is the defining attribute of the summer movie season: parents sharing experiences with their guileless children. Kids won’t comprehend Before Midnight (which barely missed the Top 10 with $1.5 million this weekend) or Frances Ha the way that their parents do, nor can they fully grasp what critics find so contemptible in films like Man of Steel or Iron Man 3.
So take these box office statistics not as a scale of universally understood quality, because they never have been. More than anything, they tell us what films are inspiring the next generation of filmmakers. At least in the top tiers. The lower tier successes from the indie circuit are clearly for us, and it’s worth noting that The Bling Ring rode its youth powered lightning to a $42,000 per theater average at 5 venues. Looks like Emma Watson is getting traction on both the mainstream and independent spectrum this weekend. I suppose every teen-icon movie star can be used as a force for good after all.
I’m not sure why, but so many critics were expecting Man of Steel to crash at the box office this weekend. Not in a huge way, mind you, but more in the Prometheus range than being an Iron Man 3 scale success. Indeed it lands somewhere in the middle with a gargantuan $125.1 million, including Thursday night shows, making it the highest grossing June release in history, just above Toy Story 3‘s $110.3 million. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, as the film’s marketing has been pretty flawless in its manipulation of Hans Zimmer’s effectively spine-tingling score. Contrast that to Star Trek Into Darkness, which didn’t emphasize the excitement level nearly enough in its marketing.
Of course plenty are drawing comparisons to Iron Man 3‘s much larger gross, but they really shouldn’t. As a reboot it performed twice as well as Batman Begins‘ $48.7 million, and as a comic book universe kick-off it exceeded the first Iron Man‘s $98.6 million opening. I’m no fan of either DC or Marvel’s current brands, and am even less favorable towards Man of Steel, but speaking purely financially, I have no problem with a competitive superhero market. Just as long as I’m merely a spectator on the sidelines of this fight.
Okay, now if we can talk about a success I can REALLY get behind, This Is the End may not have hit it out of the park like Man of Steel did, but it’s faring pretty well for an R-rated apocalyptic comedy with movie stars playing themselves. The Seth Rogen written and directed film (with filmmaking partner Evan Goldberg) faced steep competition, but the reaction has been pretty positive and effectively riotous. Action spectacles will only hold until the next big distraction pops up, but something as likeable as This Is the End has the potential to be shared throughout the summer as word-of-mouth spreads through the 18-29 year old demographic. And personally speaking, I had more fun with portions of this than I did with anything I saw in Man of Steel. By the way, read this excellent piece by Jenni Miller at Film.com on how Emma Watson redeems the rape joke.
Box Office History
I’m taking a different stance with this section, instead of focusing merely on this weekend last year, I’ll look at the last couple years of this frame. It’s particularly revealing about this weekend’s releases when we consider what came before. In 2009 The Taking of Pelham 123 opened to a disappointing $23.4 million, though its thrill-a-minute attitude mirrors that of Snyder’s most recent film. A year later in 2010, The Karate Kid dominated the weekend with $55.7 million, benefiting much from the Father’s Day kids crowd. The A-Team wasn’t so lucky, pulling in $25.7 million as an attraction meant solely for the dads, but not their kids.
In 2011 DC tried to kickstart another superhero franchise with Green Lantern, but was met with a hefty critical backlash and a less-than-expected $53.2 million. Still, it appealed better to the father-son crowd than Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which was more irritating than endearing. Last year, however, was a disaster for dads. That’s My Boy was such a facile and flaccid manipulation of the market, and Rock of Ages simply didn’t appeal to dads the way it did to teen girls. Neither made back their $70 million range budgets, and left a bad taste in most critics’ mouths.
Box Office Top 10 – June 14-16, 2013
Results via BoxOffice.com
1. Man of Steel (1st Weekend: $113.1 million; Total: $125.1 million)
2. This Is the End (1st Weekend: $20.5 million; Total: $32.8 million)
3. Now You See Me (3rd Weekend: $10.3 million; Total: $80 million)
4. Fast & Furious 6 (4th Weekend: $9.4 million; Total: $219.5 million)
5. The Purge (2nd Weekend: $8.2 million; Total: $51.8 million)
6. The Internship (2nd Weekend: $7 million; Total: $31 million)
7. Epic (4th Weekend: $6 million; Total: $95.4 million)
8. Star Trek Into Darkness (5th Weekend: $5.7 million; Total: $210.5 million)
9. After Earth (3rd Weekend: $3.8 million; Total: $54.3 million)
10. Iron Man 3 (7th Weekend: $2.9 million; Total: $399.6 million)