Okay, we’ve muscled our way through the first month of the summer, so let’s take a headcount. Marvel effectively dominated the summer with an Iron (Man 3) fist, soon closing in on $400 million. Baz Luhrmann has effectively ensured funding on whatever his next film is, so long as it stars Leonardo DiCaprio. Folks are uncertain of whether or not they should care about Star Trek since J.J. Abrams has jumped to Star Wars, but Into Darkness could be doing worse. A long dormant franchise has established itself as full-throttle box office dynamite, while another one is falling flat on its dead drunken face. And Blue Sky Animation is fumbling a bit with its latest tentative animated franchise.
It’s been a pretty interesting summer so far, so that begs the question, is it about to go downhill? Much as we’re optimistic about Man of Steel, Monsters University, White House Down, and Pacific Rim, those could easily fall somewhat flat. We’ll have wait a little while to get there, since next weekend offers less-than-exciting fare like The Internship and The Purge, but even mediocrity is worth seeing so we can talk about it. Take this weekend’s releases, neither of which are particularly solid, but that people are still seeing out of deserving curiosity.
It really doesn’t surprise me that Louis Leterrier’s magician heist movie did better than its new release competitor, After Earth. Sure, the premise may be far more down-to-earth, but the trailers did well to capitalize off of bright imagery and an extremely attractive ensemble. With actors like Eisenberg, Harrelson, Ruffalo, and Freeman involved, how could it possibly fail? Everybody is intrigued to see the film, either for the mysteries of its magic or its indelible cast. Leterrier knows how to hook his audiences to see his movies. Where they often falter is in repeat value, so its conceivable that Now You See Me‘s strong opening is the one trick this pony has.
This week’s independent offerings didn’t come close to matching Before Midnight‘s excellent opening last weekend (Linklater’s film nailed nearly half $1 million at 31 sites this weekend), or Frances Ha‘s two weeks back (Baumbach’s film is now a $1.6 million) but they do vouch for a summer market that’s resplendent in alternative entertainment. Many who saw The East at Sundance Film Festival felt it had potential as a wildfire thriller in the summer climate, and I could tell in an instant that if The Kings of Summer were in wide release, it would absolutely clean up shop, working off both its ideal season and penchant for easy, obvious laughs. The friend I saw Now You See Me with expressed sadness that there wasn’t enough coming up this summer. For those viewing solely from the mainstream cinema menu, perhaps, but you only need to look on the indie outskirts to find niche alternatives. These two may not yet be making huge business, but they may very well be on the rise.
So if Now You See Me succeeded on star power and intrigue, why did that not work for After Earth? Will Smith’s presence alone should be a huge benefit, but it doesn’t help when you’re only shown in deafening stoicism during the trailers. People like goofy, or at least emotionally fragile, Will Smith, so his star pull was diminished by marketing. Also diminished – often entirely ignored, even – is M. Night Shyamalan’s name, rarely shown in the trailers. I’m not saying he’s a reason to see a movie. Matter of fact, he’s a reason to avoid, but his reputation does kind of up the irresistible factor of it. From a director this bad, how can we not see it? All these factor into a less-than-expected haul that has some drawing apt comparisons to Battleship. I guess it’s not a good thing Taylor Kitsch is a go-to name for box office failures, is it?
The two films out this weekend combined grossed the same amount as the one major release from the same frame last year. Snow White and the Huntsman has become somewhat notorious since its release for the behind-the-scenes drama Kristen Stewart got into with director Rupert Wyatt, but the promise of a “mature” Snow White fable to counterbalance the sillier Mirror Mirror aided the film to a $56.2 million opening. Ending at $155.3 million, a sequel is in the works, probably without Rupert Sanders onboard. After all the offscreen drama, though, I can feel franchise fatigue hitting it as soon as it reemerges.
The only other new release to crack the top ten was For Greater Glory, which I can only assume was a Civil War drama of some sort. It didn’t get much public traction, opened to $1.9 million, went on to garner $5.7 million, and then effectively disappeared off the face of the earth. Funny enough, this weekend also had an obscure champion in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani… Don’t look at me. I haven’t a clue what it’s about. Anyway, this weekend was a solid 17.7% above last year’s frame, thanks much to holdovers from Memorial Day. Don’t expect as much fortune next weekend. I can’t expect The Internship and The Purge to be met as enthusiastically as Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Prometheus were.
Box Office Top 10 – May 30-June 1, 2013
Box Office Results via BoxOffice.com
1. Fast & Furious 6 (2nd Weekend: $34.5 million; Total: $170.4 million)
2. Now You See Me (1st Weekend: $28.1 million)
3. After Earth (1st Weekend: $27 million)
4. Epic (2nd Weekend: $16.4 million; Total: $65.2 million)
5. Star Trek Into Darkness (3rd Weekend: $16.4 million; Total: $181.2 million)
6. The Hangover: Part III (2nd Weekend: $15.9 million; Total: $88.1 million)
7. Iron Man 3 (5th Weekend: $8 million; Total: $384.7 million)
8. The Great Gatsby (4th Weekend: $6.3 million; Total: $128.3 million)
9. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (1st Weekend: $1.7 million)
10. Mud (6th Weekend: $1.2 million; Total: $16.9 million)