BOX OFFICE: ‘The Wolverine’ Slashed #1 Spot Off His ‘To-Do List’

The WolverineIt’ll be a month before we see a weekend that doesn’t have a sequel opening, an extra week if you count The World’s End as sequel to Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. That said, I think people should rethink the way they use the term “original”, since giant robots fighting giant monsters is in no way a new concept. Still, I’m glad if Pacific Rim makes back its budget, because then it was made without any negative loss, but not successful enough to warrant a sequel. That’s inevitably the fate of nearly every successful “original” property. District 10 is on the horizon for Neill Blomkamp, and a petition is making the rounds for a Dredd sequel. Admittedly, I signed that petition, because Dredd is the kind of disposable franchise I want to see more of, as you could no doubt tell from my review.

Not that any of this has any measure on this weekend’s grosses. Just something to keep in mind as you continue to consume blockbuster entertainment.

Weekend Winners

The WolverineThe Wolverine Becomes a Smaller Scope Blockbuster

It would be rather easy to look at The Wolverine‘s opening weekend, which scored just under $60 million, and call it a bit disappointing. I might say so too if I didn’t know the difference between this and every other blockbuster this summer: The Wolverine cost only $120 million. In a world where Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, etc. all chocked up $200+ million budgets as their protagonists try saving the world, The Wolverine resisted that urge by pulling the scale down to human levels, which I think will make this weekend seem like much more of a victory in the long run. If it endures for some degree of sleeper success, I’d like to think studios will rethink the way they make blockbusters. Maybe they’ll finally dial things down a bit. Unlikely, but it’s a thought.

The ConjuringThe Conjuring Holds its Terror in

The streak of horror hits that tank in the 2nd weekend has broken with James Wan’s The Conjuring. I suspected it would, but a bad followup showing could have put this hit down from any hopes of exceeding $100 million. Now that benchmark seems all but certain, but will it keep the title of highest grossing horror film this year? Yes. There’s no real competition for it, save Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie and James Wan’s own Insidious Chapter Two, both of which have the threat of that eerie 2nd-weekend drop looming on the horizon.

Fruitvale StationFruitvale Station & The Way, Way Back are Summer’s Indie MVPs

Okay, maybe not the whole summer. We all know Mud’s kept conversation alive since its debut – I only recently caught up to it myself – and this week’s platform release is certain make its share of business in Summer’s waning days. Still, I wouldn’t go anywhere near dismissing what The Way, Way Back and Fruitvale Station have earned thus far and will continue to earn moving forward. The former’s had a slow expansion over the past four weeks, now with nearly $9 million to show for it. The latter, however, was much quicker to enter wide release, which may be something of a mistake on Weinstein’s part in the long run. Will the film fade away too quickly? We’ll see, but people who’ve seen it have been affected by it. That kind of buzz goes a long way.

Blue JasminePlatform Release of the Week: Blue Jasmine

But let’s be honest, because the real indie winner of the weekend was Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which slammed onto the scene to pull out the year’s strongest per theater average at 6 sites, narrowly outpacing Spring Breakers‘ $87,667 average with $102,128. How does that stack up with prior Woody Allen debuts? Well it just nearly surpassed Midnight in Paris‘ $99,834 per theater average, making it his strongest opening per theater to date. We’re in an age where Allen’s established cinematic following is sticking with him, yet he’s built a younger audience also going to see his films. That’s something very few aging filmmakers achieve. I mean, look at where Francis Ford Coppola is now.

Weekend Losers

The To Do List 1The To-Do List Can’t Even Cross $2 million

On the bright side, Aubrey Plaza’s latest comedy will probably do better than Safety Not Guaranteed, which grossed $4 million over its run last summer. Unfortunately it won’t outgross it by much, The To-Do List not even breaking $2 million in its first weekend. Admittedly I’m a tad confused that it only opened in about 600 theaters this weekend. Such a stalled opening really only works if you have something really interesting up your sleeve. Let’s face it, though, that this is no Easy A, by a long shot.

Box Office History

The WatchThis weekend usually strikes a balance between medium-blockbuster fare and much lighter mainstream titles. Last year had only lighter fare, which one imagines was counter-programming after the massive debut of The Dark Knight Rises. The box office was taking a hit in general a year ago, a consequence of the Aurora shooting, which had many questioning the safety of a dark room. As such, it’s no surprise The Watch and Step Up Revolution performed as poorly as they did, each only putting up around $12 million over the 3-day weekend. The box office would still be recovering over at least the following month.

The year prior, 2011, had a mediocre blockbuster underperforming, a kid-flick opening fervently, and a rom-com opening respectfully, effectively covering the wide spectrum. Cowboys and Aliens didn’t do quite the business Universal expected, pulling in just 36.4 million towards an eventual total of $100.2 million. After Captain America and Harry Potter, I imagine audiences were just as tired of action spectacle as those who opted out of White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and Pacific Rim were. The Smurfs opened comparatively better, playing on family crowds towards a bright $35.6 million, enduring the rest of the summer to $142.6 million. That didn’t leave much audience left for Crazy, Stupid, Love., but the Steve Carell-Ryan Gosling comedy still did pretty well for itself, taking in $19.1 million as the most mature film out that weekend.

cowboysandaliensJumping back to 2010, Salt and Ramona and Beezus best serve to define the dynamic between this year’s two releases. The former starred Angelina Jolie as an action heroine fighting her own personal battle, and the latter is a cute comedy starring Selena Gomez. Okay, Ramona and Beezus isn’t the best parallel for The To-Do List‘s failure, even managing 7.8 million over the weekend. Salt, on the other hand, did not have a superhero franchise to fall back on, so her $36 million opening and $118.3 million total wasn’t exactly a disappointment. Still, there’s a reason we haven’t seen a sequel come of it.

Box Office Top 10 – July 26-28, 2013

Results via BoxOffice.com

1. The Wolverine (1st Weekend: $55 million)
2. The Conjuring (2nd Weekend: $22.1 million; Total: $83.9 million)
3. Despicable Me 2 (4th Weekend: $16 million; Total: $306.4 million)
4. Turbo (2nd Weekend: $13.3 million; Total: $55.7 million)
5. Grown Ups 2 (3rd Weekend: $11.5 million; Total: $101.7 million)
6. Red 2 (2nd Weekend: $9.4 million; Total: $35.1 million)
7. Pacific Rim (3rd Weekend: $7.5 million; Total: $84 million)
8. The Heat (5th Weekend: $6.9 million; Total: $141.3 million)
9. R.I.P.D. (2nd Weekend: $5.8 million; Total: $24.3 million)
10. Fruitvale Station (3rd Weekend: $4.7 million; Total: $6.3 million)

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