This weekend we’re looking at box office statistics through a different pair of lenses. We’ve been used to treating most films opening under $20 million as disappointments and anything under $10 million as a total failure. It’s not really fair to do that now, because this weekend had a pretty unorthodox slate of wide releases. These bunch of films were programmed for late August because they didn’t have to contend with big-fisted franchises, but also because they cost relatively little in comparison. Admittedly any film’s box office performance should be judged against its own respective monetary investment, but if you looked at this weekend searching for across-the-board 8-digit figures, you’d think it was a failure. Peer on down to BOX OFFICE HISTORY to see why that is never the case with this frame.
First thing’s first. What were the hits and flops of this weekend?
No Edgar Wright film to date has exceeded a gross of $35 million domestically. Given his biggest budget of the four was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at $60 million, his only flop, it should be easy to realign expectations for The World’s End‘s performance. At $8.9 million, it’s trailing Scott Pilgrim‘s opening by about $1.5 million, but could well maintain audience interest over the coming Labor Day frame. Even in the unlikelihood that it doesn’t ultimately make a profit, Wright’s still got Ant-Man in 2015 boost his box office score by an additional digit or two. Meanwhile, at $7 million You’re Next was this weekend’s weakest debut, but given the price of horror films nowadays, you can already consider it a success. So let this frame be a lesson to studios organizing their release slate: Plan the small budget standouts for a quieter weekend.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler took the #1 spot for the 2nd weekend in a row, taking advantage of audience’s desperation for a change of pace into inspiring dramatic territory. At $51.8 million, expect it to gradually roll its way past the $100 million mark, but judging from an appreciative, but not altogether ecstatic atmosphere surrounding the film, I wouldn’t expect it to tally the same berth of Oscar nods The Help procured. We’re The Millers, in the meantime, doesn’t have the slightest hope for Oscar success, yet is set to become the biggest box office success of August. At $91.5 million, it will easily exceed $100 million in the coming week, and could continue to boost that score if audiences react as lazily to next weekend’s releases as they have to this week’s slate.
Woody Allen’s latest expanded into over 1000 theaters, his widest release in history, though at $4.3 million, it’s lagging somewhat behind the numbers that Midnight in Paris put up two years back. On the other hand, Blue Jasmine is a lot more of a bitter pill than a fantastical, nostalgia fueled crowd-pleaser, so we can’t expect it to perform quite as well, so we must again assess its success on a different scale. At $14.8 million, it’s tracking well to surpass To Rome with Love‘s $16.9 million total. If it maintains audience interest for just long a little longer it can exceed the $23.2 million takes of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match Point, making it Allen’s 2nd biggest hit in over the past 25 years. Add onto the film’s excellent performance Cate Blanchett’s upcoming Gala Tribute at this year’s New York Film Festival and it’ll be mighty tough to dethrone her from that frontrunner status.
Why does The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones figure as more of a failure than the other two releases this weekend? Because it cost $60 million and is on task to earn maybe $30 million of that domestically. Coming on the heels of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, nobody wanted to see another YA fantasy, having already devoted themselves to one of the eight released this year. If this spawns a sequel, it will be met with as much confusion as the Percy Jackson sequel was.
Box Office History
As I said above, this weekend is not one that’s accustomed to big debuts, mostly because people are too busy preparing for school to start up again to spare a moment for the cineplex. Last year’s releases weren’t even fortunate enough to match You’re Next‘s $7 take, the closest being bicycle action flick Premium Rush, opening to just $6 million and finishing with $20.3 million, far shy of its $35 million budget. Things were relatively easier for action comedy Hit and Run, opening to only $4.5 million and finishing at a measly $13.8 million, but with a more satisfactory budget of $2 million. The investment luckily matched the performance on that one. Not so lucky was supernatural horror The Apparition, opening to $2.8 million, ending at $4.9 million, and budgeted at $17 million. This was not a good step for Warner Bros.
2011 fared better in comparison, though its biggest opening was still just $10.4 million, that belonging to Columbiana. (Ironically, does anybody remember where she came from?) It’s finishing gross of $36.7 million meant it held audience interest just long enough for its international earnings to make back the rest of its budget. People like hot girls kicking ass. Not immature high school students (Looking at you, Kick-Ass 2). Trailing behind was horror remake Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark with $8.5 million, going on to a $24 million total. Again, foreign earnings lent a helping hand in making back the budget. Much more successful by comparison was comedy Our Idiot Brother, whose $7 million opening and $24.8 million total was made particularly fruitful by its $5 million budget.
Box Office Top 10 – August 23-25, 2013
Results via BoxOffice.com
1. Lee Daniels The Butler (2nd Weekend: $17 million; Total: $52.3 million)
2. We’re the Millers (3rd Weekend: $13.5 million; Total: $91.7 million)
3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (1st Weekend: $9.3 million; Total: $14.1 million)
4. The World’s End (1st Weekend: $8.9 million)
5. Planes (3rd Weekend: $8.6 million; Total: $59.6 million)
6. Elysium (3rd Weekend: $7.1 million; Total: $69.1 million)
7. You’re Next (1st Weekend: $7 million)
8. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (3rd Weekend: $5.2 million; Total: $48.3 million)
9. Blue Jasmine (5th Weekend: $4.3 million; Total: $14.8 million)
10. Kick-Ass 2 (2nd Weekend: $4.2 million; Total: $22.4 million)