By Gabe Toro | The Playlist August 19, 2012 at 11:44AM
The release of "The Expendables 2" felt like a celebration. Not only were the trailers boasting the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in legit action roles, but it was also promising the addition of Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris to the franchise. Along with the release and buzz over two new trailers featuring Schwarzenegger ("The Last Stand") and Sylvester Stallone ("Bullet to the Head"), most saw this as a sign that b-movie action was back to the big time at the box office. Of course, the question as to whether this is star power or "star" power (with an ironic eyebrow raised) may have been answered, with the highly touted actioner finishing at $28.8 million, 17% below the first film's $35 million opening.
The first film memorably debuted against legit big-time counterprogramming in Julia Roberts' "Eat Pray Love," which still pulled down respectable numbers en route to an $80 million total. You could argue, however, that this steroid-spiked sequel had an advantage -- not only was the fanbase present from the first film (whatever that may entail), but there was less direct competition, with a couple of minor kids' flicks being the other big releases. Furthermore, the Olympics, which registered larger-than-expected ratings and was credited for deflating potential hits in the last few weeks, was finally over, leaving the path clear for Sly and the gang to demolish the competition.
Cinemascore folks rated "The Expendables 2" an A-, which makes sense given that the film is likely perfectly tailored to its core audience. However, the issue is maybe that a bulk of the window shoppers who caught the first one were too turned off this time around. Could those be the female demographic, who were deceptively enticed by the second film's involvement of Liam Hemsworth simply to watch an hour and a half of old men flexing? Was it those who were promised prominent roles for Schwarzenegger and Willis in the first one, only to be angrily burned by the fact the two of them were appearing in weak cameos? Was it likely that the mainstream just isn't ready to re-embrace guys like Van Damme and the politically odious Norris, memes and all?
The first film had a budget of $80 million, and this time around, Millenium Entertainment increased their spend with about $100 million put toward the film plus P&A. You don't spend more to make less, and the studio will likely be hoping business in foreign territories (the first one collected $171 million overseas compared to $103 million domestically) at least remains the same, or even better, serve as an even greater split for part two. But if the film can muscle its way to nine figures stateside, "The Expendables" will likely head into franchise territory, as long as they can keep finding washed-up action stars and bombed-out Eastern European locations.
Facing direct competition in the action marketplace, "The Bourne Legacy" lost a little more than half its first weekend take. That's in line with the two previous installments' second weekends, though those films opened considerably bigger. On the other hand, 'Legacy' is outperforming "The Bourne Identity" so the jury is still out on whether the franchise will keep running with Jeremy Renner, wait patiently for Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to return, or fade into the sunset. International tallies may help figure in boardroom decision making at Universal.
Stop-motion animation was never a commotion-raising audience favorite, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the probably-too-scary "ParaNorman" debuted to such middling numbers. The high-water mark for stop motion is "The Corpse Bride," taking in $19 million in its second weekend, an expansion after a limited release. "ParaNorman" has a chance to play long, as these films tend to do, though kiddie-horror mashups are a particularly tough nut to crack, with stuff like "Monster House" ($73 million) being the title to beat. "Sparkle" rode a somewhat muted ad presence, meanwhile, grabbing $13 million in its first frame with the second-highest per-screen average in the top ten.
"The Campaign" motors along, though at this point it's likely to finish well below $100 million. No one loses their hat as long as a political comedy does manageable business, though you'd expect a film teaming Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis would pull in stronger numbers. Ferrell sees no downturn from this, however, as he's got a safety net appearance in "The Internship" coming up, as well as "Anchorman 2" and a potential team-up with Adam Sandler in "Three Mississippi." Guy knows where his bread is buttered. Galifianakis is less committed to conventional "stardom" than Ferrell, though he's set to show up in "The Hangover III" next, while director Jay Roach bats around the payday that could come from a potential "Austin Powers IV" that we imagine no one really wants.
"The Dark Knight Rises" still registered an eight-figure sum after five weeks in the top ten. The last film scored $10 million plus grosses for its first six weekends, though it continued to stabilize as it fell out of the top spot, spending eight weeks in the top five. The newer film doesn't necessarily have that consistency, but what does? We're talking about a massive blockbuster sensation and one that has ruled the international box-office for count 'em, five weeks in a row. 'Rises' is still expected to take advantage of that massive worldwide presence to gross $1 billion, likely passing the last film overall. Nobody goes home broke at Warner Bros.
"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" was always gonna be a tough sell. Jokes were made about the film's bizarre "plant baby" premise and there's still uncertainty about the box office potential of Jennifer Garner (past her sell-by date) and Joel Edgerton (who?). Edgerton is a guy the studios like, obviously, but he has yet to score that big mainstream hit, while Garner seems to be making a transition from "the girlfriend" to "the mother," the sad fate of most Hollywood actresses who aren't in their early or mid-twenties. Since Wednesday, the film has pulled in a solid $15 million, and provided Disney didn't break the bank on this film, a $30-$40 million total should prove somewhat adequate.
In a crowded marketplace it's hard to ignore that even though it plummeted down the top ten list, "Hope Springs" had the lowest percentage drop of the weekend amongst wide releases. Given the closeness of this weekend's final results, it wouldn't be a surprise to see "Hope Springs" leapfrog some of the films above it as it plays well into summer. Deflating quickly at the bottom of the lineup are "Total Recall" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days," both considerable underperformers, though at least 'Diary' was a small-budgeted effort. 'Recall,' which cost somewhere between $150-$200 million and has only taken in $76 million worldwide so far, is probably going to get someone fired.
In indie theaters, "Cosmpolis" was the big earner, debuting in three theaters to $72k, an average of $24k. On only two screens, "Robot & Frank" wasn't far behind, grossing $38k, while big single-screen openings belonged to "Compliance" ($16k) and documentary "Side By Side" ($7.2k). Newbie Cohen Media Group stumbled in an aggressive seventy-screen release for "The Awakening," however, the horror pic could only grab $94k.
"Chicken with Plums" was one of the least popular of the new entries, grossing $11k on two screens, while "Beloved" opened on five screens for a $27k total. Among indie holdovers, "2 Days in New York" boasted a second weekend gross of $86k on fourteen screens, while Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer" boasted a $42k take on four screens, in preparation for a larger tri-state expansion. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. The Expendables 2: The Squeakquel (Lionsgate) - $28.8 million
2. The Bourne Legacy (Universal) - $17 million ($69.9 mil.)
3. ParaNorman (Focus) - $14 million
4. The Campaign (WB) - $13.4/$51.7 million
5. Sparkle (Sony) - $12 million
6. The Dark Knight Rises (WB) - $11.1 million ($409.9 mil.)
7. The Odd Life Of Swamp Thing (Disney) - $10.9 million ($15.1 mil.)
8. Hope Springs (Sony) - $9.1 million ($35 mil.)
9. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Rises (Fox) - $3.8 million ($38.7 mil.)
10. We Can Remake It For You Wholesale (Sony) - $3.5 million ($51.7 mil.)