There are few things more certain than death, taxes, and cheap studio horror, as long as you market that last one right. Lionsgate engineered a solid campaign and, surprisingly, people were able to tell the difference between “The Apparition,” which registered piddling numbers in it’s debut outside the top ten last week, and “The Possession,” which became the last number one movie of the summer with over $17 million. This is also the sixth number one debut for a film out of Sam Raimi’s Ghost House shingle, all of them with budgets in the low teens, all of them assured a solid profit. Who needs “Spider-Man”?
“The Possession” certainly had a stink about it, pushed back from last fall and retitled, quite generically, after “The Dybbuck Box” apparently didn’t play. Though it’s box office pedigree is quite low (Jeffrey Dean Morgan has already headlined more straight-to-DVD crap than he’d like), the release date proved plum, as it should benefit greatly from the four day weekend, a PG-13 chiller for those kids going back to school seeking one more summer thrill. The Cinemascore rating of a B suggests they came away shrugging their shoulders, though that’s actually quite good for a horror film, given that they all usually receive lower Cinemascore ratings.
“Lawless” was always something of a strange beast to market, but this opening weekend is not exactly the result The Weinstein Company sought. Is it a classy bootlegging drama? Or a western? An action film? Studios have had success launching prestige-ish pics at the end of summer with “The American” and last year‘s “The Debt.” But both of those skewed older -- in contrast, “Lawless” star Shia LeBeouf is still associated with kiddie movies, and Tom Hardy is probably still best-known to American audiences from “that Batman movie” and “that one with the spies and the guy from ‘Star Trek’ that we actively avoided seeing.”
The John Hillcoat thriller had the look and feel of a late-season awards-film, not to mention the subject matter and the film itself is violent, dirty, sexy. And yet there’s Shia and Tom, two of Hollywood’s most promising leading men, headlining a film that barely debuts above the third weekend of a Sylvester Stallone actioner. Perhaps the mature-skewing “Lawless” would have been a better bet months earlier as counter-programming to some air-headed PG-13 actioner, or perhaps in fall awards season proper, but a muddled promo (infographics?) and late season date caused this one to stumble.
“The Expendables 2” fell out of the top spot, though it’s numbers are moving about as graceful as it’s cast does after a workout. Which is to say, lumbering and sloppy, and leaning downward. The grumpy grandpas of this action franchise have given the film enough box office juice to finish around $90 million or so, but this was supposed to be the blowout success -- their box office trump card was seeing Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in action again, the latter for the first time in years, in addition to the appearances of Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.
Even with those added factors they couldn’t surpass the gross of the first film. Given that this series is seemingly based on the Old Superstar Gimmick and nothing else, there’s really no one they can involve that can ensure the third film is a “must-see” to their base. Producers talked up Nicolas Cage, though five years ago that would have been a great get, not today. Knowing the action pool has very few remaining superstars to choose from (Seagal!), they’ve also mentioned Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood, two names that would inject this franchise with a little more extra juice, but… yeah, let’s not dream too hard, guys. If this picture couldn’t crack nine figures domestically (though it’s on-pace to surpass the last film globally), what possibility does that leave for an “Expendables 3” starring Jeff Speakman, Danny Trejo, Cynthia Rothrock, Michael Dudikoff and Leo Rossi?
“The Bourne Legacy” creeps towards $100 million domestic and over $155 million worldwide with a few more international territories to open in the coming weeks. The Jeremy Renner led installment is essentially poised to finish roughly in the same territory as "The Bourne Identity" and just where the franchise will go next -- with more from Renner or the return of Matt Damon -- remains to be seen but a B Cinemascore indicates audiences like the direction Tony Gilroy's story is going.
With a shortage of kid flicks in release, both “Paranorman” and “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” are sticking around a bit longer than expected. It would have been a plum time for one of the studios to firebomb the screens with another expensive 3D CG-animated film marketed to the hilt, but that opportunity was squandered. Instead, there’s a ‘toon too scary for much of it’s core audience, and a live-action fable that’s reportedly confused and disturbed some kids and parents. Both are gonna top out slightly above $50 million, which is decent, though these are two dubious looking movies that got lucky.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is now one of the ten biggest films of all-time domestically, which means everyone at Warner Bros. gets to take home a balloon. There’ll be cake on Tuesday. While the picture is still significantly below the take of “The Dark Knight” stateside, it has already surpassed the last film’s overseas gross by a considerable margin. The Batman business remains a good business for all, and “The Dark Knight Rises” would’ve looked like the 800 lb. beast of summer if it weren’t for those darn “The Avengers” who crossed $1.5 billion this weekend as Disney expanded the picture for one last hurrah before it hits home video in a couple of weeks.
“The Campaign” is slowly petering out, and while it won’t reach the $100 million mark, Warner Bros. didn’t overspend on this story of dubious politicians and their dim-witted enablers. Speaking of dim-witted enablers, “2016 Obama’s America” expanded to 1,750 theaters, softening an audience drop from last weekend that was to be expected after last weekend’s surprise take. Rocky Mountain Pictures is set to have the fifth-highest grossing political documentary in history by Monday (though “political” can be a somewhat malleable term for some). Bringing up the rear is “Hope Springs,” which crosses $50 million, easily knocking poor “Premium Rush” from the top ten.
Pour one out for The Oogieloves. “The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure” debuted at 2160 theaters this weekend, and with $450k (a $208 per-screen average) it registered the lowest opening for a wide release since Paul Dergarabedian rode a dinosaur to work. People forget that kids don’t take themselves to kids’ movies, PARENTS do. When something is aimed at tweens or school age kids, they can ask for the film by name, but when your movie is aimed at toddlers, parents will have the final say. And when the “Oogieloves” ads promised an “interactive” adventure that would have kids singing, yelling and dancing along, most parents said, “Oh, HELL no.” The unwieldy title, which wrongly suggests an ongoing series that we all somehow ignored, probably didn’t help. Nor did the D-List cast (“Oh, Cary Elwes is in this!“ said nobody) or the freakish character designs, as responsible parents likely said, “I’d rather my child stay home, watch TV, and/or take LSD.”
1. Scary Box (Lionsgate) - $17.7 million
2. Bootleggin' Bane (The Weinstein Company) - $9.6 million ($11.8 mil.)
3. The Expendables Saga: The Expendables Part II (Lionsgate) - $8.8 million ($66.1 mil.)
4. The Bourne Identity Saga: The Bourne Legacy (Universal) - $7.2 million ($98.3 mil.)
5. Zombies....For Kids! (Universal/Focus) - $6.5 million ($38 mil.)
6. The Odd Life Of A White Kid We Found In Some Shrubbery (Disney) - $6 million ($35.9 mil.)
7. The Dark Knight Saga: The Dark Knight Rises (WB) - $5.8 million ($431.1 mil.)
8. Elections Are Funny - $5.4 million ($73 mil.)
9. 2016 Socialist Pajama Party! (Rocky Mountain) - $5.1 million ($18.2 mil.)
10. Meryl 'n Tommy (Sony) - $4.7 million ($52 mil.)