By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 21, 2013 at 1:30PM
Warner Bros.' low-budget "The Conjuring" easily topped the weekend, with Fox/DreamWorks' "Turbo" placing only number three as the best of the rest. Lionsgate's "Red 2" struggled to keep pace with its predecessor, while Universal's "R.I.P.D." is lining up to be one of the summer's biggest flops. Altogether, four new openers with production budgets totaling around $400 million grossed less than $100 million this weekend, compared to the $161 million that one film, "The Dark Knight Rises," took in exactly one year ago. That led to an overall top 10 shortfall of about $50 million, as 2013 continues to struggle to catch up.
The studio flops are dropping fast. Disney's "The Lone Ranger" fell out of the top 10 in only its third week. $130 million "R.I.P.D." opened in seventh place, the even more expensive "Pacific Rim" fell to sixth in its second week, while "White House Down" dropped out of the top ten after only four weeks.
Meantime, "Despicable Me 2," "Grown Ups 2," "The Heat" and "World War Z" -- an eclectic mixture of films with varying audience appeal -- have clicked with audiences to score as solid hits.
Below the top 10, two initially limited releases continue to build on their initial success, both showing promise as potential breakout successes. In its third weekend, Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" came in #13 at only 304 theaters, grossing $2,240,000, while the second weekend narrow expansion of Weinstein's "Fruitvale Station" took in $740,000 in only 34 theaters for an excellent per screen average of just under $22,000.
1. The Conjuring (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B; Metacritic score: 68
$41,530,000 in 2,903 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,306; Cumulative: $41,530,000
This doubled its production cost its first weekend, which is great news for Warner Bros. after last week's weak showing for the nearly ten times as expensive "Pacific Rim." "The Conjuring" grossed far above the mid-to-high-$20 million range that horror films do when they hit #1. More impressive, it is playing in fewer than 3,000 theaters, limited a bit by the glut in the market, including two other films from the studio.
This is a breakout achievement for its team. Director James Wan is no stranger to low-budget success, having scored mid-$50 million totals for "Saw" and "Insidious" (which this will far exceed). For actress Vera Farmiga, this is her biggest opening in a lead role, and comes the same week as she got an Emmy nomination for "Bates Motel." It's the top opener for Patrick Wilson as lead as well. Among its producers, it's a theatrical comeback for Rob Cowan, who had some late 19990s success with "The Net" and "The Juror" before the more limited "De-Lovely" and "Home of the Brave" and later move to TV. Veteran writers ("House of Wax," much TV) Chad and Chris Hayes (twin brothers) wrote the original script for this film, which received decent overall reviews as well as its strong A- Cinemascore.
What comes next: Horror films often fall quickly, and the marketplace remains tough, but this looks likely to pass $100 million before it adds to its profit internationally. A sequel is certain.
2. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend: #1
$25,100,000 (-43%) in 3,820 theaters (-183); PSA: $6,560; Cumulative: $276,200,000
The biggest animated film of the year, besting the latest from powerhouses Pixar and DreamWorks, and in its third weekend ahead of the new film from the latter -- the achievements for this smash hit continue to add up. Worldwide totals are approaching $600 million, and it could end up as the #2 film of the year so far (behind "Iron Man 3.") Very impressive, more so with its lower than normal cost for a top animated feature.
What comes next: This now reaches the ranks of the most viable animated series.
3. Turbo (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic score: 59
$21,500,000 in 3,806 theaters; PSA: $5,649; Cumulative: $31,203,000
Its third rather than second place showing can be rationalized by the just under $10 million taken in before the weekend (numbers that otherwise would have largely shown up the first three days), but even a $30 million opening would have been below par for an animated release of this pedigree. With a $130 million budget, typical for a major DreamWorks Animation film, this is performing closer to their flop "Rise of the Guardians" late last year than their initial Fox release "The Croods," and also is weaker than Fox Animation's own "Epic" in May. The audience reaction seems to be fine (A from Cinemascore, A+ from under 25), so this has a chance of sustaining itself as kid audiences still have time to kill the rest of the summer, and with normal international multiples for animated being so high, this could still eke out success if everything breaks right. But this still is below par no matter how one looks at it.
What comes next: Expect Fox and Dream Works to continue to fight for attention for this.
4. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend: #2
$20,000,000 (-52%) in 3,491 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,729; Cumulative: $79,500,000
Though it fell just over 50%, Sony has to be pleased with the overall performance of this multi-star comedy sequel. After opening a bit better, the second weekend drop is about the same as the initial entry, which went on to gross $270 million worldwide. This might not quite that level, but unlike two early summer releases for the studio, this will make money.
What comes next: Adam Sandler has proven once again that in the right vehicle and with solid co-stars still has strong appeal.
5. Red 2 (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic score: 47
$18,500,000 in 3,016 theaters:; PSA: $6,134; Cumulative: $18,500,000
Performing well below the "Red" opening in October 2010--despite the elevated summer date (coming at a time with few alternatives aimed at its core older audience)-- this gross doesn't justify the increase in this sequel's budget, to $84 million. Saturday's gross did jump nicely from Friday (normal for a film with more adult appeal, but still suggesting a decent initial reaction), but this has a long way to go to match the first installment's domestic $90 million total gross (international brought in another $109 million).
Bringing back the impressive older cast from the first time (with only Anthony Hopkins as new blood) the sequel seemed to lack the surprise that helped "Red" catch fire. Notable among its cast is Bruce Willis, marking his seventh film in a year --and the fourth sequel.
Director Dean Parisot has had an eclectic career, mostly in TV, with previous forays into theatrical including "Galaxy Quest" and "Fun With Dick and Jane." This is busy producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura's fourth film of the year, after "The Last Stand," "Side Effects" and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."
What comes next: This will need to show some good word of mouth quickly in order to stick around for anything like the length "Red" did.
6. Pacific Rim (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #3
$15,955,000 (-57%) in 3,285 theaters (+10); PSA: $4,857; Cumulative: $68,235,000
An unhealthy drop from a disappointing opening for this nearly $200 million production, which now looks like it will struggle to hit $100 million domestically, far below what it needed even if it soars internationally.
What comes next: One more week in the top 10 at most.