July 13, 2013



What kind of summer movie season has it been, really?  For the past several weeks, business has been consistently up, erasing the losses from a soft spring, and even with 3D, Imax and inflation taken into account, more tickets are being sold.  But this marks the fourth consecutive weekend that an expensive, high-profile summer movie will struggle just to break even, with Pacific Rim joining World War Z, White House Down and The Lone Ranger.  (And that’s not even counting After Earth and The Internship earlier in the season.)  We’ll be taking a studio-by-studio look at the summer beginning tomorrow, but despite all those crowds at the multiplexes, there’s still something out-of-kilter about where the business is and where it may be going.

OPENINGS:  The Adam Sandler fans showed up for GROWN UPS 2 (Sony), giving the sequel a $16.3M opening day and a potential $45M weekend, bigger than the original’s $40.5M.  Whether the new installment will match the original’s impressive 4x multiple (it reached $162M in the US, plus another $109.4M overseas) is unknown. As comedies go, Grown Ups 2 wasn’t inexpensive, with costs (including worldwide marketing) that will likely come to $200M and with a big chunk off the top for Sandler as star and producer, so ultimate profitability isn’t clear yet either.

PACIFIC RIM (Warners/Legendary) never managed to attract wide interest out of its core genre fan audience, and really the movie itself makes little concession to non-obsessives.  It’s Scott Pilgrim Vs the World all over again, but at triple the budget.  With a $14.6M opening day, a weekend under $40M and a US total not much past $100M may be in store, making Pacific yet another summer spectacle that will need wild overperformance overseas just to pay the bills (in this case, relying particularly hard on Asia).  Don’t buy your tickets for the sequel just yet.

HOLDOVERS:  DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) fell a reasonable 56% from last Friday to $13.4M, will pass $200M in the US by the end of today is already over $400M worldwide, and may very well take the weekend title once the matinee crowd shows up today.  All this at a budget less than Grown Up 2’s.  (And Steve Carell doesn’t have the piece of Despicable 2 that Sandler has of his movie.)  It doesn’t get any better, from a studio point of view.

And it doesn’t get any worse than THE LONE RANGER (Disney), which plummeted 68% from last Friday to $3.4M.  The only question now is whether the Disney write-off will equal the $200M the studio lost on John Carter, or if Johnny Depp’s international appeal will cut the agony a bit.  Depp, for his part, was quick to make it known this week that not only is Pirates 5 on the horizon, so is Alice in Wonderland 2.  It costs a lot to maintain a private island these days.

Kevin Hart’s LET ME EXPLAIN (Lionsgate) fell 57% from last Friday to $1.6M, not at all bad for a movie with a tiny production budget and marketing costs.  It’ll top $30M in theatres and should do well on VOD and homevideo as well.

THE HEAT (20th) had the best hold of the long-runners, down 51% from last Friday to $4.2M and over $100M already–and notably, at a budget reportedly just more than half of Grown Up 2‘s, despite Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in the starring roles.  It should come close to breaking even in the US alone, with international (the overseas rollout has just started) mostly profit.  The same can’t be said for WORLD WAR Z (Paramount), which fell 57% to $2.8M for the day and probably won’t get to $200M in the US.  WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Sony) is already dead, down another 61% to $1.8M and with little likelihood of exceeding $75M domestically.  MAN OF STEEL (Warners) is certainly in better shape, with $277.5M after a $1.3M Friday (down 66%), but depending on what happens in Brazil and Japan (the only major territories left to open), its profits may still be marginal.  MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney/Pixar) fell another 55% to a $3.3M Friday, and will end up well behind Despicable 2 as the summer’s big animated hit.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The excellent FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) is off to a great start, with what should be a $50K per-theatre average for the weekend in 7 NY/LA/San Francisco theatres.  That number is somewhat boosted by filmmaker Q&As, but it’s still very strong.  THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) expanded fairly well to 79 theatres with perhaps a $12.5K per-theatre average for the weekend, not equal to art-house hits like Moonrise Kingdom ($16K average at 96) or Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($15K at 178), but not bad.  The offbeat road movie THE CRYSTAL FAIRY (IFC) started well (it’s also on VOD) with what should be a $15K weekend average at 2.

NEXT WEEKEND:  TURBO (DreamWorks Animation/20th) arrives on Wednesday to give some cartoon competition to Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University.  On Friday, the openings are less spectacular than what we’ve been getting since May:  undead-cops comedy R.I.P.D. (Universal), seniors-with-guns sequel RED 2 (Summit/Lionsgate), and horror thriller THE CONJURING (Warners).  There’s also an unusually high-profile VOD release (in some theatres as well), ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius/TWC), which reteams Ryan Gosling with his Drive director Nicolas Winging Refn, and which premiered at Cannes.




About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."