July 20, 2013



OPENINGS:  THE CONJURING (Warners) is off to a great start with a $17M opening day (including $3.3M from Thursday evening), but its real test comes today.  Horror movies tend to be very frontloaded and plunge on their second day of release:  this year, Mama was an exception, rising 7% on Saturday (and parlaying a $10.1M opening day to a $71.6M total), but Texas Chainsaw fell 23%, Evil Dead dropped 26%, and The Purge plummeted 38%.  If Conjuring can generate strong word of mouth–and reviews/exit polls suggest it might–it has a chance to get past $100M before it’s done.  Even if it does fall today, it’s already a big hit, and probably the start of a franchise.  Who would have thought that, between Bates Motel (for which she was Emmy-nominated this week) and The Conjuring, Vera Farmiga would become America’s biggest horror star?  

TURBO (DreamWorks Animation/20th) was too weak a project to slot into the narrow space between Despicable Me 2 and The Smurfs 2, and it’s heading for a $20-25M weekend.  It would have fared better in spring or fall, when the family pickings are leaner.  But DreamWorks needs to have a summer presence if it’s to be a major animation player, so there it went.  The movie will hope for greener pastures overseas, where The Croods recently made 68% of its total box office, but even if Turbo can do the same, it’s not likely to do more than break even.

RED 2 (Lionsgate/Summit) opened $1M below the 2010 original at $6.3M, and since sequels are usually frontloaded (and the first RED opened in October, when there are fewer releases and a mid-level performer can hold onto its theatres more easily), it’s unlikely to get near that movie’s $90.4M total.  RED also didn’t get much of a foreign bump, although sequels tend to do better overseas (international audiences love brand names), so RED 2 may make up some of the difference there.  In any case, with production/marketing costs in the neighborhood of $200M for this one, a RED 3 probably isn’t in the cards.

Studios employ vast armies of research and marketing people to make sure that audiences are at least potentially interested in a future movie before a green-light for hundreds of millions of dollars is approved.  Somehow, though, R.I.P.D. (Universal) got through the cracks, and with a $4.8M start, it’s evident that absolutely no one wanted to see it.  Universal is otherwise having such a great summer that it won’t be too damaged by the failure, but the already-dented Ryan Reynolds won’t be starring in any major studio tentpoles for a while.

HOLDOVERS:  DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) again dominated, having put Monsters University and now Turbo in its rear-view mirror as it prepares to top $275M by the end of the weekend.  GROWN UPS 2 (Sony) had a mediocre hold, down 61% from last Friday and likely only to reach $120M or so, which will leave little profit on $200M in production/marketing costs.  PACIFIC RIM (Warners/Legendary) is done in the US, down 68% from last Friday and fumbling to even reach a $100M total.  The movie was made to be strong overseas, and now it’ll have to be.  THE HEAT (20th) was down a mere 34% from last Friday, and WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) fell 45% to a likely $5M weekend, with a long $16.7M still separating it from a US total of $200M.  Similarly, it looks like MAN OF STEEL (Warners) won’t hit $300M and THIS IS THE END (Sony) won’t quite make it to $100M.

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) and FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) both expanded well, with Back heading for a $7K per-theatre average at 304 (compared with a $9K average for last year’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel when it hit 354 theatres), and Fruitvale a $20K+ average at 34.  New arrivals were less impressive, as the Kristen Wiig vehicle GIRL MOST LIKELY (Roadside) probably won’t do better than a $3K average at 353, the atrociously-reviewed ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius/Weinstein) perhaps a $5K average at 75 (the latter is also available on VOD).  The controversial documentary BLACKFISH (Magnolia), though, is off to a good start with a likely $20K average at 4.

NEXT WEEKEND:  Everyone is steering clear of THE WOLVERINE (20th), one of the last mega-movies of the summer.  On the indie side, attention will be dominated by Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics).

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."