August 17, 2013



OPENINGS:  Comparisons between THE BUTLER (Weinstein) and The Help 2 years ago are somewhat skewed by the fact that Help opened on a Wednesday, so it had already earned $9.9M before its $26M weekend.  Nevertheless, an $8.3M Friday and probably a $22-25M weekend is excellent for Butler, whose next hurdle will be to show if it can reach beyond a potentially frontloaded core audience.  Incidentally, it’s not clear if Butler, with its $30M budget and nearly 3000 theater release, counts as an “indie,” but if it is, by the end of this weekend it’ll be the biggest of the year, likely to roll past Mud‘s $21.6M.

The bet on KICK-ASS 2 (Universal)–that the first movie’s success on homevideo would translate into higher ticket sales for a sequel, the way DVD/online viewing doubled last week’s rating for Breaking Bad‘s season premiere–seems to have failed, with KA2‘s $5.8M Friday running 25% below the $7.7M opening day for its predecessor (and the new one had the benefit of Thursday night screenings).  Now the question is whether it can even break even, and unless the franchise sparks some serious overseas interest, that’s unlikely despite KA2‘s relatively low $30M production budget and restrained marketing.

Who wanted to see Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs?  Hardly anyone, and the downbeat reviews (25% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) closed the coffin.  With a $2.6M Friday, JOBS (Open Road) is probably headed for a $7M weekend and perhaps a $20M total.

And then there’s PARANOIA (Relativity), which rode its 2% Rotten Tomatoes score (that’s 1 positive review out of 54, for those scoring at home) to a $1.3M Friday.  It’ll be lucky to hit $4M for the weekend and $10M total, on a production budget of $40M.  Paranoia will fade from memory almost instantly, but where it might have some lasting effect is in gauging Harrison Ford’s box office value in the new character actor phase of his career.  His presence seems to have done zero for audience appeal, which could cut his price as a non-leading man (or maybe he just shouldn’t have shaved his head for the part).

HOLDOVERS:  WE’RE THE MILLERS (Warners) isn’t going anywhere, down just 36% from last Friday to $5.4M.  It should be close to $70M by the end of this weekend, and now looks as though it will top $100M–and even has a chance of beating The Hangover Part III‘s $112.2M US total.

The rest of last week’s openings are a lot more grim.  Any hope of ELYSIUM (TriStar/Sony) finding a second wave of older viewers on Weekend 2 ended with its 65% plunge from last Friday to $3.9M.  It’s only going to end up with about $75M in the US, and will need strong foreign support to avoid red ink.  That’s even more true of PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th), down 49% from last Friday to $2.5M, and headed for perhaps $55M in the US, two-thirds of what the first Percy Jackson made and with production/marketing costs of $200M.  PLANES (Disney) was down an even sharper 56% from its opening day to $3.6M, but because of its relatively low $50M production budget and the foreign/merchandising appeal of CG animation, it should still be a comfortable money-maker.

2 GUNS (Universal) will end up with around $70M in the US, at the low (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Deja Vu, The Manchurian Candidate) end of Denzel Washington’s action movie scale.  THE SMURFS 2 (Sony) is a flat-out disaster in the US, likely to total just $65M, less than half of the original’s $142.6M.  It’s doing much better overseas ($110M so far), but with $300M in production/marketing costs, it may be grasping for break-even rather than raking in profits.  PACIFIC RIM (Warners) will likely hit $100M in the US and promptly die of exhaustion–with $350M in total costs, it’s struggling, its $247M foreign total much less robust than it sounds because it’s disproportionately from China, where studios are allowed to keep only 25% of ticket revenue.   Both THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) and FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) lost about 40% of their theatres this week, and it seems now as though neither will reach a $20M total, with Way Back closer to the mark.

LIMITED RELEASE:  Two Sundance movies had merely OK openings.  AUSTENLAND (Sony Pictures Classics) might reach a $12K average at 4 theatres, and AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC) will try to stretch to a $10K average at 3.  Another Sundancer, IN A WORLD… (Roadside) expanded to 37 theatres with a decent $5K average.  BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) hit the first sign of a wall on its expansion, as it almost doubled its run to 229 theatres but still fell 15% from last Friday.  That will leave it with a weekend per-theatre average of perhaps $9K, still very good, but a notch below The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($9K average at 354) and Moonrise Kingdom ($8600 average at 395).  Note:  Midnight In Paris had a slightly different release pattern and went directly from 147 theatres–with a $19K average–to 944.

NEXT WEEKEND:  Is there room for audience hearts for one more YA franchise?  Sony, which desperately needs some good news this summer, is sure hoping so, as THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems/Sony) makes its debut on Wednesday.  It’s followed on Friday by the niche horror comedy THE WORLD’S END (Focus/Universal) and the horror not-comedy YOU’RE NEXT (Lions Gate).  Limited release will welcome Wong Kar-Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER (Weinstein) and the superb indie SHORT TERM 12 (Cinedigm), an exquisite little movie that could find itself swallowed up by more easily promotable titles.


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."