August 10, 2013



Sheer tonnage is keeping the total box office aloft, but on a movie-by-movie basis, things aren’t nearly as rosy.

OPENINGS:  Unless things collapse today, ELYSIUM (TriStar/Sony) will do doubt report a $30M weekend tomorrow after $11.2M on Friday.  But that will be subject to downward adjustment on Monday, and in any case, it’s yet another disappointing start for a sci-fi epic.  With $250M in total costs (a very reasonable $115M production budget plus worldwide marketing), Elysium will open 20% below the start for director Neill Blomkamp’s $30M District 9, despite the presence of Matt Damon in the lead, and will struggle to reach even $100M in the US.  (Pacific Rim opened with a $14.6M Friday and is clawing its way to get there.)  It will need–sing it along with me–foreign overperformance merely to break even.

If this summer has taught us–and the studios–anything, it’s that you can have too many fantasy spectacles and family movies.  PLANES (Disney), coming after a barrage of Despicable Me 2, Turbo and The Smurfs 2 in the last month, had a $8.1M Friday and probably a $24M weekend.  It’s the first of that pack not to open on a Wednesday, so Friday-to-Friday comparisons aren’t applicable, but that’s a puny start.  However, even if Planes doesn’t reach $100M in the US, it’s assured a profit, because of its comparatively bargain-basement production cost (it was originally produced with direct-to-homevideo in mind) of $50M.

WE’RE THE MILLERS (Warners), which opened on Wednesday, had a solid $8.5M Friday, on its way to a $27M weekend and $38-39M in its first 5 days.  With a production cost of just $37M (although that becomes $150M with marketing added), the high-concept R-rated comedy is well on its way to profit, putting Jennifer Aniston in contention for the all-time record in successful mediocrities, which may be as good a definition as any of “movie star.”

It was never clear why PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th) even existed, with a worldwide $226M for its first installment ($88.8M in the US), and the new chapter’s $4.9M underscores that question.  It will probably have a $15M weekend and $24M in its first 5 days, with not much more than $50M likely here.  Even if it matches the first movie with foreign overperformance, it still won’t get close to recouping its $200M (including marketing) investment.

HOLDOVERS:  2 GUNS (Universal) is looking like a rare box office disappointment for Denzel Washington, plunging 66% from last Friday to $3.4M (in comparison, the 2d Friday for Safe House fell only 52%, Unstoppable dropped just 49% and even The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 was down 61%).  2 Guns is headed for a $10-11M weekend and won’t reach $75M in the US.  THE SMURFS 2 (Sony) opened on a Wednesday, so Friday-to-Friday comparisons are bound to be better, but it had a good hold, dropping just 43% from last week to $3.1M.  Still, that will only give it a likely$10M weekend and  US total of $70M or so, less than half the $142M earned by the first blue-creature movie.  Even with triple that performance overseas (which the first Smurfs had), it’s looking like a middling franchise at best.

THE WOLVERINE (20th) continued straight down, off 63% from last Friday to $2.4M.  It’s headed for around $130M in the US, $50M less than the last Wolverine standalone, although with its Asian setting, it’s on track to perform much better overseas.  THE CONJURING (Warners) and DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) continue as two of the biggest hits of the summer, on their respective ways to $125M and $350M in the US.

Both THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) and FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) shed about 20% of their theatres this weekend, and they dropped a respective 40% and 44% from last Friday.  Each is headed for a weekend in the neighborhood of $1.5M, and Way Back has a chance of making it to $20M, while Fruitvale looks like it won’t get quite that far.

LIMITED RELEASE:  Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) continues to coast through its expansions, now up to 120 theatres with what should be a $20K per-theatre weekend average.  That’s comparable with Midnight In Paris ($19K average at 147) and better than Moonrise Kingdom ($13K average at 178) and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($15K average at 178).  Lake Bell’s directing debut IN A WORLD… (Roadside Attractions) rode strong reviews to what should be a nice start with a $25K average at 3 theatres.  However, the VOD-available LOVELACE (Radius/TWC) and PRINCE AVALANCHE (Magnolia) are finding no takers in theatres, with likely weekend averages of $2K at 108 and $3K at 14.

NEXT WEEKEND:  We’re now in the flotsam and jetsam part of the summer, and the motley group of openings includes the sequel KICK ASS 2 (Universal), thriller PARANOIA (Relativity) and biography JOBS (Open Road).  THE BUTLER (Weinstein) will attempt to kick-start an early fall prestige season in the way that The Help successfully did a couple of Augusts ago.  A pair of Sundance titles will hit limited release:  the neo-Malickian AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC) and gimmicky rom-com AUSTENLAND (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."