August 4, 2013



OPENINGS:  With a $27.4M start, 2 GUNS (Universal) is probably headed for $85M in the US, a fair if unexciting return for a movie that claims to have (post-tax credits) a $61M production budget.  With Universal taking its marketing expenses and distribution fees off the top, there won’t be much profit for financiers Emmett-Furia and Foresight Entertainment.

Underperformance in the US for THE SMURFS 2 (Sony) ($27.7M in its first 5 days and $18.2M for the weekend, compared to $35.6M for the 1st 3 days of the original Smurfs) wasn’t entirely unexpected.  But a shortfall overseas could be a serious blow to the franchise, and its initial $52.5M in 43 foreign territories is a much bigger disappointment.  Even though there are still some major territories like China and Italy still to open, worldwide the movie could end up at less than $400M, compared to $563.7M for the first installment.

HOLDOVERS:  THE WOLVERINE (20th) had no staying power, dropping 59% in its 2d weekend to $21.7M, with $135M likely in store, a big chunk less than the $179.9M earned by the last Wolverine standalone.  Its overseas $38.2M isn’t much to shout about either ($159M so far outside the US), although China and Japan, which should be giant for the Asian-set adventure, are still to open.  The only reason its eventual $450M or so worldwide will look good is because Fox was smart enough to keep the budget down.

Thinking of Asian-set adventures, PACIFIC RIM (Warners) is near death in the US (a $4.6M weekend for $93M, likely to expire after hitting $100M), but the Chinese audience showed up in droves, giving it a giant $45.2M in 5 days.  It’s important to note, though, that this number isn’t nearly as good as it looks–the Chinese government only gives US studios 25% of ticket revenues (compared to 55% in the US), and right now the studios aren’t even getting that, because they’ve been locked for 9 months in acrimonious discussions about a further 2% withholding from box office returns, and China has frozen all that revenue for now.  So the Chinese box office, much like Pacific Rim itself, is more CG magic than real.  Still, big numbers are better than small ones, and Pacific Rim is at $200M overseas, with Japan among the territories yet to open.

Neither THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) nor FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) is looking like a world-beater, with respective per-theatre averages of $2800 and $2500.  Way Back added over 100 theatres and still fell 17% for the weekend, while Fruitvale dropped 41%.  Still, US totals over $20M are possible for both, and that could put them on top of this year’s indies for now.

THE CONJURING (Warners) is enjoying some of the best word of mouth of any recent horror movie, down just 39% in its 3rd weekend to $13.7M, with $108.6M in the bank.  With Bates Motel and Conjuring to her name, Vera Farmiga can lay claim to being Hollywood’s newest Scream Queen.  DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) shrugged off the arrival of The Smurfs 2, slipping just 37% from last weekend to $10.4M.  It has $326.7M in the US and $387M overseas, and may reach $750M worldwide before it’s done.  No such luck for TURBO (DreamWorks Animation/20th), which dropped 53% to $6.4M and a $69.5M US total, plus $55.3M overseas.  Despite Jeffrey Katzenberg’s assurances, it’s looking like a worldwide flop.  Other long runs held well, including GROWN UPS 2 (Sony) down 30% to $8.1M, RED 2 (Lionsgate/Summit) down 40% to $5.7M, and THE HEAT (20th) down 32% to $4.7M,

LIMITED RELEASE:  BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) survived its first expansion with ease, outgrossing Midnight In Paris at a parallel point in release with a superb $40K average at 50 theatres.  (Midnight had “only” a $33K average at 58.)  Sony Classics has set out a measured pace for the movie’s expansion, not reaching wide release until the end of August, and while it’s still unlikely that the much more serious Jasmine can reach Midnight‘s heights, it’s off to as good a start as the studio could have hoped.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW (A24) launched with an excellent $50K average at 4 theatres, and although that number was boosted by numerous Q&As with cast and filmmakers over the weekend, it still proves that A24 can successfully start a movie much less splashy than its previous Spring Breakers and Bling Ring–and Spectacular Now is by far the best of that trio.  It’s unclear why BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Sony Pictures Classics) made another push into 226 theatres, but whatever the strategy was, it didn’t work–the blah per-theatre average was $752.  Like every other attempt to resuscitate Lindsay Lohan’s career, THE CANYONS (IFC) got media attention completely out of proportion to tickets sold, as it debuted with $15K at 1 theatre (the “movie” is really a VOD release, and those numbers aren’t made public.)  And MUD (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate) finally managed, just days before its homevideo release, to edge ahead of The Place Beyond the Pines by $45K and claim top indie of the year so far with $21.448M–a title it may well lose quickly to Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station or Blue Jasmine, not to mention all the “adult” fall movies that are just weeks away.




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."