While other films this summer might have more direct dollars at stake, this weekend's biggest new film may have the most to say about a studio's long term strategy than any other this season. It's a bit of a “follow the leader” strategy, but one that could lead to billions in revenue and the resurrection of number of beloved characters.
Weekend Forecast for June 14-16, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
June 13, 2013
Man of Steel is Warner Bros' latest attempt to bring back the Superman brand, which if you go back, has really never recovered as a film franchise from Superman III, let alone the all-world badness of Quest for Peace. In 2006, Superman Returns tried to pretend those films never existed, and the thought was that a semi-reboot with a capable comic book director (in Bryan Singer) could bring people back to the franchise. All they had to do was make a good film and people would come. In some respects, that's still an untested theory, since Singer's Superman turned him into a peeping-tom deadbeat dad and the plot remains entirely unmemorable to this day (something about real estate?).
So, WB has turned to the man who saved their other big comic franchise, Christopher Nolan – albeit by proxy, as he's writing and producing this one, with directing duties going to Zach Snyder, he of Dawn of the Dead (that's good) and Sucker Punch (that's bad). The notion seems here to be that dark is the way to go, a la the ultra-gritty Batman reboot, with Man of Steel focusing on the outcast nature of the character. As well, the action and consequences seem to be ramped up to 11, with General Zod being brought in as the villain and threatening to destroy the planet in his quest to bring Superman back to Krypton.
One wonders if dark is really the way to go with Superman, who is, after all, a character that traditionally represents justice and light (the trailers go a little heavy on this, turning him into Superman-Jesus for a while). It's a franchise that's been represented by bright colors, and it's being turned drab. Nolan's ear for story is well regarded, but is this a one-size-fits-all process being applied too thickly? At least the super-fight scenes look appropriate epic and clash of gods-like.
We haven't even gotten into the casting yet, which is arguably the least important part of this project. Did anyone care that Christian Bale was Batman? I didn't think so. But anyway, Henry Cavill, of no particularly great previous roles, steps into the blue outfit (sans underoos), with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as Zod (perhaps the best casting move of this entire project), and Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne in other iconic roles. It's enough to establish credibility for the film, but no one's really coming to this because of who plays Perry White.
They might have legitimate reasons to be confused about why they're coming to it, as WB has decided to carpet blanket the media with several different types of trailers, each trying to sell a different angle on the film. This is often a huge, huge problem, as audiences like clear notions of what a film is about (“it's about Superman!” doesn't count). Superman Returns had a similar problem, and got just a $52 million opening as its reward. Now, the Nolan name means a lot to comic movies at this point, and the trailers that work really work, but some of the exuberant expectations here remind me a lot of 2006, with Superman fans just assuming that they belong in the top tier. That fandom still has to earn its way back. With an ultra-wide opening in 4,200-plus venues, Man of Steel should slot itself in between some of the mega comic openings and the second-tier Phase 1 Marvel movies, with around $92 million.
The Wednesday opening is usually a terrible idea for films – unless you're trying to build word of mouth. Such is the tactic that This Is The End is taking, one of the approximately 476 apocalypse-themed comedies coming out this year. This one's almost a meta example of the genre, with Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride playing themselves – or more correctly, exaggerated versions of the public personas, holing up in Franco's gigantic new mansion after the Rapture strikes. Part Jay and Silent Bob, part Harold and Kumar, and part Shaun of the Dead, this sees the relationships among the six slowly deteriorate as they get on each other's nerves in the confined space, and as L.A. Burns around them.
The film is filled to the brim with Hollywood in-jokes (and gets set in motion at a party filled with cameoing celebs eagerly puncturing their typecasting), and also an “anything goes” mentality, where co-directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg famously got everyone in the cast but Franco to tap out on a scene (do you know what this means? Danny McBride has a line. I know, I'm shocked too). It's this angle and the very-very-very R-rated level of comedy that's the appeal, and it should play very well. Already with about $8 million in the bank from Wednesday opening, this should openly solidly to $33 million, and could have a Hangover-type run.
So... The Purge. Yeah, I blew that one. But then, again so did just about everyone else, as the clearly-laid out home invasion premise really resonated with audiences, to the tune of $34 million. It's clear that we missed that was really being perceived as a horror film, and it's that audience that pushed it over the top. That's a pretty fickle audience, however, and it should follow up that first weekend with a steep drop to a $15 million second frame.
Now You See Me showed a decent amount of legs in its second weekend by dropping to just $19 million – such are standards that a twisty film that doesn't completely fall apart in the end is viewed as a positive. The final total on this one is still up in the air a bit, but as much as $150 million isn't out of range. It should bring in about $14 million this frame.
By the time you read this, Fast and Furious 6 will be the highest grossing film in the series, with around $210 million domestic, passing by Fast Five, and will still have a significant amount left to run. This most unlikeliest of franchises is well on track for its seventh outing and you can either deal with that or go hide in a shack in Montana. Give it $10 million more for this weekend.
The Internship's $17 million isn't that bad, all things considered, with one of those things being that it looks completely terrible. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are floundering a bit, but that this film wasn't a total flop shows that their names still have a bit of punch. They just have to find a project that's not horribly dated. It should fall to around $9 million this weekend.
Further down the charts, we have Epic inching towards $100 million, an underwhelming figure for a summer family film, with around $7 million, Star Trek Into Darkness with about the same, and After Earth limping in with $5 million.