Weekend Forecast for August 9-11, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
August 9, 2013

Kids, you like buying cars that look like this. Buy planes too! Disney gotta pay for The Lone Ranger

As with last week, we're essentially through with the gigantic summer films, but we have a surprisingly deep roster – such that the sequel to an international hit is the low man on the totem poll of this weekend's four new films.

Two of them got a jump start on the weekend, with We're the Millers taking top spot on Wednesday with $6.8 million. Jason Sudekis' first real attempt to carry a film as a lead, Millers sees him as a low-level pot dealer roped into a scheme by a drug kingpin (a mincing Ed Helms) into importing a “smidge” of marijuana from Mexico. In order to cover his tracks, he creates a fake family from a stripper (Jennifer Aniston, in the least believable part of this movie), a runaway (Emma Roberts) and an impossibly nerdy and virginal neighbour (Will Poulter, who threatens to steal the movie straight away). Of course, because otherwise there'd be no movie, the pot proves to be a bit more in volume than advertised, and chaos ensues as the road trip back from Mexico starts to decay into chaos.

Warner Bros. is obviously hoping this becomes their 2013 version of The Hangover (as opposed to becoming The Hangover Part III). Wacky chaos loosely tied together with a “naughty” plot structure has proven itself to be a winner (it's Vince Vaughn's whole shtick, for instance) and the promise of a stripping Aniston is likely a good pull as well (though I mean really – if you think that's actually the “nudity” referred to in the rating, I have a bridge to sell you) The Wednesday figure of $6.8 million is a solid one, although not too spectacular. However, I don't think anyone's expecting all that much from Sudeikis, who to date has only had Horrible Bosses and Hall Pass as films where he was asked to do anything other than fill in comedy holes. This should extrapolate out to about $27 million this weekend.

Second up on the early opening is Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, sort of a Clash of the Titans for pre-teens, which makes me wonder exactly who Clash of the Titans was supposed to be for. The first film in this YA adaptation series opened in 2010 to a decent $31 million, but failed to get a lot of carry over. Internationally, the story is a bit different, and its $226 million worldwide total was enough to get this sequel made, albeit with a slightly less star-studded adult cast. Logan Lerman returns as the title character, the son of Poseidon, but instead of Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman, we have Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci. Which is not to denegrate Messrs. Fillion and Tucci, but James Bond they are not.

Wednesday's debut at $5.4 million puts it in a similar range with recent kids films The Smurfs 2 and Turbo – which aren't amazing places to find yourself, particularly if your budget is approaching nine figures. I'd expect a significant tail off from the first film's opening weekend to around $20 million here.

Which brings us to our heavier hitters. Back when Pixar sold (or at least leased with an option to buy) its soul by making Cars 2 for the toy money, we expected that was as low as things could get for the venerated animation studio. Technically that's still true, as it's parent company Disney that's behind the release of Planes, a spin-off movie that was originally destined for video, but pulled back into theaters because, again, toys.

Although the visuals are rather snazzy looking (an almost wordless trailer made the rounds that was admittedly gorgeous), we still exist in the same world where goofy jokes about planes being human-like are expected to serve as the hook. There's also a weird subplot about finding your own destiny shoved into here, but – and I don't want to bust anyone's bubble here – these are machines built for specific purposes. This is not “you can do anything if you really try hard enough” territory here.

Notably, we have Dane Cook (strike... whatever at this point) voicing the main character a crop duster (crops for whom? Shut up, it's a valid question) that's afraid of heights (oh COME ON) who enters a worldwide aerial race and yada yada triumph of the spirit and all that. Also lending voices here are Julia Louis-Deyfuss, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, John Cleese, Stacy Keach, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer (in a Top Gun bit) and a handful of others. As much as I've been down on this film in this write-up, I still expect it to win the weekend. Why? Ask a five-year-old. While it's strictly speaking not Pixar, for all intents and purposes it might as well be, and the visual style is unmistakably related to Cars. So while even though there was a big slide from Cars to Cars 2 in both quality and box office, Planes should be an able follow-up financially, with an opening weekend of about $40 million.

Finally, we have Elysium, the follow-up to District 9 by South African director Neill Blomkamp. It posits a world where the ultra-rich have left Earth for an orbiting space station paradise (in the title) with no disease and no want, leaving the rest of the world (oh, let's say 99% of us) to forage for the scraps left behind. A robotic police force keeps things in line and only occasionally all the time goes too far into tyranny. Matt Damon plays a reformed car thief working in a miserable factory job. He becomes accidentally exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. In the time he has left, he hatches a plan – get up to Elysium and take the cure out of an icy Jodie Foster's (but I repeat myself) hands – and maybe in the process bring the whole place down.

How to get up there when the station has a considerable Death Star-esque defence mechanism? Why, borrow a robotic exo-skeleton from one of the station's own enforcers and override the system (so, blindingly obvious social metaphor, check; body horror, check). Cue the awesome explosions and gun battles. Much of the hype for Elysium is based on the extraordinary achievement that was District 9 – telling a great story amidst cracker-jack action scenes with a dash of humor in them. That his follow-up has been relegated to August isn't a fantastic sign, although studios simply don't know what to do with non-franchisable films these days.

Surprisingly, for all his fame, Matt Damon has been a long time without a hit he can really call his own. True Grit had only a little to do with him, and we probably have to go back to The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. Which isn't to say that We Bought a Zoo or The Adjustment Bureau were flops, exactly, but neither did they live up to his fame. Elysium looks to be the right blend of topic and star to give him another – if not quite at the Bourne level. Something similar to District 9's opening weekend, or around $35 million, seems likely.

Denzel Washington was his Denzel-y self with 2 Guns, bringing Marky Mark along for the ride for a $27 million opening weekend. This is pretty smack in the middle of things as far as Washington's openings go. As such, a sort of middle-of-the-road performance of $16 million for the second weekend should be in store.

The Wolverine couldn't escape its comic-ness, dropping 60% to $21 million in its second weekend, though it's since passed the $100 million mark mid-week.These days, it seems like a B-rating for a comic movie is as good as an F. I'd give it $12 million this weekend.

Something that feels like a battle being won occurred with the opening weekend of Smurfs 2 being only $17 million. While there's still the international box office to contend with, that's a soft enough opening that it'll give pause for the idea of Smurfs 3, and perhaps even other lazy kids' franchise movies. I can hope for about $9 million for a second weekend.

Going further down the list, we have The Conjuring, a pure profit machine for Warners, and earning about $8 million this frame, as well as Despicable Me 2, in what is now a positively stacked kids' market, with $7 million.