Barring yet another groundswell surprise, August box office should be back to normal this weekend, with mediocre movies once again opening to mediocre levels. Order in entertainment inevitably reasserts itself, and maybe we can just pretend these last two weeks were a bit of a fever dream.
Weekend Forecast for August 15-17, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
August 15, 2014
Leading the way with a Wednesday debut is Let's Be Cops, a film with not the greatest timing in the world, though I'm not convinced current events will have any real effect on the situation. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. play a couple of down on their luck idiots who dress as police for a costume party, and thanks to the reaction they get after being mistaken for real officers, decide to keep up the illusion. Answering real calls as fake police is, like, really illegal and stuff, but what's even worse is when they get involved in a high stakes drug trafficking sting with a Mexican drug lord (Andy Garcia, who I really would have thought had better things to do).
I know what you're saying – weirdest episode of New Girl ever, right? That it's an overblown sitcom seems to be both part of its charm and a big flaw in the film, with a fairly amateurish feel to the whole production. Or maybe a buddy cop movie without the cops, the kind of thing John Candy made when his career was struggling. Reviews savage it, but the trailers do have some genuinely funny moments, which may be enough to fool audiences for a short time. The jury's already in to some extent, with a $4 million Wednesday figure, which should translate into about $16 million for the weekend. For a comedy from a couple of untested leads, that's probably enough to be satisfied with, but just imagine if the movie had been good.
Four years ago, when the first Expendables movie was released, traditional action was in a pretty terrible place, and it looked like it needed this 80s throwback with ALL THE ACTION HEROS to make it come alive again. The last year or so finds the action genre in a much better place (indeed, with even a weekend with two simultaneous hits), so The Expendables 3 arrives in a market that really no longer needs it and may find it, uh, superfluous.
Where the first two movies were about a group of over the hill mercenaries being dragged out of retirement, this film seems to turn a bit inward, dealing with a threat to the Expendables team from one of its founders, played by Mel Gibson, who seems to be embracing the villain part of his career, or maybe just the fact that he might have one again. But in addition to the now familiar roster of Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Crews and Schwarzenegger, we get an appearance by just about every actor over the age of 50 who's ever held a gun in a movie, like Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, and for some reason, Kelsey Grammer. There's also a nod to younger action with MMA star Ronda Rousey and Twilight himbo Kellan Lutz.
However, the novelty of this concept has largely worn off, and the movies themselves have been nothing special. While it's just a trend of one movie so far, the decline in domestic box office with a corresponding jump in foreign receipts seems to tell that story. I would not be shocked to see that trend continue, and the opening weekend for this franchise, which started at $34 million in 2010, should trickle down to about $23 million this weekend.
Lastly, we have The Giver, an adaptation of a young adult novel that came out well before the recent uptick in franchise young adult novels. The film is set in a dystopian future where humanity has been drugged into a compliant state of community. Really hammering home the metaphor, even color has been removed from the world. One young man journeys to the “end of the world” and discovers an old hermit who is apparently guarding all the world's remaining knowledge, including the fact that there is any other knowledge to gain. Taking this back in secret, he recruits his (chaste) sweetheart into his confidence, and starts something akin to a revolution by arguing for the idea of choice, even if they're “wrong” choices.
If this sounds a bit like the plot for Divergent, well, you're not wrong, except this book got there first. Starring the blandly attractive Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush in the teen roles, with a pair of Oscar winners (Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep) in conflicting adult roles, plus a solid supporting cast (Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift for some reason), it's got all the elements of a sleeper hit. Except, you know, for the sizable population of people that would want to see it. The book falls more into the “classic” pile, at least as far as its core audience is concerned, and not nearly enough has been done to hype the film to this audience, though one wonders if the Weinstein Company even has the juice to push to the level of a Divergent (and forget The Hunger Games). Part of the fault could be the stilted feel the film has, though when you're dealing with a film about the end of emotion, that's kind of a requirement. Perhaps it's good characterization, but it's not the most enticing thing to portray ever.
Particularly as it's a one-off, this is going to struggle to capture a large audience or break out of its demographics. That it's been made at all is something of a win, but it's also a testament to timeliness, as it opens to around $13 million.
This leaves the box office open to a second weekend of domination by *sigh* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which earned a dominant $65 million last weekend. Even if we think it was ridiculously front-loaded (which it likely was), and even if you give it an uncharitable word-of-mouth factor, in a “worst” case scenario, it still earns about $27 million this weekend. I'd add on a few more million for safety's sake, but even with that it's quite fairly an unqualified financial success for a franchise thought long dead.
Marvel's successful attempt to make “fetch” happen, Guardians of the Galaxy, should fall back to third with $21 million, but could challenge for second on the weekend if The Expendables proves even weaker than expected. The race is now on between it and Captain America for the 2014 box office crown, or at least to be the clubhouse leader.
The Hundred-Foot Journey, aka an attempt to throw something of cultural value out there, debuted to a decent $11 million. A Snobs vs Slobs movie in culinary form, it's the sort of non-controversial feel-good film that has a decent, run, makes some Oscar noise and is vaguely remembered in years to come, like Chocolat, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It should find about $8 million this weekend.
Into The Storm's attempt to recapture the magic of Twister was an underwhelming performer at $17 million, thanks in no small part, I'd think, to having it's thunder stolen by cheap TV disaster movies. I'd like to say it's because we're more sophisticated as a movie audience now, but... I also think that how poorly the reputation of Twister has aged played heavily into this performance. We've grown a bit tired of these kinds of empty, plotless spectacles, but not spectacles themselves. Give it $7 million this weekend.