Weekend Wrap-Up
Turtles, Guardians Prove Openers Expendable
By John Hamann
August 17, 2014

Murky TMNT Image #17.

Good thing the openers in the first two weekends of August were strong, as we have a couple of swings and misses this weekend. The Expendables weren't going to save anything with results like this.

The theoretical "big" opener this weekend was The Expendables 3, Sylvester Stallone’s third attempt to mine big money out of a bevy of aging action stars, this time adding Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson. For this third Expendables film, Lionsgate will be looking to stop the bleeding domestically and increase the take overseas. Opening at number one (at least on Wednesday) was Let’s Be Cops, the over-performing urban comedy with Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson. Our final new release was The Giver, a low-budget YA book adaption with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in supporting roles. While none of these new properties were out and out disasters, their blandness did leave room for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy to dominate for another weekend. Our two strong holdovers grossed more together than the three opening films did combined.

Yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles repeats at number one, and while it is only the fourth film to repeat on top this summer, a repeat winner in August is not new – just ask The Expendables, which did it with both the original and sequel (it obviously won’t happen again). In its second weekend, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earned another $28.4 million, and was off 57%. That’s a decent hold if you compare Turtles to a pop culture film like Godzilla, where the fanboys lit it up in weekend one, followed by a fairly severe drop of 67% in weekend two. Had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened with a higher box office total like Godzilla, I think we would have seen a similar result in this frame.

Still, for a film with a B Cinemascore and absolute evisceration from critics, this one has held up better than I thought it would. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, joining Maleficent and World War Z as other films that reached $100 million in eight days. Remember that the budget here is $125 million, so Paramount will likely need a $350 million worldwide result to claim a profit (worldwide marketing costs are a bitch these days). This is enough to create a franchise, so expect more Michael Bay ludicrousness two years from now. So far, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has earned $117.6 million domestically, and has about $67 million overseas.

Finishing second is Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s latest shot at world domination. Following a $42.1 million second weekend where Guardians fell 55%, Marvel and Disney were looking to bounce back a little in the film's third weekend and lift that percentage decline above the 50% mark. Guardians did just that this weekend, earning $24.7 million and falling a much better 41%. Guardians of the Galaxy will eclipse Transformers 4’s $242 million domestic total to become the biggest film of the summer (released between May 1st and Labor Day). It has already earned $222.3 million domestically - it crossed the $200 million mark on Friday, a day faster than Transformers 4. It has now grossed more than both Thor films and the first Captain America, which should give a strong indication of the impact this Marvel movie is having. Overseas, Guardians is also performing well. Guardians has earned almost $200 million overseas, and still has some big markets in Europe and Asia to conquer.

Third goes to Let’s Be Cops, the small comedy from Fox that is the real winner amongst the new films this weekend. Let’s Be Cops opened on Wednesday to a healthy $5.2 million, setting the pace for what would be a productive first five days of release. On Thursday, it dipped 39% to $3.2 million, but then bounced back up on Friday to $5.6 million on Friday, more than what it earned on its debut Wednesday. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, Cops earned $17.7 million, but once the Wednesday and Thursday is added in, that number comes up to $26.1 million. The result means that Let’s Be Cops out-grossed its $17 million production budget after only four days of release, and will be quickly profitable for Fox and its production companies. The movie stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as the pretend cops – Johnson is the one to watch, as he appears in Jurassic World next summer.

Finishing a sad fourth is The Expendables 3, the franchise we thought was only sagging until the third film opened and flopped. The Expendables 3 got started on Friday with only $5.9 million, a far cry from the $10 million plus opening days enjoyed by the two previous entries in the franchise. All of a sudden, this has gone from a sagging franchise to an implosion, as the smiles around the aging action star releases have turned into frowns in the form of angry reviews and lack of fan attention. This one took in only $16.2 million over the weekend proper, well off the opening weekends of the original ($34.8 million) and the sequel ($28.6 million). Did the pirated online version of Expendables 3 hurt its domestic box office? We will never really know, but this result will give the online piracy police another stick to wield.

The Expendables films have never been monstrous domestic hits. Instead, these action films are made for international audiences, those that still look back on Rambo as a glorious action hero. The first Expendables earned $171.4 million at the overseas box office, compared to the $103 million the original made in North America. The second Expendables was even bigger internationally, but did less stateside. It earned $220 million overseas, compared to the declining domestic take of $85 million.

Even with a somewhat disastrous North American debut for The Expendables 3 and a domestic total that will likely only reach $50 million, this $90 million feature will still find a profit for the shareholders at Lionsgate. If we assume a $225 million overseas haul and consider the A- Cinemascore (which is the best for an opening film this weekend), Stallone and friends may make out okay theatrically, and then find a real profit on home video. If that happens, I wouldn’t be gobsmacked if Expendables 4 made an appearance. Stallone needs the work, and the first two Expendables also made over $70 million from Blu-ray and DVD sales alone.

Fifth goes to The Giver, a film that feels like the 1,000th shot at success via a novel for young adults. Add this to the pile of titles that didn’t quite make it. The Giver, a film that has been in the works for almost 20 years, earned a small but respectable $12.8 million – respectable in the fact that it didn’t match the complete failure of YA adaptations like Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($9.3 million opening), The Host ($10 million debut) or Vampire Academy ($3.9 million opening). The Giver was made smartly, costing only $25 million to bring to the screen. If it picks up a few bucks overseas and its legs match the potential trajectory indicated by B+ Cinemascore, this one just may make it.

Sixth is Into the Storm, a film that got blown away during its second weekend at the box office. After opening to a decent $17.3 million last weekend, Into the Storm went into the cellar, earning only $7.7 million, good for a drop of 55%. Made for $50 million, this one is still going to be okay even when it doesn’t match its budget domestically, as overseas dollars should make up for the shortfall. So far, Into the Storm has earned $31.3 million.

Seventh is The Hundred Foot Journey, which held up well during this frame. After opening to $11 million last weekend, the Helen Mirren starrer earned another $7.1 million this weekend, declining a not bad 35% in the process. The adult drama has pulled in $23.6 million against its already small $22 million budget, putting it in a very good position going forward as it has yet to be released overseas.

Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, which is now in its fourth successful weekend, finished in eighth place. Lucy earned another $5.3 million, falling 44% and bringing its domestic total up to $107.5 million. It crossed the $100 million mark on Tuesday, its 19th day of release. Lucy has also picked up over $30 million overseas from only a handful of territories, doing it all against a budget of only $40 million.

Ninth is Step Up All In, which surprisingly stays in the top ten for two weekends. After debuting to a soft $6.5 million, Step Up All In dipped an expected 58% this weekend, earning $2.7 million. Its domestic total is now $11.8 million, but the money for this franchise is overseas. Step Up All In has earned $37 million overseas prior to the start of the weekend.

Tenth is the good news story of the week, as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – which is supposed to be strictly an art house film – made the top ten this weekend. Boyhood, Linklater’s critically adored 12-years-in-the-making masterpiece, earned $2.2 million from 771 venues this weekend. Made for only $4 million, Boyhood has already earned $13.8 million after six weekends of limited release. It also increased 9%, the only title in the top 10 to do so.

Overall, we are back to being stagnant at the summer box office. The top 12 films this weekend earned an estimated $128.8 million, which is a 6% increase from the same weekend in 2013’s total. Last year, the top 12 earned $121.4 million on the strength of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Next weekend brings three new titles, including Sin City: A Dame to Kill For from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, If I Stay, the teen drama with Chloë Grace Moretz, and the sports drama When The Game Stands Tall.