Weekend Forecast for August 22-24, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
August 22, 2014

That's...not Clive Owen.

If there was any question about the box office season having turned, this results from this weekend should settle that completely, with a distinct step down from even this summer's modest results into a a typical fall-like picture. No one's firing their best shots into the pre-Labor Day period, so it's in large part self-inflicted, but gaudy box office figures will be absent for a couple of months.

Not quite a decade ago, a trio of directors collected together on a passion project, adapting Frank Miller's hyper-violent and hyper-stylized graphic novel Sin City. A revolution in digital filmmaking, it was like nothing else that had even been seen on the big screen, and even with a cast distinctly low on wattage (the whole thing was anchored by Mickey freaking Rourke), it managed a solid $29 million opening weekend (a fortune for an ostensibly independent film at the time) and $75 million total. Because it's based on a comic, there's never just one story to adapt, and the concept is back with A Dame To Kill For.

Again an anthology of loosely connected stories that revel in the muck and the mire of a thoroughly corrupt and corrupted city's underworld, A Dame To Kill For works hard to earn its R rating, both with violence and nudity. The stylized look of the film, once a revelation, now feels stale and gimmicky and it remains to be seen if audiences have soured on the notion of ultra-violence in film, or at least in a non-sanitized way. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and now, officially, Frank Miller, they're likely hoping for a similar effect as to 300: Rise of an Empire, a “wait, what?” sequel that still managed to perform well at the box office. It even has Eva Green in common with this film! However, this sequel feels like a dreary affair, even with the addition of a couple of legitimate draws in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Josh Brolin. And as The Spirit showed, stylized means nothing if the surrounding material is crap. That's probably too harsh an assessment here, but without the benefit of novelty, Sin City 2 has a much harder road to travel. A major drop from the first will leave at around $17 million to start.

A movie that seems like it should come with insulin-flavored popcorn, If I Stay stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a girl sent into a coma following a car accident, who then “wakes up” in an out-of-body experience. A talented cellist, she was previously torn between following her dream of going to Julliard, or following around her budding rock-star boyfriend on tour. So, you know, relatable situations. Anyway, while floating around between words, Moretz's character must decide whether life is worth coming back to, because that's a normal perspective on things.

A three-hanky weepie, it's shooting for the same demographic as The Fault in Our Stars, though it was obviously not made with that film's breakout in mind, temporality being what it is. While they're both adapted from books, we're talking sort of a Divergent vs. Hunger Games situation here – one is the subject of a phenomenon, the other is just well known enough to get discussed. I'm actually thinking of something closer to 2011's Beastly for the performance here – a tragic romance with supernatural elements. The problem with this demographic is that it is quite fickle, and often their films are very alienating to all other demos – viewers over the age of say, 19, are going to be quite rare this weekend. Look for a start of around $11 million this frame.

Lastly, we have When The Game Stands Tall, a based-on-true-events sports story. It revolves around a California high school football team with a record winning streak, years long, and what happens after both the streak is broken and a tragedy befalls the team. Yada yada strength of character, yada yada winners get back up, etc. etc. ad nauseum. While the film's game sequences are reportedly top notch, the film is really held together with a bunch of sports cliches, like old chewing gum. If you are interested in a generically good time, and wishing to be moderately roused in spirit, this may just be the film for you. Starring Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis and a bunch of kids who may or may not amount to anything, this is almost literally the definition of an average movie. Destined to be shown in PE class on rainy days forever, it'll earn around $8 million this weekend.

The weakness of the new films means it's not quite as long a shot as it might have been for either Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Guardians of the Galaxy to hold or retake the top spot at the box office. While I'm judging our culture quite harshly for this, box office is box office, and the approximately $185 and $260 million the two films will earn respectively in the domestic market is testament to how powerful branding is in the marketplace these days. Marvel's effort should pull in about $15 million this weekend, with Turtles dropping to around $13 million.

Last week's trio of unremarkable openers should hobble along for another week before largely disappearing. Let's Be Cops was the surprise winner of the three, with $17 million on the weekend and $26 million over five days. The Damon Wayans Jr/Jake Johnson buddy not-cop movie defied reviews that would have buried it in ignominy, and got a number that's not bad for a glorified TV episode. It should see around $8 million this weekend.

The Expendables 3 may mark the end of a franchise, unless worldwide box office picks up the slack, as a $16 million opening weekend is near disaster territory for a film with a budget that runs in the nine figures. Over a 50% discount from the opening of the original, this is a concept that really appears to have run its course, and Sylvester Stallone will have to come up with a new gimmick to remain relevant into his 70s. Give it $7 million this weekend.

The Giver managed just $12 million in its opening weekend, as the YA market failed to materialize for this film. It's largely a problem of relevancy, as the book is older than most of the audience, and Jeff Bridges doesn't bring in the youngsters like he used to. Look for around $5 million this time around.