What if they had an opening weekend and nobody came? That's almost the situation we've got for this weekend, with just a single wide release that is the epitome of forgettable. Whether it's that studios are off by a week, or they're avoiding the debut of the NFL, this is a weekend to play catchup.
Weekend Forecast for September 5-7, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
September 4, 2014
A pair of twins are separated at birth. One goes on to become (essentially) Elvis, the other, pushed into the priesthood by an overbearing father. This wonderfully trite story of The Identical tries to retcon the story of Elvis and his stillborn twin brother (well, Drexel Hemsley anyway, which is about half a step more subtle than “Shari Bobbins”) into a story about... I'm not quite sure anyway, since it seems to have all the rough edges sanded off into a very bland story about how being a rock star in the '50s was all malt shops and agents being reasonable about not selling out and changing your artistic statements. That's pretty much why 37% of the population of the United States was a rock star during this period.
Starring former Elvis impersonator and country singer Blake Rayne, along with Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd and Seth Green (seriously, he is 40, is it not time for him to stop playing teenagers?), and directed by first-timer You Won't Remember, this is a film that looks like it escaped the Lifetime network. While a lot of films with overt religious messages have been finding an audience of late, going the subtler route alienates all potential audiences, as the recent When the Game Stands Tall showed, and the subject matter is perhaps the opposite of topical. Opening on a modest 1,950 screens, this should see about $4 million this weekend.
And thus, Guardians of the Galaxy, the late season smash, will spend its fourth weekend at the top of the box office. This is all the more unusual given that this is its *sixth* weekend of release. While it won't pass $300 million this weekend, earning about $10 million, it could hit that number by the late next week at the earliest, and has given a late boost to what was an uninspiring summer in box office terms.
What's been interesting about this film is that even as it racks up win after win in North America, it's largely been an afterthought in foreign box office – the rare comic based movie that has not seen gaudy overseas numbers. For example – X-Men: Days of Future past has almost earned more money in international markets than Galaxy has earned in both domestic and foreign markets. That seems to highlight its “lightning in a bottle” marketing campaign, as well as a greater willingness for domestic audiences to embrace wildcards in this genre.
Looking at the summer as a whole, the difference is largely in the middle to lower tiers of box office, as there are the same seven $200 million earning films from the summer as last year, but five fewer $100 million earning films (and no late-comers likely to make that leap). There are also five fewer films making even $25 million, likely pointing to an overall thinner schedule not just in quality, but in quantity. This is in part a reflection of the wider span of the calendar, where it is now acceptable to release a tentpole film and also the notable absence of a couple of heavy hitters.
To the first point, Captain America is a clearly summer-type film, but it opened a month out of the established summer season and likely gave up $30 million of summer weekday box office as a result. Was the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-in that important? We'll likely be having this same discussion again two years from now, shaking our heads at WB's pound-foolish behavior.
To the second point, animation, a genre that Hollywood has come to rely on like a crutch, was largely lacking this summer. How To Train Your Dragon 2 was a head-scratching step down from the first, while Pixar was MIA, leaving only Disney's knock-off Planes: Fire and Rescue to compete. Fast & Furious 7 moving to 2015 (for obvious reasons) was another hit that wasn't replaced on the schedule. And for every surprise hit, like Lucy or The Fault in Our Stars, we had an expected blockbuster falling short, like Tammy or The Expendables 3. It appears that audiences are, to a large extent, becoming choosier with the advent and increase in use of digital options, and shelling out $10 to $17 for a movie ticket is being reserved for only must-see events. The higher end will still exist, but the middle is getting wiped out. What was a $200 million film 20 years ago is now a $400 million film, but what was a $40 million film is only a $50 million film in comparison.
Continuing on with the returning films, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should hit the $175 million mark this weekend with another $7 million in the bank, while teen melodrama If I Stay adds around $6 million. The otherwise totally unrelated trio of Let's Be Cops, As Above, So Below and The November Man should limp in with around $4 million each.