Last weekend, Hollywood's failure to release more than a token slate for about three weeks paid off with a dividend of the worst box office figures in over a decade. The good news: that weekend might not look so bad in very short order.
Weekend Forecast for September 12-14, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
September 12, 2014
Probably leading the way is Dolphin Tale 2, a sequel to the 2011 film about a rescued dolphin that is fitted with a prosthetic tail, enabling him to survive in a Florida aquarium. This gentle, but rather drama-free film was a modest success at the time, opening to around $19 million and finishing with $77 million. That's a rather significant feat for an animal film with Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman as headliners.
Thanks to a huge profit margin, we get the sequel, which returns to the aquarium and Winter the dolphin, who has recently lost his foster mother. Realizing that this is kind of a thin story to base a movie around, it also casts about to the other animals in the aquarium to add to the plot, becoming something of an anthology film, with pelicans and sea turtles also muscling their way into the action. To say that this is a gentle film is slightly underselling it, and it's aimed at a particularly young audience. There's nothing really wrong with that, and certainly that's an audience worth serving. It's just not a very large one.
Looking back through the long history of sequels to cetacean rescue films, we can witness the performance of Free Willy 2, which opened to about the same $7 million as Free Willy 1 two years later. Its final box office total was around half of the original, however, and in the very different box office environment that existed back then, this could point to weakness in the sequel for the opening weekend. Certainly I haven't heard any particular clamoring for the return of stories about a dolphin with a missing tail. In the interim, large aquariums have also taken a hit in reputation thanks to the Blackwater documentary, although this is certainly no Sea World. All these factors add up to a limited opening weekend figure of about $11 million.
No Good Deed, a thriller starring Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba, is the other major wide release, to use a loose term. Henson plays a devoted mother of two who is sweet-talked into letting Elba into her home after claiming car trouble. Elba happens to be a violent criminal, recently escaped from a prison transport, and intent on “having some fun” while he waits for the heat to die down. This leads to a game of cat and mouse within the vast, semi-rural estate (in what seems to point to a script rescued from long development, cut landlines feature prominently in it), and a lot of fairly distasteful looking violence against women and children.
It's a very one-dimensional looking thriller that has a lot of the beats of a horror film baked into it, and appears to be not done all that well either. Sony Screen Gems has shown little faith in this film, not submitting it for review and giving it only a semi-wide release of 2,100 or so venues. In some ways, this has a bit of similarity to last year's The Call, but overall I wonder who the audience for this film really is. If you enjoy the notion of seeing someone get knocked around inside their own home for 90 minutes with sort of a happy ending implied, I worry a little bit about you. This should be good for about $7 million this weekend.
A barely wide release, mostly notable for being the last movie starring James Gandolfini, The Drop plays the role of “Films Also Opening This Weekend”. Based on a Dennis Lehane short story, it centers around the robbery of a bar that serves as a money drop for the mob. Also starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, it has some novelty and some good reviews, but the low exposure for the film and the well-trod subject matter peg it for around $2 million this weekend.
While I don't totally count out the possibility of a fifth straight weekend at the top for Guardians of the Galaxy (it's been boxing against kindergarteners for the last few weeks), its run probably ends here. With about $7 million this weekend, it should breeze past the $300 million mark and establish a pretty good clubhouse lead for 2014's box office. While Mockingjay will almost certainly kick it off the podium later this year, there's nothing to be ashamed of from a business perspective, and it keeps Marvel's nearly unblemished record in the last five years going.