Although the summer season is usually considered to end on Labor Day Weekend, looking at this weekend's offerings is enough to just cut it off right now, especially if you like to bring box office into things. No new film is expected to break above the $20 million mark – maybe not even $15 million – and the prospects for quality are even worse. Let's just skip ahead to October, kay?
Weekend Forecast for August 21-23, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
August 21, 2015
As long as horror films prove to be cheap to produce and a valuable training ground for eager directors looking to get their hands on a Hollywood film – any film – this genre will continue to thrive, at least in number. And thus we get things like Sinister 2, a sequel to a film you vaguely remember and gets to pretend it has a mythology that people care about now.
Released around this time three years ago, the first Sinister was one of the building blocks in the revitalization of the box office prowess of Ethan Hawke, opening to $18 million on a spooky story about a true-crime writer investigating a series of creepy homemade films that seemed to be actual murders. The answer turned out to be a demon that actually lived *in* film, which is a metaphor that only a screenwriter could come up with. You may judge that statement as you will.
Anyway, the series carries on with its big surprise lifted and the further adventures of the demon, this time working on bringing two young boys into its fold in order for them to bring them the spirit of their mother (played by Shannyn Sossamon, who you totally forgot about shame on you). There's very little connecting this to the first film other than one stray side character, so they're banking on a lot of good will towards a very thin framework. Directing duties have been handed over to an Irish director getting his first Hollywood shot, so there's little to add to the film's prospects there. Reviews are beyond terrible as much as that matters, and we should see close to a bottoming-out result for horror, which would put this at about $14 million.
An unusual combination of stoner comedy and over-the-top action, American Ultra (which I absolutely guarantee was called “The Bourne Highdentity” in its pitch meeting) stars Jesse Eisenberg as a CIA sleeper agent marked for death, until he's awakened with a code word and starts finding himself capable of wreaking havoc – capable of killing anyone with any object nearby. In this case, his paranoia is not just a side effect of the metric tonne of pot he smokes, there really is a grand conspiracy after him, and he sets off on the run with his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) beside him.
In the spirit of Pineapple Express, the film becomes a fairly gore-filled take on the stoner genre and a half-assed take on The Man for the Millennial Age. Topher Grace plays the film's antagonist, a long-suffering lackey from the same program that produced Eisenberg, just looking to impress higher-ups and climb a crowded corporate ladder. Add in Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman and Tony Hale, and it's a decent comic/action cast – it's just too bad that it apparently doesn't add up to a whole lot. It's a dynamite, if one-note premise, but reviews basically have it as barely making use of it. That premise should be good for at least one weekend until the bottom drops out, and I'd look for about $13 million here.
Landing heavily in the “wait, who asked for this?” pile is Hitman: Agent 47, a sequel/reboot of the 2007 film based on the videogame franchise about stealth and assassinations, which of course turns into mass chaos and giant explosions when Hollywood gets its hands on it. Playing the anonymous, shaved-head, nearly robotic assassin is something named Rupert Friend, taking over from Timothy Olyphant (who notoriously mocked the original). You may know Friend from Homeland or The Young Victoria, but probably don't recognize him here even if you do. In this go-round, he's collecting a young woman who doesn't know she's been trained to be a killer (hmm...) to keep her out of the hands of a shady government agent played by Zachary Quinto, who is apparently trying to use their DNA to create an army of killers.
Directed by something called Aleksander Bach (who literally has no other IMDb credits, something I would not have thought possible for the director of a Hollywood feature), it seems to be an exercise in empty style and sterile gunplay, utterly devoid of humor or joy. But, hey, maybe that's your thing. The original Hitman opened to about $18 million, but this looks significantly worse in all respects and should manage only around $9 million.
This all means that we'll be led again by Straight Outta Compton, which blew past expectations last weekend to open with $60 million. Tracking didn't pick up both a late surge in interest in this movie, as well as a demographic that it is often bad at surveying. I expect this rap biopic to be heavily front-loaded, but that still means about $28 million this weekend.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation easily beat out its spy competitor The Man from U.N.C.L.E., $17 million to $13 million, and that was in weekend three compared to weekend one. Challenge: met. Tom Cruise's franchise is on its way to around $200 million domestic, while the other franchise... is not a thing. Give MI5 about $10 million this weekend, with UNCLE crying... enough already, at $7 million.