August 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

August 4, 2016

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6. Ben-Hur (August 19th)
Ben-Hur is a perhaps-inevitable combination of two recent Hollywood trends, the remake and the Biblical epic, and is directed by a man who had previously shown no particular propensity for either: Timur Bekmambetov, producer of a handful of intriguing genre films (Unfriended and Hardcore Henry), and helmer of Wanted (2008), which was a good, solid, summer B-movie that has thus far oddly failed to inspire a sequel (it was also Chris Pratt's best performance, really). Graduating from memorable supporting work in American Hustle and The Longest Ride, Jack Huston looks and sounds right for the title role. The supporting cast is also creatively assembled, with Morgan Freeman, ever a delight, as Ben-Hur's dread-locked sidekick, while another Game of Thrones veteran (refugee?), Pilou Asbæk, plays Pontius Pilate, and the fierce-looking Toby Kebbell leaves largely unrecognizable roles in Warcraft and Planet of the Apes to play the chief Roman sentry, Messala. The film's late summer date may give it a little breathing room from Suicide Squad, and a combination of some faith-based marketing and decent reviews (assuming either is forthcoming) could inspire a decent run even beyond Ben-Hur's iconic chariot race. I suppose naysayers who lambast remakes have a harder case to make here, because Ben-Hur 2016 is technically the fifth theatrical telling of the story: I remember seeing the 1907 version in theaters like it was yesterday.

Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $43 million

7. Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19th)

This intriguingly-animated film is the latest fantasy from Laika, makers of such journeys into the unusual as Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Kubo somewhat departs from their usual horror-infused storylines and into more of a traditional adventure story, drawing, it seems, from Asian mythology, about a boy, his monkey, and all the samurai warriors such a pair may encounter on their way through old Japan. The voice cast are certainly marquee names (Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, and so on), and the trailers have been a strong showcase for the film's lush animation and unique story. Reviews are likely to be positive - really, can you see this with 19% on the TomatoMeter? - but, four or five animated $300 million grossers into 2016, I'm not sure there's a big children's audience left to attend this more unique and less robustly commercial entry, even if it will likely inspire a cult audience.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $33 million


8. Nine Lives (August 5th)
This story, about an emotionally distant businessman learning much-needed and memorable life lessons after having been transformed into a cat, is a film that seems to belong in the 1990s. Then, it would have probably starred Tim Allen or Steve Martin, and would have likely been helmed by, well, Barry Sonnenfeld, who as it so happens has made the journey across the decades and directed this very film. I can not quite explain Kevin Spacey's presence in the lead role, except to say that he's an actor with deft and meticulous comic timing, perhaps pointed towards sneering at lesser mortals, which is an outlook that seems just right for a cat, now that I think about it, doesn't it? Jennifer Garner is the befuddled spouse, Robbie Amell is his son ("dad?"), and without even checking I can narrow down Christopher Walken as playing either a mystical sage helping resolve Spacey's vision quest, or a corporate rival he must confront even in feline form. Nine Lives' quest for box office success may have been seriously dented on the day the MPAA assigned Suicide Squad a PG-13 rating, which means that no bloodthirsty teenagers (that's a compliment) will have to buy a ticket to this film to get into that one.

Opening weekend: $6 million / Total gross: $20 million

9. Mechanic: Resurrection (August 26th)

Jason Statham returns as the killer-for-hire in this somewhat belated sequel to The Mechanic (2011), which itself was a remake of Charles Bronson's 1972 thriller. Neither film was a particularly bold or memorable entry in the filmography of their pleasantly stone-faced stars, although the Statham version took in a respectable $29 million and probably did well on the home viewing apparatus of your choice. Statham himself is now busy giving supporting roles to mega-blockbusters and Melissa McCarthy comedies, and indeed, the last "typical" Statham film to see wide release was Homefront in 2013 (the one where he beat up on a dope-running, swamp-dwelling James Franco). There are some interesting participants in the supporting cast here, like Jessica Alba, who's involved in much of the trailer action, and Tommy Lee Jones, lately of Criminal and Jason Bourne, and nearly-unrecognizable here under some creative wardrobe and makeup choices. Mechanic 2 should come in at about or just below its leading man's average, even if the trailer promises a lively, globe-trotting affair (people just need to die all the world over).

Opening weekend: $8 million / Total gross: $18 million

August is home to many smaller films that will likely expand into wide release, as the days pass and Suicide Squad is forced to surrender more and more screens. Chief among these strivers is Florence Foster Jenkins, with Meryl Streep as the famously tone-deaf singer and Hugh Grant as the enabler of her mischief (Golden Globe nominations are a near-given for all involved). Hell or High Water, with Chris Pine and Ben Foster as robber-brothers and Jeff Bridges on their trail, is another film that will likely ride very good reviews (100%, says Tomatoes) into a national release. Florence F. Jenkins may top out at around $20 million, while the Pine film will probably do half that. The August schedule also carries action films headlined by Mel Gibson (Blood Father), Liam Neeson (Operation Chromite), and the considerably more personable and housebroken Nicholas Hoult (Collide), some of which may be going into a degree of wideness. Southside with You, about the very first date of the current President and First Lady of the United States, is another indie that may play very well, and will surely serve as a sort of quiet and inoffensive prequel to a raucous political season.

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