August 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

August 3, 2017

Did he get a demotion from Storm Trooper?

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Summer 2017 ends on an August of the old school, the kind that wouldn't look out of place in, say, 1992: high-profile blockbusters take a break while horror films, CGI animations, and special effects-free crime dramas duke it out with Stephen King's epic prose, while the Oscar season begins with a scorching look back at American history.

1. Detroit (expands August 4th)
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have earned a spot in the upper corners of cinemadom through their work on some of the most acclaimed films of recent years: they put together Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Bin Laden, and the Iraq War-set The Hurt Locker, which won the Best Picture Oscar, and which, hilariously, I still haven't seen (too busy re-watching Transformers 2).

This time, with Detroit, they turn from foreign shores to domestic calamity, focusing on one of the biggest riots in American history, when Detroit was set alight in the summer of 1967 after an instance of police brutality (...this is topical, right?). Much of the film covers a particular incident at the Algiers Motel, where three black teenagers were killed under unseemly circumstances.


The lead police officer and most likely murder suspect is played by Will Poulter, who was very funny as the put-upon teenager in We're the Millers, played a great sourpuss in The Maze Runner, and had been cast as the clown in Stephen King's It, before the studio's removal of the director took Poulter along with it. He's growing into a fine character actor in the British tradition. Newcomer Algee Smith stars, and in other lead roles, Disney lends out two of its franchise mainstays in Anthony Mackie (Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will soon consume all of filmdom), and John Boyega, who co-leads the never-ending Friday the 13th Star Wars series and had a neat supporting role in The Circle earlier this year.

Detroit is a film with strong credentials and reviews that live up to that promise - 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, 80 on Metacritic, the works. In releasing it in early August, the studio is presumably aiming for the kind of timely African-American-themed biopic most recently exemplified with The Help (2011), The Butler (2013), and Straight Outta Compton (2015), all released over similar summer frames. It's that last film that perhaps aligns with Detroit most closely, especially in its depiction of relations between police and African-American youth. Advertising makes Detroit seem current, urgent, and necessary (the posters say, "one of the most terrifying secrets in American history" and "it's time we knew", referring to what happens in that motel). Whether the audience is there to bring the box office up to those levels ($100 million++ for all of the above-mentioned films, no exceptions) is another question, but I think the movie can break out strongly over coming weeks. Older audiences will go to relive American history, and younger attendees will eagerly seek parallels with right now. The film should be in the cultural conversation for a while.

Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $99 million

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