With Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy doing far better opening weekend than anyone expected, it’s looking like the four movies opening this weekend will be settling for second to fifth place at best, as it should pull a solid repeat even with the typically larger summer movie second weekend drop-off. The movie with the best chance for second place is the Michael Bay-produced reinvention of the popular 80s cartoon and comic characters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount), starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett, which hopes to kick off a new franchise ala Transformers and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The three other movies will be fighting to bring in some late summer moviegoers without the draw of what will be the top two movies.
It’s not like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount), directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans), doesn’t have its share of issues with the diehard fanbase that grew up on the cartoons and previous movies not seeming too happy with anything they’ve seen or heard so far. Even so, Paramount and Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes are probably hoping their reboot will bring in a new and younger audience who may have heard about the turtles from parents and older siblings.
Megan Fox hasn’t had a particularly good record at the box office after her run in Michael Bay’s first two “Transformers” movies with a number of flops like Jennifer’s Body, Jonah Hex (also starring Will Arnett), and she’s mainly been laying low as a wife and mother other than appearing in Judd Apatow’s This is 40 a few years ago. Liebesman (who previously directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning for Platinum Dunes) is not a particularly popular director among the fanboys who might be looking forward to a new TMNT movie, but that probably won’t factor that much into them avoiding the movie.
The nostalgia factor will play a large part in whatever money the movie makes this weekend, because that’s the main reason why movies like this are made in the first place. While the premise began in the comics of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, they didn’t really explode until they appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon starting in 1987, which three years later would traverse into movies with three silly but popular live action movies between ’90 and 93 that have become a staple for a group of a certain age. The most recent attempt to revive the turtles in a feature film was 2007’s computer animated TMNT, which grossed about $54 million after a $24.3 million opening, which showed that fans rushed out opening weekend but slowly faded away after that.
Granted that I said this about Hercules and was wrong–maybe because it was barely screened for critics–but I really don’t expect reviews for the new TMNT being all that great which will just add fuel to the fire that they screwed this one up. Fortunately, most of those reviews won’t arrive until Thursday or Friday and there will already be those committed to seeing it and parents with small kids won’t care so much. The question is whether today’s kids, who don’t have a sense of nostalgia for teenage turtles, being them mutants or ninjas, will want to see this movie. To answer that question, we direct you to the very funny video below:
Then again, families flocked to the live action Scooby-Doo movie roughly ten years back, although if Paramount is solely relying on the family audiences they probably should have released this earlier in the summer. As we’ve seen as recently as last year’s Planes and The Smurfs 2, the later you release a family movie in the summer, the less likely it’s going to do big business.
Even so, when you combine the kids and the adult fans, you can figure on a solid opening of $35 million, but once the older fans are gone just leaving it to kids, it might have difficulty scraping its way to $100 million especially with audiences being given plenty of other choices in coming weeks like going back to school.
Trying to entice some of the teen and older audience that may not have grown up with the Turtles, we’re getting a rare disaster flick with Into the Storm (New Line/WB) that looks at the all-too-real horrors of devastating tornadoes – you know, the kind that aren’t filled with sharks. This one is a documentary-style movie directed by former James Cameron 2nd Unit director Steve Quale (who directed the excellent Final Destination 5) and there’s certainly a cheese factor involved in a movie like this, but it’s just as much about the large FX-driven setpieces.
Quale has a bizarre cast with the biggest names being Richard Armitage, best known as Thorin Oakenshield from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” and Sarah Wayne Callies from popular shows “The Walking Dead” and “Prison Break.” The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, but like Quale’s previous movie, the studio really isn’t selling it based on starpower as much as on the CG spectacle.
Don’t expect many good reviews for this even if it’s likely to appeal more to younger audiences in the 15 to 20 range who probably don’t pay much attention to reviews. It’s going to be interesting to see if releasing this movie so soon after the “Sharknado” sequel will make it hard for this to be taken seriously (even though it is a more serious film) or whether it’s helped by audience’s desire to see this kind of destruction. Although Warner Bros. is giving this a pretty wide release into over 3,000 theaters including IMAX, interest is likely to be fairly limited and it probably will open somewhere in the range of $14 to 17 million and end up with around $35 million total.
One of the dark horse releases of the weekend is the foodie film The Hundred-Foot Journey (DreamWorks), starring Helen Mirren and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules). It’s about an Indian family who end up in the South of France after their car breaks down, so they decide to set-up an Indian restaurant, which doesn’t go over well with Mirren’s character, the owner of a Michelin-star French restaurant across the road.
Based on the novel by Richard Morais, the film is relying solely on Mirren as one of the few recognizable actors in the movie, similar to Disney’s recent Million Dollar Arm starring Jon Hamm. That opened with $10.5 million and that’s with the baseball element that should have appealed to a larger audience. There’s definitely an interest in foodie stuff as seen by the success of films like Julie & Julia, released on the same weekend five years ago, and more recent films like Jon Favreau’s Chef. This one’s getting a push from commercials featuring exec. producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, both recommending the movie which they produced. (I’m glad they liked it enough to both produce it AND recommend it.)
There’s still the general problem of the film being a little too India-centric for American audiences, following a trend that didn’t last much longer than Slumdog Millionaire other than maybe Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Even so, older adults need movies targeted to them and this should be a good option for older women not particularly interested in James Brown, though they’re not an audience that normally rushes out to see a movie opening weekend but are more likely to catch a film over its theatrical run.
In other words, we don’t expect The Hundred-Foot Journey to top $10 million its opening weekend although it could do well enough from word-of-mouth–it’s a fairly safe and likeable film–to bring in $35 million or more with little competition for its older target audience.
Another wide release not likely to set any box office records is Step Up All In (Summit), the fifth installment of the dance franchise that just won’t go away, with its usual bi-annual release.
The “Step Up” franchise kicked off in the summer of 2006 with the original Step Up, which introduced much of the world to Channing Tatum, just as it introduced him to his wife Jenna Dewan – plus it was written by Melissa Rosenberg of “The Twilight Saga.” It grossed $65 million after an opening of $20.7 million (based on a budget of $12 million) and it led to the sequel Step Up 2 the Streets, which only did slightly less both opening and overall. Since then, the movies have shown diminishing returns as they’ve added director Jon Chu and 3D but were then dropped by Disney to be picked up by Summit for 2012’s Step Up Revolution, which bombed with $35 million after an $11 million opening. (By then, the movies were costing $33 million, nearly three times as much as the original Channing Tatum hit.)
The newest installment doesn’t seem to have a lot to add except that it moves the story to Las Vegas and it does bring back some of the actors/dancers from the previous movies, although I certainly wouldn’t be able to name any of them without checking the CS database entry.
In many ways, the “Step Up” movies have stopped being about starpower and all about the dance moves and getting in a young mostly female audience that are into dancing to check those moves out, although going by the lower grosses with each movie, it feels like a lot of the audience has already moved on.
Opening in a similar late summer release as three of the previous movies, but with a moderate release into potentially less theaters–around 2,000–it’s going to be tough for this movie to even crack $10 million, because it is relying so much on the “Step Up” name selling it, rather than Lionsgate spending much money to market the stagnating franchise – they’re already more focused on their upcoming The Expendables 3 at this point. Look for an opening in the $9 million range with a ceiling of $25 to 26 million in terms of total domestic gross. It’s likely to do better overseas just like the last movie which grossed 3 times its domestic take, helped by the movie’s alternate title “Sexy Dance.”
This weekend last year saw the release of four new movies, two of them opening early on Wednesday, and they ended taking up the four top spots at the box office as the previous week’s weaker releases quickly fell away. The big movie of the weekend was Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to the hit sci-fi thriller District 9, though after being delayed since March (and receiving lukewarm reviews), there was little way that Elysium (Sony), starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, was going to live up to expectations. Sure enough, it opened with a disappointing $29.8 million, which was enough for first place. On the other hand, the R-rated road comedy We’re the Millers (New Line/WB), starring Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston, surprised many by taking a close second place on the weekend with $26.4 million after grossing $11.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday. Also opening on Friday was the lower budget animated film Disney’s Planes (Disney), which opened with a somewhat disappointing $22.2 million for what was advertised as a “Cars” spin-off, although it fared better than its sequel did a few weeks back. Lastly, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (20th Century Fox), the sequel to the 2011 hit opened on Wednesday with $8.8 million in its first two days but settled for fourth place over the weekend with $14.4 million. The Top 10 grossed $137 million and that should be beatable with “Guardians” having a strong second weekend and with the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
UPDATE: Not a ton of big changes but with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles selling a lot more advance tickets and opening in more theaters, it seems likely it will win Friday with easy but then fall behind “Guardians” by the end of the weekend. We also notched up our prediction for Into the Storm slightly since it seems like it’s going to win over the audience that skips TMNT. Also, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood expands into 509 theaters which may be enough for it to break into the Top 10, but it will depend on how much Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue falls this weekend after losing nearly 1,000 theaters.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney/Marvel) – $44.5 million -53%
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount) – $41.7 million N/A (up $6.5 million)
3. Into the Storm (New Line/WB) – $16.8 million N/A (up .3 million)
4. Step Up All In (Summit) – $9.5 million N/A (up .2 million)
5. The Hundred-Foot Journey (DreamWorks) – $8.8 million N/A (same)
6. Lucy (Universal) – $8.5 million -53%
7. Get on Up (Universal) – $8.1 million -40%
8. Hercules (Paramount) – $5 million -55%
9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $4.5 million -48% (down .3 million)
10. Planes: Fire & Rescue (Walt Disney Pictures) – $3.5 million -42% (down .4 million)
— Boyhood (IFC Films) – $3.4 million +35%
This Week’s Limited Releases:
THE CHOSEN ONE:
It was tough to pick a single “CHOSEN ONE” this week because there were a couple of good choices. I’m going with What If (CBS Films), the unconventional relationship comedy based on Elan Mastai’s Black List screenplay, which brings together Daniel Radcliffe and indie darling Zoe Kazan for a movie about Wallace and Chantry, two immediately compatible young people who meet at a party and decide to become friends despite at least one of them having deeper feelings for the other.
This really is a great role for the former “Harry Potter,” playing a guy who clearly is of interest to women but whom sets his sites on Kazan’s perfect yet unattainable Chantry, who brings up her boyfriend almost immediately after they meet at a party. The situation is a little more complex than the typical “friend zone movie”–not that there have been a lot of them, mind you–but it’s such a common situation that it’s surprising there haven’t been more. In fact, the relationship in “What If” hits way too close to home in a number of ways since I’ve often ended up connecting with women who have boyfriends and even husbands, forcing me into more of a friend role. Radcliffe is just great at playing a nice guy, one full of charm and charisma that makes you always root for him, while fully understanding his desire for Kazan’s character. (In fact, this may have been my favorite performance from Kazan, who is really growing on me after seeing this film.)
While much of the focus is on the two of them, it’s often the side characters who bring some of the biggest laughs including Adam Driver from “Girls” as Wallace’s friend and Chantry’s cousin who originally introduces them before meeting McKenzie Davis’ Nicole at the same party. They make a fun counterpoint to the dysfunctional unrequited romance between Wallace and Chantry, particularly Driver who seems to be allowed to cut loose throughout the movie. Rafe Spall one again slips into the antagonistic role as Chantry’s seemingly perfect (but not quite) boyfriend Ben, who is involved with one of the funniest sequences (and also one of the film’s darkest moments).
Maybe it shouldn’t have been so surprising to me that this was directed by Michael Dowse, who did such a great job bringing Jay Baruchel and Seann William Scott’s Goon to the big screen. He’s just as successful as retaining Mastai’s masterful dialogue, which creates a feeling not unlike (500) Days of Summer with Radcliffe and Kazan being as immediately likeable as that movie’s central duo. He also finds a great mix of hipster tunes to maintain that tone throughout the film as Radcliffe keeps you invested in Wallace’s quest even when it comes to a head in the last act.
As much as many are still trying to make the perfect modern romantic comedy, What If comes the closest we’ve seen thanks to brilliant writing, a terrific cast at the top of their game and even the decision to set the movie in Toronto, which adds a lot to the mix.
What If opens in select cities on Friday.
We give a well-deserved “Honorable Mention” to Alan Hicks’ documentary Keep On Keepin’ On (RADiUS-TWC), which looks at the relationship and friendship between teacher and mentor, 94-year-old jazz legend Clark Terry and his 20-year-old blind piano playing protégé Justin Kauflin. It’s this unlikely pairing that makes the movie almost impossible not to love, which may be why Hicks and his film have won awards at every festival where it’s played. While it’s not quite as groundbreaking or on par with last year’s 20 Feet from Stardom, it does a damn good job commemorating the great jazz trumpet player who famously taught Quincy Jones before becoming a part of his band. Even at his elderly age and barely able to walk as he deals with medical complications, Terry pushes his students to excel at the difficult nature of playing jazz with heart and soul, something Kauflin has in spades. It’s just one of those amazing stories that you might never have heard if not for a forward-thinking filmmaker like Hicks, who surprisingly is making his feature film debut with “Keep On Keepin’ On.” If you’re a fan of jazz or music or just really inspiring stories, then it’s definitely worth checking the film out when it opens in select cities on Friday.
Documentaries of Note:
Filmmaker James Cameron’s desires to be an undersea explorer are documented in Deepsea Challenge 3D (National Geographic), which follows his dives in the Deepsea Challenger, leading up to his historic scientific expedition to nearly 7 miles before the ocean surface to Earth’s deepest point, Challenger Deep. It opens in select cities in 3D theaters on Friday.
Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s festival favorite The Dog (Drafthouse Films) looks at the life of John Wojtowicz, who attempted to rob a bank in Brooklyn to pay for his lover’s sex-reassignment surgery, becoming the inspiration for Al Pacino’s “Sonny” in the ’70s crime classic Dog Day Afternoon. It opens in New York (at the IFC Center and Lincoln Center) and Los Angeles (at CineFamily and Downtown Independent) on Friday.
Web Junkie (Kino Lorber Films) is Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia’s exploration on whether “internet addiction” is a psychological disorder that afflicts teenage boys and how best to treat it. It does so through China’s attempts to rehabilitate teen boys afflicted with the addiction at one of their 400 rehabilitation camps such as the Daxing Boot camp outside Beijing. It opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday.
Mitra Farahani’s Fifi Howls from Happiness (Music Box Films) looks at the artwork of the “Persian Picasso” Bahman Mohassess now living in Italy, a gay man at conflict with his homeland while creating many of Iran’s greatest pre-revolutionary paintings and sculptures.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Michael Walker’s Long Island-set suspense thriller The Maid’s Room (Paladin) involves a Latina maid named Drina and the tension she faces from the rich but morally bankrupt Crawford family for whom she works, when she discovers that the teenage son in the family may have been involved in a hit and run. It opens in New York and L.A. as well as on VOD.
Jesse Zwick’s dramedy About Alex (Screen Media Films), which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, stars Aubrey Plaza, Max Greenfield, Nate Parker, Max Minghella, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace and Jane Levy, as a group of 20-something friends who go away for a weekend after one of them has an emotional breakdown, reopening old wounds between them.
Pieter Gaspersz’s suspense drama After (Paladin) involves a middle class family in upstate New York struggling with their failed family business and a series of conflicts that will come to a head with a secret that could cause the situation to erupt. Starring Kathleen Quinlan as the mother of the family, it opens in New York on Friday.
Next week, we’re officially entering the “Dog Days of Summer” although a couple of movies will try to push through with Sylvester Stallone and friends leading the way in The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate), Jake Johnson and Marlon Wayans Jr. playing dress-up in the comedy Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox)–opening Wednesday–and Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep headlining the young adult adaptation, The Giver (The Weinstein Company).
You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.
Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas