Box Office Preview: Late August Delivers Expendables and Other Oddities

The movie business had a sudden late summer surge last weekend and maybe that will prevent this year’s August Dog Days from hitting so hard and so soon. Fortunately, we have at least one movie this weekend that should be able to bring in some business being the sequel to a popular movie featuring some of the greatest action stars of the last thirty years.

Like the original movie that opened in August 2010 to $34 million, The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) will be the first choice for many guys over 17 this weekend because it brings together some of the biggest action stars of the last thirty years, headed by Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. While Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger had barely a cameo in the previous movie, they’re playing larger roles in the sequel that brings back Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews. This time they’re joined by Hunger Games star (and the future Mr. Miley Cyrus) Liam Hemsworth and two more action stars in Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, giving action fans more reasons to check it out.

The question is whether anyone actually liked the first The Expendables and critics sure didn’t as it scored a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and going by the 58% likes among fans, the 6.5/10 rating on IMDB or 58% of likes on RT, they were right down the middle. The question is whether the guys who rushed out to the previous movie will see this one to see if it’s any better or if it will suffer the same fate as other 2012 sequels like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Wrath of the Titans.

Lionsgate realizes it doesn’t have to screen this movie for critics because it’s fairly review-proof, but they have been showing it anyway (good for them!) and while we doubt reviews will be much better than the first movie, many guys will still want to see this even if the reviews are merciless. We have a feeling that the sequel should have a decent Friday, bumped up by Thursday midnights to roughly $13 or 14 million, but it will trail off over the weekend and probably will end up in the same $30 million plus ballpark as the original movie on its way to roughly $85 million. That should be more than enough to take the #1 spot from Universal’s The Bourne Legacy, which probably won’t have solid word-of-mouth due to the lack of action.

Review

After that, there’s a potential train wreck in the rest of the Top 10, since we have a bunch of mid-level releases that will be competing against returning movies like “Bourne,” The Campaign and The Dark Knight Rises, which may make the rest of the Top 5 somewhat of a crap shoot. One of the stronger releases of the weekend should be ParaNorman (Focus Features), the second feature length stop-motion animated movie from Portland’s LAIKA Studios, featuring the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and more. LAIKA’s previous feature Coraline, based on the best-selling children’s novel from Neil Gaiman, opened with $16.4 million in February 2006 and went on to gross $124 million worldwide and got nominated for most major film awards in the animation category.

Opening a kids’ movie in late August is generally a bad idea, which why there haven’t been any substantial family movies at this point in the summer, maybe because many families with kids are on vacation or at camp and in some places, even preparing to return to school. Despite the odds working against the movie, Focus Features really have been pulling out all stops on the marketing and advertising for the movie, including special ads geared towards the Olympics, which is likely to get families with kids interested. Reviews have also generally been good and they may be able to bring in some of the teen and older guys who like horror movies that may have ignored a family movie. Focus is also releasing the movie into over 3,000 theaters, making it the widest release the company has had since its formation ten years ago and that’s likely to keep ParaNorman from tanking despite being a tougher sell. We think an opening weekend between $15 and 16 million is doable and word-of-mouth should keep it going to the tune of $60 to 65 million.

Review

Interview with directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell

With the guys pretty well covered with the other movies, it’s time to see what’s out there for the ladies and the musical drama Sparkle (TriStar Pictures / Sony) certainly might appeal to younger women as well as those in urban areas who haven’t really been serviced that well this summer. The big draws for the film are “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston, two generations of R ‘n’ B singer brought together in the type of musical drama we don’t see that often. One might see a film like Burlesque or last year’s remake of Footloose as precursors, but neither of those did huge business. Then again, Sparkle ended up getting more attention than it might have otherwise when the legendary R ‘n’ B singer who hadn’t appeared in a movie since 1996′s The Preacher’s Wife passed away suddenly, creating even more interest in her return to cinemas. One may look at how the 3D concert movie Michael Jackson: This is It fared months after the death of the King of Pop, grossing $34 million in its first five days as fans of the singer rushed to see the movie. It’s hard to tell if Whitney Houston’s fans will be as interested in seeing her in what is a supporting role, especially since the past few years she’s soiled her image with drug use. Sony is opening this moderately in a similar fashion as other urban-targeted films, but a late summer release might limit the film’s business, so we think this one’s good for between $13 and 15 million tops, putting the Top 5 in its sights, and it probably could gross roughly $40 million.

It’s the end of summer and we’re going to start getting a lot of weird anomalies and easily the weirdest is The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney), the new movie from Dan in Real Life director Peter Hedges, starring Jennifer Garner and Joel (Warrior) Edgerton as a married couple trying to have a kid who end up growing one in their garden. It’s been a long time since Garner has been a draw for moviegoers, but this one is hoping to bring in the women not interested in Sparkle and last week’s Hope Springs, which may not be a very big audience. It’s opening on Wednesday for no apparent reason, but we’re not quite sure who this movie is targeted to because it has a PG rating and there’s nothing about this movie that screams out that it’s a must-see for kids. We think it could make $3 to 4 million in its first couple days but will probably have a tough time getting business over the weekend, so we think it will fall below $10 million and end up in the bottom half of the Top 10.

The Dog Days of August hit in a big way this weekend last year as four new movies were released with none of them able to crack the Top 2 as The Help moved into first place over Rise of the Planet of the Apes with $20 and 16 million, respectively. Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Dimension) did the best of the new movies with $11.6 million in 3,295 theaters to take third place, followed with $10 million for the 3D remake of Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate), also in over 3,000 theaters. That was bad for both movies and it began the steep decline of the summer movies. An even worse showing was seen by the weekend’s other 3D remake, the horror-comedy Fright Night (DreamWorks), starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin, which took in $7.7 million for sixth place. The Anne Hathaway Brit-drama One Day (Focus Features) didn’t fare much better, opening in ninth place with $5 million in 1,719 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $97.3 million and with the bump from The Expendables 2, we may see another weekend up from last year. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

1. The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) – $35.5 million N/A (up 2.7 million)

2. The Bourne Legacy (Universal) – $18.3 million -53% (same)

3. ParaNorman (Focus Features) – $16.1 million N/A (up .8 million)

4. The Campaign (Warner Bros.) – $14.5 million -45% (up .4 million)

5. Sparkle (Sony/TriStar Pictures) – $13.2 million N/A (down .2 million)

6. The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros.) – $11.6 million

7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney) – $11.2 million (up .9 million)

8. Hope Springs (Sony) – $9.5 million -35%

9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (20th Century Fox) – $4.7 million -43%

10. Ice Age: Continental Drift (20th Century Fox) – $3.9 million -39% (down .4 million)

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is the filmmaking doc Side by Side (Tribeca Film), produced and narrated by actor Keanu Reeves. You can read our thoughts on it here and check out our interview with Reeves here.

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the filmmakers behind the Oscar-nominated Persepolis make their live action debut with Chicken with Plums (Sony Pictures Classics), an adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic novel starring Mathieu Amalric as a musician whose beloved violin is broken by his angry wife (Maria de Medeiros) sending him on a quest to find a new instrument but realizing he can’t replace it, he decides he instead wants to die. It opens in New York on Friday and in Los Angeles on August 31.

Interviews with Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud (Later this week)

Rebecca Hall stars in Nick Murphy’s supernatural thriller The Awakening (Cohen Media Group) set in 1921 Englans playing paranormal investigator Florence Cathcart who helps the police expose hoaxers preying on those who lost loved ones during WWI. When she’s called to a boarding school in a remote area of England to investigate the death of a student, she learns that she has her own secrets that start popping back up. Also starring Dominic West and Imelda Staunton, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Interview with Director Nick Murphy

Review

David Cronenberg writes and directs an adaptation of Don Delillo’s 2003 novel Cosmopolis (Entertainment One) starring Robert Pattinson as wealthy businessman Eric Packer, who spends the day driving around in New York City trying to get to the barber for a haircut. Featuring appearances by Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti, it opens in New York and Los Angeles Friday.

Review

Based on true events, long-time David Gordon Green associate Craig Zobel’s psychological thriller Compliance (Magnolia Films) stars Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker as a fast food restaurant manager and employee who are put through a night in hell by a mysterious caller (played by Pat Healey, who starred in Zobel’s debut Great World of Sound). After creating waves at Sundance this past year, the film opens in New York at the Landmark Sunshine theater Friday and in other cities on August 24.

Review and Interviews from Sundance

Frank Langella stars in Jake Schreier’s Robot & Frank (Samuel Goldwyn Films), playing a retired cat burglar named Frank who starts losing his faculties, so his son (James Marsden) gives him a robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) to help take care of him, but instead Frank uses the robot to help renew his career in crime. It opens in select cities Friday.

Beloved (Sundance Selects) is a new musical from French filmmaker Christophe Honoré (Love Songs) with an all-star cast that includes Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni (who also appears in Chicken with Plums this week), Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Paul Schneider, and Milos Forman. It begins in Paris of the ‘60s with Sagnier’s Madeline, who takes up prostitution to make a living before falling for a Czech doctor and having a baby daughter. Thirty years later, her grown-up daughter Vera (Chiara Mastronianni) has fallen for a musician (Paul Schneider) while Madeline (now played by Catherine Deneuve) has remarried. It opens in New York on Friday at the IFC Center.

And the movies I haven’t seen yet…

Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo and Tracy Morgan star in Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s Why Stop Now (IFC Films), Eisenberg playing piano prodigy Eli who has an important audition but he has to first drop his mother off at rehab. Instead, they end up having to get the help of her drugdealer Sprinkles (Morgan) when troubles arise. It’s been playing on VOD for the last month and will get a limited theatrical release.

Macarena Aguiló’s doc The Chilean Building (Magic Lantern) tells the story of sixty children from Chile who were raised in Europe and Cuba as a part of “Project Home,” a group of adults who hoped to protect them as their parents fought the war against dictator Pinochet. It’s now playing at Harlem’s Maysles Cinema as part of their bi-monthly program called “Documentary in Bloom.”

This week’s Bollywood offering, opening on Wednesday, is Ek Tha Tiger (Yash Raj Films), an action-thriller directed by Kabir Khan (Kabul Express) and starring Salman Khan (no relation) as a government agent named Tiger.

Opening at the Quad Cinemas in New York, Avi Nesher’s The Matchmaker (Menemsha Films) about a teenager living in Israel in 1968 who gets a job as the assistant to a matchmaker in a bustling Lower City neighborhood.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (Well Go USA) is the new movie from Wuershan (The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman) starring Xun Zhou and Wei Zhao as a fox spirit and a princess in a golden mask who compete for the love of the princess’ beloved. It opens in New York, L.A., San Francisco and Toronto on Friday.

Next week, the Dog Days of summer are upon us and trying to take it on are the Dax Sheppard-Kristen Bell action-comedy Hit and Run (Open Road), Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a bike messenger in trouble in David Koepp’s Premium Rush (Sony) while the love of my life Ashley Greene stars in Todd Lincoln’s horror movie The Apparition (Warner Bros.).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas

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