As I mentioned last week and earlier this summer, this weekend is all about three R-rated movies that are all trying to bring in mostly the young male audience, but only one of them should benefit from being able to bring in the female audience and that’s the only horror movie (and only direct sequel) of the weekend. This is pretty much it for the summer though, and sadly it’s not going to end on a high note next week.
Distributor: Gramercy Pictures
The second horror sequel of the quickly-dwindling summer is the second from Blumhouse Productions after June’s Insidious Chapter 3, which grossed $109 million worldwide based on a $10 million budget, but that was also a sequel to a much bigger franchise. The original Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), opened in October 2012 and grossed $48 million domestic after an $18 million opening weekend, which isn’t bad for a fairly low-key original horror film.
For the sequel, Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke is nowhere to be found, replaced by James Ransone, who had a bit part in the original movie and Shannyn Sossamon, who has appeared in so many bad movies and outright bombs at this point that I’m shocked that she still has a career. Normally, horror movies can do well regardless of name actors but this seems like a similar situation as Insidious Chapter 3 and The Purge 2, which opened softer without the original characters returning.
Opening in late summer certainly isn’t going to help the sequel or give it the bump horror movies normally get in the weeks leading up to Halloween (which theoretically helped the original Sinister), but the original movie has enough fans who might give the sequel a chance.
Although reviews are going to be atrocious compared to the original Sinister, that’s not likely to stop the younger horror fans looking for something different than all the action movies being thrust their way. Then again, moviegoers have been worn down on all the sequels, so this will probably open in the mid-teens but lower than the original movie and probably won’t gross more than $35 million total domestically.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
The sad and storied past of the video game movie is well known both to moviegoers and gamers alike and some of that is due to some of the awful video game movies from the ‘90s and ‘00s including the 2007 version of IO’s popular Hitman video game, which first appeared on the scene in 2000 and has since been revived and kept alive with new versions (including a sixth game due out in December). Starring Timothy Olyphant, the movie was released in November of 2007 over Thanksgiving week and grossed $21 million in its first five days in just 2,458 theaters. Although it grossed less than $40 million domestically, it made another $60 million overseas, warranting a sequel.
Eight years later, 20th Century Fox are giving it another go, this time with British actor Rupert Friend in the shaved, barcode-tattooed head of Agent 47 and everything else being new other than the producers, Daniel Alter and Adrian Askarieh. The only real star of the movie other than Friend, who has made a name for himself on Showtime’s hit “Homeland,” is actor Zachary Quinto, best known as Spock in the most recent “Star Trek” movies.
While Fox has some decent material to work with for commercials and trailers, all that have been quite good, there’s no denying that waiting this long to make a sequel is a mistake and Hitman: Agent 47 certainly won’t benefit from the length of time since the previous movie, even though it was universally panned by critics and wasn’t particularly loved by the fans of the game either.
There’s also the matter of being released in late August when schools are starting up and moviegoers are burnt out from the summer, because there have already been so many action movies, especially in recent weeks. We saw last weekend how Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was hurt by being released so close to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and that probably will be the case here as well. That said, there’s enough crossover between gamers and younger moviegoers who will at least know what this movie is whereas few people under 30 will have heard of the original Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series, so Hitman: Agent 47 will have some namebrand value whereas that did not.
With the widest release of any of the new movies and the namebrand of the video game and earlier film, this non-sequel probably won’t bomb outright, but it probably won’t do that well with so many other action movies in theaters. Expect it to end up somewhere in the lower teens before quickly disappearing, especially once the similar-looking action reboot The Transporter Refueled opens over Labor Day.
Writer: Max Landis
What It’s About: Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a typical stoner living in West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and working as a check-out clerk at a strip mall bodega, unaware that he’s actually a sleeper agent programmed to be a killer by the CIA, who decide it’s time to shut down the program and get rid of loose ends… including Mike.
Possibly the odd man out of the weekend is this action-comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart that’s not a sequel or based on an existing property, which unfortunately will put it at a huge disadvantage during the last days of summer. Based on a screenplay from Max Landis (Chronicle), it’s one of the summer’s rare original concepts and it’s one that’s along similar lines as last year’s surprise action hit Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, which grossed $126 million domestically.
Obviously, the film’s two stars, especially Stewart, will be the film’s biggest draw, although this doesn’t seem like the type of movie that would bring in any of her “Twilight” fans or those who enjoy either of their dramatic indie fare. The sci-fi aspects of the premise involving an unlikely action hero being able to fight off his assailants also reminds me of the Bradley Cooper sci-fi thriller Limitless, although Eisenberg is no Cooper when it comes to bringing in audiences.
The good thing is that Lionsgate has a strong marketing campaign for the movie and have been getting the duo out there for interviews (like the one below) to help raise awareness, although American Ultra also looks more like one of those quirky action movies such as the late Tony Scott’s Domino starring Keira Knightley than Lucy despite a similar premise.
Like Hitman: Agent 47, it also won’t be helped by the number of action movies already in theaters, although that at least is based on a known quantity while American Ultra is an unknown that some might be more than fine waiting until it comes to DVD or cable.
With way too much competition for guys and not much here to interest from women (other than maybe Stewart), American Ultra seems like the weak link of the weekend and probably won’t even make $10 million, so expect it to come in fourth or even fifth place as the late August doldrums continues to take casualties.
This Weekend Last Year
Another late August weekend of “summer dumpers” where none of them were able to overcome the powerhouse duo of Guardians of the Galaxy (which moved back into the #1 spot with over $250 million grossed so far) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each in the $16 to 18 million region. The top new movie was the young adult drama If I Stay (Warner Bros/MGM), starring Chloe Grace Moretz, which opened with $15.7 million in 2,907 theaters in third place. The football drama When the Game Stands Tall (TriStar Pictures/Sony) opened in fifth place with $8.4 million, but Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension) out and out bombed with just $6.3 million grossed in 2,894 theaters for eighth place, signifying that they clearly waited too long to make this comic book sequel. The Top 10 grossed $97 million, which is probably where this weekend will end up as well.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
None of the new movies are particularly strong and they’re all going to be stealing business from the others, which should allow the much stronger Straight Outta Compton to win the weekend even if it takes a tumble from its opening weekend. (Not because it’s bad or deserves to drop that much, but because so many people rushed out to see it.) Sinister 2 will probably do the best of the new movies and should take second place with Hitman: Agent 47 coming in third. (UPDATE: Straight Outta Compton expands into 3,024 theaters which should allow it to fare a bit better this weekend although there will probably still be a drop from last week.)
1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $28.5 million -53% (up 1 million)
The “Dog Days of Summer” hit a new low with the release of three movies that probably won’t make much of a mark with Owen Wilson starring in the tourist thriller No Escape (Dimension/TWC), Zac Efron playing an EDM DJ (no, not Skrillex, though that would be funny) in the drama We Are Your Friends (Warner Bros.), and also the faith-based drama War Room (Sony/TriStar).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Kimstim Release)
I’m not much of an art enthusiast. I mean, I like the classics and I can find things to enjoy at an art museum if I were to ever go to one, but I’m by no means an expert, and I’m even a little cynical about how the art world works. My cynicism is confirmed by this intriguing look at a renowned forger whose work has gone for millions of dollars at auction under the impression that his work was painted by some of the masters.
That’s because Wolfgang Beltracchi has figured out a way to mimic the styles of the masters and finds ways of creating authenticity by using similar techniques and canvases they would have used. Director Arne Birkenstock spent a lot of time with Beltracchi and his wife as they do their work, really getting into their heads to find out the reasoning and logic behind what they do.
Probably the most shocking thing is that both of them have already been imprisoned, but every day they’re released from their respective prisons so they can get together and work on their art, which is pretty insane when you realize how many millions of dollars they’ve stolen from art lovers and auction houses.
Even so, it’s fascinating to watch them at work and hear from art experts how they were fooled by the Beltracchi’s work while they theoretically continue to do their illicit works.
Also at Film Forum is the debut of a fantastic program of animated shorts by the Quay Brothers, screened in 35 mm, curated by director Christopher Nolan, who also made a short film going into the Quays’ studio called “Quay” (which will make its world premiere at Film Forum on Wednesday). While Nolan’s short film is indeed short, it’s fascinating to see the work of these creative visionary animators and you can see how their style has evolved from “In Absentia” through “The Comb” to “Street of Crocodiles,” the three films being screened. If that wasn’t enough incentive, the Quay Brothers themselves will be there on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and you can learn more on the Film Forum website.
Grandma (Sony Pictures Classics)
Learning to Drive (Broad Green)
Being Evel (Gravitas Ventures)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
She’s Funny That Way (Lionsgate)
Some Kind of Beautiful (Lionsgate)
Digging for Fire (The Orchard)
Shanghai (The Weinstein Co.)
The Mend (Cinelicious Pics)
Mateo (XLRator Media)
Guidance (Strand Releasing)
The Curse of Downers Grove (Anchor Bay)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas