Box Office: The Weekend Warrior Looks at the Summer’s Biggest Face-Offs

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While I’ve already written a preview of the summer box office, one thing I didn’t address but thought might be interesting to regular readers, is that there are a number of weekends this summer where the box office has two or more movies that could face-off in a battle for business. This happens every summer and sometimes during other movie seasons, too, but it becomes especially interesting when schools are out and people are getting out of work early on Friday. These two factors mean there are a lot more moviegoers who have to decide which movie(s) they want to see in any given weekend.

While there are lots of movies that are destined to do well this summer, some of them being released all on their own, we’re basically going to look at five weekends with such battles, more or less one per month, as they will potentially be the most interesting weekends to watch this summer.

Mad Max: Fury Road will be facing Pitch Perfect 2 at the box office on May 15.

Mad Max: Fury Road vs. Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15)

The first big face-off of the summer takes place next week when the sequel to a 2012 movie takes on the return of a franchise that’s been dormant since 1985, and this is one of the cases this summer where the audiences will pretty much be split up along gender lines with guys going to one movie and women to the other. Pitch Perfect 2 probably has an advantage over George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, mainly because it’s a sequel to a more recent movie, one that did huge business in the after-market of cable and home video. Women and girls are pretty crazy about the original movie and its unique a capella take on popular favorites led to Anna Kendrick having a hit single in Cups. There is little question that they will be out in force to see the movie whereas Mad Max’s older male audience will be a lot more finicky about seeing the movie based on word-of-mouth. I’ve seen both movies and I’m under embargo for any reviews, but I think one of them will get way better reviews than the other one, although the one with the bad reviews probably won’t be affected much. Enigmatic, huh?

It's Spy vs. Entourage vs. Insidious Chapter 3 at the box office on June 5.

Spy vs. Entourage vs. Insidious Chapter 3 (June 5)

This may be one of the more unconventional face-offs this summer, because these are three movies that won’t split their audiences by gender or age as each of them could theoretically appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Two of them have source material with significant fanbases while the third features a popular comic actor in an original comedy that plays within a popular genre. Those latter factors give Paul Feig’s Spy somewhat of an advantage in a summer chockfull of sequels, because its star Melissa McCarthy has proven herself as a box office draw and she’s joined by a great cast including Jude Law, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham, who could also help to interest guys in seeing it. The decision to bring HBO’s series Entourage to the big screen follows in the footsteps of the movie version of Sex and the City, which was a huge hit in 2008, grossing $152 million, although its 2010 sequel ended up making less than $100 million. None of the cast of Entourage have really done very much since the end of the show or capitalized on its success, although the movie promises a lot of celebrity cameos. And then there’s Insidious Chapter 3, the threequel in the popular horror franchise from Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell with the latter taking on directing duties. It’s opening just two weeks after Fox’s remake of Poltergeist, a movie that was hugely influential on the original Insidious. Chapter 2 opened with $40 million in mid-September 2013 and grossed $83.6 million total so it clearly has fans who’ll want to see the third one. 

At this point, I would guess that Spy and Insidious Chapter 3 stand the better chance at breaking out this weekend, probably making between $30 and 40 million each while Entourage may struggle to get $20 million. In some ways, this is a lot like the weekend when Will Smith’s After Earth took on the ensemble action flick Now You See Me—they both ended up with between $25 and 30 million—rather than the following week when The Purge doubled the opening of The Internship, although Entourage is definitely playing this weekend with a weaker hand.

Terminator Genisys will be facing Magic Mike XXL at the box office on the 4th of July.

Terminator Genisys vs. Magic Mike XXL (July 1) 

4th of July weekend has been the most common time for a box office face-off, and while there have been a number of significant battles like when  Despicable Me 2 took on Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger in 2013, one of them almost always dominates the other. This year’s face-off between Terminator Genisys, which puts Arnold Schwarzenegger back into his most popular role, and Magic Mike XXL, which takes Channing Tatum out of most of his clothes. Like with Mad Max vs. Pitch Perfect, this one seems like it will be divided among gender lines with most guys wanting to see Terminator and women going for the movie about male strippers with very little cross-over. The thing is that the Terminator franchise at least has a historic precedent of a 4th of July release with both Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines being released on the holiday. Neither of them had a huge opening weekend (maybe since they were released on a Wednesday), but the former went on to gross $200 million, which is a lot for 1991, while the latter grossed $150 million, which isn’t that much for 2003. At least they both did better than 2009’s Terminator Salvation. As far as Magic Mike XXL, it’s the type of movie that women would go see in groups after work and if they’re not working on Friday, July 3, then that might seriously cut into its weekend although it should do a lot of business on Wednesday and Thursday as well as in its inevitable Tuesday previews. This one seems like it’s weighing heavily in the favor of Terminator, which could do up to $70 million in its first five days, while Magic Mike XXL will probably do closer to $50 million.

How much competition will Trainwreck give Ant-Man at the box office on July 17?

Ant-Man vs. Trainwreck (July 17) 

Just two weeks later, we have another movie face-off between two very different movies, although both offer a degree of humor that could possibly mean more of a mix of genders than some of the other box office battles we’ve mentioned. While Marvel Studios’ dominance on the box office would give Ant-Man a clear advantage over Amy Schumer’s first major feature film Trainwreck, it’s the same general principle where women will be more interested in seeing Schumer’s humor from her popular Comedy Central show expanded to a feature-length film. Ant-Man is a weird one for Marvel, because it’s not even remotely close to being their most popular character. In fact, the character has barely ever had his own comic or appeared in recent issues of Avengers, and it’s not even like older comic fans have been clamoring for a movie based on the character. Fact is that this movie is only getting made because Marvel wanted to work with Edgar Wright and this is what he wanted to do, and eight years later, that plan fell apart, and it’s not like either Paul Rudd or Michael Douglas can get people into theaters. Ant-Man should still be good for a $60 to 70 million opener ’cause there are still lots of sheep who will blindly see anything Marvel Studios makes, but don’t be too surprised if Trainwreck cuts into that business and makes $30 million of its own. Universal Pictures is  pretty confident about their latest movie directed by Judd Apatow to play an early version at SXSW (as they did with Neighbors and Bridesmaids) and we can expect lots of word-of-mouth screenings in July. Marvel is not even bringing Ant-Man to Comic-Con in early July, although the recent reveal that Ant-Man will appear in next year’s Captain America: Civil War may be an attempt to get more people to see this movie.

American Ultra be will going up against Hitman: Agent 47 and Sinister 2 on August 21.

American Ultra vs. Hitman: Agent 47 vs. Sinister 2 (August 21)

Honestly I have no idea why this face-off is even happening, being that the weekend before Labor Day is notoriously one of the worst ones during the “Dog Days” of late August. HItman: Agent 47 had a pretty decent shot at doing well over Labor Day and then Fox moved it to this weekend instead where it will take on the horror sequel Sinister 2 and Lionsgate’s American Ultra, which was just moved onto the weekend after they delayed Kevin Costner’s Criminal. There’s a good chance that opening on this terrible weekend could mean that none of them make more than $15 million but Agent 47 and Sinister 2 stand a better chance at splitting business and American Ultra should just get the hell off this weekend, because it doesn’t stand a chance even if it’s the greatest movie ever made.

That’s it for this addendum to our Summer Box Office preview and you can learn more about the first of these face-offs in next week’s Weekend Warrior!

(Photo credit: Getty Images)