After another dismal summer weekend at the box office and probably one of the worst weekends we’ve seen in some time, the box office is hoping to bounce back with two new wide releases, one that’s likely to have a stronger pull than the other only because it’s a genre that hasn’t oversaturated market quite like the genre of the other.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
The studio that brought you 8 Mile, Ray and 2014’s James Brown biopic Get On Up tackles the story of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. who literally became the voice of a generation in the late ‘80s with the release of their groundbreaking rap album “Straight Outta Compton.” At the time, it connected with an audience of young black men who were being persecuted by the police leading up to the 1991 beating of Rodney King that was caught on video and became the impetus for the L.A. riots when the police responsible were released. This isn’t the first movie telling the life story of a renowned rapper with Eminem’s self-autobiographical 2002 film 8 Mile still being considered the benchmark even though 50 Cent and the Notorious B.I.G. have both had their story told cinematically. Neither of their films cracked the $40 million mark in terms of gross, compared to 8 Mile’s $117 million.
The lack of big names, other than Paul Giamatti, probably won’t matter much because it’s all about the popularity of the group and its music, and ironically, they even got F. Gary Gray, who got his start directing Ice Cube’s comedy Friday, to direct the biopic.
Universal’s been having a great summer and their effective marketing has extended into this movie which culminated in a fun social media thing that made the rounds last week, helping to increase awareness for the movie. Not that they had to do much because fans of the band have been following the ups and downs of the film’s development for years.
The movie is being released into less than 3,000 theaters, which isn’t that big a deal because the biggest markets will likely be in the bigger cities where NWA’s music has had the biggest impact, although they also have a lot of white male suburban fans, having sold 3 million copies. (Universal even re-released the album on cassette in time for Record Store Day.)
While it’s not the kind of movie that might have a huge appeal to women, you can probably expect a large percentage of women in urban areas to support the movie, particularly those under 30, since older African-American women won’t be as drawn to it as other August releases like The Help and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Universal wisely allowed reviews to run early and so far, they’re all pretty good, which will also help generate awareness and interest, as will the brilliant meme generator sponsored by Dre’s company Beats.
Straight Outta Compton should open big, somewhere between Notorious and 8 Mile, especially without much else in theaters to appeal to African-American and Hispanic audiences, and we can probably expect it to dominate with a strong per-theater average despite the relatively moderate release. Still, like some of the other rap biopics mentioned above, it may be greatly frontloaded and probably will end up grossing around $85 million theatrically.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
What do you get when you cross The Lone Ranger, the Man of Steel, the robot chick from Ex Machina and the director of Sherlock Holmes with one of the most popular television shows from the ‘60s? You get the fourth spy action movie of the year, one that mixes the action of a Bond movie with the humor that’s inherent in Guy Ritchie’s earlier movies as well as a completely original take on the spy action movie than we’ve seen in recent years. Much of that is due to the fact that the movie is set in the ‘60s so it sets limitations especially on the technology that actually makes for an extremely entertaining film.
Ritchie cast the unlikely duo of Henry Cavill aka the new Superman from Man of Steel with Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger and The Social Network as the new Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, based on the characters made famous by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum on the show that had James Bond creator Ian Fleming as a consultant. They’re joined by one of the hottest actresses working today, Sweden’s Alicia Vikander, who has already gotten raves for her performance in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and the period drama Testament of Youth. She’s also been cast in the next installment of the “Bourne” franchise for next year as well.
It’s somewhat ironic that it’s opening two weeks after Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which will offer its primary competition for an older male audience, because that was also based on a popular ’60 spy show and that’s become a hugely successful franchise, mainly thanks to Tom Cruise. Obviously, none of the cast of Ritchie offer the same type of box office draw even if Cavill previously starred in Zack Snyder’s blockbuster Man of Steel, because as we’ve seen, starring in a big superhero movie doesn’t always translate into big box office. (Check out some of Mark Ruffalo or Jeremy Renner’s movies since starring in Marvel’s The Avengers.)
On top of that, not all of these TV remakes have been successful with Eddie Murphy’s 2002 remake of the similar I Spy notoriously bombing with $33.6 million, although that didn’t have the pedigree of having Guy Ritchie on board, who already had a big hit by pairing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Reviews for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. should be very positive, helping to generate interest for the movie where they might not be as much without having those rave reviews. Although we’re hitting the dog days of summer, having a quality film like this in theaters should help it do decently against weaker fare heading into Labor Day.
Opening the same weekend as Straight Outta Compton and potentially losing a lot of the male audience might be The Man from U.N.C.L.E’s undoing, but it should still be good for an opening in the high teens or low $20 millions due to buzz from positive reviews and hold its own over the slower weeks of summer, possibly grossing $80 million or a little more.
Interview with Guy Ritchie (Coming Soon!)
This Weekend Last Year
None of the new movies offered much competition against the one-two punch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in its second weekend and Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy in its third as they remained in the top spots with $28.5 million and $25 million, respectively. The Jake Johnson-Damon Wayans Jr. comedy Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox) opened in third place with $17.8 million in 3,094 theaters after making $8.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday. The once successful action franchise faltered as The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate) opened with just $15.9 million, while the young adult sci-fi film The Giver (The Weinstein Co.), starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, opened with a disappointing $12.3 million in 3,003 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $125 million, but even with two stronger movies, this is likely to be another down weekend.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
Straight Outta Compton shouldn’t have any problem winning the weekend with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. coming in a second, and the Top 4 being fairly set, but expect the bottom half of the Top 10 to be a bit of a mess with a lot of close races.
UPDATE: Ticket sales for Straight Outta Compton are so insanely good that it’s hard to imagine it opening under $40 million and it’s likely to do more like 8 Mile although the Thursday previews and summer release will make it even more frontloaded to Friday than it might have been otherwise. I also may have been a bit bullish on U.N.C.L.E. but with a very wide release it doesn’t need a huge per-theater average to hit $20 million.
1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $43.5 million N/A (Up 6 million)
(Note: The Weinstein Company’s animated feature Underdogs was supposed to get a release this weekend but was literally pulled from the schedule last week.)
Three new movies basically vying for the same male audience—good luck with that! The horror sequel Sinister 2 (Gramercy Pictures) and the action sequel Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox)—neither of them with the original stars from the previous movies—face off against Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in the stoner action movie American Ultra (Lionsgate).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Meru (Music Box Films)
One of my favorite movies of the past 15 years is Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void and I realized after watching this doc is how obsessed I am with movies about mountain climbing mainly because it’s something that I don’t I could do, either physically or mentally. This is quite clear from the quest of three amazing men—Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk–who set out to do the impossible, not once, but twice. Everyone talks about climbing Mt. Everest but that isn’t quite the challenge that the trio discovered on the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru, which they try once to scale but have to end that expedition early due to exhaustion and frostbite from the elements. The three go through some amazing experiences on their own, including two near-death experiences, before deciding to give it a go three years later and that second attempt is even more inspiring.
Meru is an amazing film for a variety of reasons, from the cinematography of capturing the landscape of the Himalayas by the film’s co-director/cinematographer Chin and Ozturk, to the inspiration of watching the endurance of these men battling the odds and the elements and eventually overcoming them. Those visuals and emotions are enhanced by a terrific score by J Ralph with songs by Philip Sheppard that really brings out every moment of the men’s two excursions.
For someone who never thought they’d see a mountain climbing film that ranks up there with Touching the Void, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what ends up being one of the best docs of a very strong year for the genre.
The Boy (Chiller Films)
After marveling at what Jon Watts did in last week’s Cop Car, particularly working with young children as his actors, Craig Macneil ups the ante by making a chilling and creepy thriller that harks back to Hitchcock’s Psycho with its setting as well as its younger take on a Norman Bates-like sociopath with Jared Breeze. David Morse is also quite good as the boy’s father while an unrecognizable Rainn Wilson goes against character for a stranger who stays at the motel. There’s a little bit of predictability in where things are going, but for the most part you’ll be fascinated by watching Breeze’s Ted and trying to figure out what he is thinking while he does anything he can to reduce his boredom and loneliness. (Macneil also gets points for creating such a riveting story in a minimal number of locations with such a small cast.)
Mistress America (Fox Searchlight)
Video Interview with Lola Kirke (Coming Soon)
When I saw Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s latest collaboration at Sundance, I might not have been too nice about it, maybe because I was still remembering how much I disliked Baumbach’s previous film While We’re Young. Well, a few months later, the movie has grown on me and I think I appreciate what “Gerbauch” have done including the less-than-likeable character played by Gerwig. Brooke is pretentious and self-involved and languishes in the type of entitlement that way too many New Yorkers do these days, which makes her the perfect counterpoint to Lola Kirke’s Tracy. One of the things I appreciated a lot more on second viewing was the terrific screenplay by the filmmakers and how Baumbach has paced some of the dialogue-heavy scenes to keep you interested. It’s also impressive the fairly unknown cast the duo put together for the film who are really impressive, including Michael Chernus who also appears in People Places Things. I’m still not 100% sold on the movie but I think it’s better than I initially gave it credit for and therefore should be considered this weekend, especially for fans of Frances Ha and the duo’s previous collaborations.
Revised Rating: 7/10
People Places Things (The Film Arcade)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
There are so many movies being released this weekend, including a lot of genre thrillers, but I honestly haven’t had a chance to watch many of these…
Final Girl (Cinedigm)
Tom at the Farm (Amplify Releasing)
Ten Thousand Saints (Screen Media)
Air (Stage 6 Films/Vertical)
Big Sky (eOne/Phase 4 Films)
One & Two (IFC Midnight)
How to Smell a Rose (Kino Lorber)
Amnesiac (XLRator Media)
Return to Sender (RLJ Entertainment)
Paulette (Cohen Media Group)
Brothers: Blood Against Blood (FIP)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas