With two absolutely astounding weekends in a row, we’re proceeding into the 4th of July weekend with a booming box office that seems like it won’t stop anytime soon with two more big summer movies starring four big name box office stars split between them. As is often the case, it’s the big movie for guys vs. the big movie for women, but in these two cases, those lines are fairly well blurred. The sweltering summer heat and the fact people genuinely seem to enjoy going to the movies these days should see two fairly sizable hits that makes it a far more difficult weekend to predict than usual, especially with Monsters University potentially ending up somewhere in between them.
White House Down (Sony)
If the summer is all about big action spectacles (as some studios seem to think) then there are few filmmakers who have cornered that market as well as director Roland Emmerich, who oddly hasn’t had a movie released in the summer since 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow. That was an enormous hit though, opening over Memorial Day weekend with $85.8 million and returning Emmerich to the echelon of box office hitmakers he achieved eight years earlier when he helped define the summer blockbuster along with Will Smith when they teamed up for the alien invasion movie Independence Day. The movie grossed $300 million at the box office back when that was a much bigger deal than it is now – put it this way, only six other movies had grossed that amount in history before that point. That movie’s follow-up 10,000 BC. didn’t fare as well, grossing less than $100 million with a March opening, but Emmerich returned to wanton destruction with 2009’s 2012, which got a November release and opened big with $65.2 million before grossing $166.1 million domestically.
Whatever you want to say about the crazy stuff depicted in Emmerich’s movies, his style of filmmaking has definitely found him an audience, although White House Down is a different kind of movie for Emmerich since it’s more of a “Die Hard”-like action shoot-em-up grounded in the real world of Washington D.C. There are still lots of explosions but he’s not destroying entire cities as he has in the past.
Even so, one of the biggest benefits it has over some of Emmerich’s other movies is that he has a much bigger name cast than usual as well as two actors who are definitely considered A-list stars at this point, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. The good thing abut the two actors is that they have a fairly wide ranging appeal to both men and women and different ages and ethnicities, Tatum being particularly good at the equal gender appeal thanks to having hit romances like Dear John and The Vow as well as doing action movies like G.I. Joe: Retaliation (As you can read below, this weekend last year, he was headlining the stripping comedy Magic Mike.)
Meanwhile, Foxx is coming off Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which opened big over the holidays and ended up becoming the filmmaker’s biggest hit with $162.8 million, which followed a very funny role for Foxx in the hit summer comedy Horrible Bosses.
Having name actors in your movie can do wonders as seen by what Brad Pitt brought to World War Z last week although that opened big following one of Will Smith’s biggest bombs of his career. The reason why Tatum and Foxx should work, besides the fact they already have proven track records at being able to bring in audiences with their names, each of them having four to five consecutive wide releases that grossed $100 million.
Emmerich has also assembled a number of Oscar-nominated actors including Richard Jenkins and Maggie Gyllenhaal, not to mention James Woods, which certainly should raise the quality of the movie even if they do little to attract moviegoers.
Possibly the oddest predicament faced by White House Down is that it is being released just three short months after the action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen, a movie with a similar premise that starred Gerard Butler, who had a number of consecutive bombs before that movie opened with $30.4 million, a new benchmark for FilmDistrict, and grossed nearly $100 million domestic, far more than anyone expected. And that was against a much smaller budget than what White House Down probably cost.
This is somewhat of an important movie for Sony Pictures who have not had the type of summer they did last year, at least domestically, and having a big patriotic Roland Emmerich movie opening mere days before 4th of July could help turn around their summer if it brings the kind of audiences that normally flock to see his movies and that of his two stars. They’ve put a lot into getting the word out including advertising during the NBA Finals with Tatum and Foxx doing special promos for the movie and they’ve wisely put more focus on the chemistry between the two stars than they have the fact that it’s a Roland Emmerich movie. It should open well this weekend, definitely making a play for the top spot against Monsters University and it also might end seeming like a more viable 4th of July choice for guys than Disney’s The Lone Ranger which should help its legs.
Weekend Est.: $43 to 47 million; Est. Total Gross: $138 million
The Heat (20th Century Fox)
Offered as an interesting form of counter-programming in hopes there are women who don’t automatically just want to see Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx fighting off terrorists is the new movie from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, which puts a feminine spin on the classic buddy cop comedy movie that’s been territory more commonly associated with the likes of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys and Brett Ratner’s “Rush Hour” movies.
This one teams one of the biggest female comedy and box office stars of the 90s with a comic actress who has exploded in recent years, and it’s that pairing that’s probably going to drive whether or not moviegoers go to see this over an easier-to-sell Roland Emmerich action movie.
The fact is that women of a certain age love Sandra Bullock and she’s in a particularly interesting place in her career, having not had a major release since winning an Oscar for The Blind Side, other than a supporting role alongside Tom Hanks in the drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. That fact that Bullock hasn’t made a mainstream comedy (or at least not a hit one) in a long time is definitely a positive for the movie’s chances.
For this one she’s been paired with Melissa McCarthy, who has quickly become one of the biggest female comedy stars following her supporting role in Bridesmaids, which earned her a rare comedy Oscar nomination. McCarthy has been working for a while as a character actor going back to “Gilmore Girls” before she landed her own sitcom with the CBS comedy “Mike & Molly,” which certainly could have helped her popularity. Back in March, McCarthy was teamed with Jason Bateman for Universal’s Identity Thief, a high concept comedy that did way better than anyone could have imagined with a $35 million opening and $134 million total and it was soon obvious that McCarthy had something that appeals to American moviegoers that could make her a viable box office star. In fact, originally, 20th Century Fox was going to open The Heat in April but seeing McCarthy having such a big hit with Identity Thief convinced them to hold the movie until the summer.
The big question though is whether women have any interest in seeing a buddy action comedy, a genre that’s normally driven by its appeal to guys, and whether having two actresses they love in a genre that’s normally not their speed will be enough to get them to check it out. The other question is whether guys who like buddy cop comedies will want to go see this even though it has female leads. In the past, action movies with female leads have not fared well at the box office, which may be why no one else has attempted a female buddy cop comedy before this, but if it is a hit, it’s likely to have a greater impact on the type of movies Hollywood makes than Bridesmaids did.
At this point, an R-rating on a summer movie may have limited the movie’s audience, especially in the summer with schools being out, since teenage audience looking for movies to see as a group might not be able to get into it, but as we’ve seen with last year’s Ted, there’s enough of an audience for raunchy comedy that having an R-rating can be seen more as a plus and that’s certainly the case here.
Either way, one clear sign The Heat is expected to do well is that there’s already a screenplay for a sequel in the works and being a movie meant as a draw for women means that it could potentially have similar legs as a movie like Bridesmaids if the women who see it opening weekend tell enough friends.
Weekend Est.: $31 to 35 million; Est. Total Gross: $115 million
This weekend last year saw a really strong pre-4th of July box office where four new movies opened in wide release with three of them bringing in more than $25 million each. Topping the box office was “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy comedy Ted (Universal) starring Mark Wahlberg with a talking teddie, which exploded into theaters with an opening weekend of $54.4 million, again showing how much Americans love R-rated humor. Pulling in a strong second was Channing Tatum’s semi-autobiographical stripping movie Magic Mike (Warner Bros.), directed by Steven Soderbergh and co-starring Matthew McConaughey, which brought in $39.1 in 2,913 theaters. Eugene Levy starred in the latest Tyler Perry movie Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Lionsgate), which opened in fourth place with $25.4 million in 2,161 theaters while writer/producer Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut, People Like Us, (DreamWorks) starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, failed to find much of an audience, as it premiered outside the Top 10 with just $4.3 million. The Top 10 brought in roughly $190 million and we expect this weekend to do about the same unless one of the two movies really explodes… And going by the past couple weekends, that could happen.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
UPDATE: We’re shifting things a little since White House Down is opening in fewer theaters than we originally projected and reviews haven’t been great compared to The Heat (which we hated). Go figure. It seem that Pixar Animation’s Monsters University has just as good a chance of pulling a repeat this weekend and we’re going with that.
1. Monsters University (DisneyPixar) – $42.5 million -48% (Up .1 million and one spot)
2. White House Down (Sony) – $41.6 million N/A (down 4 million)
3. The Heat (20th Century Fox) – $35.8 million N/A (up 1.5 million)
4. World War Z (Paramount) – $30 million -55%
5. Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) – $19.5 million -47%
6. This is the End (Sony) – $8.4 million -37%
7. Now You See Me (Summit) – $4.9 million -36% (down .1 million)
8. Fast & Furious 6
9. Star Trek Into Darkness – $1.7 million -50% (added back into Top 10)
10. The Purge (Universal Pictures) – $1.3 million -65 % (down .3 million)
This week’s CHOSEN ONE–and we’re going to keep our write-up short this week–is A Band Called Death (Drafthouse Films), the new documentary by Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino about you guessed it, A Band Called Death. Made up of the three Hackney Brothers from Detroit, sons of a Baptist minister, Death had the distinction of being the very first black punk band from the 70s who never broke it big or were discovered, their music remaining dormant for decades before being discovered by the likes of Jello Biafra, long after the death of their main creative force.
Even though the band was ahead of their time, they quickly discover that having a name like “Death” really hurts them getting a record deal so they gave up on the band leaving a full album of unreleased material. It’s an amazing story and a far more solid and thorough doc than the similarly-minded Anvil! The Story of Anvil, because we do get to follow them both in their early days being inspired by The Who throughout their short-lived career as they move onto other things before being discovered decades later.
A Band Called Death is available now for download, but it can also be seen in select cities on Friday and you can find out where it’s playing here. And yes, I fully realize this is probably the second music doc in a row that garnered a CHOSEN ONE in this column. I like music and I like docs. So sue me.
Cameron and Colin Cairnes’ Australian horror-comedy 100 Bloody Acres (Doppelganger Releasing) is about two brothers (Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson) trying to keep their business alive using dead car crash victims, but when they come upon three stranded travellers that could help them meet their latest order, they’re torn between killing them when the younger brother falls for one of them.
Neil Jordan returns to genre territory with Byzantium (IFC Films), his first vampire movie since directing Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire, this one starring Saoise Ronan as Eleanor and Gemma Arterton as Clara, sisters keeping the secret that they are 200 years old, something that becomes harder as they become close with Noel, a shy young man who gives them shelter in his family guesthouse, Byzantium.
Jason Statham is back in Redemption (Roadside Attractions), the directorial debut of Eastern Promises screenwriter Steven Knight, playing an ex Special Forces officer trying to rehabilitate himself on the streets of London. I haven’t seen it but hopefully it’s better than Parker.
Spanish auteur filmmaker Pedro Almodovar returns with I’m So Excited! (Sony Pictures Classics) a musical comedy that takes place on a full plane headed towards Mexico City that experiences technical problems. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Adam Brody stars in the adaptation of Neil LaBute’s play Some Girl(s) (Leeden Media) playing a writer about to get married who travels around the country confronting ex-lovers, played by the likes of Jennifer Morrison, Emily Watson, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan and Mia Maestro.
Laurence Anyways (Breaking Glass Pictures) is the new movie from Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother) starring Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clément as a couple whose lives are changed when she learns that he wants to live his life as a woman.
The title of Matthew Cooke’s documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs (Tribeca Film) is fairly self-explanatory.
Next week, the 4th of July weekend sees the release of two more movies, the animated sequel Despicable Me 2 (Universal) and the latest collaboration from “Pirates of the Caribbean’s” Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp, their take on Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.
Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas