Last weekend, we had two movies that brought in more than $25 million, but as we get to the middle of August and the end of summer, we’ll be lucky if we get any that gross more than $20 million over the weekend. Between people going on vacation and some schools starting up early, the rest of the summer is generally a bit of a wash, although the studios aren’t going to give up that summer box office money without a fight. This weekend, we have everything from an action moviethe last sequel of the summer in facta techno-thriller and two biographical dramas. The starpower of the collective movies may not quite be up to the standards of the rest of the summer but there’s a couple big names in there like Ashton Kutcher, Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford, and maybe some of their fans will give this weekend’s offerings a chance.
Kick-Ass 2 (Universal)
It looks like we’ve finally made it to THE LAST SEQUEL OF THE SUMMER and while some might immediately wonder whether this is another sequel no one asked for, you may be surprised at how many people enjoyed the original Kick-Ass and want to see more with the characters.
Based on the edgy comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass was financed independently, produced and directed by British filmmaker Matthew Vaughn back in 2008 and 9 around the time that the comic book was first hitting the stands, and he then sold the completed movie to Lionsgate for $50 million, essentially making the money he spent back. The movie opened in mid-April 2010 to a disappointing $19.8 million, quite a bit lower than some of the expectations that it might do Sin City numbers, but it went on to gross nearly $48 million domestic and just under $100 million worldwide. What’s key is that it made $23.8 million in DVD sales showing that those who saw the movie liked it enough to buy the DVD and/or recommend it to others.
Lionsgate opted out of the sequel so Universal Pictures came on board to produce, distribute and market it, which isn’t that odd when you remember that Guillermo del Toro’s first Hellboy movie was released by Sony Pictures and then Universal stepped in for its sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army. For comparison’s sake, the first Hellboy made $59.6 million in North America (and less than $100 million worldwide) while its sequel, released four years later, ended up doing better overall, grossing $76 million and $160.4 million worldwide.
Like the original movie, the sequel once again stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the unlikely hero Kick-Ass, Chloe Moretz as his younger and much more skilled (and foul-mouthed) sidekick Hit-Girl and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the main baddie Red Mist, who actually takes on a name that only Hit-Girl would say without flinching. Moretz was clearly the breakout star of that original movie, even winning a number of awards for just that reason, and she’s starred in a number of interesting movies since the original Kick-Ass including Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated Hugo, the vampire thriller Let Me In and in October, she’s leading the remake of Carrie. Taylor-Johnson certainly has become quite a bit hotter since Kick-Ass, appearing in last year’s Savages and Anna Karenina. As with any hot actor, he’s starting to be cast in larger studio tentpoles, including next year’s Godzilla plus he’s rumored to be joining Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron as Quicksilver.
While Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy is nowhere to be found this time, he’s replaced by a new vigilante character played by Jim Carrey, although probably the less we say about him the better, since he has stated that he wants little to do with this movie following the shootings at Sandy Hook. Carrey’s statements probably did more to help get the movie some early attention so the marketing department probably isn’t too worried not having him around to do generic junket interviews or the talk shows.
The question on most minds is whether the sequel factor will pay off for Universal like it did with Hellboy II. It’s been three years since the previous movie and it certainly will have been seen by even more people since then, likely helped by the continued success of the comic as Miller and Romita Jr. continued to get it out on a more timely basis. In fact, the first issue of “Kick-Ass 3” was just released a few weeks back. It’s hard to say whether Jim Carrey’s statement will have any sort of negative impact on people going to see the movie, but it certainly won’t help that creator Mark Millar generally finds ways to piss off even his most dedicated fans simply by opening his mouth.
Either way, we don’t really see this opening huge regardless, but an opening in the low $20 millions is nothing to scoff at as we get to this portion of August. That said, the movie is likely to do most of its business opening weekend and then tail off quickly because it seems like that kind of movie and there are definitely other viable options in the coming weeks.
Weekend Est.: $21 to 23 million; Est. Total Gross: $55 million
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company)
You can’t get a movie more different from Kick-Ass 2 in terms of counter-programming then this movie directed by Lee Daniels, who had a festival and awards hit with his movie based on Precious: Based on the Book “Push” by Sapphire a few years back. Now he returns with his own name in the title of a movie that tells the story of a butler at the White House who got to see a lot of presidents and history taking place.
It stars Forest Whitaker, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Ami in The Last King of Scotland and has basically been tooling around doing odds and ends since then, although many of his movies have barely been getting theatrical releases, which may be why he turned to television to star on the short-lived “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.” The Butler marks Whitaker’s first leading role in some time, but an even bigger draw for the movie will be that it’s the first on-screen acting role for Oprah Winfrey in a long time, and wisely, she’s been doing a majority of the movie’s talk show publicity. Winfrey’s presence, both in the movie and in the talk shows, will play a huge part in the movie’s success because she has so many female fans who would normally be the target audience for a more mature historical drama like The Butler.
Otherwise, Daniels has assembled a huge ensemble cast around the duo with David Oyelowo, who appeared in the director’s previous movie The Paperboy and has had key roles in Red Tails, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher. Oh and not many people realize this but he had a role in The Last King of Scotland as well. The rest of the large cast includes the likes of Oscar winners Cuba Gooding Jr. and Melissa Leo as well as John Cusack, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams playing various presidents, all of which will add to the prestige of the film.
While women will generally be more interested in the movie than men, one expects the historic significance of the story being told will be a draw for African-American audiences much like last year’s Red Tails or the Jackie Robinson movie 42 earlier this year. While Red Tails at least had the promise of some high flying action to help bring guys into theaters, 42 defied its genre as a baseball biopic to open with $27.5 million earlier this year on its way to $95 million showing that moviegoing audiences are interested in history. (More proof can be found in the $182 million domestic take for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln last year.) Granted, a White House butler may not be nearly as exciting as a groundbreaking baseball player or a famous president, but there are lots of signs that quality historic storytelling is as much a draw for moviegoers these days as a big name actor, and fortunately The Butler has a bit of both if the mostly positive reviews have anything to go by.
Late August seems like an odd time to release a movie with a social consciousness, but the Weinstein Company is trying to avoid the glut of adult dramas being released in September and October as they try to get early buzz out and they may be trying to follow the model of The Help, another period piece with a large cast that opened one week earlier in August and scored big. TWC have done a good job reaching the audience they need to reach, which is the older women and African-Americans who really have few other choices in theaters. There should be enough interest to give it an opening weekend push and enough buzz from word-of-mouth to help it do well over the next few weeks although it’s hard to see this making more than $100 million.
Weekend Est.: $15 to 18 million; Est. Total Gross: $65 million
Paranoia (Relativity Media)
In any other weekend, this star-studded techno-thriller based on Joseph Finder’s 2004 bestseller would probably fare decently among older moviegoers looking for something with a bit more weight than the normal summer fare. Certainly the popularity of the novel and the thriller genre (which has been sorely lacking not just this year but in general) would normally help a movie like this bring in a fairly wide audience, but there’s just something about this release that makes us think its going to bomb. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.
Paranoia is the first true starring vehicle for Liam Hemsworth, the younger of the two acting brothers who was best known for his engagement to Miley Cyrus after they appeared together in the Nicholas Sparks’ drama The Last Song before he was cast in the coveted role of Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games. That movie went on to gross over $400 million last year which elevated Hemsworth’s status among women of all ages similar to Robert Pattinson after he starred in the Twilight movies.
To help give the movie the weight it needs, they cast two veteran actors as the two corporate giants at war who will be likely to bring in the movie’s intended audience with Harrison Ford appearing in his second movie of the year following his role in the breakout baseball hit 42 earlier this year. Other than that, Ford has remained fairly scarce in recent years, having a couple outright bombs–which this movie may be joiningalthough he’s definitely becoming more active, appearing in Ender’s Game in a few months, having just signed on for The Expendables 3. Oh, yeah and apparently he’s returning as Han Solo for Star Wars: Episode VII. (Ford also can be seen in the doc Drew: The Man behind the Poster about legendary Indiana Jones poster painter Drew Struzan, which you can read more about below.)
Gary Oldman certainly has been in a number of great movies in recent years including a number of blockbusters such as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” and the “Harry Potter” series, while receiving acclaim for performances in prestige films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Lawless. He’s also appeared in lesser quality genre films like The Book of Eli, Red Riding Hood and The Unborn.
The thriller is directed by Robert Luketic, who is better known for making light romantic comedies like Legally Blonde and Monster in Law, but who returns to more serious fare after helming the breakout blackjack hit 21.
Relativity Media seemed to have started their campaign for this one late, which is never a good thing, especially when you’re releasing a movie in late summer against three other movies. They’ve had Liam Hemsworth doing the rounds, capitalizing on the fact he has the “Hunger Games” sequel coming out in a few months and it’s always easy to find press willing to talk to Harrison Ford. Even with that star power, there’s nothing about the movie that’s made it of interest to anyone who hasn’t read Finder’s book and just because they’ve read and enjoyed the book, that doesn’t mean they’re the type who automatically care about seeing the movie.
On top of that, we’re not expecting great reviews of thiscritics screenings aren’t until Wednesday night, so maybe those bad reviews will be delayed slightly. While this might have done some business in the slower months of January through April, releasing it in mid-August against much stronger fare, both new and already in theaters makes us think that this one is just going to bomb.
Weekend Est.: $9 to 11 million; Est. Total Gross: $26 million
JOBS (Open Road Films)
To continue this weird weekend of releases, we have one more movie that has Ashton Kutcher of “That ’70s Show” and “Two and a Half Men” taking on a more serious role playing the late Steve Jobs, a movie that played at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews before being picked up by Open Road Films for a wide release. We don’t have a ton to say about this except that like everyone else on this planet, we’re well aware of Jobs’ contribution to technology with billions of people worldwide owning iPods and iPhones and iPads. Jobs definitely has an interesting story to tell that probably makes for a worthier movie than the invention of the windshield wiper depicted in Flash of Genius.
Because of his return to television, it’s been some time since Kutcher has starred in a movie, and he’s been doing the talk show rounds to help promote the movie, which should help raise awareness, although it’s hard to imagine his young female fans might have any interest in this–essentially, it’s the same problem as casting Liam Hemsworth in a movie like Paranoia expecting that fans of The Hunger Games will care enough to show up.
It’s been a few months since Open Road released a movie, the young adult bomb The Host, and they’re giving this one a more moderate release into roughly 2,000 theatres, having originally planned on releasing the movie in April. It’s not quite clear why they thought delaying it to mid-August would be better, but it probably didn’t cost too much to make or buy so they probably can make back their investment fairly easily.
The question is whether that many people are interested in seeing a biodrama about Jobs, especially since these movies tend to be rolled out slower into big cities first before going nationwide. We think that there’s enough fascination with Jobs due to the current iCraze that there will probably be a number of 20-to-30 somethings more interested in this than a movie like Kick-Ass 2 so it should get enough business to not bomb too badly, although it’s probably going to be joining Paranoia in the bottom half of the Top 10.
Weekend Est.: $7 to 9 million; Est. Total Gross: $25 million
This weekend last year, four new movies opened and ended up interspersed with returning fare. The all-star ensemble cast of The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) featuring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more, shot their way into 3,316 theatres to the tune of $28.6 million for an easy #1. The stop-motion animated ParaNorman (Focus Features) opened in third place with $14 million while Whitney Houston’s last movie, the musical remake of Sparkle (Screen Gems) opened in fifth place with $11.6 million. Lastly, the family film The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney) settled into seventh place with $10.8 million, having opened earlier in the week on Wednesday. The Top 10 grossed $122.8 million and though it will probably be close, we think this weekend will come out just slightly ahead of that amount.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
Note: A couple movies are getting more theaters than projected and a few are losing more theaters so we made the appropriate changes. We’re still waiting to find out how wide Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine will expand this weekend to determine whether it will get enough to break into the Top 10
1. Kick-Ass 2 (Universal) – $22.8 million N/A (up .1 million)
2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company) – $21.0 million N/A (up 3.5 million)
3. We’re the Millers (New Line/WB) – $16.5 million -38% (up .1 million)
4. Elysium (TriStar Pictures/Sony) – $14.1 million -53%
5. Disney’s Planes (Walt Disney Pictures) – $13.8 -38% (down .2 million)
6. Paranoia (Relativity Media) – $10.5 million N/A
7. JOBS (Open Road Films) – $8.8 million N/A (Up .6 million)
8. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (20th Century Fox) – $7.5 million -48%
9. 2 Guns (Universal Pictures) – $5.5 million -51% (down .3 million)
10. The Smurfs 2 (Sony) – $5.5 million -55%
This week’s CHOSEN ONE is Zachary Heinzerling’s documentary Cutie and the Boxer (RadiusTWC), which takes a look at the relationship between artistic couple Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko.
It’s a solid fly-on-the-wall documentary that shows the day-to-day life of this odd couple that traverses the fine line between doc and reality televisionback when Bravo and A&E actually cared about “art” they probably would have loved to have a show about this duo. At 80 years old, he’s a boisterous leftover from the 70s who creates odd cardboard sculptures and paints using boxing gloves, but he’s far beyond his prime. Meanwhile, she uses a character named Cutie to tell autobiographical stories about her life with “Bully,” which seem more like comics than artwork.
Heinzerling uses animation to bring Noriko’s stories to life, explaining how she arrived in New York City as a naïve art school student who falls for Ushio due to his support of her artwork. Decades later, she’s an oppressed housewife, having to put her own work aside in order to care for their troubled son and help her husband create enough art to pay their rent. It’s a complex symbiotic relationship that probably only works due to her patience and understanding with her once alcoholic husband and Heinzerling’s movie (while relatively short) is funny and quite joyful as you watch Noriko find her voice and ends up getting an art show alongside her husband. Even with
It’s opening in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Landmark Sunshine Cinema as well as in Los Angeles.
This is actually a very good weekend for limited releases and I’d recommend a number of the ones that we’ve seen below:
Another really solid artistic doc out this week is Eric P. Sharkey’s Drew: The Man Behind the Poster (Kino Lorber), a portrait of legendary illustrator and painter Drew Struzan, whose artwork for the posters for the “Star Wars,” Indiana Jones and “Back to the Future” movies have found him millions of fans worldwide. The doc includes exclusive interviews with the likes of George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Frank Darabont, Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro talking about their love of Drew’s artwork and what he has brought to their movies with the iconic images in his posters. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday.
I also really enjoyed David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Body Saints (IFC Films), which stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, a couple on a crime spree who are separated when they’re caught and he’s taken to jail for killing a police officer. Four years later she’s trying to raise their daughter when he escapes from jail to try to find them. Also starring Ben Foster as a local deputy who takes a shine to Ruth, Nate Parker and the great Keith Carradine, the movie opens in select cities this weekend and I have to say that I really enjoyed it more than I normally do Southern Gothic dramas, maybe because the whole movie has a feel of early Malick–unfortunately, the “Badlands” comparisons are inevitable–and the performances, particularly Mara’s, are terrific. It opens in select cities Friday.
From a similar female empowerment vein as Cutie and the Boxer comes Atiq Rahimi’s Afghan drama The Patience Stone (Sony Pictures Classics), which stars Golshifteh Farahani as a woman in war-torn Afghanistan whose husband falls into a coma, but instead of deserting him, she keeps returning to him and confessing all of her deepest secrets, knowing there can’t be repercussions while he can’t move. He essentially becomes her “Patience Stone,” an object from Persian mythology that can absorb the plight of those that confide in it. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Gilles Legrand’s drama You Will Be My Son (Cohen Media Group) stars Niels Arestrup (A Prophet) as the owner of a vineyard in Bordeaux who has a troubled relationship with his son, who he doesn’t feel his worthy of succeeding him, unlike the winemaking son of his groundskeeper who seems to have more ambition for the craft and business.
And the one movie I didn’t get to see this weekend
Keri Russell stars in the adaptation of Shannon Hale’s novel Austenland (Sony Pictures Classics) by Napoleon Dynamite co-writer Jerusha Hess (and produced by “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer), playing Jane Hayes, a New Yorker whose obsession with Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice” makes it impossible for her to find a real man. When she’s sent on a trip to a resort that caters to similarly crazed women, Jane has a chance to experience those times. It will be released in New York and L.A. with plans for a nationwide release on September 6 and we assume it will eventually be packaged with Sony Pictures Classics’ The Jane Austen Book Club as a budget DVD two-pack.
Next week, the month of August continues with the young adult novel adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (TriStar Pictures/Sony), the conclusion to the “Three Flavours CornettoTrilogy” The World’s End (Focus Features) from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright and the home invasion horror-thriller You’re Next (Lionsgate).
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Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas