Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Elysium - $30.4 million
2. We're the Millers - $26.5 million
3. Planes - $22.5 million
4. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - $14.6 million
5. 2 Guns - $11.1 million
6. The Smurfs 2 - $9.5 million
7. The Wolverine - $8.0 million
8. The Conjuring - $6.7 million
9. Despicable Me 2 - $5.7 million
10. Grown Ups 2 - $3.7 million
The Big Stories
Over $90 million was dished out over the weekend to four new releases, about the same amount of money distributed to the four titles between July 19-21. That said, the total numbers for August are looking to be the lowest in years. Not since 2000 has the final month of summer been unable to produce a film that grossed $100 million domestically at the box office. That is where things are headed as the summer of 2013 underwhelms to a finish with a sleeper comedy being its best bet for a high-end winner.
Elysium Proves It's Hard to Strike Gold Twice
Last week we had a lot of fun picking apart the hedge-fund manager's argument that Sony's hierarchy should be split apart and fired after a couple miscues this summer. Could you blame someone for green-lighting another Will Smith sci-fi project or one whose director served up almost $770 million worldwide for his last action spectacular? Those are not bad investments on the surface. Only when measured against putting it in the hands of a bygone M. Night Shyamalan and in the wake of a similar White House-under-attack project do they look questionable. Of course, if you have a first-time director that produces $210 million in grosses on a $30 million budget (District 9), why not take a chance again with a bigger budget and a star to boot? Cause its possible he will just retread the same material with an even more heavy-handed message and hardly dazzle the way he did with his action and special effects before in their sophomore effort.
The $30.4 million opening for Neill Blomkamp's Elysium is actually the best start for Matt Damon in a nonsequel, nonensemble piece. Damon actually owns the all-time August start with 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.2 million). Sony has had some greater successes (and bigger bombs) debuting this month.
Best Sony Pictures August Openings
Talladega Nights ($47.0 million), XXX ($44.5), S.W.A.T. ($37.0), The Other Guys ($35.5), Superbad ($33.0), Elysium ($30.4), Hollow Man ($26.4), Total Recall (2012) ($25.5), Pineapple Express ($23.2), Eat Pray Love ($23.1)
Not living up to star vehicles for Vin Diesel and Colin Farrell has to hurt a little bit. Elysium is unlikely to find the same word of mouth that District 9 did and with a $115 million budget is going to be looking for $200 million overseas to break even. District 9 only did $95 million.
Comedies Find Success in August
We're the Millers got off to a great start on Wednesday and continued on through the weekend. It is also Warner Bros.' fourth straight "A-" through Cinemascore; a rating that has translated into solid word of mouth. Until Millers, director Rawson Marshall Thurber has only made one film since 2004's Dodgeball, which started with $30 million that summer and went on to gross over $114. $11.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday plus over $25 million on the weekend puts Millers in pretty good company.
Best August Openings for Comedies
Talladega Nights ($59.3 million), American Pie 2 ($57.3) The Other Guys ($45.2), Superbad ($43.2), American Wedding ($42.8), Pineapple Express ($41.3), The Dukes of Hazzard ($38.5), We're the Millers ($38.0), Tropic Thunder ($36.8), The Campaign ($33.1)
Those August comedies in their first five days do not give the clearest picture for the Millers success. Pineapple, Dukes and Campaign are the only three to not go on to $100 million of the lot, though $80-85 seems guaranteed. Not too shabby for another R-rated comedy, nor for Warner Bros., which after a horrible start to 2013 with Gangster Squad, Bullet to the Head, Beautiful Creatures, Jack the Giant Slayer and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone should turn profits on five of its six summer releases with only an Ethan Hawke/Selena Gomez chase film from the director of Dungeons & Dragons left on the August schedule.
Families Find Lesser Success In August
Live-action family films have done better this month than animated fare. In box office history no "cartoon" (if you will) has ever cracked the nine-digit mark when opening this month and kids go back to school mid-month. Parents may have already wasted their money on some phoned-in product and may need that coin for pencil boxes and supplies. Nevertheless both Disney and Fox tried to squeeze the last few cents out of mom and dad's pockets with two new releases; a Saturday-morning cartoon feature that was supposed to go straight to video (Planes) and a sequel nobody was asking for (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters).
The first Percy Jackson film opened in February 2010 to $31.2 million. That was over three days and still could not reach $90 million here in the States. $226.4 million total on a $95 million budget was a break-even proposition at best so Fox tried again with just a $90 million budget this time. The result? Sea of Monsters opened to just $23.4 million in five days. Likely clocking in somewhere between $50-60 million in the U.S. it's going to need over $165 million overseas just to break even again. Given the all-time numbers you would think studios would have realized by now that there just isn't a whole lot of family cash to be dispensed late in the summer.
Best August Openings for Family Movies
Freaky Friday ($110.2 million), The Princess Diaries ($108.2), The Princess Diaries 2 ($95.1), Spy Kids 2 ($85.8), Barnyard ($72.6), Babe ($63.6), ParaNorman ($56.0), The Little Rascals ($52.1), The Odd Life of Timothy Green ($51.8), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days ($49.0)
Disney is in slightly better shape getting $21 million back this weekend on its $50 million Planes investment. It could even go on to challenge Barnyard as the all-time animated grosser in August, which is about as impressive as saying that Planes is the best film in the Cars universe.
Tales of the Top 10
2 Guns and The Smurfs 2, two of the best bets to reach $100 million this month, look as if both are going to come up way short. With neither hitting $50 million in their second weekends and Elysium looking to disappoint as well, the August box office may not have a $100 million grosser for the first time since 2000. Grown Ups 2 is approaching $150 million worldwide but still hasn't covered its $80 million budget. Despite having the lowest grossing domestic tally in the franchise, The Wolverine has come up in profit for Fox, though it needs to keep going to get back some of that Turbo money. James Wan's The Conjuring is over $120 million and on its way to being the fourth most profitable film of 2013. Despicable Me 2 is slowly creeping out of the top 10 and remains the third highest grossing film in Universal's catalog behind only E.T. and Jurassic Park.
- Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]