Here are your estimated three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - $36.0 million ($138.9 million total)
2. The Purge: Anarchy - $28.3 million ($28.3 million total)
3. Planes: Fire & Rescue - $18.0 million ($18.0 million total)
4. Sex Tape - $15.0 million ($15.0 million total)
5. Transformers: Age of Extinction - $10.0 million ($227.1 million total)
6. Tammy - $7.6 million ($71.2 million total)
7. 22 Jump Street - $4.7 million ($180.5 million total)
8. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - $3.8 million ($160.6 million total)
9. Maleficent - $3.3 million ($228.3 million total)
10. Earth to Echo - $3.2 million ($31.9 million total)
The Big Stories
At least two of the three big newcomers this weekend were thought to potentially pose a challenge to the dawning Apes. The grosses were not expected to be massive, we have just had so little faith in the big number ones carrying that audience into its second weekend. Five of the eight films prior to Apes that have taken the top spot at the box office this summer have dropped 59.7% or higher. As a result, the money has been spread around pretty equally among parties and, if you have been reading this column, 2014 is going to have the first summer since 2001 to not have a $300 million grosser. But Fox and the Apes are going to be very satisfied with the path they find themselves on regardless.
To Purge, As in to Vomit
If the best-reviewed film of the week is a sequel to The Purge, that was probably enough to send most people scrambling for the next Apes showing. Nevertheless, The Purge: Anarchy is also the best of the newbies at the box office. The first film became a surprise hit last May grossing $64.4 million in a road rage-infected USA on just a $3 million budget. The sequel takes things into the street with a cast that screams of a direct-to-video project for Universal. But when it only costs $9 million and has a shockingly built-in audience ready to make it the next cheapo franchise in waiting, you could put Don Swayze and Joe Estevez in it and make a profit.
With Fast & Furious 7 leaving the schedule for 2015, The Purge: Anarchy is only the third release of the summer for Universal and will be the second one in profit (after the very successful Neighbors) with a potential third one waiting next week in Lucy. Anarchy's $28 million start is slightly down from 2013's $34 million opening. We'll see if it does better than the 75.6% drop it had in its second weekend. Hardly matters, though, considering the damage is done and we should expect an announcement of The Purge 3 in the next week or so. Maybe that one will focus on the greater sociological implications of choosing murder in an all-crime day rather than looting or removing tags from mattresses. Or at least be a decent thriller, something that neither film has accomplished yet.
You Know, for Kids
Someone somewhere this week wrote that Planes: Fire & Rescue could end up being the highest grossing animated film of the summer. How's that working out? About as well as my prediction that How to Train Your Dragon 2 was going to be the number one film of the summer. To that, though, I say bravo to the parents who may have missed out taking their kids to one truly great animated sequel this summer but did not take the bait on Disney's toy line/one-time-direct-to-video project. Like The Purge, this sequel opened to less than its 2013 predecessor, but like Dragon 2 there is plenty of daylight in front of it for little kids to get their fill of Dane Cook's voicework to pull in around $75 million domestic and enough overseas to make an OK profit for Disney.
Less happy this weekend is Sony, which pumped twice as much money into its Bad Teacher reunion and got an opening weekend around half of its 2011 sleeper hit. The Sony folks must be wondering how the heck Fox made a hit out of The Other Woman with its debasement of the fairer sex but couldn't do the same in embarrassing Cameron Diaz all over again. Jake Kasdan's film actually has 15-20 minutes worth of laughs too, even if it's nowhere close to being "the funniest film of the year" or "the perfect date movie"; quotes courtesy of studio-junket tramps Shawn Edwards and Mark S. Allen. Bad Teacher managed to rake in $115 million overseas so maybe the looser non-American cultures will accept with greater enthusiasm seeing Diaz's bum multiple times. It is going to need at least $60 million outside the U.S. for Sony to not have another disappointment this year. Only three of its 10 major releases this year before Sex Tape (Heaven Is for Real, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 22 Jump Street) have registered a profit for the studio.
Tales of the Top 10 (and Beyond)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the most positive story of the week, as Matt Reeves' terrific sequel is not only going to outgross Rise from 2011 but is on path to be the fifth $200 million grosser of the summer. Only one film has grossed $137 million in its first 10 days and not gone on to that milestone. It just happens to be this summer's Godzilla, which stands at just under $199 million. Dawn is unlikely to fall victim to that path as the Apes' second weekend was nearly $4 million greater than the big lizard's. Meanwhile, the surprising Maleficent is going to pass X-Men: Days of Future Past's gross next week, but not before Transformers: Age of Extinction becomes this summer's champ. Does it have another $32 million in it to dethrone Captain America to be the highest grossing film in the U.S. of 2014? Until Mockingjay that is.
IFC added 28 screens for Boyhood this weekend and the critical darling grabbed another $1.2 million. By comparison this year, The Grand Budapest Hotel jumped from four theaters to 66 and managed a screen average over $20,000 more. On the other hand, Chef went from six theaters to 72 in its second weekend and it averaged about a fourth of what Boyhood did. Not unreasonable to think it could pull in somewhere in between if IFC can get it out there. It only needs a little over $13 million to be the second biggest film in the indie studio's history (behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding's massive $241.4 million, which is almost twice as much as EVERY other film IFC has released.)
The other big indie story of the week was the release of Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here. The partially Kickstarter-funded project drew the ire of many who felt the star carried that kind of cash in his wallet and critics have been mostly feeding into that hatred with negative reviews. As I did not get the memo that we're supposed to now hate the Garden State filmmaker, I found the film far more interesting and moving than most with a juxtaposition between the fantasy and reality of our everyday lives that should be looked at more closely in between the slow-motion shots and indie soundtrack that also drew negative reactions. Regardless the film opened to $495,000 on 68 screens compared to Garden State's $201,115 on just nine screens back in 2004 with far more positive buzz than Sundance. However, it is a better start than Veronica Mars which did open with $1.9 million, but on 291 theaters and only finished with $3.3 million. Focus plans to expand Wish I Was Here over the coming weeks and possibly audiences will discover and judge it for themselves. Hopefully they didn't get the memo.
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]
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