Here are your estimated three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - $73.0 million ($73.0 million total)
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction - $16.5 million ($209.0 million total)
3. Tammy - $12.9 million ($57.3 million total)
4. 22 Jump Street - $6.7 million ($171.4 million total)
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - $5.8 million ($152.0 million total)
6. Earth to Echo - $5.5 million ($24.5 million total)
7. Deliver Us from Evil - $4.7 million ($25.0 million total)
8. Maleficent - $4.1 million ($221.9 million total)
9. Begin Again - $2.9 million ($5.2 million total)
10. Jersey Boys - $2.5 million ($41.7 million total)
The Big Stories
Before we begin this week, I would like to let you know that this column will not make any references to bananas or that the moviegoing population did anything akin to a Tony Danza vehicle from 1981. One film had a good weekend. However, like most of this summer's top weekly releases, it is likely to be a short-lived celebration. In no way does this denigrate just how good Matt Reeves' film really is, but the writing on the wall for Hollywood this summer looks to be scripted in permanent marker. While there have been few true disappointments in relation to individual budgets, the summer box office is down nearly 19% from last year and there is not a lot on the horizon to make up the difference, potentially leaving it down a cool billion on its normally most profitable season. In the meantime, though, let us celebrate the singular success of a truly terrific film.
They Came, They Saw, and They Kicked Ass
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best films of a pretty decent summer. Don't take my word for it, though.
Only 24 wide releases in 2014 have garnered a fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and 11 of them have come from this season.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (92%), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (92%), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (91%), Edge of Tomorrow (90%), Chef (88%), 22 Jump Street (85%), The Fault in Our Stars (80%), Begin Again (80%), Godzilla (74%), Neighbors (73%), Million Dollar Arm (61%)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes opened to $54.8 million back in 2011. The reboot prequel's sequel's start of $73 million is precisely the kind of bump that How to Train Your Dragon 2 should have seen last month. As both saw glorious reviews upon opening it would be wrong to think that was solely the reason for audiences returning in droves. That $70 million start gives it the edge over Maleficent to be the fifth best opening of the summer. Will it have the surprising legs of that success story, though? If the other big number-one drops are any indication the answer is likely a resounding no.
Dawn had roughly the same opening that Tim Burton's attempt at a reboot in 2001 had ($68.5 million). That film opened in late July and went on to gross $180 million in the U.S.; one of the few films to open in July to over $57 million and not reach $200 million (along with Captain America: The First Avenger and Fox's The Simpsons Movie.)
Does Summer Have Any Saviors?
Fox could care less just how the rest of the season plays out amongst its competitors as its the clear winner this summer. Its weakest performer has been its release of Dreamworks' Dragon 2, but it's slowly inching its way towards a profit. Dawn of the Apes' $170 million budget is the studio's second highest of the year after X-Men, but that big risk paid off to become the third most profitable film of 2014 even if it is days away of relinquishing its top U.S. total to those darn Transformers. Michael Bay's film has become the worldwide leader this weekend with over $750 million. Pulling in the necessary $400 million for Apes should not be a problem for Fox, and thanks to X-Men and The Fault in Our Stars is on its way to a perfect summer. (It's up to you Let's Be Cops!)
But even $500 million worldwide for Apes is of little consolation to the whole of this summer's box office. International numbers are strong once again. On the domestic front, not only is this going to be the first summer without a $300 million grosser since 2001, but Transformers: Age of Extinction may not even reach the $261 million of that summer's Shrek. This summer is down over $538 million from last summer, which had benefited at this point by Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and Fast & Furious 6, all of which had grossed more than this summer's current champ, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Plus, Despicable Me 2 had not even grossed half of its final take.
Here were the top films of summer 2013 from July 11 on:
We're the Millers ($150.3), The Conjuring ($137.4), Grown Ups 2 ($133.6), The Wolverine ($132.5), Lee Daniels' The Butler ($116.6), Pacific Rim ($101.8), Elysium ($93.8), Planes ($90.2), Turbo ($83.0), 2 Guns ($75.6)
Do you see six more $100 million grossers through the rest of this summer? Dawn of the Apes is a given and Guardians of the Galaxy is your next best bet. But what then? The Expendables 3 would have to see an increase over part two's drop and the original barely crossed the threshold at $103 million in 2010. Is there belief in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the animated reboot of which in 2007 only garnered $54.1 million? The snappy trailer could draw interest, but wedged in between Guardians and Expendables could hold it back.
Many of 2013's back-half successes were of the sleeper variety. Is there anything that could find that kind of word of mouth with audiences? It would be nice if the Weinsteins' Begin Again and Snowpiercer could be discovered by more folks given their pretty solid limited release takes of $5.2 and $4.6 million, respectively. (Many are eagerly watching Richard Linklater's Boyhood too, though yours truly believes it is merely OK.)
Next week's Sex Tape is the most likely candidate as the same team pushed 2011's Bad Teacher to $100.2 million. Plus the true rut of family variety this summer could push Planes: Fire & Rescue to outgross the original. The week after, audiences have the choice between Dwayne Johnson kicking ass as Hercules or Scarlett Johansson kicking ass as Lucy. Who are you going to choose? Universal smartly moved Lucy up in the rotation and has ramped up the advertising in what could be a true late-summer surprise. Whatever success it might grab could be overshadowed by Paramount's Hercules. Not that Brett Ratner's film is going to save the summer, but those looking for a true box office bomb to fling their poop at may finally have their wish. We didn't make every promise now did we?
- 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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