Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Lee Daniels' The Butler - $17.0 million
2. We're the Millers - $13.5 million
3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - $9.3 million
4. The World's End - $8.9 million
5. Planes - $8.5 million
6. Elysium - $7.1 million
7. You're Next - $7.0 million
8. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - $5.2 million
9. Blue Jasmine - $4.3 million
10. Kick-Ass 2 - $4.2 million
The Big Stories
On perhaps the best movie weekend of an extremely mediocre summer - just as kids are going back to school and families getting in their final vacations - members of the United States of America chose wrong again. Nearly as many people ventured out to see Lee Daniels' The Butler as The World's End and You're Next combined. Maybe less if you factor in senior tickets, but the juniors who couldn't get into some quality R-rated fare this weekend were wasting their money to ensure that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones would be the next Beautiful Creatures or The Host than The Hunger Games or Twilight. Maybe if everyone weren't so busy crying over the casting of the new Batman they could have supported some quality cinema.
12 Pubs. 12 Pints. 12 Steps. 12 Summer Releases
The folks over at Focus may want to take a cue from their latest effort and put themselves through a self-admitting rehabilitation. At the very least skip ahead a few steps and recognize they have a higher power on their hands with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz may still have been easing the palette for their brand of genre-busting comedies in America, but by now those films have developed enough of a following to give them a shot at the big time. Only 1,549 screens? Really? Film District launched Dead Man Down on nearly 2,200 screens. Anyone remember that one? Of course not. The World's End is only the second best reviewed wide release of the summer; 91% just behind Fruitvale Station's 94% (which the Weinsteins will now quickly forget about in the wake of The Butler.) Why not give it a shot? You don't think The Butler got its share of extra attention by being number one last week?
ParaNorman ($56.0 million), Moonrise Kingdom ($45.5), The American ($35.6), The Constant Gardener ($33.5), The Debt ($31.1), The Kids Are All Right ($20.8), Vanity Fair ($16.1), One Day ($13.8), Evening ($12.4), Taking Woodstock ($7.4), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World ($7.0), Hamlet 2 ($4.8)
That is Focus' track record on films that played in summer (from May to Labor Day) on at least 900 screens. The World's End has a shot to hit the top five on that list and will certainly be Focus' biggest hit of 2013 (after $21.4 million for The Place Beyond the Pines and $18 million for Admission) but let's look back upon the Wright/Pegg track record. Shaun of the Dead opened under the Rogue label in September 2004 to $3.3 million (seventh place) on just 607 screens. Hot Fuzz opened to $5.8 million (sixth place) in April 2007 on just 825 screens. The studio expanded it to almost another 450 screens the following week and each film grossed more than four times its opening.
The World's End's per screen average was somewhere in between the two. As the theater count goes up, the average would come down of course, but it is a shame it couldn't beat We're the Millers in its third weekend (which is going to give August its only $100 million grosser unless The Butler keeps chugging along.) Maybe there was some hesitance after the $60 million budget of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World only grossed $47.6 million worldwide or that the studio's last film with the words "The," "End" and "World" could barely crack $7 million with a proven bankable star. But this is a film that deserves a better fate, so as studios wrap up the summer releasing films with One Direction and Selena Gomez, remember to spread the word on this one.
Banner Year for Horror
Attendance is up this year for you genre fans out there. At least you are turning up in greater bulk opening weekend, which is a horror film's best chance for survival out there in the marketplace. It doesn't hurt that horror has certainly upped its game in many respects this year. We can argue back and forth about quality, but whether it be name recognition, star power or just well-cut trailers, films with horror elements are doing very well in 2013. Look back at 2012 for a moment:
Prometheus ($51.0 million), The Devil Inside ($33.7), Dark Shadows ($29.6), Paranormal Activity 4 ($29.0), Underworld Awakening ($25.3), Resident Evil: Retribution ($21.0), The Woman in Black ($20.8), The Grey ($19.6), Sinister ($18.0), The Possession ($17.7), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ($16.3), The Cabin in the Woods ($14.7), House at the End of the Street ($12.2), Silent Hill: Revelation ($8.0), Chernobyl Diaries ($7.9), The Raven ($7.2), Silent House ($6.6), The Apparition ($2.8)
There are 18 films there with a combined opening weekend of over $341 million for about a $19 million average. Now look at 2013 to date:
World War Z ($66.4 million), The Conjuring ($41.8), The Purge ($34.0), Mama ($28.4), Evil Dead ($25.7), Texas Chainsaw 3D ($21.7), Warm Bodies ($20.3), Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters ($19.6), The Call ($17.1), The Host ($10.6), Dark Skies ($8.1), The Last Exorcism Part II ($7.7)
That Brad Pitt zombie extravaganza certainly skews the numbers a bit but how about a $25.1 million average start through 12 films. That is why this weekend's start for You're Next is so disappointing. Unlike The World's End, its studio gave it a nice launch of 2,437 screens. Nobody with the studio nor the low-budget production can complain too hard about a $7 million start as everyone is going to make their money on it. But, seriously, where were the fans?
Did Lionsgate lose $6-7 million simply by sitting on the film for two years (after it premiered to great acclaim at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival) and showing it to everyone ahead of time? Did the advertising fail to make it look like anything but another standard home-invasion slasher fest? The film should have done at least as much as The Cabin in the Woods and for the love of all things holy, at least half as much as the god-awful The Purge. Instead it could not even beat the even more god-awful Last Exorcism Part II in its opening weekend for the weakest wide horror release of the year. Why didn't Lionsgate move You're Next to October once Paranormal Activity 5 vacated that spot? There is no horror opening in the days and weeks before Halloween except the Carrie remake on October 18. As much as we would like to see Chloe Grace Moretz have a real hit on her hands (Kick-Ass 2 is struggling to hit $30 million), is a spin-off film from the Jackass guys the best Halloween can do this year? Somewhere money was left on the table and that's a shame.
Speaking of Horror
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones sounds like a horror film but it only is to anyone tired of random young-adult fantasies vying for franchise attention. Do any of these titles sound familiar?
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief ($88.7 million), Eragon ($75), I Am Number Four ($55.1), The Host ($26.6), Beautiful Creatures ($19.4), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant ($13.8), The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising ($8.7)
Those are final grosses mind you. Lionsgate/Summit have Ender's Game and Divergent also on the way along with a trifecta of Hunger Games, but when you can't even challenge the Percy Jackson series, it's time to give it up. Over $209 million worldwide for Lemony Snicket and we never got a follow-up. (The $140 million budget may have had something to do with it.) A Percy Jackson sequel actually makes sense compared to that, though hardly a blockbuster. Not exactly sure how Sony will justify an already green-lit sequel to Instruments (City of Ashes) as a $60 million budget is unlikely to take in $35 million domestically. Like most of the top 10, it will be forgotten by next season. Meanwhile, box office be damned, The World's End and You're Next will be appeasing fans of their respective genres for years to come.
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]