Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Conjuring - $41.5 million
2. Despicable Me 2 - $25.0 million
3. Turbo - $21.5 million
4. Grown Ups 2 - $20.0 million
5. RED 2 - $18.5 million
6. Pacific Rim - $15.9 million
7. R.I.P.D. - $12.7 million
8. The Heat - $9.3 million
9. World War Z - $5.2 million
10. Monsters University - $5.0 million
The Big Stories
For a while Hollywood had a nice little thing going there. Releasing just one or two movies wide each week. Only twice this summer did they bulk it up to a third movie – over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays. And it has paid off. While there have certainly been some bombs (The Lone Ranger, White House Down, After Earth) there have also been some genuine surprises. Who believed that strongly in Now You See Me? Did anyone believe World War Z was destined for success? Now we have one this weekend too. But only one. The movies have not been offered four new films at a time in the marketplace since March 1 and what was the result? A sequel nobody cared about (The Last Exorcism Part II) and a big expensive bomb (Jack the Giant Slayer). Sound familiar?
Conjuring Up a Great Career
In 2004, James Wan premiered a little film at the Sundance Film Festival that would go on to spark not only a franchise but become one of those moments that would influence a genre into its next phase. In the summer of 2014 he will take over the reins of one of the most successful franchises in the long history of Universal Studios. The final budget of Fast & Furious 7 is yet to be determined, but let’s give it up for a filmmaker who made Saw for $1.2 million to see it gross $103 million worldwide and Insidious for $1.5 million and watch it gross $97 million. May not look as sexy as half a billion but those are films that pay off better than World War Z and Man of Steel in their theatrical runs. For the second time in his career, Wan is double dipping with films in a single calendar year. Dead Silence and the very underrated Death Sentence were released in 2007. Now Insidious: Chapter 2 hits theaters this September practically piggybacking its way onto what looks to be his greatest success yet.
On a $20 million budget, Wan has delivered The Conjuring. (Yours truly believes it’s the best, most purest film of a very low-quality summer.) With a $41.5 million opening weekend here in the U.S. it is nearly already into profit. Talk of a sequel is already in the works and it may be capping what has been a real resurgence at the box office for horror. That is something Wan can absolutely take a little credit for. A Saw movie opening well every Halloween eventually turned into a big Paranormal Activity weekend. Look at some of the big horror openings since the third Paranormal film opened to over $52 million in October of 2011.
World War Z ($66.4 million), Prometheus ($51.0), The Conjuring ($41.5), The Purge ($34.0), The Devil Inside ($33.7), Paranormal Activity 4 ($29.0), Mama ($28.4), Evil Dead ($25.7), Texas Chainsaw 3D ($21.7), The Woman in Black ($20.8), Warm Bodies ($20.3)
Argue all you want what constitutes horror or what is just made up of familiar horror elements. (Classify the Resident Evil and Underworld films on your own time.) But that’s a pretty solid list with seven of those openings just occurring in 2013. Only Dark Skies and The Last Exorcism Part II failed to generate any real interest from fans and the list could easily include Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ $19.6 million opening, which along with Mama are two of the most profitable films of the year. None of those films behind The Conjuring had legs to stretch to $100 million in the states. With an “A-“ Cinemascore in its pocket though, The Conjuring may actually pass that number here and if the overseas markets have any taste, it will join the most profitable list as well.
The Other Three That Scared Audiences Away
In a year of absolutely lackluster quality animated films, some had called Turbo the best of the lot. Faint praise it may have been, but the second teaming of Dreamworks with Fox this year probably deserved better. Like its lead character, it shot out of the gate on Wednesday taking the top spot from Despicable Me 2. On Thursday it was second and by Friday it was third on pace for a rather disappointing weekend given how animation (despite the poor quality) had been doing this year. Monsters University is over $532 million globally this week. The Croods (the first Dreamworks/Fox pairing) grossed over $582 million. Despicable Me 2 is en route for $600 million and beyond. Turbo, on the other hand, may struggle to pull in Epic numbers (around $240 million for another Fox animated picture). Even if it does manage to have some legs (or a snail trail) it is still looking to pull in about $337 million to not register as a loss to the studio.
I am convinced that those who inexplicably liked the first RED film have not thought about the film, spoken its name or even bought the DVD since its release in 2010. A modest-budgeted film produced a modest profit for Summit in October that year. Now on board with Lionsgate, perhaps getting a little greedy thinking summer audiences were actually clamoring for a return to hard-core-yet-wacky-and-retired C.I.A. agents written by, arguably, two of the worst screenwriters working today: Jon and Erich Hoeber (Whiteout, RED, Battleship). Not only is the RED sequel failing to live up to the $21.7 million start of the original, it barely outgrossed Bruce Willis’ turn in the equally unwatchable Cop Out ($18.2 million). It is looking for $210 million worldwide to justify that expenditure. So much for that Now You See Me money.
And oh R.I.P.D., we barely knew ye. Universal could have and maybe should have moved this out of the summer into an October slot the way 300: Rise of an Empire ditched its way out into next year. It was already pushed back three weeks from its original June 28 opening, but the studio probably figured to just get this disaster off the books as quickly as possible. Do it in the middle of their gangbusters summer with Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2 and maybe no one will notice. While we continue to wait on how Pacific Rim will help itself overseas, everyone should feel pretty confident in declaring this one a $130 million-budgeted bomb to join this summer’s list from above. Only Grown Ups 2 ranks lower than R.I.P.D. at Rotten Tomatoes this summer; the only major release not to screen for critics in advance. (No, Thursday night does not qualify.) Perhaps poetic justice for director Robert Schwentke who made us suffer through the first RED (not to mention The Time Traveler’s Wife) as his latest will be lucky to reach $30 million total here in the U.S. putting it somewhere on this summer’s chart in between Tyler Perry Presents Peeples and Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which played on close to 2,000 screens less than R.I.P.D.
Tales of the Top Ten
Despicable Me 2 is just days away from being the second highest grossing film in the U.S. of 2013 and soon to challenge The Croods as the number-one overall animated grossing worldwide.(It is currently at $542 million.) Adam Sandler is more like a week-and-a-half away from going eight for eight with summer releases rated “PG-13” grossing over $100 million. And a nation weeps. The same cannot be said of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which took its expected big dip and is not going to hit the $100 million here in the States, but will be his highest grossing film to date. The Heat, also as expected, is going to pass Identity Thief to be the biggest comedy of the year with over $140 million by next Sunday. Monsters University is finally headed into profit for Disney, taking about a month where Despicable Me 2 took less than 10 days for Universal. Better news for Disney than realizing that after only two weekends of release, The Lone Ranger has dropped out of the top 10 entirely (at $147 million globally) while World War Z is in its fifth week with $456 million.
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]