It used to be that during the month of August we were guaranteed at least one breakaway hit, maybe even two if we were lucky. Going back ten years that film was M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Five years ago the films were The Bourne Ultimatum and Superbad. This year, August has been totally weak, as the July release of The Dark Knight Rises continued its success way into August, only to be unseated by The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2.
Those two franchises are encountering lower returns than their originating properties, despite the latter being a much better film (both in terms of directing and story – and CHUCK NORRIS!). Mostly, however, August is regulated as a pre-dumping ground of movies studios once had hopes of being successful only to see them assigned a dreaded August release date. These truly are the dog days of summer at the movies.
So it’s not surprising to see The Expendables 2 repeat in the top spot handily defeating three newcomers, none of which could crack the top five. In fact, the top new release couldn’t muster a $7 million opening.
The Expendables 2 may boast a huge arsenal of action stars (and weaponry), but it isn’t quite firing on all cylinders. Two weeks into its run it is $13 million behind the first Expendables. The original film was marketed on its hook of AARP-aged action stars, along with a few more in the mid-to-late forties. The audience got their fix then, so the sequel offered more of the same with a few added accessories. It’s like getting a limited edition G.I. Joe figure with full-out survivalist gear, as opposed to just one with a plastic knife. While a third Expendables is all but assured, the foreign grosses and home video sales will probably be the biggest determinant if The Expendables 3 gets labeled with the dreaded 3D.
Second place finisher The Bourne Legacy is $15 million shy from crossing $100 million. When it reaches that mark it will guarantee that all four entries have crossed that line. Legacy isn’t a big success by any means, but with it being in line with The Bourne Identity, you get a sense that maybe a bigger audience will be on board for any more sequels starring Jeremy Renner – just like they were with Damon in The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum.
For families the two films hanging on after less than impressive debuts are the stop-motion animated release ParaNorman and Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Given that ParaNorman is set in the fall, its summer-timed release is peculiar but not out of the ordinary. As I’ve been told, there hasn’t been a Halloween movie released in the month of October since Halloween 5 back in 1989. The decision to release it in August probably had to do with Disney positioning Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie for October. As for Timothy Green, Disney had been pushing its release for more than a year now, and little of its marketing has changed since the first trailer campaign commenced. Though, it has gotten some reactions that in and of itself is either good or bad viral marketing to sell the film.
Marvel’s The Avengers may have thrown down the challenge of being the king of this year’s summer blockbusters, but The Dark Knight Rises, while not performing at the level of The Dark Knight or The Avengers, is still the blockbuster of late July-August. Internationally, the film has surpassed the numbers set by TDK (by $50M and still growing!). Later this week it will be added to the top ten domestic grossers of all time, passing the likes of The Lion King, before zeroing in on toppling Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and E.T., and maybe a few more.
The big story over the weekend was the success of documentary 2016: Obama’s America. The conservative doc added 922 new screens. At one point on Friday, it was the best performing movie of the day – yes, even outpacing the mercenaries for hire / die-hard supporters of the Second Amendment, those Expendables. The push also coincides with the Republican National Convention in Florida. It had already done well on less than 200 screens, but the expansion gave it a sizable boost in business. 2016: Obama’s America finished the weekend with $6.3M. As for that other political film in the top ten, the comedy The Campaign, it added another $7.5M to its total to give it $64.5M after three weeks. This one won’t see nine figures, and considering that Will Ferrell comedies don’t play well overseas, don’t expect this one to be a worldwide hit.
Premium Rush got a pass from audiences who could care less about bicycle messengers. Sony Pictures had originally penciled this one in for January, but pushed it to August. Methinks it was either on account of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s screen presence in The Dark Knight Rises or wanting to get a two-for-one deal in advertising its upcoming sci-fi release Looper, also starring JGL.
Hope Springs is that other counterprogramming for the AARP crowd not named The Expendables 2. Nearing $50M, which it should surpass sometime this week, it’s a good total, especially considering that the target viewership is probably attending early bird showings so they can have have plenty of time to have dinner by 5 P.M. Look for this one to play itself well into September before it drops off the list only to be overtaken by potential “prestige” picks.
The other debut in the top ten, Hit & Run, got released onto 2,800 screens by Open Road Films. I don’t know what’s more impressive – that Dax Shepard made an action comedy for around $2M or that Open Road had the gall to put this into nearly 3,000 locations for a Wednesday opening. Dax Shepard, in no way leading man material, at least got his money’s worth, and so did the studio. It has made an estimated $5.8M since Wednesday.
As for Warner Bros.’ spookfest The Apparition. The studio put it into 810 theaters where it could only collect $3M. Not good when you consider its $17M price tag. The two big releases on the independent front were Samsara, the follow-up documentary to 1992’s Baraka from Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, and Sleepwalk with Me. Publicity for comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia’s comedy has picked up in recent weeks with Avengers director, Joss Whedon, posting a message where he fears the success of Sleepwalk believing it could take screens away from The Avengers, thus hurting its bottom line.
Remember to support the smaller releases boys and girls. Yes, even if it means taking money away from Whedon.
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!