CATEGORIES Movies


It's no real surprise that The Expendables 2 (review/trailer) opened with about 18% less this weekend ($28.75 million) than the first Expendables on this weekend in 2010 ($34 million). The Expendables (review) was a culmination of a good twenty years of 'what-if' anticipation. And while the final result was a little lacking, in that it was barely a good movie and most of the biggest action icons were either absent or had cameos, it was still enough of a wish-fulfillment fantasy to be a massive worldwide hit ($274 million on a $80 million budget). Two years later, the sequel delivers on both the action front (lots more of it) and the A-level casting arena (Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have expanded roles while Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme came to play) but that initial high is somewhat gone. Still, a $28 million debut, especially from Lionsgate, is nothing to sneeze at. This will still be their largest non-Saw/Tyler Perry opening outside of The Expendables and The Hunger Games and their tenth-biggest debut ever. Not only have we seen a pattern of lower opening weekends and domestic totals for sequels, but this is easily the kind of property that could have elicited a giant 'no one cares anymore' reaction after the somewhat underwhelming first film (I seem to be among the few who likes it).

The sequel cost $100 million and if it plays at 82% the level of the first film it still earns $85 million in the US and $225 million worldwide. Lionsgate paid $35 million for domestic rights, so their priority is over here and they'll be fine if it crosses $70 million (the film will rent forever). It's their obvious prerogative to get the film at $100 million if only for bragging rights. The film earned a solid A- Cinemascore grade and the overall word-of-mouth is of the 'it's what you wanted the first time around' variety. The first film had a surprisingly decent 2.9x weekend-to-final multiplier so this theoretically superior entertainment should come close to that and/or surpass it. Only Lawless, opening on August 29th, will provide any real competition up till the end of September when the heavily-buzzed Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon Levitt time-travel thriller Looper debuts. Come what may, expect the merry band of action icons to ride again in August 2014 or 2015, preferably with a better director at the helm (Andrew Davis or John McTiernan come to mind). For what it's worth, this marks Chuck Norris's first number one debut in 27 years, since the $5.5 million debut of Code of Silence, ironically his lone terrific film.

The next big opener was ParaNorman, which debuted with $14 million. It's a lower figure than the $16 million haul of Coraline, which isn't in itself an issue. The well-reviewed zombie stop-motion fantasy (which my daughter won't go anywhere near) has more 3D screens to play with this time around, which means it won't suffer the tragic fate of Coraline (which contains the best animated 3D of all-time, in my opinion), which had a leggy run until it lost its 3D screens to Jonas Brothers 3D and dropped 67% that weekend. I don't know the cost on this one, but I imagine it was under $100 million (Coraline cost $60 million). The 2009 feature ended up with $75 million, so if ParaNorman can hold the same pattern (4.6x its opening) it'll get to $65 million. But being realistic, let's presume the standard 3.5x multiplier for animated films which would give the Focus Features production an okay $50 million. If it can muster equal or better overseas figures (it had already earned $4.6 million heading into the weekend overseas), it'll be fine.

Also debuting this weekend was Sony's Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 'blaxploitation' film. The film's trump card was the last onscreen performance of Whitney Houston, a fact that Sony didn't go out of its way to exploit. Had it done so, a $12 million debut might have been a $16-$20 million debut. So they win points for good taste and still make their budget back ($14 million) in four days. The film earned an A from Cinemascore meaning it could have a leggy run, especially as (per usual) there is nothing in the marketplace specifically targeting African Americans at the moment. Oh, by the way, Madea's Witness Protection ($64 million) has quietly passed Madea's Family Reunion ($63 million) to become Tyler Perry's second biggest grosser behind the seemingly insurmountable Madea Goes to Jail ($90 million). The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an original family drama from Disney, debuted on Wednesday and has pulled in $15 million since then ($10 million for the Fri-Sun portion). With Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner, this defiantly odd fable (and allegedly quite sad in spots) about a couple who grows a young child from their garden was never going to be a smash, so anything resembling a respectable take is a winner here. The picture cost $40 million to produce, so all it will take is token legs to match that here and then hope for the best overseas.

The big limited release debut of the weekend was Cosmopolis, a David Cronenberg drama starring Robert Pattinson. The film pulled down $96,437 from three screens for a decent $24,109 per-screen average. It will expand from here and the real story is the emergence of distributor Entertainment One, which used this attractive acquisition to announce themselves as a major player on the indie scene. In holdover news, The Dark Knight Rises earned another $11 million this weekend, but more importantly crossed the $400 million mark on Saturday, faster than any other film in its league save for Avatar, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers. With $409 million, it's passed The Hunger Games ($405 million) as 2012's second-biggest domestic earner and is now the 11th-biggest grossing film in US history. The Bourne Legacy (review) earned $17 million in weekend two, a 55% drop, bigger than any prior Bourne picture (the sequels dropped 52 off much larger weekends). With $69 million after ten days, its still ahead of The Bourne Identity ($54 million) which means it will probably top $100 million and may surpass the $121 million total of the first film. It's rolling out slowly and has earned $28 million overseas, for a $97 million worldwide total. The Watch sits with $33 million, which is a bit of a flop considering the cost and the talent involved. The Campaign (review) earned an okay $13 million in weekend two, giving it a $51 million total. A probable $80 million total isn't too bad for this one, especially considering Ferrell's biggest R-rated film is still Step Brothers with $100 million. Total Recall is still doing sub-John Carter/Battleship/Dark Shadows business, ending the weekend with about $51 million after seventeen days. This one may not make it to $60 million, certainly not to $65 million. Hope Springs dropped a reasonable 41% for a $35 million cume, a little light for a Meryl Streep vehicle, but not bad for A) a $20 million picture and B) a film that many are (inexplicably) complaining is darker and more serious than the marketing campaign let on. Ice Age 4 crossed $150 million in America while speeding towards $800 million worldwide. Oh, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days now has $38 million, meaning it will tap out at $45 million, as expected. Still, you can expect more until the grosses drop enough to not justify a $20 million investment. The Amazing Spider-Man is at $257 million, Brave is at $229 million, and The Moonrise Kingdom is at $42 million. Beasts of the Southern Wild is at $8 million and has a shot at crossing $10 million before the Oscar campaign.

That's it for this weekend. Summer is mostly over, so join us next time for a bunch of lower-scale, genre entries, such as the Dax Shepard/Kristen Bell/Bradley Cooper comedy-thriller Hit & Run (opening Wednesday), The Apparition, and Joseph Gordon Levitt's bike-messenger thriller Premium Rush. In the meantime, check out Brandon Peters's ongoing 007 retrospective (p1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and John Gosling's weekend preview articles (the newest one HERE).

Scott Mendelson