Here’s your estimated 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – $ 28.4 million ($ 117.6 million total)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy – $ 24.7 million ($ 222.2 million total)
3. Let’s Be Cops – $ 17.7 million ($ 26.1 million total)
4. The Expendables 3 – $ 16.2 million ($ 16.2 million total)
5. The Giver – $ 12.7 million ($ 12.7 million total)
6. Into the Storm – $ 7.7 million ($ 31.3 million total)
7. The Hundred-Foot Journey – $ 7.1 million ($ 23.6 million total)
8. Lucy – $ 5.3 million ($ 107.5 million total)
9. Step Up All In – $ 2.7 million ($ 11.8 million total)
10. Boyhood – $ 2.1 million ($ 13.8 million total)
The Big Stories
When the dust clears on this weekend the one word everyone will be coming back to in Hollywood is “piracy.” Surely, this was going to be a closely watched weekend with the scandal surrounding who leaked a pristine copy of The Expendables 3 to online outlets for a reported two million-plus viewers to download and stream. For years, the piracy debate has whispered on with security put front-and-center at promotional screenings when that manpower could have been better used internally to catch those within the studio editing bays taking their work home at night. After the numbers this weekend, Hollywood may not have the definitive answer on how much piracy costs but at least one studio certainly has an excuse.
Expendable Is Right
The first Expendables opened to $ 34.8 million on the second August weekend of 2010. The sequel started with $ 28.5 million on the third August weekend two years later. It also did $ 18 million less in the U.S. than its predecessor but its overseas numbers were up $ 49 million. Each were minor successes for Lionsgate. Now comes the swan song with the most impressive version of this cast yet and there were hopes that this could at least get back to the heights of the original at home while maintaining its escalating popularity outside the U.S. where most of the ’80s action hero money is being made these days. Then came the leak.
A reasonable expectation for The Expendables 3 was around $ 25 million measuring the decline of interest vs. any potential bump from the cast improvement. Lose a couple extra million because of the leak and that’s the cost of doing business. But $ 16 million is simply an eyebrow-raiser. Sylvester Stallone has not had a non-Expendables, non-Rambo, non-Rocky vehicle gross over $ 45 million since 1994’s The Specialist (when he was still on a slight Cliffhanger bump.) Even his pairing with Schwarzenegger in last year’s Escape Plan only managed $ 25.1 million in the U.S., which was more than The Last Stand and Sabotage grossed combined. But The Expendables 3 has nearly everyone Stallone has ever worked with including Wesley “Demolition Man” Snipes and Antonio “Assassins” Banderas plus Mel Gibson and even some fresh blood for the youngsters. So what went wrong?
Was it the piracy? If we consider that it was indeed two million people who checked out the film online before it hit theaters, at 2014’s average ticket price that would translate to roughly $ 16.3 million in lost revenue. That is, of course, if every single one of those pre-viewers had any intention of ever going to the theater in the first place. A stretch if there ever was one, which gets to the difficulties of putting a true dollar amount on the cost of such leaks; most of which occur post-release date and have all the quality of something taped by a guy with a stomach ache munching on a bag of candy. Here is a trivia question for you though: What do the following series have in common? Caddyshack, Conan, Highlander, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Robocop, Terminator, Vacation and Young Guns. Shall I show you?
Robocop ($ 45.6 million vs. $ 10.6 million – 76.8%)
Caddyshack ($ 39.8 vs. $ 11.7 – 70.7%)
Police Academy ($ 81.1 vs. $ 55.6 – 31.5%)
Revenge of the Nerds ($ 40.8 vs. $ 30.0 – 26.5%)
Conan ($ 39.5 vs. $ 31.0 – 21.6%)
Highlander ($ 15.5 vs. $ 12.3 – 20.7%)
Vacation ($ 61.3 vs. $ 49.3 – 19.6%)
Terminator ($ 150.3 vs. $ 125.3 – 16.7%)
Young Guns ($ 45.6 vs. $ 44.1 – 3.3%)
That is the direct correlation between the films in those series going from a “R” rating to a “PG-13″ or lower. Certainly there is something to be said about quality, cast changes and downtime between films over the years but the same could be said about Expendables 3, which is looking at a 43.4% drop after going from a hard “R” to a hard “PG-13″. Funny enough, Mel Gibson’s Mad Max series saw a 53% bump in 1985 with the “PG-13″ Beyond Thunderdome, but it was also released on twice as many theaters as The Road Warrior. Ironically it was Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise taking a 12-year leave of absence, coming back all “PG-13-y” and getting a 34.5% increase in U.S. revenue. Maybe he was worth the extra money to keep around a little longer after all.
Guardians, Rulers and True Champions
As mentioned last week, Marvel and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was on the fast track to becoming the #1 film of the summer in the U.S. Any other year these would be impressive numbers amidst other solid summer numbers. But in the year with the numbers down overall 15% and the lowest since 2006 (to date), Guardians is poised to have that very special distinction of winning the toughest season to conquer. Transformers: Age of Extinction currently sits on top with over $ 243 million. The Guardians are currently $ 12 million ahead of the pace set by Michael Bay’s film and did over $ 5 million better than the robots did in their third weekend. Here is where this summer’s films have been by Day 17.
Guardians of the Galaxy ($ 220.9), Transformers: Age of Extinction ($ 208.8), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($ 189.5), Godzilla ($ 174.4), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($ 172.4), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($ 172.1), Maleficent ($ 163.8), 22 Jump Street ($ 142.2), How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($ 121.9)
By either Aug. 25 or 26, the Guardians of the Galaxy will be the #1 film of the summer of 2014. Seeing as how the year’s #1 film overall (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) was at $ 200.5 million on its 17th day it stands to reason that it will also surpass that film’s $ 259.7 million and become the year’s highest-grossing film of the year. At least until November.
Tales of the Top Ten
With all the hubbub over The Expendables 3, believe it or not there were actually two other newbies opening this week. The Weinstein’s latest attempt at the young adult crowd, The Giver, has already outgrossed Vampire Academy and will be their highest-grossing film of 2014. For about a week until Sin City arrives. Let’s Be Cops might be one of the worst-reviewed films of the year (11% on Rotten Tomatoes) but Fox is still ending the summer on a high note. It might have received their lowest Cinemascore of the season (“B”) but on only a $ 19 million budget and a five-day start of $ 26 million, Let’s Be Cops is on track to give its studio a perfect summer. X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault In Our Stars, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were all in profit and alongside Rio 2 and The Other Woman, Fox has strung together 7 hits in a row with The Maze Runner, Gone Girl and Book of Life all up next.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dropped 56% but it was still enough to maintain the #1 slot. A minor victory for a film that still needs about $ 184 million to snag a profit for Paramount. Universal’s Lucy passed $ 100 million this week in the U.S. and is about $ 11 million away from getting into the black for the studio. Much better than the James Brown biopic, Get On Up, which dropped to #12 and is about $ 41 million in the hole and still needs twice that to not be a loser.
Warner Bros.’ Into the Storm looks to be suffering an even worse fate, even moreso than Edge of Tomorrow, Jersey Boys and Blended. Only Godzilla has turned a minor profit for them this summer and even Tammy still needs another $ 5 million to be on the other side of red. Disney, on the other hand, has done really well with Maleficent and Guardians of the Galaxy (though the latter, even with being #1 on the horizon, still needs another $ 41 million to break into profit.) Analysts were momentarily impressed when their Million Dollar Arm held well in its second week only to top out at $ 36.3 million. Now there is seemingly some life to The Hundred-Foot Journey which dropped only 26% in its second outing and is about $ 4 million ahead of the baseball film’s pace but is still going to need some $ 50 million overseas to be a success.
Meanwhile in true indie news, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has finally crept into the Top Ten and this week will become the second-highest grossing film in IFC Films’ history. Only $ 228 million to go to beat My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
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]