Here’s your estimated 4-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Guardians of the Galaxy – $ 22.1 million ($ 280.4 million total)
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – $ 15.7 million ($ 166.3 million total)
3. If I Stay – $ 11.6 million ($ 32.1 million total)
4. Let’s Be Cops – $ 10.5 million ($ 59.6 million total)
5. As Above/So Below – $ 10.3 million ($ 10.3 million total)
6. The November Man – $ 10.2 million ($ 11.9 million total)
7. When the Game Stands Tall – $ 8.0 million ($ 18.6 million total)
8. The Giver – $ 6.8 million ($ 33.1 million total)
9. The Hundred-Foot Journey – $ 6.3 million ($ 41.1 million total)
10. The Expendables 3 – $ 4.5 million ($ 34.1 million total)
The Big Stories
Goodbye, summer! That is what Hollywood always says every Labor Day. Except this year they are saying it with an exclamation point. As has been examined for the past four months, Hollywood has had their worst summer in years. Many have jumped the gun on precisely just how weak this summer has been since, thanks to a late rally with films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the downswing actually went from 19% to only 14.1%, but that is also coming off the biggest summer in box office history with $ 4.6 billion. For the seventh year in a row $ 4 billion was achieved and it was just $ 40 million off 2007’s tally and $ 16 million off 2010. Even with so much negativity being thrown at studios for tired sequels and not having the kind of surprise hits that have caught on with audiences, it has still been a rather balanced summer. Like any season there were winners and there were losers, but even the losers do not look as bad as they have during the best summers.
The Winners of Summer
This is where everyone wants to invoke Guardians of the Galaxy and one of the biggest upsets in summer box office history; maybe the biggest since 1984’s Ghostbusters, which appropriately received a 30th anniversary revival in theaters this weekend. Currently the #1 film of both the summer and the year in the U.S., it also will save this season the embarrassment of being the first one to not have a $ 300 million grosser– which it will be in the next two weeks. That means it will also become the first film opening between July 21 and November 8 to ever hit that milestone. Congratulations to James Gunn and the entire Guardians team.
When it comes to box office numbers though, there are varying degrees of success and it is important to draw the distinctions when it comes to labeling. For example, if we were to look at the Top Ten summer grossers in the U.S. (as of Sept. 1) the list would look like this:
Guardians of the Galaxy ($ 280.4 million), Transformers: Age of Extinction ($ 244.4), Maleficent ($ 238.7), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($ 233.2), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($ 205.5), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($ 202.8), Godzilla ($ 200.6), 22 Jump Street ($ 190.2), How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($ 173.4), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($ 166.3)
If you are going to make predictions in this business, whether it be awards or box office, you need to be reminded of them from time-to-time. (Those in sports never seem to get discredited for their often erroneous foresight.) So how did yours truly fare with those rankings? I had the following rankings before the summer began:
How to Train Your Dragon 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent, Tammy, 22 Jump Street
Nine out of ten ain’t bad (with three spots dead-on) even if I overestimated Dragon 2‘s potential and the continued appeal of Melissa McCarthy. Who knew Tammy would be worse than Identity Thief? (It’s currently ranked 15th on the summer.) U.S. grosses are what the studios are looking at when measuring their failures this summer, but many would not have even come close to success had it not been for the almighty overseas dollar:
Transformers: Age of Extinction ($ 828.1), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($ 512.1), Maleficent ($ 510.0), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($ 505.4), How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($ 418.5), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($ 405.9), Godzilla ($ 307.3), Guardians of the Galaxy ($ 273.1), Edge of Tomorrow ($ 264.1), The Fault in Our Stars ($ 161.9)
Again that is as of Labor Day so both Dragon 2 and Guardians are still climbing the charts thanks to some later overseas openings. The near common thread between them all is that their U.S. dollar is a mere fraction of what they grossed outside the country. (Guardians should surpass its U.S. gross overseas as well.) In fact, if you take The Fault in Our Stars out of the equation, the average budget (including production and advertising) of the other films was $ 248 million. Without the rest of the world, these films would not have even come close to recouping their costs. Only Guardians, Fault and Maleficent surpassed their total budgets in North America. That makes for an entirely different list if we were to just judge films of their overall profitability this summer. The following list are profit estimates based on the numbers that have been reported:
Transformers: Age of Extinction ($ 251.2 million), Maleficent ($ 139.2), The Fault in Our Stars ($ 103.2), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($ 97.4), How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($ 86.8), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($ 80.7), Neighbors ($ 80.2), Lucy ($ 60.0), 22 Jump Street ($ 57.1), Guardians of the Galaxy ($ 43.8), Godzilla ($ 28.9), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($ 24.1), The Purge: Anarchy ($ 16.7)
The success of Jon Favreau’s Chef this summer is also notable, but without concrete numbers it is hard to say where its profit lies. Three of the top five true moneymakers of the summer and four of the Top Ten were released by Fox, the unquestionable winner amongst the studios as it looks they are going to pull off a perfect batting average. Let’s Be Cops still needs about $ 23 million worldwide to make that happen so hopefully there are some big New Girl fans outside North America. Box office is a funny thing, isn’t it? Again, expect Dragon 2 and Guardians to climb that list, though the latter can chant “USA…USA!” while Michael Bay and his merry band of Transformers can claim world domination.
The Losers of Summer
Even on the losers side of the box office there is a silver lining. Not for the losers themselves, but no film achieved the kind of HOLY BOMB status that The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D. and White House Down did in 2013. A few are pretty close to Roland Emmerich’s Olympus Has Fallen Again And It Can’t Get Up, but there is still a little time left to even give them some separation.
The Expendables 3 (-$ 82.7), Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (-$ 81.9), Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (-$ 79.5), Hercules (-$ 52.6), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (-$ 45.7), Edge of Tomorrow (-$ 42.9), Get On Up (-$ 40.2), Jersey Boys (-$ 38.5), Planes: Fire & Rescue ($ 37.6), Million Dollar Arm (-$ 36.5), Into the Storm (-$ 35.1), The Giver (-$ 32.7), Deliver Us From Evil (-$ 30.2), When the Game Stands Tall (-$ 28.8), A Million Ways to Die in the West (-$ 32.0), Sex Tape (-$ 31.5), The Hundred-Foot Journey (-$ 25.3), Step Up All In (-$ 21.1*), If I Stay (-$ 20.7), Earth to Echo (-$ 18.3), Think Like a Man Too (-$ 17.3), Blended (-$ 16.2), Let’s Be Cops (-$ 10.4), Moms’ Night Out (-$ 7.7), Tammy (-$ 1.9)
The estimate* on Step Up All In is based on the budgets of the previous installments. Late August releases such as If I Stay, The Hundred-Foot Journey and Let’s Be Cops could still turn a profit though When the Game Stands Tall looks like a longshot. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will still need about another $ 70-75 million overseas to start seeing a profit too and if The Expendables 3 finds its way to the average international gross of its first two installments it could also come close to breaking even.
The same cannot be said for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For which in the U.S. this weekend grossed less than the 382-screen limited release of Cantinflas ($ 3.2 million) and barely beat the re-release of Ghostbusters on 784 screens ($ 2.2 million). With just $ 11 million in the U.S., it better hope it reaches the $ 84.6 million overseas of the 2005 film. That would at least make it a loser of just about $ 40 million. Anything short of that and it is a major disappointment for the Weinsteins. Warner Bros. has SIX films on that loser list with only Godzilla registering in the black for them this summer (though Tammy is close). Add Transcendence and Winter’s Tale to that list and not even the successes of The Lego Movie and 300: Rise of an Empire can pull them out of the funk they currently sit in 2014. Sony did not do much better this summer with FIVE losers on that list, but at least had The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 22 Jump Street to weather some of the damage. Though they still have Pompeii, Robocop and The Monuments Men on their 2014 plate as well.
Oh Yeah, Some New Films Opened Too
Aside from Cantinflas and Ghostbusters, audiences had their pick between Pierce Brosnan playing a literary spy not named Bond and a found footage movie not screened for critics. The November Man grossed $ 10.5 million over the 4-day weekend (and $ 12 million since Wednesday) and As Above/So Below grossed under $ 10 million. Where does that put them on the all-time Labor Day list?
Halloween 2007 ($ 30.5), The Possession ($ 21.0), Transporter 2 ($ 20.1), One Direction: This is Us ($ 18.4), Jeepers Creepers 2 ($ 18.3), The American ($ 16.6), Jeepers Creepers ($ 15.8), Balls of Fury ($ 14.11), Machete ($ 14.1), All About Steve ($ 14.0), Crank ($ 12.89), Lawless ($ 12.87), The Debt ($ 12.85), The Wicker Man 2006 ($ 11.7), Babylon A.D. ($ 11.5), Gamer ($ 11.2), The Constant Gardener ($ 10.9), Apollo 18 ($ 10.7), As Above/So Below ($ 10.3), The November Man ($ 10.2), Shark Night 3-D ($ 10.1), Traitor ($ 10.0), The Crow: City of Angels ($ 9.7), Going the Distance ($ 8.5)
Fitting that the summer of 2014 would end with a whimper rather than a bang.
– 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]