Box Office Guy: Dog days of summer

Patrick Reardon

When it comes to movie going, I hate late August and early September. This is the time of year when most kids are going back to school or people are taking that final summer vacation before autumn hits. So studios throw a lot of their less desirable product against the wall and hope that something sticks. It’s an awkward time where all of the big potential summer blockbusters have been released but it’s still too early for studios to break out their big prestige and/or holiday films.

I mean, just look at some of the cinematic classics that have come out in this time frame over the last decade. Who could forget Ashlee Simpson’s big screen debut in “Undiscovered” ($676k opening, $1.1m domestic total)? Remember when Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy finally joined forces in “The Man” ($4m opening, $8.3m domestic total)? Or what about the time when Rainn Wilson broke free from the creative shackles of “The Office” to star in “The Rocker” ($2.6m opening, $6.4m domestic total). How about the time when Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez hit the road together in “Getaway” ($4.5m opening, $10.5m domestic total)? I could go on for days, but I’m sure you get the point by now. Late August and early September are where movies go to die.

But just because there is a glut of bad movies in the marketplace at this time of year doesn’t mean you stop playing Fantasy Movie League. Even though grosses will be low over the next few weekends you need to finish the summer season strong and get a good start to our new fall season. Plus it’s a good time to test new strategies if you’re way behind in your leagues. Without further ado let’s delve into this weeks trio of new releases.

First up is, “Hitman: Agent 47.” Fox tried once before to create a franchise based on the popular video game. In 2007, “Hitman” opened to $13.2m on its way to a mediocre domestic total of $39.7m. Rupert Friend (Quinn on TVs “Homeland”) steps in for Timothy Olyphant in the lead role. And the film looks like ... more of the same. Fox is hoping the previous film is a distant memory and will try to cash in (once again) on the name recognition of the video game. And the reason they’ve chosen this weekend to open? Two words: Jason Statham.

In his career Jason Statham has had not one, not two, but SIX films open up in the time frame of late August-early September. I could easily cheat this number to nine if I included the “Expendables” films, which all opened up in mid-August. Fox is hoping that “Hitman: Agent 47” will fill this action movie void since Statham doesn’t have a movie opening up this fall. I think the film is for action junkies only and will struggle to about $7-8m this weekend.

Next up is the stoner action comedy, “American Ultra” starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. The film appears to be a junior version of the 1996 film, “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (unsuspecting person discovers they are a government agent and spends the rest of the movie kicking ass with their newly remembered skills). I’ve seen the film’s trailer with audiences several times this summer and each time it’s been met with dead silence. Never a good sign. And while talented, the film’s two leads are not box office draws. And before all the “Twilight” fans take umbrage with that last statement, please take a look at Kristen Stewart’s box office track record in films that don’t feature glittery vampires. I see “American Ultra” struggling to break $10m this weekend.

The final new release this weekend is also the one that has the best chance to make any sort of impact at the box office. “Sinister 2” is a sequel to the hit 2012 film ($18m opening, $48.1m domestic total). The film from prolific genre film producer Jason Blum is following the horror sequel playbook quite well, in the sense that they have found a weekend without a lot of new competition so they can make a quick buck. I see an opening in the mid-teens and yet another quick but profitable run for Blumhouse Productions.

This weekend Fantasy Movie League players will either have to use multiple screens of “Straight Outta Compton” or stack a ton of screens with “Sinister 2” to be successful. The argument against “Compton” is that hip-hop themed films usually have a huge drop-off in their second weekend (“8 Mile” -62%, “Notorious” -72%, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” -63%). However, I feel that “Compton” is going to be more than a one-week phenomenon. The film feels like it crossing over much more with audiences than the movies listed above. I think “Compton” bucks the trend of hip hop themed movies suffering catastrophic dips in their second week and wins the weekend by a considerable amount. Combine this with a lack of trust in any of the three new releases and the addition of 200+ screens, I’m leaning heavily towards a “Straight Outta Compton” and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” combo this weekend.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend’s top 5 in total box office (this week’s cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

1. Straight Outta Compton (FB$262)

2. Sinister 2 (FB$126)
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (FB$82)
4. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (FB$47)
5. American Ultra (FB$80)