After a lackluster Memorial Day weekend that saw “Tomorrowland” take the top spot with $42M–the lowest total in 20 years, mind you–it will take a Herculean effort from Dwayne Johnson’s “San Andreas” to get the summer box office back on track, as the other wide opener, Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” isn’t exactly strutting the stuff of modern-day blockbusters.
Disaster films have always had solid runs at cinemas, especially in the summer season, and while Johnson has an uneven track record headlining films, this should fill the void until “Jurassic World” stomps the competition in two weeks.
Warner’s spent $100M on “San Andreas” but will easily recoup that overseas, where the destruction of Los Angeles will likely be top shelf entertainment. In the seen-it, done-it world of domestic release, however, this flick will be lucky to hit upwards of $40M in its debut.
While that may seem like an overestimation, remember, The Rock powered last summer’s “Hercules,” which was pretty much universally panned, to a respectable $29M opening and $243M worldwide.
The problem with disaster films is that they’re big budget one-shots–they’re often one-and-done. In the land of tentpoles and sequels, spending $100M on a film that won’t franchise just isn’t on most studios’ priority list right now.
I’m not sure what sort of payola Paul Giamotti received for doing this flick, but I hope his grandkids can retire on it. Still, he certainly adds a bit of much-needed legitimacy to the shenanigans, but after opening weekend expect this to drop…yes…like a rock. Sorry, had to.
The film is directed by Brad Peyton, whose previous credits include two sequels that time has already forgotten, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” and “Journey 2: Mysterious Island,” so don’t expect much recall after the final credits roll. Rotten Tomatoes already has it at 49%, which is rotten, but it certainly could have been a helluva lot worse.
Now, if you haven’t seen “Mad Max: Fury Road” do yourself a favor and go see what just might be the best action film of all-time. It’s currently 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and honestly, is the first film in at least a decade that I’m considering seeing twice in theaters. It’s that fun…and it’s that good. Which is another reason “San Andreas” will likely seem a bit tame. In fact, I feel sorry for any action film. Ever.
On the flip side of the equation, is Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha.” With a cast to die for—Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, Rachel McAdams—but doesn’t arrive with much studio support, or seemingly, knowledge of Crowe’s fanbase.
Believe it or not, this is only Crowe’s 8th studio film, and while he has been hit or miss lately, he’s only had one film ever debut over $20M+, which was an oddity of his, “Vanilla Sky.”
The highest grossing film of his career, “Jerry Macguire,” only opened with $17M, but like most of his films have extended playability thanks to a wide swath of demographics that often trickle in to his films over time.
It’s the enigmatic quality of his creations that keep studios coming back to him, although this is the first time he’s ever had a summer release, as most of his films have always been targeted for the more serious-minded, fall crowds.
So the fact that Sony’s hacked emails, some of which blatantly pan the film, show little support for the estimated $40M film, it will still be up to audiences to decide the fate of “Aloha.”
For me, while nothing tops his first film, 1989’s “Say Anything,” I always look forward to the cinematic musings of Crowe who has carved out a special niche in filmmaking–one that has allowed him, throughout his career, to always make exactly the kind of film he wants to. That’s a rarefied plateau which only a handful of filmmakers ever see.
It just doesn’t happen anymore, especially with the razzle/dazzle that Hollywood spellbinds with, and for that, Crowe should be championed. Or at the very least…given another $40M to make his next film.
And now, to bring Crowe back down to reality: tracking has the film pegged to make a pitiful splash of $13M on 2,700+ screens. That’s actually higher than “We Bought a Zoo” and “Elizabethtown,” but that’s not saying much. The true test will be how it holds up over the weeks to come amidst the behemoths of the box office.
UPDATE: The reviews have started trickling in…and they aren’t good.
1. San Andreas – $39M
2. Tomorrowland – $19
3. Pitch Perfect 2 – $18
4. Mad Max: Fury Road – $17M
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $14M
CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Warner’s “Point Break” (Dec. 25, 2015)
Listen, I’m sick of 80’s reboots as much as you are, but let’s just cut to the chase here…this is really a movie that probably didn’t need to be called “Point Break” or really have anything to do with the original, except that Bodhi is an awesome name. I get that. Hell, you could argue without that name…there is no film.
I saw a long version of this trailer at CinemaCon this year and have to say, I was pretty impressed with the grandiose nature of these stunts. I’m in. Besides, it’s probably way better to go watch this in 3D rather than start my mid-life crisis base jumping adventures.
CHOICE INDIE SLICE OF THE WEEK: Sony Classic’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Aug. 7, 2015)
Finally, a film that truly feels like it unearths the bones of a Judy Blume novel. Been waiting for a film like this for a long time. Summer suddenly has a lot of arthouse upside.
PRIME INDIE SLICE OF THE WEEK: A24’s “The End of the Tour” (July 31, 2015)
When Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg work with good material, they kill it. If you crave arthouse solace during the summer season, this one should soothe your cinephile soul. “The End of the Tour” comes from talented director James Pondsolt, helmer of “The Spectacular Now.”
Next weekend a trio of summer treats drop in theaters with Paul Feig’s “Spy,” the chill pill “Insidious 3,” and HBO’s big screen blow up of “Entourage.”
Expect them to fall in that order at the box office, with Melissa McCarthy leading the charge with $45M+ followed by the “Insidious” threequel scaring up close to $30M+ and “Entourage” panhandling for fans with less than $20M over the 5-day stretch, as it rolls out Wednesday.