“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” may be rolling out overseas this weekend, but we’ve got a bit of spring cleaning left to do in North America before summer nets audiences, which is why four new flicks vie for attention this Easter weekend including “Transcendence,” “Bears,” “A Haunted House 2” and “Heaven is for Real,” which opened Wednesday.
When a Johnny Depp picture that costs $100M+ opens, it typically owns the box office, however, he’s usually called Captain Jack Sparrow or there’s “A Tim Burton Film” hanging above the title.
Warner Bros. will likely find out the hard way that Depp’s latest, “Transcendence,” is not a franchise starter, nor will it ever be the #1 film at the box office, as the cyber-thriller is getting lambasted by critics (currently 14% on Rotten Tomatoes) and seems to arrive in the digital age with a buzz-ability factor akin to a Commodore 64.
That certainly wasn’t what the studio was hoping for when they hired cinematographer extraordinaire Wally Pfister (Christopher Nolan’s right hand man) to make his directorial debut, although cerebral sci-fi doesn’t often compute at the box office. Outside of mid-range hits like “The Lawnmower Man” and certain Michael Crichton flicks, the genre really is a wasteland of 1s and 0s that never really lights up the screen for audiences.
Debuting in a very wide 3,400+ theaters, “Transcendence” will be fortunate to hit $20M. Could see a decent cache on Friday, but expect the rest of the weekend to fry Warner’s circuits.
Sony’s “Heaven is for Real” got the jump on the bunny box office, grossing a solid $3.7M on Wednesday, as it’s poised to gross a heavenly $20M-$25M over the five-day holiday span.
Faith-based films are the real story of 2014 so far, but there’s another Hollywood story that is far more timeless: a film that makes its budget back on opening weekend. Based on the best-selling novel, “Heaven is for Real” cost just $12M. You wanna make money? Start a religion. You wanna make money in movies right now. Start a religious film.
In 2,400+ places of worship, the PG film should easily see $15M for the traditional weekend, maybe more, especially if Easter Sunday turns into a savior for the uplifting flick.
Taking Hollywood’s favorite golden rule into account is the same reason why “A Haunted House 2” exists. Open Road’s horror spoof debuted with $18M last January and went on to gross nearly $60M worldwide at a cost of just $2.5M. I’m actually surprised they didn’t announce a trilogy, or quadrilogy after it opened.
Still, spoof films, as a genre, burn out quicker than a marriage to Charlie Sheen and this one will probably see a truncated debut of around $13M-$15M as it enters 2,300+ sites.
Disney’s offshoot label, Disneynature (based in Paris, France), has been very successful reviving Walt’s old True-Life Adventures tales as “Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats,” and “Chimpanzee” have all been successful ventures for the studio, especially considering they’re all documentaries.
In today’s cinematic marketplace, a documentary is considered very successful if it can reach a total gross exceeding $1M and if it snags $5M+ it’s ultra-successful.
So, what Disneynature has been able to do is pretty impressive and “Bears” should continue the tradition, seeing a similar debut upwards of $8M in 1,700+ venues.
1. Rio 2 – $24M
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $19M
3. Transcendence – $18M
4. Heaven is for Real – $16M
5. A Haunted House 2 – $13M
SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS
SPIDER-MAN SEQUEL SPINS WEB THIS WEEKEND
Spider-sense is tingling! I mean, not in anyone’s pants in North America, mind you, but in over a dozen territories overseas including the UK, Mexico, Oz, Germany and Spain. Yes folks, America’s greatest exports continue to drop internationally before domestic as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” jumps the traditional U.S. summer season by two weeks.
That’s ok though, as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” pretty much swiped Spidey’s kickoff media credentials, debuting with $95M at the beginning of April and unofficially obliterating the summer release calendar. That isn’t just a trend, friend, that’s the foreseeable future, folks.
The first weekend of May is no longer the start of the blockbuster season, and the U.S. is no longer the lead-off market for super-sized summer sequels. No surprise there, as a mutating strand of sequelitis has firmly set in here, while the rest of the globe is still pulsating for popcorn pics.
“The Amazing-Spider Man” reboot was seen as a bit of a disappointment domestically with $262M ($490M internationally), especially when each episode of the original trilogy easily passed $325+M in the U.S.
Meanwhile, foreign growth continues to create multiplex mayhem and because of that international audiences are now the beneficiaries of these box office behemoths. Taking that into consideration, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” will easily gross more abroad than the last installment, and likely in the U.S. too, as Jamie Foxx should provide a major jolt to the African American demographic. But $300M+? Not likely.
IT’S NOT THE SIZE OF THE WAND, IT’S THE MAGIC ‘MIKE’ IT CREATES
Warner Bros. announced “Magic Mike 2” this week, or as many are calling it: “Magic Mike XXL.” Hmm. Maybe size does matter. Despite a release date of July 3, 2015, no one has officially been cast, although Channing Tatum is attempting to get the entire boy band back together for another tour…and probably will.
One thing we know for sure, the director of the original, Steven Soderbergh, won’t be lured out of retirement for this one.
Warner Bros. has a major hard-on for Tatum, and why not, “Magic Mike” cost just $7M and went on to strut its man-stuff to $167M worldwide. I’m not sure how sales of banana hammocks are going right now, but I’d certainly be keen to invest in a stars-and-stripes version for next summer, as Mike and his crew will drop trou over the lucrative 4th of July weekend, going head-to-head with Paramount’s reboot, “Terminator: Genesis.”
Magic Mike Pro-tip: Never put bananas in the refrigerator.
Here’s an early fan-made trailer for “Magic Mike 2.”
FOR DIVERGENT, THREE ISN’T THE MAGIC NUMBER, FOUR IS
Brace yourself! Lionsgate is turning the final novel of Veronic Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy, “Allegiant,” into two parts. Who would have imagined?!? Oh wait, you mean Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games also did that?
Nothing like milking it for all its worth, but considering how difficult it’s been for studios to actually transform YA novels into box office hits, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise.
“Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2” grossed a franchise-high $1.3B, while “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2,” scored $829M. And “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2,” set for release November 2015, will likely follow the same trajectory as J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer’s multiplex marauders.
One thing the Part 2’s of Harry Potter and Twilight have in common—they were both the highest grossing films of the franchise. So, when you consider that fact, if you don’t split the final two films, you’re probably looking at leaving a minimum of $500M+ on the table—and that’s a number studios just can’t afford to pass up.
Now, what I’m really waiting for is the studio that decides to split every book into two parts…which probably isn’t too far off. Next up in the YA franchise canon: Fox’s “The Maze Runner,” set to open September 19, 2014. James Dashner’s novel certainly has all the right ingredients (including multiple books), now it just needs to capture audience’s imagination.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TO TAKE FLIGHT ON THE SILVER SCREEN
“Star Trek” has successfully done it, and so has “Star Wars” in its own way, so why not reboot a third-tier sci-fi property like “Battlestar Galactica?” There is no doubt Universal is hoping to piggyback on the success of the SyFy network’s TV revival that gave new credibility to Starbuck and the Cylons, but it remains to be seen if BSG can finally become a successful movie franchise.
“Battlestar Galactica” not only has a great typeface and logo that is widely recognizable, but has an awesome fanfare too. That, combined with the longevity of the property…I think in the right hands, Universal might just have a legitimate film series on their hands. There is certainly a rich and detailed history to draw from since its inception in 1978, the only downside is that sci-fi fans would likely expect a huge $100M+ pic, and that means a huge investment by the studio.
On a personal note, I’m still haunted by the “Battlestar Galactica” baddies, as my parents never ceased to find joy out of the fact that as a little boy I was so scared of a Cylon attack, that while driving across the empty desert regions of the state of Washington they routinely convinced me that radio tower lights blinking on and off were, in fact, the signal for an alien invasion. I don’t know how many times I cowered at the bottom of the backseat on the floor, while my dad, mom and brother repeatedly told me, “the Cylons are coming, the Cylons are coming”…but I’m pretty sure I’ll need to hold someone’s hand at the movie theater.
CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Fox’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (June 20, 2014)
I’m sure if the allegations are true about director Bryan Singer, he wishes he could go into the past and change a few things. However, even if they are, there’s no stopping this juggernaut, as it’s easily one of the most anticipated fanboy flicks of the summer. Sorry, Spidey.
This third and final trailer finally shows us what we all knew to be true: this is “The Avengers” of the “X-Men” franchise. Boom. $100M+ debut.
CHINTZY CUT OF THE WEEK: Sony Classics’ “Third Person” (June 20, 2014)
There are some people out there that still defend Paul Haggis’ Best Picture winning drama, “Crash.” Those people suck. Seriously. I’m pretty sure you can easily make a decision about whether or not to ‘friend’ someone based on where their alliances lie regarding this particular. It’s a much better litmus test than Republican V. Democrat in my opinion.
Look, everyone knows “Brokeback Mountain” should have won best picture in 2005, but alas, we must not live in the past…we must recreate it.
CHOICE CLIP OF THE WEEK: Open Road’s “The Green Inferno” (Sept. 5, 2014)
Eli Roth is back. Finally. Six years after “Hostel: Part II,” the man who made torture porn an Urban Dictionary legend returns to helm horror once again.
Q: “You know what this is?”
A: Yes, it’s “Hostel” set in the Amazon jungle.
Q: “You know why they’re doing this to us?”
A: Yes, because directors routinely make the same film over and over again…and hardcore fans love that shit.
“Haunted House 2” Poster Courtesy of Open Road Films; Poster Designed By Concept Arts