Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News For Movie Lovers

There is no doubt Tom Cruise still has decisive pull at the worldwide box office, but one does have to question whether or not Warner Bros. took too great of risk plopping down an estimated $175M to make his latest sci-fi actioner, “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Sure, director Doug Liman is as inventive as they come, but we’ve all been witness to Cruise’s star power dimming to a dull glow in the U.S., so it’s very surprising the studio would invest so much in a sci-fi “Groundhog’s Day.” This is especially true after his previous sci-fi misfire, “Oblivion,” was such a non-event, scoring just $89M domestic, although nearly $200M overseas.

Taking a cue from previous untested summer properties that arrive with little buzz, Warner’s debuted the film internationally before its domestic launch this past weekend to modest results–$20M in 28 territories. Still, it’s been holding up day-to-day thanks to some of the best reviews of Cruise’s career (currently 88% on Rotten Tomatoes) and that may help sustain it through the often turbulent summer season.

The big kicker by far though, is the fact that Fox’s counter-programming gem, “The Fault in Our Stars,” will likely supernova this weekend, and end up taking the #1 spot as the YA adaptation arrives with teen fervor and an avalanche of pre-sale support as reported by Fandango. In fact, the online ticket seller claims it to be the largest advance selling love story of all-time, topping “The Vow,” which debuted with $41M over Valentine’s Day 2012.

Not too shabby for a flick that cost just $12M; a sum the PG-13 film will likely make back on opening day. In fact, oddsmakers are betting that the Shailene Woodley starrer will snag upwards of $40M, which may have it topping “Maleficent.” If so, that will be the sixth consecutive new film to top the charts since summer began.

And while it may not be in 3D or IMAX there are other money-making incentives out there, like the special Thursday evening screenings titled “The Night Before Our Stars” where you paid $25 to watch the film and then stuck around and saw the largest ever live simulcast experience with the cast, crew and author, John Green. Oh, and you also got a commemorative charm bracelet and an exclusive poster.  Hope you made that happen for yourself.

The thing about Green’s best-selling book is that it’s a pretty magical read. I remember early Judy Bloom novels dealing with teen love and sex in similar fashion and being completely absorbed. Throw in cancer, and you’ve got something that touches a lot of people, and a film that is completely opposite of what’s in theaters right now.

That’s a recipe for summer success and the real bright spot is that Green was a major presence on the set, which is a rarity and often offered his input to director Josh Boone and the cast. Could be inline for a long run this summer as one of the biggest surprises if audiences agree, like critics, that it’s worthy of all the attention.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. The Fault in Our Stars – $44M

2. Maleficent – $35M

3. Edge of Tomorrow – $32M

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past – $13M

5. A Million Ways to Die in the West – $8M

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SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS

BIG SUMMER FILM BAILS AT LAST MINUTE

Seven weeks from its launch date, one of the most expensive films of the summer, “Jupiter Ascending,” starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, has jumped ship and will now land in cinematic purgatory: February 2015.

Although Warner’s brass issued the standard response—we need more time with visual effects—it’s not like that was an unknown factor going into the $150M Wachowski film. Not only has Warner Bros. gone through the Matrix trilogy with them…but “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” too. So they definitely know the Wachowskis love to dabble in gobs of digital goo.

“Jupiter Ascending” certainly didn’t do itself any favors by trying to open against three other films on July 18: “Sex Tape,” “The Purge: Anarchy” and “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Even though none of those flicks are bonafide blockbusters, just having that many films open the same weekend would have truncated grosses for everyone.

This we know for sure:  “Jupiter Ascending” won’t be the biggest bomb of the summer. The dubious honor of summer’s biggest bottom-feeder now befalls Paramount’s “Hercules,” which just released a full-length trailer that makes you want to watch Lionsgate’s “Legend of Hercules” again…or maybe for the first time.

Truth is, I did see Renny Harlin’s version, in cornea-crushing 3D…and am still pondering a legal case against Lionsgate. However, I went to a complimentary media screening and was actually given free popcorn and soda…so my lawyer advised me that my case isn’t as airtight as I previously thought. But seriously, who can resist free popcorn? My constitution is weak.  I freely admit that.

In a strange twist of fate though, “Jupiter Ascending” now opens against another much-maligned, big-budget 3D film that has also been pushed around quite a bit, “Seventh Son.” You might recall that film was once a Warner Bros. release, that went over to Universal after their split with Legendary Pictures. That’s just pure Hollywood “stick-it-to-ya” lore right there.

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STAR WARS LURES IN ANOTHER YOUNG APPRENTICE

After snagging Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) last week for “Untitled Star Wars,” which is the first planned stand alone film, Disney grabbed Josh Trank for their next as-of-yet undated spin-off.

Trank made waves in Hollywood breaking out with the lo-fi, sci-fi teen hit, “Chronicle,” and is currently working on the new “Fantastic Four” reboot for Fox.

Aligning themselves with young talent is a very smart move on the part of Disney, as the resilience of what is the ultimate Hollywood franchise depends not only on the right scripts, but leaders with fresh instincts and sound film making skills. They’re making all the right moves, which will undoubtedly make this the highest-grossing franchise of all-time and for all-time.

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Fox’s “The Book of Life” (Oct. 17, 2014)

You say you want something different from an animated film…this may be just the ticket, then. Guillermo del Toro produces and Jorge Gutierrez (“El Tigre”) directs a distinctive toon that celebrates the Day of the Dead culture. Looks like a spooky-good time.

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CHINTZY CUT OF THE WEEK: Weinstein’s “The Giver” (Aug. 15, 2014)

Yes, the book has a massive YA following, yes Meryl Streep stars in this…but dangit if after all the dystopian adaptations and with “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” ruling this genre…does this seem tired and played out already. From the looks of it, at best, this will be another “Ender’s Game.”

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INDIE SLICE OF THE WEEK: IFC’s “Young & Beautiful” (Now Playing)

If you’re a fan of “Blue is the Warmest Color” check out the latest from Frenchman Francois Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “Potiche”) and see why American films have a looooong way to go in matching the sexual realism and gutsy authenticity of European films. Some wonderful performances here, gorgeous camerawork and just a pure, unfiltered piece of film making.

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CHOICE BLIPPITY BOP OF THE WEEK:  The Bottle Boys “Billie Jean”

This Danish quintet is about to pop off…big time. After going viral this week, I couldn’t stop scouring YouTube in search of their other songs, which after nine years performing together, are many. Definitely check out their versions of “Call Me Maybe,” “Under the Sea,” “Walking on Sunshine” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Their songs are so good, that I don’t even know if they’re pulling a Milli Vanilli….and I don’t care.  Speaking of, I really do dig that Milli Vanilli.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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Poster Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Poster Design by Gravillis; Photography by Frank Ockenfels