It was an upset across the board this weekend at the box office as supervillans won again, food did really inappropriate things to our eyes, and no amount of imagination was saving a beloved children's classic.
Beyond any understanding that I can make sense and reason of, Suicide Squad came out on top at theaters this weekend for a second week in a row. Now I should mention that Warner Bros film didn't do unbelievably well this weekend in and of itself. The film suffered a 67.4% decline in ticket sales between weekends one and two, which is a solid hit for most blockbusters that open to north of $100 million. So the real story this weekend isn't that Suicide Squad took the top of the box office with an "impressive" $43.5 million, but rather not a single film of the six newcomers could best this amount. Though, to be completely fair, only half of those films stood a chance of doing so.
What was the most shocking for me this weekend was seeing how poorly Disney Animations' remake of their 1977 Pete's Dragon performed with family audiences - a target audience whom should have been a solid bet for studios to capitalize on. The film opened to $21.5 million which isn't horrible given that's about a third of its $65 million production budget, but the film should have done much better releasing against the likes of Sausage Party, Florence Foster Jenkins, and and a second weekend Suicide Squad. This is also no where near the success that Disney has seen with their other Live-action adaptions that they have been rolling out over the last couple years. So how did this family classic with no direct rivals end up flying under expectations? First, while the film has only received mixed-to-positive reviews the good feedback it has received wasn't anything magical or spectacular. That has made any harsh and less flattering feedback stand out all the more. Second, the film has had to fight the same uphill battle that we have seen every other film that has released under the banner of reboot/remake/rehash this year do as well: originality vs familiarity. This year we have seen a plethora of remakes hit the silver screen, far more than the average of recent years, and like we've mentioned in previous posts, the trend in box office reports is pointing to the fact that audiences losing interest in watching something they more or less have already seen. In the case of pete's Dragon, this is apparent. In fact The Secret Life of Pet's only dropped to sixth place this week, it's sixth weekend in theaters. What's more Pet's only took a -21% decline in ticket sales, which is notably better than most animated films perform in their respective weekends (they typically see a 25-32% decline).
While a lack of source originality is what will end up doing Pete's Dragon in, Sony Entertainment's Sausage Party was overflowing with creative and authentic content which helped propel it to being easily the largest success of the weekend. Despite only opening to second place the film did have a haul of $34 million, almost doubling it's production budget, and out performing what many had anticipated from it. I strongly believe this is all to do with the original nature of the story that audience had brought to them this weekend. It's a clever take on a concept like Toy Story, just with food, with similarly crass humor as found in SuperBad or even Zach and Miri Make a Porno, but with some pretty powerful and thought provoking statements on organized religion and existence presented to it's audience. But the major question we have to ask is what staying power does the film have? Yes it's done unbelievably well for itself as of right now, but the film is a solid R-rated film and is pretty polarizing to it's audience. Either you walk out of the theatre feeling like you lost 10 lbs. from the best ab workout in you life from all the laughing you just did, or you walk out feeling like you just had 10 lbs. of vomit up chucked on to you.
Shifting focus now from the weekend's biggest success let's talk about this weekend's biggest flop! Opening to sixth place with just over $6.6 million, Paramount Pictures' Florence Foster Jenkins was a huge disappointment to the studio, any probably for just about anyone who has gone to see it. The budget for the film wasn't reported, but it's quite within the realm of possibility that this film cost upwards of $35-$45 million to make as the film boasts an impressive Oscar contender cast, a beautiful 1940's period piece set in New York City, and cinematographer the likes of which have made king's speeches quite famous. Yes, I am talking about Danny Cohen. If that's the case, and the production budget for Florence was something closer to $50 million, this is just barely a fifth of what it should have made opening weekend. But given a rather weak character story of a woman who is horrible at singing but is so terribly bad at doing so that everyone has to lie to her in order to keep her fragile psyche intact is kinda ridiculously. Yes, the argument could be made it's about a loving husband just trying to give his dying wife the dream she always longed for, but this film boils down to nothing but class privilege (and I'd argue white privilege on a certain level) and how you can have just about anything you want if you're willing to lie hard enough and through enough money at it.
All in all it was an interesting turn of events at the box office resulting in a subpar superhero film ruling the roost yet again. Predictions for this coming weekend look to be more hopeful, however. With War Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings releasing there's a pretty decent chance that one of them will dethrone Suicide Squad officially. Exactly which one could is a little hard to tell as of right now. On the one hand you have what appears to be a funny, action-packed, R-rated film staring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill which should do well for itself, but you also have a film that might play exceedingly well with families - especially after the disappointment that has become Pete's Dragon. However, even that is a little hard to guarantee because Kubo is stop motion and while it will most likely be another amazing story and spectacle released from Laika, there is a good chance it will be overshadowed and forgotten. But one horse, hmm, I mean film I'd really not place money on this weekend would be Ben-Hur which looks like it has completely lost sight of what the original film of the same title was about and has lost in every way the grander and importance that the 1959 Ben-Hur played in American and Film history.
As always, if you have time amidst your final summer plans this weekend make sure you go see a film in theaters so that you can join the conversation! See you all next time!