So… a very strong opening for Guardians of the Galaxy. Not the best of the summer, but right in the sweet spot between Transformers 4/Godzilla and X-Men/Spiderman. And a few hundred thousand above April’s Cap 2.
We are in a period in which Marvel can do no wrong.
Truth is, comic book movies have been pretty unbeatable for more than a couple of decades now. There have been few outright flops. And plenty of just-over-breakeven “winners,” mostly because the costs are so outrageous.
Historically, every movie trend ends. And when this one ends, it will likely be for the marginal titles, not for the “classic characters,” though even Batman, Superman, and Hulk have seen some soft-vs-costs numbers over their runs and reboots.
We are also in an age where the media has joined the sales team for selected franchises and have become a big part of the marketing effort to open certain movies. And I say marketing instead of publicity quite intentionally. I am not pointing fingers at film critics. We are not much relevant to the marketing effort or to opening weekend. (I will say, however, that harshness and generosity is now often influenced by outside forces, especially the hype machine, in a lot of criticism.) But the relentless machinery towards opening weekend is assisted for or months and often years now by a willing media that seems to be happy substituting marketing for journalism. Like so many things right now, a small dose was fine (like classic geek set visits), but when it becomes the standard, we all end up choking on it.
So, another big opening of $170m+ production that is unlikely to lead to more than $250m domestic. It should tip the scales amongst the 5 big openings towards a generous critical view of the summer as the third of the 5 top summer films not to suck in overall American perception. No one actually knows what this weekend will bring, much less next weekend. But I expect pretty positive word of mouth and the same 60% and change drop next weekend, when the media will obsess on the “battle” between The “summer saving” Guardians and the return of Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles.
The irony of domestic media’s rollover for marketing departments is that the effort is now really as much about opening domestically as it is to convince international ticket buyers that they should line up. Guardians is yet another summer mega-movie that will need $150m-$200m internationally before it hits break-even on paper. Based on the history of these films, that should be no problem.
Also opening this weekend, Get On Up should put a damper the late summer “black history for white people” late summer slot. Nothing wrong with what may be a $13.5 million opening for a biopic in the summer. But it will probably be half of what what 42 launched with… or The Help opened to… or The Butler. Maybe if they had gotten Oprah to play Aretha it would have opened stronger. I haven’t actually seen the film and the critical response seems to be between “good and better than expected” to “not so good, but better than expected.” The good news for the film is that it could well do 3x opening, as did Jersey Boys and Blended. So not a big hit, but not necessarily a loser.
Lucy is taking on some water under on the weight of Guardians and August doesn’t get any easier for genre films. It should have been a milk run to $100m domestic. And it still should get there… but it won’t be as easy as a $44m launch suggested.
Worth noting about this summer… not a single film that didn’t open to $40m-plus has hit $100m as of this writing. Edge of Tomorrow is the only one in range. Not good.
Nice opening number for Calvary on 4 screens, doing about $14k per. I am more impressed with this than I am with some of the other limited launches of note this summer, as it is a brutal movie to market. It’s very hard to explain and it has some serious stuff going on. (I explained it to a group of people thusly: “It opens with a confession. The man on the other side of the box explains that he was molested by a priest and his way of making his point in response will be to kill a good priest who is guilty of nothing. He gives the priest a week to sort out his details. The movie is that week.” I think everyone I was selling it to will be going this weekend. But they aren’t looking for Taken or Phonebooth. They will be happy to watch a beautifully-acted and directed film with an internal, human sorting out.)
Brendan Gleeson is an acting deity for me… but I don’t imagine you could say his name to many people and get a response. (Show them a picture and they will smile instantly.) John Michael McDonagh is a terrific writer and director and his last collaboration with Gleeson, The Guard, did just over $5m domestically for Sony Classics, but it was comedy. This is not. And indeed, it opened on 4 to around double what this one is opening to on 4. It’s a challenge, commercially.
Roadside Attractions is doing a very nice job on A Most Wanted Man. Not great reviews. But it feels adult and of some size, people want to see Phil Hoffman work, and summer is rough on grown ups.