Weekend Box Office (August 17 - 19, 2012)
THIS WEEKEND Things get busy at the North American box office with four wide releases opening over what will be the final major frame for new films for this summer movie season.
Stallone and his bad boys are back in The Expendables 2, the sequel to the 2010 smash which opened this same weekend and connected with action fans by providing two things - a mega-collection of stars all under one roof, and over-the-top gunplay with a high death count. Like any good sequel, this R-rated entry puts more on the table. Joining returning stars like Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren are some other former action heroes like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, who disappointed fans the first time with a short chit-chat scene with Sly, are incorporated more into the story with action scenes and all. Stallone did not direct this time and instead the reigns went to action veteran Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider).
The concept and starpower should once again register with the core fan base of older blood-thirsty males. For what it was, the first Expendables had pretty good legs following its $34.8M bow with declines of 51%, 44% and then 31% on the three-day portion of the Labor Day holiday. That's good will. And it should get cashed in with the new chapter. But one question mark is how has demand changed over these last few weeks for this type of extreme bullet-filled action film after the recent string of shooting tragedies across the country. The 2010 hit was incredibly male-skewing, even for a testosterone flick, with 61% of the opening weekend crowd consisting of men. Chances are, most are still in the mood to entertain themselves with this gang of tough guys. Crashing into over 3,200 locations, The Expendables 2 may capture around $31M this weekend.
The summer's latest remake comes from Sony with its girl group saga Sparkle, a redo of the 1976 cult classic starring Irene Cara. This PG-13 update features American Idol star Jordin Sparks as a young woman from Detroit who rockets to fame in the tough and shady music industry. Whitney Houston plays her single mom and her death earlier this year will spark interest from fans eager to see her final performance. Mature black women will make up the primary audience and that demo is lucrative and often overlooked. The Sparkle brand and Houston's starpower make for a potent combo that should result in terrific averages as the musical film gets the most narrow release of the four newbies this weekend. Sparks might even help attract a young adult crowd too which would broaden appeal. Look for a big upfront crowd on this one. Sparkle opens in around 2,200 playdates and could find itself with about $18M this weekend.
The well-reviewed 3D animated kidpic ParaNorman hopes to tap into kids in their final weeks of summer vacation with a story that promises humor in somewhat spooky packaging. The PG-rated film about a nerdy young boy who sees non-Bruce-Willis-looking ghosts aims to appeal to families who like to push the envelope a little with their entertainment. While it looks like something that is better-suited for an October release, the Focus title will try to capitalize on the positive marks from critics to convince parents that this is worth a try. But there are a handful of other options for kids so competition will be a factor. The stop-motion pic has no starpower to fall back on so instead it is promoting the fact that it is from the makers of Coraline, a hit toon that bowed to $16.8M during the ancient days of 2009 when 3D was hot and new. Creeping into around 3,100 locations ParaNorman might debut to roughly $14M.
Jennifer Garner headlines another offering for families anchored by a tween boy in the feel-good drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The PG-rated pic about a childless couple that discovers a mysterious - and different - boy in their home and takes him in as their own should play to a broad audience of parents, kids, and adults who like sugary uplifting stories. Disney is hoping there is room in the marketplace for this and ParaNorman as well as Fox's dynamic duo of July franchise holdovers Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Reviews for Green have not been too encouraging so that might repel some parents looking for quality for their large family investment at the turnstiles. Starpower is not too strong and there is no brand here to pull in a built-in audience. Now playing in 2,551 theaters, The Odd Life of Timothy Green might take in about $9M over the weekend and $13M across five days.
Universal scored a top spot debut last weekend with its spy thriller The Bourne Legacy which boasted a new star and director. But buzz is not too hot for the Jeremy Renner pic and Expendables is another franchise actioner set to steal away the action audience, or at least the male members of that crowd. Legacy should remain the top choice among women who want an action film. Overall, a 55% tumble may result giving the pill-popping super agent about $17M and a ten-day total of $70M.
The Warner Bros. political comedy The Campaign also had a solid start thanks to strong marketing followed by mixed reactions from moviegoers. A 50% fall could result giving the Will Ferrell film roughly $13M and a cume of $52M after ten days. The Dark Knight Rises looks to start its fifth frame by smashing the quadruple century mark. The final Batman film - in its current interpretation - might decline by 45% to $10.5M pushing the massive tally to $409M. Meanwhile, the global gross will vault past the $900M mark.
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LAST YEAR Showing great legs, the Disney hit The Help rose from second into first place in its sophomore frame with $20M sliding a mere 23% while two-time champ Rise of the Planet of the Apes fell down to the runnerup spot with $16.1M for Fox. New releases failed to generate much excitement as the kid sequel Spy Kids: All the Time in the World and the adventure remake Conan the Barbarian debuted with $11.6M and $10M, respectively. They went on to finish with $38.5M for The Weinstein Co. and $21.3M for Lionsgate. A brand that did score with audiences, The Smurfs rounded out the top five with $7.8M for Sony.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: August 16, 2012 at 9:00AM ET
Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.