“What do you people even want to watch anymore?!” cries a desperate Hollywood, and Other Box Office News.
So, I’ve been down (for reasons we don’t need to get into). The kind of depressive spell where you just have no energy, drive, desire to get out of the house even though you know going to the cinema to watch films will make you feel a tad better but you’re so “blah” that you instead easily convince yourself that you just don’t care/won’t appreciate it properly all that much so stay home fussing your (very good) cats instead.
The kind where you can’t focus on actual work, but you can inadvertently stay up until 3:30am playing Sifu. Hence why there was no BOR last week and why the BOR the week before was a bit more on the cynical side than I feel happy penning nowadays. But I’m ready to be a functioning adult again. I saw Blur at the weekend, had a cry to ‘The Universal,’ and spent a lovely afternoon playing with baby kitties at a cat café. I can withstand the irradiated wasteland that is the Box Office landscape right now.
To that end, it’s time to throw my hat into the ring of Indiana Jones DISCOURSE because, whilst I took a brief mental sabbatical, Dial of Destiny became the latest high-profile casualty of 2023’s bombing range. Though it was the #1 film in America last weekend, it only did so with a disastrous $60 million opening on a near-$300 million budget. And it’s only gotten worse as, despite this being one of the very few weekends all summer without a tentpole blockbuster release, Indiana couldn’t keep hold of that top spot in its sophomore go, falling 56% into second with a decisive loss to Insidious: The Red Door.
Barring an actual miracle, since audience word-of-mouth hasn’t been earth-shattering, there is no way this thing makes a sliver of profit. The post-mortems are already coming up with stacks of potential reasons why Dial has been another 2023 Disney flop – the film’s crap, it cost too much, no Spielberg, residual Crystal Skull hatred, the muted Cannes premiere, Kathleen Kennedy, Disney+ – but the reality may simply be that nobody wanted a new Indiana Jones? The new generation just don’t care about the character and franchise, and the elder generation were satisfied with the Indys they already had? Sometimes, it’s not that hard to discern.
As for the other gigantic failure from last weekend, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken… well, I think that half-sentence explains it all, doesn’t it? One, that’s probably the first time you’ve even heard the name Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, since Universal just fully noped out of any marketing job whatsoever for DreamWorks Animation’s latest release. Two, I’m sorry but the name is dreadful, borderline repellent. Therefore, despite being enjoyed by those who did turn up, we got a proper full-tilt bomb of an opening with just $5.5 million, sinking almost exactly half this weekend to $2.8 million and tenth-place.
By contrast, Pixar’s Elemental, which was also pegged as a bomb after its opening weekend, has been hanging in there ever since, never dropping more than 38% between weekends and soaring past $100 mil domestic this week from strong word-of-mouth. (Although, to be clear, no Puss in Boots: The Last Wish deal is going on here; Elemental is only at $251 million worldwide so is still a bomb.) I have no idea why Universal are so determined to keep burying every DreamWorks Animation film on their slate whilst giving preferential treatment to Illumination, but I guess the bombs will continue until moral improves?
Which brings us to this week’s victims. Arriving at exactly the time to capitalise on that hot first-generation wave of Insidious nostalgia, franchise “finale” – it’s a horror franchise, I’d take the “finale” tag with a gigantic grain of salt – The Red Door is in many respects the first win we’ve had at the Box Office in a while. After all, $32.6 million from a $16 million budget makes for an instant profit, and it’s the second-best opening weekend for any entry in the Insidious franchise so far. But, as The Numbers notes, the previews-to-opening-weekend multiplier for Red Door was about 6.5x (the previews were $5 million) which is the lowest of any horror film since the pandemic kicked off.
Similarly experiencing a gigantic crater after posting encouraging Thursday night previews was Adele Lim’s acclaimed comedy Joy Ride which crashed out hard with just $5.8 million (sixth-place) following $1.1 million previews. What these numbers tell me, and it’s not just been isolated to these two films, is that the already-hooked hardcore are showing out early, but a lot of movies are struggling to lure in the more casual moviegoers so vital to their long-term success and health. The cult shows up, but not the normies.
AND SPEAKING OF CULTS, oh hell… We have had one success story this month. Unfortunately for us all, it’s down to QAnon. Sound of Freedom is a child-trafficking thriller which uses the phrase “based on a true story” with the same dubious accuracy as when I tell my diabetic specialist during my yearly check-up that I “lead an active lifestyle”, stars prominent far-right spokesman Jim Caviezel, and features more dog-whistles than a day at the Westminster Dog Show.
The low-budget Angel Studios-produced flick – the guys behind other unlikely TV and cinema hits The Chosen and His Only Son, also busy making my “at least they’re not PureFlix” comment from a few months back age like milk – originally opened on Tuesday July 4th where it managed to beat out Indiana Jones to the day’s #1 slot.
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The devoted soldiers of the cult which enacted the failed January 6th insurrection saw this as a victorious blow to the liberal elite despite Indy having already been out for five days (three of which outgrossed Sound of Freedom’s opening day) and there being a lot of very fishy manipulation tactics going to inflate those numbers. Still, begrudgingly, I must admit that it is the one film of late to keep up its initial momentum, finishing its first official weekend in third with $18.2 million and a total bank of $40.2 mil so far.
I’d speculate on what this means for America at large, but I don’t want weirdos harassing my mentions with accusations of being a paedophile Nazi like they’ve been doing to Charles Bramesco ever since his negative Guardian write-up went live. …mind, they’re probably going to do that anyway just from my pointing out the qualifiers in Freedom’s Box Office narrative, calling QAnon a cult, and being non-binary.
You’ll find this Full List hiding behind The Scary Door.
US Box Office Results: Friday 7th July 2023 – Sunday 9th July 2023
1] Insidious: The Red Door
$32,650,000 / NEW
You know what? I think it should now be required for all directors to have to sing over the end credits of their movies. Patrick Wilson is a true visionary, in this regard. We’re all already pumped for Barbie and Oppenheimer, but imagine how much better both films would be if they respectively ended with Greta Gerwig covering ‘Barbie Girl’ and Christopher Nolan singing, I dunno, ‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire’?
2] Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
$26,500,000 / $121,205,329
Seeing this at some point within the next seven days. Depression is what it is. Dave Bond has an extensive review, in the meantime, and he’s not someone who would put Kingdom of the Crystal Skull above Temple of Doom. If any QAnon-ers are reading this, use THAT as your insult material against me! It carries more weight by being actually true!
3] Sound of Freedom
$18,219,879 / $40,207,249
Speaking of unwatchable garbage, Shaun Rockwood continued his valiant journey to the absolute bottom of the barrel by watching Cocaine Shark, a mockbuster with little Shark and apparently no actual Cocaine. I feel like we should’ve reminded him about the fact that Set The Tape instituted a zero-star rating recently that he could use in times like these.
$9,600,000 / $109,191,880
I hope this is good, but I also don’t think the character designs are very appealing? At least for the still images, motion graphics, and Tube station plasters I’ve seen; maybe they work better in extended motion or are just something you get used to after enough time. There’s something… off and unnatural about the cast, I can’t put my finger on it.
$8,000,000 / $357,648,302
Eamon Hennedy is at the point in Smallville’s run where they took a stab at imitating turn-of-the-millennium Japanese ghost stories. The more I see of his Smallville write-ups, the less convinced I become that this was a real show which ran for ten seasons.
6] Joy Ride
$5,850,000 / NEW
Heard excellent things about this one from all of my more-connected friends and cannot wait to finally see it in *checks notes* August?!
7] No Hard Feelings
$5,250,000 / $40,412,492
Honestly, it’s gonna be much quicker and easier for all of us if you just assume that my response/commentary to any film on this list includes some variation on “I should be seeing it this week”.
8] Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
$5,000,000 / $146,723,312
I cannot say for certain whether Rise of the Beasts would’ve been a smash success if it were released at any other time of the year – it’s one of the most three-star blockbusters to come along in a year fit to burst with three-star blockbusters – but I do know that dropping it mid-June surrounded by tonnes of other tentpole releases with zero breathing room to retain an audience was the dumbest possible decision.
9] The Little Mermaid
$3,500,000 / $289,038,945
Oh, no, they’ve fully ITV-ified Deal or No Deal. Lower cash amounts; ugly, generic, overproduced LED studio set-up lacking any of the low-budget, intimate charm of the old converted warehouse; Stephen goddamn Mulhern as the host. Thanks, I hate it.
10] Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken
$2,800,000 / $11,599,925
Maybe choosing a visual design that resembles a mockbuster of The Little Mermaid, releasing within the window of a live-action Little Mermaid, and creating one-sheets which do nothing to dispel such sentiments wasn’t the smartest of ideas in hindsight.