Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 11/08/23 – 13/08/23

Death, taxes, Barbenheimer; Meg 2 just about keeps its head above water; more like The LOST Voyage of the Demeter; and Other Box Office News.

Well, that was a nice week of not doing anything, but there’s no time for a humorous/self-pitying preamble!  Lots happened these last two weeks as Summer Movie Season prepares to wrap up and leave us with *shudders* September.  Beginning with the big news: Barbie broke a billion and is now the highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide by a solo female director.  (Frozen and Frozen II – which, fun fact, grossed $155 million than the original despite making much less of an obvious cultural impact – were co-directed by Jennifer Lee.)

Audiences still cannot get enough of the Barbenheimer as, for the third weekend in a row, neither film dropped more than 43% from its prior weekend, regaining a chokehold on the top two podium places (more on that brief break in a sec).  And, given that Blue Beetle is arguably the only slight threat to Barbie’s fetching pink utopia between now and *scrolls through calendar, keeps scrolling, gives up*, there is a very strong chance it ends up dethroning Mario when all is said and done for the Highest Grossing Film of 2023 award, since it’s only $172 million away.  Wouldn’t that be novel, the year’s biggest film going to one of its best?

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There have been pretenders to the Barbenheimer throne, however.  Last weekend, Oppenheimer’s occupation of the #2 slot was briefly interrupted by the only weapon more powerful than an atomic bomb: three gigantic sharks.  Yes, it’s Meg 2: The Trench, a movie Warner Bros. appeared suspiciously passive about promoting given that it promised Jason Statham fighting three giant sharks on a jet ski with explosive-tipped harpoons.  Turns out, that was because The Trench is only the movie pitched for its last 30 minutes, but the movie pitched did successfully lure enough people into the cinema opening weekend to outperform industry expectations and dislodge Nolan’s nuclear narrative by $879,000 ($30 mil to $29.121 mil).

Of course, once everybody saw the film and realised it’s a weirdly self-serious Alien rip-off (if that movie didn’t feature any Aliens) for its first 70 minutes, they proceeded to swim away in droves on the second weekend: $12.7 million for fourth.  (Un)Fortunately(?), it’s already pulled in $200 million from overseas markets (at time of writing), so we’re probably gonna give everyone a third go at doing a giant shark monster movie right it cannot be this hard!

© 2023 Universal Pictures.

Meanwhile, on the outright-bomb side of things, Dracula-on-a-boat slasher The Last Voyage of the Demeter sank without a trace.  Despite Universal’s best efforts to push this thing in front of as many eyes as possible – although not in the UK, where it was unceremoniously taken off of the release schedule as a result of the recent eOne buyout (long story not relevant here) – and nothing else coming out Wide this weekend, seems nobody wants to watch a film with the preeminent bloodsucker anymore.

Demeter joining Renfield and Dracula Untold as yet another flop for old Vladdy boy; $6.5 million for a distant fifth place.  It’s not because nobody wants to see a scary movie in the heat of August, either.  A24’s Talk to Me has been pulling off the unthinkable for the studio’s usually divisive brand of horror by retaining proportionally sizeable audiences week-on-week, dropping only 39% last weekend and a mere 19% this weekend.  It’s already the fifth-biggest film domestically in the indie studio’s history and, if it can keep this run up a little longer, it’ll unseat Hereditary as A24’s biggest horror movie domestically.  No wonder the studio has been teasing a sequel for only the second time in its decade of existence (Pearl was a prequel, pedants).

READ MORE: Children of the Corn (2020) – Film Review

Oh, I almost forgot about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  In my defence, that’s fitting for a franchise Paramount has been mismanaging for decades including, for reasons I genuinely do not understand, pulling a Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning and sending TMNT: Mutant Mayhem out on a Wednesday rather than a Friday meaning it was going to post muted numbers no matter what.  I guess the bright side is that you can make four Mutant Mayhems for the price of one Dead Reckoning, so it’s much easier to call TMNT an outright financial success.  Which it is, kind of.  That first weekend, the turtles took it to Oppenheimer and Meg 2, coming up just shy of the bronze medal with $28 million.  This weekend, it dropped a decent 43.8% to $15.75 million for that belated bronze medal, crossing the $70 mil that makes up its budget in the US and about to cross $100 mil worldwide (it’s not out in most territories yet).  Tentative champagne celebrations?

This Full List is being fuelled by Turtle Power, in that it’s come together real slow and constantly tired.

US Box Office Results: Friday 11th August 2023 – Sunday 13th August 2023

1] Barbie

$33,700,000 / $526,309,000

I’d go on a giant-old rant about the industry press all acting utterly bewildered that a Barbie sequel hasn’t been announced/greenlit yet – cos, y’know, not every movie needs a sequel no matter how runaway successful it may be, and some things are more important than future quarterly-earnings reports and share prices.  But these strikes have been a major mask-off moment for these rags basically being a circle-jerk of the studios and anti-creatives, so to go on a rant about this would be like ranting about Tories being callously evil incompetent scum-stains butt-fucking the country into the gutter to fund their own personal piggybanks.  It’s been known.  Save the oxygen for more enriching things.

2] Oppenheimer

$18,800,000 / $264,269,475

Perhaps the biggest problem with no other major attention-grabber coming along in the last month, or the next month, of the release schedule is that I am still stuck having to hear idiots repeat the same three or four DISCOURSE points around Barbie and Oppenheimer on an endless loop.  I swear to fucking God, if I have to read one more person say that Oppenheimer should have shown the Hiroshima and/or Nagasaki bombings, without any further consideration about what Nolan was going for by omitting them, and it is therefore a morally indefensible garbage work…  I will stop being so nice.

3] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

$15,750,000 / $72,789,501

Tried watching this on Sunday, but the screen I saw it in only had three working speakers, so the sound mix was all muffled and muted, and three extremely obnoxious people right at the very front who spent the whole film talking loudly and making phone calls.  Should be trying again in a completely different cinema when this goes live.  A good film even with those drawbacks, though!  Matt Latham has your review duties covered for now.

4] Meg 2: The Trench

$12,700,000 / $54,136,917

I have a higher tolerance than most for middling Jason Statham vehicles, so I didn’t hate everything prior to the Joy Island finale.  But it is a bizarre direction to take a sequel to The Meg and it makes that last third all the more galling.  Like, you could’ve been this gloriously stupid B-movie the whole time yet actively chose the Weyland-Yutani bullshit of the first 70 minutes?!

5] The Last Voyage of the Demeter

$6,500,000 / NEW

It’s probably quite traumatic to be stuck on a doomed voyage as you get picked off by the vampyr’s vampire, but is it as traumatic an experience as watching the 1978 Watership Down when you’re six years old?  Shaun Rockwood would argue otherwise, and he’s got a list with four other “children’s” films that have the Demeter beat.

6] Haunted Mansion

$5,614,000 / $52,871,146

Haven’t gotten to this one yet.  Might do.  Might not.  It’s whatever.

7] Talk to Me

$5,116,277 / $31,321,266

We’re a week away from Ahsoka premiering and Star Wars DISCOURSE yet again being a biohazard zone for at least the next two months.  Rather than getting sucked into that wormhole, though, why not check out this pair of primer pieces that Amy Walker put a load of time and effort into so you can get hype?  One giving a who’s who of the series’ main players, and a cheat sheet of animated series episodes it might be worth refreshing yourself on beforehand.

8] Sound of Freedom

$4,832,374 / $172,813,772

So, Sound of Freedom’s writer-director Alejandro Monteverde has had all he can stands with these observations that his movie functions as QAnon bait, and he can stand no more!  After all, he originally started work on the film back in 2015, two years before QAnon even began!  Fair enough on that count.  I would like to note, however, that: 1] the anti-trafficking group whose story Monteverde has dramatised in-film has a long history of accusations regarding false claims as well as ties to far-right Trumpian politics, 2] there is such a thing as dog-whistling and bad-faith appropriation which one should really be aware of in these times, and 3] he’s had several months to come out against (in particular) Tim Ballard and star Jim Caviezel’s press tour where they make QAnon-baiting claims that child-trafficking rings are all about “adrenochrome harvesting” yet said nothing.

9] Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

$4,665,000 / $159,555,870

In between reliving childhood traumas, Shaun Rockwood was also slicing his way (with great frustration) through the newly-released samurai game Sclash.  There’s the core of a good game nestled within, but a raft of technical issues keep getting in the way.

10] Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

$899,000 / $172,624,353

Weakest in the entire series.  Say what you want about Crystal Skull, at least it took chances and was filled with zip.  This one just rehashes Indy’s greatest hits in the safest possible manner with tangible exhaustion.

Dropped out: Elemental

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