Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 08/09/23 – 10/09/23

It’s been about a month since I last did one of these, so let’s catch up on all the Box Office News.

Hello.  Did not mean for this to turn into a month-long break, but it suddenly got very busy on my end and nobody else at STT has undergone the necessary years-long training and qualifications to be certified for doing a BOR by themselves.  The upshot of it all being that you get another bumper catch-up instalment for your troubles!  Aren’t you lucky?  We’re even going to break down all the big stories from my absence in sub-heading semi-listicle format, since SEOs and AI aggregates and content farms masquerading as reputable media websites apparently all love that shit.  On an unrelated note, if any of those places are reading, I am perfectly ready to sell-out said principles right now if you pay for me; I could really do with the money.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures – © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Blue Beetle barely avoids becoming bug-splat.

The first of the big new releases during our unscheduled blackout was DC’s Blue Beetle.  …y’know, Blue Beetle?  Jamie Reyes?  He was in one of DC’s many Crisis crossovers?  Spent a bit of time with the comic Teen Titans?  Had a Season 10 appearance on Smallville?  He was playable in Injustice 2?  Nothing?  That’s fair.

I may be acting quite harsh, but for a general audience this is kinda like making a big Summer blockbuster out of the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to 2014.  That’s why you need a rock-solid brand which has built up years of trust in providing quality movies and a blitzkrieg marketing campaign with stars front-and-centre to excite a general audience who otherwise have no reason to get hyped over a B-/C+-list comic book hero.

Except that, oops, DC has been a flaming garbage fire (with very inconsistent diamond spots) for a full decade, and we’re not even three months removed from a blockbuster received by audiences with the kind of toxic revulsion modern studio filmmaking is supposed to have successfully focus-grouped into eradication like polio.  And, oops, there’s a giant industry-wide actors’ strike which has been going since the start of July so Blue Beetle’s stars aren’t permitted to do any press whatsoever which leaves the onus on brand recognition (oops) and Warner Bros.’ trailer department (OOPS).

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All of which is to say that, yeah, Blue Beetle may have debuted in first-place upon open weekend, but it only did so, against zero competition, to the tune of $25 million.  The movie, which was pushed primarily on the milestone of it being the first superhero movie led by a Latino cast, did receive enthusiastic response from the Latino audience who turned up (according to PostTrak).  But, as has become a common refrain this Summer, that doesn’t mean a whole lot when not enough people turned up to begin with and, unlike with a sleeper hit like Elemental, they didn’t stick around for more viewings or convince enough agnostics to check it out.

The Beetle has been dropping like an insect successfully hit by a blast of bug spray: 51% in its sophomore window ($12.1 mil); a slightly better 41.5% in its third weekend, aided as the whole Box Office was by National Cinema Day ($7.1 mil); and this week another poor 47% ($3.7 mil).  Pretty much the only reason Blue Beetle is not an outright financial calamity comes from its production budget, a modest $104 million stemming from its origins as a Max Original, meaning it at least will end up more profitable than The Flash.  Still a negative-profit, but one which hopefully requires less zeroes on the balance sheet.

Photo by: Gordon Timpen. ©2023 CTMG.

Gran Turismo spins out.

Across the first four months of 2023, it felt like the pop culture conversation was entirely dominated by video game adaptations: HBO’s acclaimed translation of The Last of Us, and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie making the kind of money that can ensure those Nintendo 64 kids need never want for N64s ever again.  In much the same way that Barbie making enough cash to finally buy and bury the Bratz line by itself has execs scrambling to greenlight more toys-to-movies, both works could be pointing to a fresh untapped market of IP and accompanying money vaults for studios to mine.  But before Paramount gets the idea to throw a quarter-billion bucks at a Kula World movie, Sony have been kind enough to provide a necessary red flag for the limitations inherent in a video game movie boom with Gran Turismo.

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OK, it’s more a biopic which happens to include Gran Turismo rather than a literal Gran Turismo movie; Sony perhaps thinking they could avoid the sinkhole that Need for Speed fell into with its own 2014 adaptation.  But still, not exactly a killer must-see premise no matter how many movies you slap that trailer with David Harbour yelling about how “THIS ISN’T A GAME, THIS IS REAL LIFE!” in front of.

Accordingly, Neill “you made District 9; what the fuck happened to you, bruv?” Blomkamp and co. saw Gran Turismo get the condescending License Test fail music with American moviegoers.  Just like with Blue Beetle, it may have debuted at #1 but that’s not exactly worth celebrating given that said debut only came with $17.4 million in credits.  And it’s gotten much, much worse over the last two weekends; a plummet of 62% to fourth place over Labor Day ($6.6 mil) and another 49% this weekend to seventh ($3.3 mil).  As with Blue Beetle, the one silver lining here comes from GT sporting a modest $60 million price-tag which, thanks to decent International numbers, it has managed to draft past.  But, yeah, don’t expect Microsoft to try and fast-track a Forza Horizon movie any time soon.

© 2023 Universal Studios.

Nobody wants to laugh anymore.

In a Summer filled with very qualified wins and a few bright spots you can expect studios to take all the wrong lessons from once they get their heads out their arses and give in to the striking unions so we can all make movies again, perhaps the most alarming story nobody’s really focused on has been the continued slow death of comedy.

At this point, only the most unrealistic and delusional of industry trackers would tell you that things aren’t back to pre-pandemic health – which, as I have repeatedly stressed, wasn’t the rudest of states to begin with but hey ho – and we’ve seen attendant resurgences across all types of movies.  All types, that is, except comedy where, if it’s not painted pink and includes a scene where Ryan Gosling yells “SUBLIME!” to himself, audiences want nothing to do with it.  Barbie may be the biggest film of the year (to spoil my next section early), but pretty much every other comedy over the last few weeks has been playing to deafening silence and maybe a few embarrassed coughs.

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After failing to maintain the momentum built by its initial opening flourish once taken outside of Off-Off-Off-Broadway, Disney’s Searchlight arm pulled the plug on the acclaimed (and fucking hysterical) Theater Camp and it’s been slowly shrinking back to minuscule numbers as it preps for Hulu/Disney+ “wait a second, why didn’t anybody see this in cinemas?!” infamy later this month.

On the same week as Blue Beetle – which I realise is now starting to sound like it was some harbinger of doom rather than a mere underperforming superhero movie – Universal plopped out R-rated talking animal comedy Strays to many a chorus of “bad dog!”s.  Its $8.2 million opening is nearly double what similar raunch-comedy bomb Joy Ride managed to start off with earlier in the Summer, and Strays has exited the Top 10 this week with $22.8 mil total which is also nearly double what Joy Ride closed to in the US, but still Not Good.  (And, yes, I mainly make these comparisons so I can yell at all of you miserable bastards for not going to see Joy Ride, you miserable bastards.)

Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis / Focus Features. © 2023 Focus Features, LLC.

If anything should’ve been a safe-ish bet, then My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 was it.  Setting aside the fact that I, someone who has their head dialled into industry happenings at all times as part of their “job,” had no idea this was a thing at all until three weeks ago, the first Greek Wedding was famously one of the biggest sleeper hits of all-time and its 14-years-later sequel didn’t do too shabby either despite nobody really asking for it beforehand.  Why not expect lightning to strike thrice?  Well, I guess the real question everybody should’ve been asking is “why push our luck a third time?” because the threequel just premiered to a very underwhelming $10 million and an ominous “B” Cinemascore (the second one had an “A-”).

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Last week, we looked to be having a lone bright spot in this mirthless Summer as Emma Seligman’s acclaimed alt-teen comedy Bottoms had been lighting asses on fire so completely in Limited Release – $461,052 from 10 theatres – that distributor Orion started bumping it up to a Wide expansion.  However, after a shockingly good Labor Day performance of $3 million from 715 screens (good enough to vault up to seventh on the chart), this weekend’s full-Wide bump looks to have been one jump too many.  Despite now reaching 1,265 screens, Bottoms ended up making a full million less than last weekend and is sliding back down the clingy dregs of the Top 10.  What do we make of all this?  Fuck if I know.  I guess maybe COVID re-infection rates are much more widespread than we all assume since, due to many of these movies being some of the year’s very best, one of the virus’s effects is A LACK OF TASTE.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures – © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Barbenheimer will not be stopped.

In the middle of all this, Barbenheimer has been trucking along with seemingly no end in sight.  The Barbie half of the equation has still, eight weeks into its run, never seen the outside of the Top 5 on a weekend’s chart.  In fact, this is the first time that the film has fallen out of the Top 2, thanks primarily to the surprise US overperformance of Indian vigilante thriller Jawan in fourth; $6.1 mil to Barbie’s $5.9 mil.

Not that there’s much left for Greta Gerwig’s behemoth to accomplish.  Over the August UK Bank Holiday Weekend, Barbie managed to become both the Biggest Film of 2023 no asterisks required and Warner Bros.’ biggest movie of all-time; news I assume Joanne will take extremely well since her Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 got unseated by a movie which asserts trans women are women with the casting of Hari Nef.  Nevertheless, this run is likely to continue for a little while yet.  Partly because Warners have announced a limited IMAX run with new post-credits footage at September’s end.  Partly because they chose to punt Dune: Part Two to March rather than acquiesce to WGA & SAG-AFTRA’s reasonable demands due to this industry being run by vulture venture capitalists who value short-term profit over long-term sustainability and actual creative artistry.  I love being alive in 2023, it’s so fun(!).

READ MORE: Partie de Campagne (1946) – Blu-ray Review

Whilst Barbie may be grabbing all the headlines, don’t let Oppenheimer get swept under the rug.  At time of writing, Christopher Nolan’s epic biopic about how we are all so very fucked is the #3 of 2023 worldwide, having sailed past Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3’s total of $845 mil with ease.  Should studios continue to shoot themselves and the industry at large in the foot with an elephant gun by delaying what few remaining heavy hitters for the year are left to 2024, there’s a real good chance of Oppenheimer remaining the #3 movie for the year when we finally get out of this hell.

For actionable statistics, the current global total of $891 million is just $19 million away from wresting the record of Highest Grossing Biopic of All-Time from Bohemian Rhapsody and I have not wanted anything more to happen than this right now.  So, please, if you’re reading this post, go back and watch Oppenheimer again.  We must right this grave injustice against half-decent cinema!  Go and do a capitalism, it’s fine this one time!

Photo by: Stefano Montesi. © 2023 CTMG, Inc.

Of Denzels and Devils

Finally, in this monster piece I’ve been slaving away on with a miserable-ass heatwave ruining my day, let’s give it up for two of the most quietly consistent franchise players in modern Hollywood, The Conjuringverse and Denzel Washington!  Our two most recent #1s mark them as reliable Box Office playmakers, capable of turning in the exact same solid financial numbers every time regardless of how many years pass or what inflation has ballooned to during their breaks.

Bruce Nash of The Numbers has crunched the numerics on this and Washington’s The Equalizer has actually become the most consistent-opening franchise of all-time with its third instalment.  3’s $34.5 million slots it nicely between the ceiling of 2s $36 million (from 2018) and 1’s floor of $34.1 million (from 2014).  Well Done-zel Washington!  (Let’s not talk about your 65% sophomore nosedive.)  As for The Nun II, our new #1, its $32.6 million is rather less than the first Nun spinoff opened to in 2018 (a franchise-best $53.8 million somehow), but this is also the best Conjuringverse opening since that movie and another solid win for a series which has never notched a starting figure below $20 mil even mid-pandemic.  Seems the appetite for obnoxious jump scares paired with Catholic/Christian imagery shall never be satiated!

And that’s what you missed on Glee!  See you next week for normal service.  Here’s a tabled Full List.

US Box Office Results: Friday 8th September 2023 – Sunday 10th September 2023

1] The Nun II $32,600,000 NEW
2] The Equalizer 3 $12,100,000 $61,865,408
3] My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 $10,000,000 NEW
4] Jawan $6,191,506 $7,562,851 [NEW]
5] Barbie $5,900,000 $620,476,857
6] Blue Beetle $3,775,000 $63,704,000
7] Gran Turismo $3,375,000 $35,685,098
8] Oppenheimer $3,000,000 $315,136,955
9] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem $2,600,000 $111,327,215
10] Bottoms $2,051,560 $7,615,818

Dropped out: Meg 2: The Trench, Strays, Talk to Me

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