Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 15/09/23 – 17/09/23

Poirot maybe gets stumped by Valak, and Other Box Office News.

Ah, now this is the September BOR beat that I remember!  That period of time where fuck-all is coming out and doing pretty much exactly as well as you’d expect cos it’s the weird dead-zone between Summer and Winter movie seasons.  This is how you truly know that the industry is back to normal after COVID – just in time to shoot itself with an elephant gun due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes; ACCEPT THE UNIONS’ TERMS, YOU GREEDY FUCKS.

Makes my job much easier, anyway.  Unlike in the Summer when I gotta put in real work researching precedents and franchise history and comparing statisticals for half-dozen films per week, I can just rock up, talk shit about the lone major release, tell a few knob gags, do a bit of soapbox grandstanding, then be outta here within 80 minutes to lose another five hours on Sifu.  And it’s a mystery why nobody is offering me salaried writing gigs!

READ MORE: A Haunting in Venice – Film Review

Anywho, this week’s sole major release was Kenneth Branagh’s third attempt at a Poirot who makes me want to drown myself in a bucket of hot goat piss, A Haunting in Venice.  In a switch-up from past Branairots, where he made trifling whodunnits that had traces of unintended horror from a cast-list filled with red flags and whollyexpected cancellations, here he’s chosen to make a trifling whodunnit with traces of intended horror and a cast that may still be majority employable in twelve months’ time.  It’s a bold strategy, partly because 90% of major releases from now to November are also horror movies of varying severity, and partly because it’s having to follow up Death on the Nile which did significantly worse financially than Murder on the Orient Express and was kinda shiiiiiiiit.

As of right now, Haunting is a gamble that’s not paying off.  There is, admittedly, every chance that it could reveal legs longer than an entire herd of gazelles which drag the thing to the precipice of profitability, as what sort of happened with Nile, a movie whose opening ($12.8 mil) Haunting has managed to beat.  But getting into a photo finish for first against the second weekend of The Nun II and, as of this writing, losing out with $14.5 million to $14.7 million, plus an apathetic “B” Cinemascore, doesn’t bode well regardless of the significantly reduced budget.  ($60 mil compared to Nile’s $90 mil and they shot on actual sets this time instead of the worst green screens money could buy!)  It would seem that the moustache is going back into storage for another few years.

READ MORE: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy – Throwback 20

Elsewhere, and sensing that they’ve got a winner on their hands despite every attempt to recreate The Big Short in the years since having failed, Sony Pictures Releasing elected to drop Dumb Money early into eight theatres like it’s some kind of serious Awards Season contender and not a movie about the time Reddit artificially propped up GameStop for the lols.  (That time, by the way, was only two years ago even though it feels like two decades’ worth of news has occurred since then.)  Except that, hold the phone, it’s actually decent?  And is the lone bright spot on a stagnating chart this week, bringing in a starting haul of $217,000 for a PTA of $27,125?  What the what now?  Does this mean that r/wallstreetbets is gonna win against the odds again and Reddit overall is gonna be even more insufferable than it usually is?  Quick, somebody greenlight a movie about the time they misidentified the Boston Marathon bomber before their collective ego gets too big!

Now that we’ve collected all members of this Full List into the drawing room, I feel it’s a good time to play a round of J’ACCUSE!

US Box Office Results: Friday 15th September 2023 – Sunday 17th September 2023

1] The Nun II

$14,730,000 / $56,523,000

Hard to say, in all honesty, whether this split-decision for the chart’s top spot is more indicative of a poor start for Poirot or of a better-than-expected hold for the Nun sequel.  Nun II’s 54.8% drop between weekends is right in line with how the Conjuring franchise as a whole typically performs in their sophomore frames, but the original Nun sank 66% back in 2018 (even if it did manage to open a lot higher).  Regardless, more evidence that the Conjuring movies are the Minnesota Vikings of film franchises; after an initial few runs at the Superbowl, they’ve settled into a reliable competency that never excels and breaks that glass ceiling but also refuses to outright slump.  …don’t think too hard about that comparison, I’ve just still got Secret Base on the brain.

2] A Haunting in Venice

$14,500,000 / NEW

Dave Bond actually liked this one!  In fact, general consensus from my critic friends is that this is the best of Branagh’s stabs at Agatha Christie, though few of them are willing to call it outright great either.  For me, I got my fill of his unbearably mugging Poirot in the last two not-very-engaging go-arounds, so I’m good thanks.  Will just crack a few easy Branagh jokes each week this sticks around and maybe give it a chance on Disney+ when I am literally all out of other potential viewing options.

3] The Equalizer 3

$7,235,000 / $73,679,930

I am begging Denzel Washington to please conscientiously uncouple from Antoine Fuqua.  It’s a coin flip nowadays as to whether or not one of our most electrifying screen actors, who only surfaces once a year (twice if we’re extremely lucky), is going to attach himself to one of our most narcolepsy-inducing directors on his new project.  It feels like a real waste of talent, is what I’m saying.  Dave Bond, who has managed to make it through three more Equalizer movies without falling asleep than I, was on review duties.

4] My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

$4,700,000 / $18,571,615

OK, I did not intend for this to turn into a “shit on all the new release movies I haven’t seen at time of writing” edition of the BOR, I swear.  Between filing this piece and its running, I’ll have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 and maybe even enjoyed it!  It could happen!  It’s extremely unlikely, cos I did not enjoy either of the first two movies and feel both could’ve been significantly improved by multiple scenes of Toula’s extended family being ran over by various cars Korean-drama-style, but it could happen!

5] Barbie

$3,965,000 / $626,122,143

FINALLY managed to get my rewatch sans grump telling me not to laugh so loudly at a very funny comedy in during the BOR break.  Felt the shine came off a little bit on a second going, with the inelegant plotting being more noticeable and the constant self-defensiveness of its fundamentally functioning as a toy advert undercutting potential impacts of the emotional swings.  But I did still have a great time and I hope it leads to many more Barbies down the road!  I of course mean that in the metaphorical – movies with major ambitious streaks, an unashamed earnest cheesiness, and a proudly-DIRECTED approach to scene and set construction – rather than the literal – 9,000 Mattel product adaptations.

6] Jawan

$2,493,986 / $12,193,700

We cover a lot of Star Wars here at Set The Tape.  Some might argue too much Star Wars, with anniversaries for seemingly every little piece of media all using the same three nouns arranged in a slightly different order for their titles and making the person in charge of wrangling images for them concerned that they’re stuck in a Bad Place trial where they have to spend all eternity sourcing Star Wars images.  Those peoples’ cries to please eliminate three Stars War have fallen on deaf ears, but even they can agree that Knights of the Old Republic’s twentieth anniversary is worth celebrating.  Amy Walker, naturally, is on pen-duties.

7] Blue Beetle

$2,475,000 / $67,281,000

Keep having a few missed chances with this one but should, with any luck, have finally crossed it off by the time these words go live.  In the meantime, anyone catch that Harley Quinn season finale?  Can we get a big screen movie of that DC universe, please?

8] Gran Turismo

$2,350,000 / $39,422,852

There’s a lot wrong with the GT movie.  A lead actor with all the engaging charisma of a Blairite politician, racing sequences overlaid with so much post-processing and visual effects that they rarely convince despite mostly being done in-camera, so much distracting and phony-feeling product placement and corporate sponsor fellatio, Geri Halliwell trying to act.  But one thing I keep coming back to is how the parts of this Gran Turismo movie which depict the playing of Gran Turismo, the thing Sony effectively spent $60 million to advertise, do not appear to have been done in-engine for any Gran Turismo game and, therefore, look so much worse than actual gameplay would’ve.  What, did nobody fancy getting their Machinima on?  Amateur hour.

9] Oppenheimer

$2,100,000 / $318,639,115

First, well done everybody for getting Oppenheimer over the line and dethroning Bohemian Rhapsody as the highest-grossing biopic of all-time!  Teamwork does indeed make the dream work!  But also, more importantly, I managed to get my rewatch in last week and I’m now ready to call this a masterpiece.  I don’t know if it’s a result of second viewings of (good) Christopher Nolan movies revealing and making clearer details I missed on a first go, or the result of two solid months of media illiterate dogshit DISCOURSE surrounding the film and what it does/does not endorse/minimise, but I enjoyed it a lot more now that I can see the contradictions in the man from the outset.  It’s such a nuanced portrait from a filmmaker who clearly respects his subject yet doesn’t lionise him, and that last hour is still haunting stuff.

10] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

$2,000,000 / $114,147,685

I said about a month ago that I thought I would enjoy Mutant Mayhem way more once I got to see it in a cinema with more than three working speakers and nobody spending the entire movie having obnoxiously loud conversations with their mobile phones.  And, oh hey, whaddya know?  Turns out that’s exactly the case.  The last act of this thing is nothing less than the animated version of the metro scene in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2; it absolutely kills.  Animation is whipping everyone else in the industry’s arse this year.

Dropped out: Bottoms

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