It's no real surprise that The Expendables 2 (review/trailer) opened with about 18% less this weekend ($28.75 million) than the first Expendables on this weekend in 2010 ($34 million). The Expendables (review) was a culmination of a good twenty years of 'what-if' anticipation. And while the final result was a little lacking, in that it was barely a good movie and most of the biggest action icons were either absent or had cameos, it was still enough of a wish-fulfillment fantasy to be a massive worldwide hit ($274 million on a $80 million budget). Two years later, the sequel delivers on both the action front (lots more of it) and the A-level casting arena (Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have expanded roles while Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme came to play) but that initial high is somewhat gone. Still, a $28 million debut, especially from Lionsgate, is nothing to sneeze at. This will still be their largest non-Saw/Tyler Perry opening outside of The Expendables and The Hunger Games and their tenth-biggest debut ever. Not only have we seen a pattern of lower opening weekends and domestic totals for sequels, but this is easily the kind of property that could have elicited a giant 'no one cares anymore' reaction after the somewhat underwhelming first film (I seem to be among the few who likes it).
The sequel cost $100 million and if it plays at 82% the level of the first film it still earns $85 million in the US and $225 million worldwide. Lionsgate paid $35 million for domestic rights, so their priority is over here and they'll be fine if it crosses $70 million (the film will rent forever). It's their obvious prerogative to get the film at $100 million if only for bragging rights. The film earned a solid A- Cinemascore grade and the overall word-of-mouth is of the 'it's what you wanted the first time around' variety. The first film had a surprisingly decent 2.9x weekend-to-final multiplier so this theoretically superior entertainment should come close to that and/or surpass it. Only Lawless, opening on August 29th, will provide any real competition up till the end of September when the heavily-buzzed Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon Levitt time-travel thriller Looper debuts. Come what may, expect the merry band of action icons to ride again in August 2014 or 2015, preferably with a better director at the helm (Andrew Davis or John McTiernan come to mind). For what it's worth, this marks Chuck Norris's first number one debut in 27 years, since the $5.5 million debut of Code of Silence, ironically his lone terrific film.
Also debuting this weekend was Sony's Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 'blaxploitation' film. The film's trump card was the last onscreen performance of Whitney Houston, a fact that Sony didn't go out of its way to exploit. Had it done so, a $12 million debut might have been a $16-$20 million debut. So they win points for good taste and still make their budget back ($14 million) in four days. The film earned an A from Cinemascore meaning it could have a leggy run, especially as (per usual) there is nothing in the marketplace specifically targeting African Americans at the moment. Oh, by the way, Madea's Witness Protection ($64 million) has quietly passed Madea's Family Reunion ($63 million) to become Tyler Perry's second biggest grosser behind the seemingly insurmountable Madea Goes to Jail ($90 million). The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an original family drama from Disney, debuted on Wednesday and has pulled in $15 million since then ($10 million for the Fri-Sun portion). With Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner, this defiantly odd fable (and allegedly quite sad in spots) about a couple who grows a young child from their garden was never going to be a smash, so anything resembling a respectable take is a winner here. The picture cost $40 million to produce, so all it will take is token legs to match that here and then hope for the best overseas.
The Dark Knight Rises earned another $11 million this weekend, but more importantly crossed the $400 million mark on Saturday, faster than any other film in its league save for Avatar, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers. With $409 million, it's passed The Hunger Games ($405 million) as 2012's second-biggest domestic earner and is now the 11th-biggest grossing film in US history. The Bourne Legacy (review) earned $17 million in weekend two, a 55% drop, bigger than any prior Bourne picture (the sequels dropped 52 off much larger weekends). With $69 million after ten days, its still ahead of The Bourne Identity ($54 million) which means it will probably top $100 million and may surpass the $121 million total of the first film. It's rolling out slowly and has earned $28 million overseas, for a $97 million worldwide total. The Watch sits with $33 million, which is a bit of a flop considering the cost and the talent involved. The Campaign (review) earned an okay $13 million in weekend two, giving it a $51 million total. A probable $80 million total isn't too bad for this one, especially considering Ferrell's biggest R-rated film is still Step Brothers with $100 million. Total Recall is still doing sub-John Carter/Battleship/Dark Shadows business, ending the weekend with about $51 million after seventeen days. This one may not make it to $60 million, certainly not to $65 million. Hope Springs dropped a reasonable 41% for a $35 million cume, a little light for a Meryl Streep vehicle, but not bad for A) a $20 million picture and B) a film that many are (inexplicably) complaining is darker and more serious than the marketing campaign let on. Ice Age 4 crossed $150 million in America while speeding towards $800 million worldwide. Oh, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days now has $38 million, meaning it will tap out at $45 million, as expected. Still, you can expect more until the grosses drop enough to not justify a $20 million investment. The Amazing Spider-Man is at $257 million, Brave is at $229 million, and The Moonrise Kingdom is at $42 million. Beasts of the Southern Wild is at $8 million and has a shot at crossing $10 million before the Oscar campaign.
That's it for this weekend. Summer is mostly over, so join us next time for a bunch of lower-scale, genre entries, such as the Dax Shepard/Kristen Bell/Bradley Cooper comedy-thriller Hit & Run (opening Wednesday), The Apparition, and Joseph Gordon Levitt's bike-messenger thriller Premium Rush. In the meantime, check out Brandon Peters's ongoing 007 retrospective (p1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and John Gosling's weekend preview articles (the newest one HERE).