By Seth Kelley
LOS ANGELES, June 18 (Variety.com) - Without a superhero movie or new studio sequel in play, this weekend provided an opening for two smaller films to shine. But as the weekend draws to a close, one is beaming brighter than the other.
That title goes to Lionsgate's R-rated action comedy "Hitman's Bodyguard," which is firing off to $21.6 million during its opening weekend at 3,377 locations. That's a solid opening, especially during a painful summer for the movie business and sleepy month of August. The final tally was fueled by an aggressive marketing push, and a trio of stars at the center — Samuel L. Jackson as a notorious hitman, and Salma Hayek as hit equally threatening wife, and Ryan Reynolds as a bodyguard. The film comes courtesy of director Patrick Hughes ("The Expendables 3") and writer Tom O'Connor.
"'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is generating great word of mouth among moviegoers," said Lionsgate's distribution president David Spitz. "It has a clear runway in the weeks ahead, and we expect it to play well right into September."
Meanwhile, "Logan Lucky" — a critical darling from Steven Soderbergh and Bleecker Street — is sputtering. The heist comedy, which relied on an unconventional production and marketing strategy, looks to make $8 million this weekend from 3,031 theaters. The film was partially funded through foreign pre-sales and partnering with Amazon for streaming rights. The story — penned by Rebecca Blunt, who likely doesn't exist — centers on a trio of siblings played by Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, and Adam Driver, who attempt to pull off a massive robbery. It's set at the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.
Of the two, "Logan Lucky" fared better with critics, earning a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to "Hitman's Bodyguard," which has a 39%. But the roles are reversed when it comes to audience reception — "Hitman's Bodyguard" has a B+ CinemaScore as opposed to "Logan Lucky's" B.
In the end, "Logan Lucky" will end up in third for the weekend behind the second weekend of "Annabelle: Creation." The latest in the "Conjuring" universe from Warner Bros. is targeting $15.5 million this weekend from 3,542 locations. And "Dunkirk" will land in fourth behind "Logan Lucky" with an estimated $6.7 million. The same studio has more cause to celebrate as "Wonder Woman" crosses $800 million worldwide.
"Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" rounds out the top five this weekend with $5.1 million.
Outside of the wide releases, TWC continues its gradual rollout for Taylor Sheridan's "Wind River." This weekend it looks to gross $3 million from 694 locations, raising its total cume past $4.1 million. A major acquisition at Sundance, "Patti Cake$" is struggling to find an audience with $66,000 from 14 locations.
And the summer of hell continues: This season's box office overall has slipped to 13.3% behind last year at this point, according to data from ComScore. Despite a strong fall season, the year overall is now pacing 5% behind 2016.