Universal’s 2 Guns took top honors at the domestic box with an estimated $27.3 million this weekend. That’s a solid debut: meaning the action comedy is neither a disappointment nor a breakout hit. But this morning’s bigger story may be Sony’s Smurfs 2. Two years after The Smurfs became a surprise blockbuster worldwide, the sequel is failing to generate interest at the domestic box office.
|5.||Despicable Me 2||$10,391,000||$326.6|
|6.||Grown Ups 2||$8,100,000||$116.4|
Before we defuse this weekend’s big blue bomb, it’s important to acknowledge that – as far as the box office is concerned – summer 2013 is pretty much over. Though August has provided some sizable hits in the past few years, the month is known more for its surprise successes rather than its guaranteed blockbusters. After all, if a studio expects a big opening for their movie, they probably wouldn’t pick an August release to begin with. That’s why Fox’s follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($176.7 million in August 2011) is currently scheduled for release next July.
With that being said, 2 Guns looked like it might become one of those surprise hits August occasionally produces – something along the lines of 2010’s The Expendables ($103 million) or even The Other Guys ($119.2 million). The film stars Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington: two actors who consistently open movies above $20 million. As a team, many were convinced the actors would push 2 Guns to $30 million or higher this weekend, though Universal insisted it was expecting no more than $23 million. By sticking with that low-ball estimate, the studio can now claim that 2 Guns ‘exceeded expectations,’ which looks better in print than “we were hoping for more but we’re just happy to put the whole R.I.P.D thing behind us.”
At this point, 2 Guns would have to see excellent holds to reach a $100 million final gross – an outcome that the film’s current Rotten Tomato rank of 58% augers against. With Elysium on deck and theatres still packed with July’s leftovers, 2 Guns would need stronger word of mouth to make it to triple digits. Luckily, the reported budget for the R-rated release was just $61 million – a relative bargain for a star-driven summer action pic.
Smurfs 2 got a jump on this weekend’s box office by opening last Wednesday. The early start wasn’t much help, however, as the sequel just barely surpassed in five days what 2 Guns grabbed in three. Considering the latter’s adults-only audience restriction, that’s bad; but for Smurfs 2 it only gets worse.
Back in 2011, Sony’s The Smurfs became one of late summer’s biggest hits. The CGI/live-action hybrid surprised many with its $35.6 million opening weekend before going on to earn over $142 million in North America alone. If that wasn’t enough to launch a new franchise, The Smurfs’ final worldwide gross of $563.7 million certainly was. Sony ordered not one but two sequels (Smurfs 3 is currently set for 2015) and claimed the same late-July release date for both. Unfortunately, the particular box office conditions that allowed The Smurfs to succeed in 2011 were nowhere in evidence this weekend.
Two years ago, family audiences had few choices at the multiplex. By the time The Smurfs opened on July 29th, it had been five weeks since Pixar’s Cars 2 (itself a bit of a disappointment) topped the domestic chart. So, what looked like a surge of interest for The Smurfs was more likely the product of a thin release schedule. In 2013, with Despicable Me 2 still a force after five weeks, Smurfs 2 did not have a lack of options to fall back on. In fact, far from rising to the level of its predecessor (the sequel earned just over half of the original’s debut weekend), Smurfs 2 is making Turbo – last month’s animated disappointment – look positively robust by comparison.
Of course, Sony has its eyes on a bigger prize than the domestic top ten. The Smurfs earned almost 75% of its worldwide gross overseas so, even if the sequel is a disaster in the US, international grosses will almost certainly carry the day.
The poor showing of Smurfs 2 helped The Wolverine in its sophomore frame. The action hero was down 59% – a big improvement over the 69% drop of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. After ten days, The Wolverine has earned a solid $95 million in North America and $187 million worldwide. The happiest holdover on this weekend’s chart, however, has to be The Conjuring. The film crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday – making it one of the highest-grossing supernatural horror films of all time.
Although summer’s biggest weekends are now behind us, August should still prove a lucrative month. Overall grosses were up by 8% over this week in 2012 – when The Dark Knight Rises took advantage of a weak field to capture its third frame on top. Next weekend should keep 2013 in the black, provided Elysium and Pixar’s Planes open as expected.