Hollywood Enters A Self-Imposed Slump

Since Hollywood has decided to plunge the theatrical industry into another self-imposed slump, there isn’t much to say about the handful of new wide or semi-wide releases opening this weekend. Granted, I’m not sure how well theatrical would have been served by Sony’s The Man from Toronto opening this weekend instead of going to Netflix in late June, but Kevin Hart was still a $20 million-plus opener by the end of 2019. I’m no fan of the Kevin Hart/Woody Harrelson action comedy, but it would have at least given me something potentially positive to write about this weekend.

Will Idris Elba’s ‘protect my family from a wild lion’ actioner Beast break out next weekend? Will 20th Century Studios’ Barbarian open in early September with even 20% of what Salem’s Lost would nab had the latter New Line Stephen King adaptation not been delayed to next April? Will even 1% of the folks not-incorrectly arguing online that John Boyega was done dirty by the Star Wars sequels show up for Breaking in late August? If not, it’ll be a long six weeks until Avatar returns to theaters on September 23.

There are quite a few movies opening between now and mid-September when (hopefully) Sony’s The Woman King on September 16 and Warner Bros.’ Don’t Worry Darling on September 23 jolts the industry back to life. But in an era when most folks only go to the movies when there is something they want to see in theaters, and that number is ever-dwindling, with fewer event movies making up a larger piece of the overall box office pie, the likes of Fall and Emily The Criminal (which is excellent, by the way), aren’t what people show up for in 2016, let along 2022.

The good news is that overall domestic box office is down around 31% from 2019 despite having 31% fewer releases. The bad news is that the top six grossers (from Top Gun 2 to Thor 4) make up 54% of the annual revenue. So, in the first of several weeks of quiet box office and smaller-scale new releases, quality notwithstanding, what did we get this round?

A24’s buzzy and well-reviewed Bodies Bodies Bodies went semi-wide this weekend, earning $1.315 million (+1,289%) in 1,275 theaters. That positions Halina Reijn’s Generation Z-targeted teen whodunnit for a $3.01 million weekend, or around $2,361 per-theater. I can’t imagine this one cost very much, it’s mostly set in a poorly lit house with a handful of teen protagonists (Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders and MVP Rachel Sennott) trying to uncover a killer in their midst, but it’s another case of a film that’s far more blogged about than seen. It’ll have $3.336 million in the first ten days, and I imagine the flick will gain a wider audience on PVOD and streaming.

Lionsgate’s Fall, which made most of its news for using deep fake technology to remove dozens of f-bombs to turn an R-rating into a PG-13, opened yesterday with $923,000 in 1,548 theaters. Scott Mann’s high concept, no pun intended, flick about two climbers (Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner) who find themselves stranded atop a 2,000-foot radio tower, should earn around $2.25 million for the weekend. Lionsgate is only on the hook for domestic distribution, and I’m assuming they went into this with both eyes open. The film has earned surprisingly good reviews, but I’m waiting until my wife can tag along.

The new release with the biggest per-theater average was, ironically, the IMAX reissue of Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The prototypical Spielberg classic, which topped Star Wars in the summer of 1982 to become the biggest grossing movie of all time while spending a still-record 27 non-consecutive weekends in the top ten, earned $490,000 in 516 theaters for a likely $1.15 million weekend and $438.37 million 40-year domestic cume. Jaws will be getting a 3-D reissue (not to be confused with Jaws 3-D) on September 2 because theaters are just that starved for big-deal content right now. In terms of four-quadrant, kid-friendly newbies, Black Adam is over two months away.

Mack & Rita, Katie Aselton’s first directorial effort since the underappreciated ‘yes all women’ survival actioner Black Rock back in 2013, opened courtesy of Gravitas. Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh penned the high-concept comedy. It stars Elizabeth Lail, who wakes up from a bachelorette party as her 70-year-old self (Diane Keaton). Unfortunately, the film earned mixed-negative reviews and a D+ from Cinemascore, so its $310,000 Friday and likely $840,000 weekend gross in 2,000 theaters does not deserve any more commentary. However, considering the cast (Loretta Devine, Martin Short, Nicole Byer, etc.), I might check it out purely for curiosity.

The best newbie of the weekend, and one of the best films of the year, was Roadside Attractions’ Emily The Criminal. The flash-outta-the-pan directorial debut from John Patton Ford stars Aubrey Plaza, who’s as subtly terrific here as she was over-the-top spectacular in Black Bear, as a down-on-her-luck victim of the gig economy who finds relative success in the realm of petty crime. It’s an intimate, specific and of-the-moment crime drama that, in a just world, would get as much buzz as did Good Time from the summer of 2017. Anyway, I’m simply happy I was able to see it on opening day at my local multiplex. The flick earned $220,000 in 473 theaters for a likely $540,000 weekend.

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