Box Office Looks to Heat Up in August
You won’t catch Hollywood studio executives talking about the dog days of August this year.
Continuing the trend of recent summers, several studios will unleash some of their most ferocious box office prospects over the last month of the season. The period is still marked by rampant vacationing among production executives, but is no longer a time for their distribution colleagues to let loose stray poodles on the moviegoing public.
This weekend, Sony unspools “The Master of Disguise,” a Dana Carvey laffer perhaps best described as neither pedigreed pooch nor mutt. But one week later, Sony’s unspools its megahyped actioner “XXX,” starring Vin Diesel.
Disney opens M. Night Shyamalan’s high-profile Mel Gibson starrer “Signs” Friday, and a week later, corporate cousin Miramax bows its big family sequel “Spy Kids 2” on Aug. 9. That same weekend, Warner Bros. debuts the Clint Eastwood starrer “Blood Work,” followed one frame later by the pricey Eddie Murphy picture “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.”
Colliding with “Pluto” will be wide bows by Universal’s much-anticipated surfer girls movie “Blue Crush” and New Line’s Al Pacino starrer “Simone.” The Labor Day session then begins Aug. 30 with at least three wide openers and several expansions by platforming limited releases.
It’s enough to give a vacation-starved distribution executive pause. But most studios have done what they can to position films in their best light.
“We think ‘Simone’ will stand out because the picture is a different sort of comedy,” said New Line distribution president David Tuckerman, whose “Austin Powers in Goldmember” debuted at No. 1 last weekend.
A whimsical tale about a failed director who aims for success with a cyberactress, “Simone” is much more adult-oriented a film than, say, “Goldmember.” Meanwhile, Tuckerman hopes the spy spoof’s laughs will put up a fight for the youth audience against “XXX.”
Over the coming frame, “Goldmember” will knock heads with the Paramount concert documentary ” Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat,” in addition to “Signs” and “Master of Disguise.” Forecasting chances for the Mike Myers starrer this session, Tuckerman estimated, “Anything less than a 50% drop for a picture this big would be good.”
“Goldmember” hunted down $73.1 million in its opening weekend, and daily grosses since then have been equally groovy. The comedy was expected to reach a shagadelic $100 million domestically by the end of its seventh day Thursday — the fastest pace ever for a comedy.
“Signs,” which unspools in 3,264 theaters, looks poised to gross well north of $30 million in its opening frame. That would put it squarely in competition with “Goldmember” for this weekend’s No. 1 spot.
“I’m really jazzed about the picture, and I think it’s going to be a nice cap to our summer,” Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said of “Signs”‘ prospects.
“Master of Disguise,” set for 2,565 playdates, may approach the double-digit millions. And “Martin Lawrence” — scheduled for only 750 engagements keying on urban markets — figures to be good for at least the high single digits.
As for any of the pictures’ prospects over subsequent weekends, much depends on whether “XXX” lives up to expectations. Sony marketing maven Geoff Ammer has sought to push the picture partly by stressing it was directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal Moritz, who last collaborated, with Diesel, on 2001 youth hit “The Fast and the Furious.”
“We needed to capitalize on the hugely successful team that brought ‘Fast and the Furious’ to the marketplace,” Ammer said. “But this is also a picture that is much broader than ‘Fast and the Furious.”‘
That would be notable, for as Ammer pointed out, “We’re finding this summer that it’s hard to get somebody over 34 to go to the movies.” Tracking data bode well, with awareness high among prospective patrons.
The marketing campaign has featured lots of action shots for the youth crowd, but also stressed older-appealing cast members like Samuel L. Jackson.
But in the end, there’s only so much to be pulled out of one’s bag of cute marketing tricks, Ammer confessed.
“You don’t want to get so clever that nobody comes to see the picture,” he said.
Box Office Looks to Heat Up in August