Welcome to the dog days of the August box office, when studios flood theaters with their final summer releases before the prestigious fall season begins. Last weekend, four new releases entered theaters, this weekend four new releases are hitting the big screen, and heck — next week, four more new releases are opening.
This week’s new movies — Kick-Ass 2, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Jobs, and Paranoia — fall into two camps: the number one contenders and the likely underperformers. Here’s how the weekend may play out:
1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler – $25 million
The Danny Strong-penned historical drama, which stars Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, Terrence Howard, and, notably, Oprah Winfrey, may be able to swipe the top spot away from Kick-Ass 2. Sure, Weinstein, which is releasing the $30 million film about longtime White House butler Eugene Allen, says it’s expecting a debut in the high-teens, but stories about race in American culture are reliably appealing at the box office (42 opened to $27.5 million earlier this year; The Help opened to $25 million in August 2011).
The Butler is also a patriotic tale and its real-life inspiration makes it even more appealing for audiences. Oscar fans will flock to the first awards-bait of 2013, history buffs that loved Lincoln will turn out to see presidents come to life on screen, and audiences that love Oprah (according to a Fandango poll, 72 percent of ticket-buyers said she increased their likelihood to see the film) won’t miss the chance to catch her in a rare scripted role. Out in 2,933 theaters, The Butler may take in about $25 million.
2. Kick-Ass 2 – $19 million
Kick-Ass 2 is a strange release to predict. Its 2010 predecessor was a clear geek-favorite, but its $48.1 million gross was hardly, as they say, kick-ass. Still, Universal felt emboldened by strong DVD sales and commissioned the $28 million follow-up. But it seems unlikely that many more fans will come out for another round of amateur superhero-fighting because the demand for a sequel simply wasn’t all that great. (See: Red 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Smurfs 2, Wrath of the Titans, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Expendables 2, and… you get the picture.) Marketing has been stalled by Jim Carrey’s refusal to participate in publicity, and Universal is expecting the R-rated film to open in the same range as the original, which began with $19.8 million. Out in 2,939 theaters, Kick-Ass 2 may earn about $19 million this weekend.
3. We’re the Millers – $16.5 million
The Jason Sudeikis/Jennifer Aniston comedy finished behind Elysium last weekend, but it has topped the chart every day during the week. The $37 million pot comedy may fall by about 35-40 percent this weekend and smoke up another $16.5 million, which would bring Millers‘ total to $68 million and put it on track for a finish in the $100 million range.
4. Planes – $14 million
Disney’s $50 million animated release didn’t fly especially high in its opening weekend, but with no animated competition on the horizon, skies are clear for the family film to descend slowly in the coming weeks. This week, it may fall by about 35 percent to $14 million for a $45 million total after ten days.
5. Elysium – $13 million
Sci-fi films are typically frontloaded, but Sony’s $115 million thriller starring Matt Damon is likely facing an especially hefty second-weekend drop due to weak audience reception of the film. Elysium could plummet about 55-60 percent to $13 million this weekend
Outside the Top 5, Open Road’s $12 million release Jobs should fare slightly better than Relativity’s $40 million Paranoia. (Both films were indepentedly financed and later acquired by their distributors.) Jobs, which stars Ashton Kutcher, may download about $9 million this weekend, while Paranoia, whcih stars Liam Hemsworth, is headed for only $5-6 million in its first three days.
Check back to EW all weekend for box office updates, and leave your predictions in the comments!