We knew it was going to be a light week at the box office, but the numbers turned out to be even lower than expected, at least in the context of history. What is more disconcerting is not that this has anything to do with streaming options outweighing theatrical ones; this summer helped quash that fear. But between the lack of films being released in the near future and those that are not pulling their own weight, we could be looking at a real drought over the next several weeks, if not the next few months.
Calling this weekend the lowest-grossing of the summer is not a headline. When it comes to the weekend before Labor Day, that headline could have been written every year from 2006 to 2019, and many others. The Invitation leading the way with $7 million, though, represents the first time August has seen a No. 1 film earn less than $10 million since 1996, when both The Crow: City of Angels and The Island of Dr. Moreau did it back-to-back. It is also the lowest August No. 1 since Honeymoon in Vegas led the final weekend of 1992 with $7.3 million. The top 10 grossing just an estimated $41.7 million made this the third lowest August weekend since 1990. Only the last two August weekends in 1992 grossed less ($36.3 million & $34.4 million).
As for the number The Invitation put up, there is not much to say. The film, which was not screened for critics, stands at 26% on the Tomatometer. The only other wide release this summer to come in with a lower score was the new adaptation of Firestarter back in May, which has a 10% score. Other horror films opening comparable to The Invitation in the fourth weekend of August include Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ($8.5 million), Ready or Not ($8 million), Mimic ($7.8 million), You’re Next ($7 million), and The Cave ($6.1 million), all finishing between $15-29 million total. Expect The Invitation to come in on the lower half of that, but with only a $10 million budget, it won’t be too much of a burn for Sony.
George Miller is no stranger to box office disappointments over the years. Both of his family sequels, Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet Two, were big financial duds, and now his adult fairy tale is going to end up one as well. With a reported budget of $60 million, Three Thousand Years of Longing earned just $2.8 million this weekend. United Artists Releasing (coming in under the MGM banner) moved the film up from next week’s original mid-week release on Aug. 31 to this weekend and pushed their Sylvester Stallone superhero film, Samaritan, out of theaters and to Amazon streaming. The result could end up being Miller’s lowest-grossing film, or second-lowest to 1992’s Lorenzo’s Oil ($7.2 million), which, despite getting some Oscar nominations, never got into more than 456 theaters. Three Thousand Years of Longing, Miller’s first film since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, opened in 2,436 theaters. Amazingly enough, Samaritan, which opened in zero, may have actually won this weekend by default, had it been put in theaters.
Sony managed to take the top two spots at the box office this week with Bullet Train moving back into second place with $5.6 million. Does that put it any closer to reaching that $100 million target some had pegged for it? Well, technically yes, but not quite at its current pace. With $78.2 million in the bank, it is still trending behind 2013’s Elysium, which had $78.3 million after 24 days, grossed $6.4 million in its fourth weekend, and ultimately finished with $93 million. Granted, that fourth weekend was the Labor Day holiday (where it added nearly another $2 million that Monday) so Bullet Train could retake the advantage next week. And maybe with the lack of new titles, the Brad Pitt actioner could limp its way over that finish line. The film has made $160 million worldwide to date.
Last week’s big winner, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, took a tumble down to fifth place with just $4.5 million. Neither the fact that it took the top spot last weekend nor that it fell 78% this weekend should have come as a surprise. The other Crunchyroll films that laid the groundwork for Dragon Ball’s victory last week all fell between 69-75% in their second weekend. Now at $30.7 million, it is about $3 million behind the pace of last year’s Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train, which had a $6.4 million second weekend. Super Hero should be scratching in the low 40s overall. Last week’s second place finisher fell back to third as Beast did not draw the word-of-mouth it hoped for and earned just $4.9 million, a 58% drop from the week before. That is around the pace of the 2016 Ben-Hur remake and may ultimately finish close to just $27 million, which is not great for the $36 million-budgeted film.
Blockbusters still remain in the top 10, once again starting with Top Gun: Maverick, which will not be stopped on its quest for $700 million domestic. It dropped just 20% in its 14th weekend to $4.7 million, bringing its total to over $691 million. Do not be shocked if it secures No. 1 over the Labor Day holiday, joining the likes of E.T. and Titanic on the list of films that led the box office in their 15th weekend of release. Minions: The Rise of Gru continues to look like it will come up short of The Secret Life of Pets to become Illumination’s highest-grossing film. But it will become their third $360+ million domestic grosser. The Minions also beat Thor: Love and Thunder this summer; it still ranks as the best domestic Thor film, thought it may still come up $100 million short of what Ragnarok did globally. It will still be the 16th Marvel film to gross over $750 million.
Rounding things out, Jordan Peele’s Nope dropped out of the top 10 before Where the Crawdads Sing did. That said, the $120 million on the horizon for Nope and $81 million for Crawdads are encouraging numbers for non-franchised adult pictures. DC League of Super-Pets’ numbers are aligning with the studio’s 1994 release of The Client, which finished with $92 million. In other news, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was put back in 255 IMAX locations with a sneak peek at the upcoming Disney+ series Andor, and it grossed $1.1 million for a $4,314 per-theater-average. Bleecker Street’s Breaking (formerly titled 892 at this year’s Sundance) with John Boyega and the late Michael K. Williams made just $1 million in 900 theaters for a $1,134 PTA.
The only brand new wide release next week comes from this year’s Sundance. Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul with Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown as the owners of a disgraced mega-church currently sits at 86% on the Tomatometer. Next week’s holiday weekend could actually be one for the biggest films of all-time. We’ve mentioned Top Gun: Maverick as a contender for No. 1, but it could be challenged by the re-release of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Being dubbed “The More Fun Version,” it features 11 minutes of previously unseen footage. Also, the original Summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, will be released in IMAX 3D, and those ticket prices could propel it into the top 10 as well.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Sony Pictures Entertainment