The August lineup appears to lack the blockbuster potential of May, June and July. The first three months of summer saw the release of guaranteed hits like Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Inception, while August is devoid of a preordained success. That will likely result in a lower overall gross, though at the same time it will add a healthy dose of unpredictability to the equation.
On Aug. 6, The Other Guys opens opposite Step Up 3D. While star Will Ferrell has had a rocky track record as of late (Land of the Lost grossed a meager $49.4 million last summer), The Other Guys finds him reunited with frequent collaborator Adam McKay, who directed Ferrell in Anchorman($85.3 million), Talladega Nights ($148.2 million) and Step Brothers ($100.5 million). The buddy cop comedy sub-genre hasn't exactly lit up the box office lately (Cop Out made $44.9 million earlier this year), though The Other Guys seems more akin to Starsky and Hutch, which bagged $88.2 million.
Step Up 3D is the first major dance movie since Step Up 2 the Streets two and a half years ago, not counting the spoof Dance Flick from last summer. The first Step Up racked up $65.3 million four years ago, while the second scored $58 million, both as part of the recent dance movie craze. Step Up 3D hopes to bring something new to the proceedings with the addition of 3D, which helped The Final Destination become the highest-grossing entry in its series last August. There are signs that audiences are growing weary of 3D, though, and it's unclear if Step Up 3D has done enough otherwise to distinguish itself.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will try hard to be a cult classic in the making, though that doesn't necessarily bode well for box office success. Its comic book origins and wacky video game aesthetics made it popular at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. However, there isn't much correlation between Comic-Con buzz and box office, as Kick-Ass proved earlier this year. Scott Pilgrim's director, Edgar Wright, is also well-regarded, though his previous movies Shaun of the Dead ($13.5 million) and Hot Fuzz ($23.6 million) were not well-attended.
With The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone directs a handful of action stars including himself, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, though promotional material has given equal standing to cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This marks the third "men-on-a-mission" movie of the year, with previous entries The Losers ($23.6 million) and The A-Team ($75.9 million) failing to impress. While the movie's TV advertising has been gearing up in past weeks, Mr. Stallone has personally been promoting the movie for months now. Expendables was the overwhelming top choice to see in August in Box Office Mojo's reader polling, claiming 35 percent of the vote. The picture is opening at the same time that Inglourious Basterds did last year and seems poised to find a solid audience, though it may be a stretch for it reach the Basterds' $120.5 million total.
The Aug. 20 weekend sees five nationwide releases, the most of any weekend this summer, but it will be tough for any of them to break out from the pack. Spoof movie Vampires Suck gets a jump on the weekend with a Wednesday launch. While Vampires Suck's makers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer had some success with Date Movie, Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans, their middling streak came to an abrupt end with Disaster Movie, which debuted in Aug. 2008 and made just $14.2 million. Resurrected by the current vampire craze, they're using Vampires Suck to riff on the Twilight series, Alice in Wonderland, Jersey Shore and Lady Gaga, among many other recent, random pop culture references. They're hoping the many Twilight haters will bite.
While Piranha 3D has similarities to Snakes on a Plane ($34 million), that doesn't bode well for its audience potential. Comparable creature features rarely break out past $40 million, with Anaconda and Deep Blue Sea being the noteworthy exceptions in over a decade. The 3D gimmick, which is being played up in advertising ("This Summer 3D Shows Its Teeth"), will only go so far.
Lottery Ticket should not be counted out, if merely for the fact that it targets black audiences that the other releases may not reach. Tyler Perry has dominated this type of movie in recent years, while non-Perry entries like First Sunday ($37.9 million) and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins ($42.4 million) have been more modest.
Nanny McPhee Returns, which has already earned over $57 million overseas, also opens Aug. 20. The first Nanny McPhee debuted to $14.5 million in 2006 on its way to $47.1 million, though family-oriented sequels can have a tough time living up to their predecessors.
Though The Switch has two appealing leads in Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, the scope of its release and marketing push are unclear, given the threadbare state of its distributor Miramax, which was just sold by Walt Disney Pictures.
Starring real life couple Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, romantic comedy Going the Distance also opens Aug. 27. Ms. Barrymore has had decent showings in romantic comedies like Fever Pitch ($42 million) and Music and Lyrics ($50.6 million). Long, on the other hand, has only headlined one other major movie, Accepted, which opened in August 2006 and earned $36.3 million. Going the Distance received an R-rating, which is very rare for the genre, though The Ugly Truth carried the rating and grossed $88.9 million last summer (but had better positioning and arguably more bankable leads in Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler).
Takers, which has had no fewer than five date changes in the past year, finally opens on Aug. 27. While the cast, which includes Paul Walker, Zoe Saldana and rappers T.I. and Chris Brown, is appealing enough, none of them have any serious drawing power. Advertising has made the movie seem like a generic heist movie, and it's going to need to do a lot better to draw significant interest.
A few noteworthy limited releases also open in August, and with solid word-of-mouth they could turn in to contenders at some point. Paramount Vantage's Middle Men, about the beginning of the online pornography industry, opens at around 200 theaters on Aug. 6 before expanding Aug. 20. Flipped, directed by Rob Reiner, also opens Aug. 6 and goes naionwide on Aug. 27.