While August is technically part of the summer box office, the blockbuster festivities usually start to wind down by then. That's no truer than this year. Aside from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there aren't really any obvious $100 million movies on the horizon. A high-grossing July, though, should help drive this August ahead of last year's $874.6 million. This August could even contest August 2007's $920.5 million record, though that's going to require a break-out hit from the ranks of comedies The Change-Up and 30 Minutes or Less and '80s remakes Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night.
With a prequel to a long-dormant franchise and a high-concept R-rated comedy, the first weekend of August definitely still feels like Summer. Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrives ten years after Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake succeeded in making tons of cash ($180 million) but failed to reinvigorate the Apes franchise. Instead of going down the remake path again, 20th Century Fox opted for the prequel route, which automatically set off warnings bells. Namely, if we already know how the story ends, why should we go along for the ride? At least Fox has put together a nice marketing effort that focuses primarily on the impressive WETA-designed apes in action while downplaying lead human actor James Franco, who has been overexposed to a ridiculous degree in the past year. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is overwhelmingly the top choice to see in August among Box Office Mojo readers, and it should be the top-grossing release, barring a major surprise from one of the other entries.
The Change-Up is the fifth original R-rated comedy this Summer and comes on the heels of hits like Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses and Bad Teacher. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are in their wheelhouse here, and the promise of some raunchy comedy from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover is a solid incentive to get out to theaters. However, the body-switch premise seems half-baked, and the gags in the commercials have grown stale (there's only so many times you can see Leslie Mann struggling on the toilet). Due to sheer market saturation, The Change-Up will probably have a tough time reaching the heights of some of the summer's earlier efforts (Friends with Benefits recently failed to live up to its R-rated predecessors), but it could perform decently in its own right.
Bottom Line: The Apes will take over the planet and the box office this weekend.
The second weekend of August is the first weekend of Summer 2011 to feature four nationwide releases and, inevitably, at least one of them will go down as a result. The de facto winner is Final Destination 5, which is the latest in the remarkably consistent Final Destination series. Predecessor The Final Destination was the franchise's first 3D movie, posting the top-grossing opening weekend ($27.4 million in Aug. 2009) and the top final gross ($66.4 million). The new movie looks like more of the same, but at least the centerpiece bridge collapse disaster makes an impression, and Warner Bros. is pushing the movie hard. Don't be surprised if this movie reaches new heights for the series, followed shortly by a Final Destination 6 greenlight.
30 Minutes or Less is director Ruben Fleisher's follow-up to Zombieland, a fact that has been a central part of Sony Pictures' marketing. That makes sense, considering Zombieland made $75.6 million two years ago and remains fairly popular. Another strong comparison is Pineapple Express from Aug. 2008, which was also an R-rated slacker action comedy and earned a solid $87.3 million. With emerging stars like Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride, reaching similar levels to Zombieland and Pineapple Express seems like a fair target for 30 Minutes or Less.
The Help will get a jump on the weekend with a Wednesday opening, aiming to generate word-of-mouth for the period drama. While this isn't the type of movie that will necessarily have a huge opening, the story of a crusading reporter, played by the increasingly popular Emma Stone, attempting to expose unfair working conditions amongst black housekeepers in the 1960s should serve as popular counterprogramming amongst women, particularly in the South. A strong comparison is The Blind Side, though The Help won't open as high nor will it receive the kind of Holiday bump that The Blind Side enjoyed two years ago.
The fourth nationwide release this weekend is Glee The 3D Concert Movie, which attempts to capitalize on the success of television show Glee in the same way that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never successfully rode Bieber Fever to $73 million earlier this year. Never Say Never was coherently aligned with Bieber's persona, though, and had a potent marketing effort from Paramount. Glee, on the other hand, feels like a reactionary cash-grab, and isn't getting the sort of marketing push that will make it a must-see for Gleeks.
Bottom Line:Final Destination 5 should outlast 30 Minutes or Less in the battle for the top spot.
With two '80s remakes, one four-quel and a romantic drama, the third weekend of August is another crowded one. Based on name alone, it would appear Spy Kids: All the Time in the World has the upfront advantage: the last Spy Kids movie debuted to $33.4 million in 2003. That functioned as the conclusion of a trilogy, though, while Spy Kids 4 seems much more like a series reboot targeting a new audience (children who enjoyed the first three are probably too old for the fourth). Also, writer-director Robert Rodriguez's recent kiddie fare The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl ($39.2 million) and Shorts ($20.9 million) failed to connect, and the new Spy Kids movie has a similar feel. One of the best comparisons for Spy Kids 4 might actually be Scream 4: both movies are from The Weinstein Company, have new main characters and arrive many years after their closely-timed, successful original trilogies. Scream 4 made less than half of Scream 3, and a similar fate would put Spy Kids 4 at around $50 million total.
The two '80s reboots seem to have more going for them at the moment. While the original Fright Night wasn't a huge hit in its day (it made the equivalent of $55 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation), the Fright Night remake comes at a time when vampires are extraordinarily popular. The movie's marketing calls to mind Disturbia, as the movie appears to pit a teenage son against a shady neighbor who is pursuing his mother. That movie earned $80.2 million, which should serve as a nice target for Fright Night. Neither Disturbia or the Twilight series, though, were R-rated like Fright Night.
Lionsgate will also attempt to revive a dormant '80s brand with Conan the Barbarian, which opens around the same time that their '80s throwback The Expendables debuted to $34.8 million last year. Conan lacks the star power of The Expendables, though, and so far the outlandish previews have failed to do the movie any favors. It's also unclear if the brand actually holds any weight: the original is remembered more as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's break-out roles and less for its actual content. The original movie sold around $105 million worth of tickets, and it's unlikely that the remake comes close to that figure.
The odd-man-out this weekend looks like romantic drama One Day, which checks in on a relationship between Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess on the same day every year for 20 or so years. Dramas like this rarely break out in the summer, and distributor Focus Features hasn't yet done much to generate awareness. What they have done makes the movie look a tad melodramatic, which should turn off male audiences and suppress date night activity. A soft launch seems like a given here.
Bottom Line:One Day won't win the weekend. Outside of that, it's anyone's guess really.
Looking at the releases scheduled for the last weekend in August, it's clear that the summer is almost over by this point. After their success with Insidious ($53.9 million), upstart distributor FilmDistrict returns to the supernatural horror arena with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The marketing for the movie plays up the fact that it's from producer Guillermo Del Toro, and it does give off a bit of a Pan's Labyrinth vibe, just with fewer fascists and a bit more scares. Del Toro's name alone probably isn't worth all that much, but the supernatural horror genre is fairly consistent, and there really hasn't been an entry since Insidious in April. Even if it opens strong, though, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark faces Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D the following weekend, both of which could put a dent in its staying power.
August's final nationwide release is Our Idiot Brother, which stars Paul Rudd as the titular idiot. Audiences may respond to the fact that Rudd plays a character here slightly edgier than the everyman he's been recycling for the past few years in the likes of I Love You, Man, Dinner for Schmucks and How Do You Know. Unfortunately, the movie received lukewarm marks out of Sundance, and The Weinstein Company hasn't really brought their A-game with the marketing so far, so the prospects aren't looking great for this one.
Bottom Line: The last weekend of August should be the quietest yet this summer, with the three new releases potentially battling a handful of holdovers for the top spot in the low-to-mid-teen millions.