With Man of Steel just a week away, the major studios opted to avoid releasing any of their heavy-hitters this weekend. At 3,365 locations, Wedding Crashers stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up again for The Internship, though the Google-centric premise isn't nearly as appealing as that of their previous collaboration. As a result, first place will likely go to low-budget high-concept horror flick The Purge, which is playing at 2,536 theaters and should wind up with over $20 million.
Eight years ago, Wedding Crashers translated great word-of-mouth in to a $209.3 million domestic haul, which made it one of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies ever. Vince Vaughn followed that up with a string of hits, including The Break-Up ($118.7 million), Four Christmases ($120.1 million) and Couples Retreat ($109.2 million). Things were a bit tougher for Owen Wilson, though he did have a major success with Marley and Me ($143.2 million).
In the last few years, though, both Vaughn and Wilson have had a number of misses. Vaughn's The Dilemma and The Watch grossed a weak $48.5 million and $35.4 million, respectively. Wilson's Hall Pass was in the same league ($45.1 million), and his last movie The Big Year tanked with $7.2 million (he did also have Midnight in Paris and Cars 2, but the stars there are Woody Allen and Pixar).
By teaming back up with their Wedding Crashers counterpart, it initially seemed like The Internship could be a return to box office glory for Vaughn and Wilson. Unfortunately, comedies need a strong premise and plenty of laughs, and The Internship appears to be lacking in both. Workplace comedies are inherently a tough sell—we go to the movies to forget about work, not to relive it—and they tend to work best when there's some sort of catharsis being offered (think Horrible Bosses). The Internship, on the other hand, seems to glorify work—specifically, working for Google. That brand tie-in may have been cool in the Wedding Crashers era, but Google isn't quite as hip in 2013.
Previews are light on laughs as well, and are overly-reliant on lengthy fish-out-of-water pop culture jokes about Flashdance and X-Men (in 2013, is there anyone in the U.S. who doesn't know who Professor X is?). It doesn't help that the movie is rated PG-13 (as opposed to Wedding Crashers's R rating) and is getting awful reviews (as of Thursday afternoon, it was at 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Add in the fact that direct competitor This is the End opens just five days later, and things really don't look good for The Internship. Distributor 20th Century Fox is currently expecting an opening in the mid-teen-millions.
With The Internship poised to underperform, and last weekend's holdovers all set to drop below $20 million, it looks like The Purge could wind up taking first place. The movie is the latest micro-budget horror flick from producer Jason Blum, who is responsible for the Paranormal Activity franchise and smaller hits like Sinister and Insidious. While The Purge is lacking the supernatural hook of those movies, it makes up for that with its own very unique premise—what if crime was legal for 12 hours once a year? Distributor Universal Pictures has done an excellent job conveying this idea to audiences via traditional marketing as well as eye-catching posters/billboards that at first glance appear to be a public service announcement.
The best comparison for The Purge is Summer 2008 home invasion flick The Strangers, which opened to $21 million around the same time in Summer 2008. With a stronger premise and a few years of ticket price inflation, expect The Purge to wind up a bit higher than this. Universal is expecting mid-to-high-teen millions, though tracking services are notoriously low on horror flicks (Universal expected low-to-mid teens on January's Mama, which wound up opening to $28.4 million).
Avengers director Joss Whedon's micro-budget Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing also opens at five locations this weekend. Distributor Roadside Attractions is coming off Mud, which is the label's biggest hit yet with $16.8 million. Much Ado should score a strong per-theater average this weekend, though even with the Whedon connection it will likely be too niche to come close to matching Mud.
Forecast (June 7-9) 1. The Purge - $24.5 million 2. Fast & Furious 6 - $17.6 million (-50%) 3. Now You See Me - $16.9 million (-42%) 4. The Internship - $16.4 million 5. Star Trek - $10.5 million (-37%) 6. Epic - $10.4 million (-37%) 7. After Earth - $10.1 million (-63%)
Bar for Success With a very wide release and two major comedy stars, The Internship really ought to be earning at least $20 million this weekend. The Purge is fine at $15 million, and a success at $20 million.