Among new entries this weekend, horror movie You're Next seems like the strongest contender, and could claim first place ahead of Lee Daniels' The Butler. The World's End is also attracting decent attention, though it's not opening wide enough to have a huge impact. Finally, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones had a slow start on Wednesday and is on pace for a disappointing debut.
Unless You're Next winds up significantly stronger than expected, this will be the first weekend since February in which no single movie grosses over $20 million.
Last year was a rough one for the horror genre, as Paranormal Activity 4 led the way with just $53.9 million. The genre has thrived so far in 2013, though. Mama ($71.6 million), Evil Dead ($54.2 million) and The Purge ($64.5 million) all surpassed Paranormal Activity 4's figure, while July's The Conjuring has been a massive success with $129 million and counting. This data suggests that, when presented with appealing options, the horror audience will continue to show up at multiplexes en masse.
Playing at 2,437 locations, You're Next is hoping to add to this winning streak. The micro-budget independent production was acquired by Lionsgate shortly after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. The fact that it has taken nearly two years to release likely has more to do with scheduling issues than any kind of quality concerns: as of Thursday afternoon, the movie has an 82 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is unusually high for the often-maligned horror genre.
Recognizing that the movie is above-average, Lionsgate's marketing effort for You're Next has focused heavily on word-of-mouth screenings. As a result, online buzz is very high, though that only goes so far. To really become a break-out hit, You're Next needs to connect with general horror audiences, which is a little bit tougher. To that end, recent commercials have emphasized that the movie is "really f***ing scary," and the creepy animal mask poster imagery has been cropping up all over the place for the past month or two.
One downside for You're Next is its perceived similarity to The Purge, which opened less than three months ago and is still fresh in the minds of audiences. Both are low-budget horror movies that feature masked home invaders terrorizing a family; while The Purge was elevated with its unique, clearly-stated premise, You're Next doesn't appear to offer much beyond standard home invasion thrills. According to reviews and online chatter, the movie is much more subversive than that, though those subtleties haven't quite come across in the marketing.
Based on the strength of the genre alone, You're Next should be able to open above $10 million. If it can get to $15 million, that should be enough to wrestle first place away from The Butler, which would make this the sixth horror movie to hold the top spot in 2013.
The World's End is the conclusion to director Edgar Wright's "Cornetto" trilogy: the first two entries were 2004's Shaun of the Dead and 2007's Hot Fuzz, which earned $13.5 million and $23.6 million, respectively. While those grosses are fairly low, the movies have a very passionate fanbase, and that group has been the main target for The World's End's marketing. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much here for general audiences, and many will question the necessity of another apocalypse comedy on the heels of June's well-received This is the End.
Hot Fuzz opened to $5.8 million from 825 locations. With nearly twice as many locations (1,548), fantastic review (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a more extensive marketing effort, The World's End should do noticeably better than that. Still, without reaching outside of Wright's fanbase, it may be tough to top $10 million. Focus Features is hoping for $7 million this weekend.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the latest young-adult adaptation geared towards the young female audience that made Twilight and The Hunger Games such huge hits. That didn't work out so well for the first two attempts this year: Beautiful Creatures bombed with $19.5 million, while The Host was only slightly better with $26.6 million.
It's hard to tell if The Mortal Instruments is more or less popular than those stories—unfortunately, there isn't a Box Office Mojo for book sales. Regardless, advertisements have been preaching to the choir, and the movie is unlikely to reach beyond the book's established younger female fanbase.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones got a jump on the weekend with a $3 million debut on Wednesday. If it follows the same pace as Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters—a recent young adult adaptation that opened on a Wednesday—it will earn less than $13 million through Sunday, which is a very unimpressive debut. Sony is more optimistically expecting $15 million for the five-day start.
After earning over $9.4 million in limited release, Writer/director Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is expanding nationwide in to over 1,200 locations. That's Allen's widest release ever ahead of 2011's Midnight in Paris, which maxed out at 1,038 theaters. Aside from the great reviews and awards buzz surrounding Cate Blanchett's lead performance, Blue Jasmine has also received a strong marketing effort from distributor Sony Pictures Classics. Still, the movie doesn't seem to have quite the same broad appeal as Midnight in Paris, and it would be surprising if it earned over $5 million this weekend.
Forecast (August 23-25)
1. You're Next - $14.6 million
2. The Butler - $13.9 million (-44%)
3. We're the Millers - $13.1 million (-27%)
-. The World's End - $8.8 million
-. Mortal Instruments - $8.1 million ($13.1 million five-day)
Bar for Success
While it's not clear exactly how big its following is, The Mortal Instruments has received enough of a marketing push that it really ought to be earning at least $20 million through its first five days. You're Next gets a pass at $10 million, while The World's End needs at least $8.5 million (which would be on par with Shaun of the Dead's per-theater average from nine years ago).
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• Last Weekend's Report: 'Kick-Ass,' 'Butler' Battle for First This Weekend
• August 2013 Preview
• Summer 2013 Forecast
• 2013 Preview