The Season Of Smaller Films Begins As ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ ‘Fall,’ & ‘Mack & Rita’ Go Wide
After a summer that was nearly back to normal vis-à-vis pre-pandemic levels, we are now on the verge of what will likely be the lowest-grossing two-month stretch since before the summer of 2021. While the steady supply of blockbusters gave audiences numerous reasons to return to cinemas over the past three months, the remainder of August and September have schedules that are even emptier than usual for these typically quiet post-summer months. There are no major releases coming until October, and while there may be some sleeper hits among the counterprogramming, it won’t be a surprise if nothing in the next two months opens above $20 million and grosses above $50 million. The strong winter slate may bring a final end to the “pandemic-era” box office woes, but for now distributors and theaters must hope that some of the audience that came out for the tentpoles will also show up for the smaller films, which have largely struggled since the pandemic began.

No biggies are releasing this week, but distributors are taking advantage of the vacancy with some smaller films. First up is A24, expanding their Gen Z horror-comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies to 1,200 theaters after its six screen launch last weekend. The film, which stars Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha'la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson, boasted a muscular $38k per-theater-average over the weekend, which is the second best for a limited release this year. The best came from A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once which had a $50k average from 10 screens in its opening, and it went on to become the biggest specialty box office hit in years, grossing $69.5 million. Bodies Bodies Bodies, which is at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, may not break out in the same way, but it’s the most promising of the weekend’s wide releases.

At 1,548 locations, Lionsgate is looking to give audiences vertigo with the survival thriller Fall. The film stars Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner as two young women who climb a 2,000 foot radio tower, only for the ladder to fall off and leave them stranded once they reach the top. While reviews are mixed (66% on Rotten Tomatoes), many top critics are praising the Scott Mann-directed film’s white knuckle thrills and dizzying visuals. Expectations are soft for the weekend, but not much is on the line given its $3 million budget.

Also opening wide is Mack & Rita, the first film under Gravitas Ventures’ new Gravitas Premiere label, which intends to go wide with four to six films a year. Mack & Rita can be described as Big for women, with a 30-year-old woman named Mack (played by Elizabeth Lail), who has always felt old at heart, getting physically transformed into her inner-70-year-old and starting a new life as Rita (Diane Keaton). The comedy co-stars Zola star Taylour Paige and Red Rocket star Simon Rex. Just nine reviews are in at the moment, but critics are mostly unenthused thus far (22% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Despite some potential in the new releases, none are likely to crack the top five and the weekend will mostly be dominated by holdovers, with Bullet Train poised to take the top spot once again. After a decent but underwhelming $30 million opening, the hope is that the $90 million budgeted action film can hold well with little competition in the months ahead. A comp is The Lost City, which opened to $30.4 million and had nice legs for a $105 million cume. That film dropped 52% in its second weekend but from then on had drops below 40% up until its 12th weekend. The international holds will be key for Bullet Train, and we’ll see if it keeps pace with its first weekend comps Murder On The Orient Express and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Taking away China and Russia, those films both nabbed $199 million internationally. A $300 million global finish is plausible here, which would be the best for an R-rated original film since 1917.

This weekend also sees the international rollout begin for Nope, just a few days after it hit $100 million in the domestic market. If it can match the $80 million of Get Out and Us abroad, that’d bring the film to a $200 million or so global finish. Despite under-performing Jordan Peele’s earlier films ($255 million each) while having a larger budget ($68 million), that’d still be a nice cume that would justify more big budget originals from Peele.

Top Gun: Maverick returns to IMAX this weekend, as will another box-office topper: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The film became the top grossing film ever when it released in 1982, grossing $359 million, and it made another $40.6 million from its 1985 re-release, and yet another $35.3 million from its 20th Anniversary release in 2002. Now for the 40th anniversary, the Steven Spielberg classic hits IMAX screens for the first time.

The limited release most likely to make the top ten is the Paramount-distributed Hindi-language film Laal Singh Chaddha. Indian superstar Aamir Khan stars in this official Forrest Gump remake, with the release coinciding with India’s Independence Day Holiday on Monday. From the 11 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, 82% are positive.