Thanks in part to Rotten Tomatoes (and much to the chagrin of movie studios), bad movies are failing at the box office at a much higher rate than in previous years. Domestically, anyway, franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers and The Dark Universe, and critically panned films like Baywatch and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword have hit major snags at the box office.
Unfortunately, the reverse is not always true. Yes, Get Out and Girls Trip benefits from a strong critical response, but some really great commercial films still sometimes slip through the cracks. Steven Soderbergh’s latest, Logan Lucky is the perfect example. Here’s a movie perfect for even multiplex audiences: It’s a caper starring recognizable actors (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Daniel Craig); it’s funny; it’s fast-paced; it’s set in large part on a NASCAR track; and it comes from a well-known director who has had success with these kinds of films in the past, in Steven Soderbergh. This seems like the sort of film that should at least be a modest hit: It’s smart, mainstream multiplex fodder with great reviews (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
Unfortunately, Logan Lucky ended in third place this weekend with an unfortunate $8 million take, about half of the studio’s expectations. Granted, this is not a disaster. The film only cost $29 million, and Soderbergh recouped most of the investment before the film even opened in foreign pre-sales and by selling streaming rights to Amazon (where the film should do very well). Good word of mouth should also help it become a big hit on iTunes and streaming rentals, because it is a terrific, fun, incredibly satisfying film. Soderbergh and Co., are going to be fine (though the principals are being paid largely in back-end money, of which there will be little), but I am disappointed that these sort of deals, which makes it possible to make mid-budget films for adults, may not seem as attractive after the disappointing opening of Logan Lucky.
We can also contrast Logan Lucky with weekend’s number one film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Here’s a film that also cost $29 million ($20 million of that must have been spent on guns and squibs), featured a couple of A-listers (ish) in Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson, received mixed reviews (40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and opened just about where it should have: With $21 million. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is admittedly also a lot of fun, although it’s not nearly as good as Logan Lucky. But maybe audiences were simply more interested in Ryan Reynolds post-Deadpool than Channing Tatum, who has been out of theaters for over a year and a half. Clearly, part of the problem is that these two movies cannibalized each other; they’re geared toward the same audiences (in fact, I saw them both on the same night, although many movieogoers may not have that option). The better movie lost here, but perhaps Logan Lucky simply might have been better served by opening in the fall. In either respect, I’m happy that at least one mid-budget film managed to succeed this weekend, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard should ultimately put up $50-$60 million domestically and double that internationally, which is perfect: Good enough to make a profit for the studio, but not good enough to merit a sequel.
The rest of this weeks’ top ten were all holdovers, beginning with number two, Annabelle: Creation, which experienced a steep second weekend drop, which isn’t unusual for horror movies that aren’t Get Out. It earned $15 million this weekend, bringing its ten-day total to $63 million. Dunkirk comes in at number four with $7 million and a $165 million total.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, which still holds the crown for worst subtitle of the year, comes in at number five. It earned a sputtering $5.9 million and $18 million after ten days, and by virtue of its box-office failings, makes number six The Emoji Movie look good by comparison. The Emoji Movie has now earned $72 million, and with another $35 million, so far, internationally, this movie is actually on track to make a profit on a $50 million budget. The third highest grossing movie of the summer, Spider-Man: Homecoming, continues to stick around, as well. It’s now earned $314 million. Girls Trip and it’s $3.8 million this weekend pushes it over the $100 million mark. In at number nine is The Dark Tower, which continues to stumble with $3.9 million and $41 million overall (it’s $19 million pull internationally isn’t exactly helping matters, either). Finally, tenth place went to Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, which added 650 theaters and earned $3.2 million.
Not much action should be expected from next weekend, the last in August. The Bruce Lee inspired film Birth of the Dragon is not likely to break any box-office records, the faith-based All Saints might surprise but faith-based films are always a crapshoot at the box office, and the animated Leap — which has been moved around on the release schedule four times — probably won’t make much of a splash, either, what with students returning to school across the nation this week and next. Robert Pattinson’s Good Time, which has been getting solid reviews and performing modestly in limited release, will also open wide next weekend.