Summer is officially over, September is here, and the movies stink. While the big releases and heavy-hitters of the fall movie season make the festival rounds or rev up their marketing campaigns, audiences have to tough it out and wade through a lot of not-so-good movies. Welcome to September. It’s like this every year. Get ready for an excruciating month at the movies and at the box office.
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All summer movie seasons end with a whimper and 2015 was no different. The final weekend of August was a pretty sad display across the board, with Straight Outta Compton nabbing the number one spot by default while just about every new release faltered. You know it’s a slow weekend when a movie promoted exclusively to faith-based audiences nabs the number two spot.
Straight Outta Compton dominated the box office for the second weekend in a row, ensuring that every other movie in the top 10 that doesn’t feature Tom Cruise trembled in its mighty wake. Anyone with their finger on the cultural pulse foresaw the N.W.A. biopic doing well, but it’s performing above and beyond all expectations.
Every time a movie about and for audiences who aren’t white and male does well, everyone acts like it’s a big surprise. “Black people and women like movies? Who’da thunk it?” It’s actually not surprising at all that Straight Outta Compton had a massive opening, handily defeating its more standard competition. Because all kinds of people like movies and when you make movies for all kinds of people, you end up with huge weekends at the box office.
Fantastic Four was the subject of bad buzz before it even started shooting. No one outside of the higher-ups at 20th Century Fox wanted this movie. The internet hated it from the moment it was announced. Then came the various delays. And the massive reshoots. And the toxic reviews and a disastrous press tour. It all climaxed when director Josh Trank joined the chorus of critics, effectively shooting down his own movie. And yet, everyone assumed the film would still open okay because that’s what superhero movies, even the bad ones, tend to do. Well, not this time.
A few weeks ago, tracking for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was supposedly in the toilet. Early reports suggested that Tom Cruise’s fifth outing as super-spy Ethan Hunt was not getting people excited. This would be the end, the experts said, of a franchise that has kept Cruise’s career surging forward for the past two decades. Well, that was apparently a big load of crap because Rogue Nation opened well and opened in the same ballpark as the rest of the franchise. Even with inflation differences, this series keeps on hitting the same box office sweet spot.
At the time of this writing, early estimates for the weekend box office have Ant-Man edging out Pixels for the top spot in this week’s top 10. That could change. With less than $1 million separating the films, Pixels may very well slide into first place tomorrow, winning one very close competition. But even if it does claim ultimate victory, it doesn’t change the fact that Pixels’ opening weekend is a massive disappointment and another nail in the coffin of Adam Sandler’s career.
Move aside, Gone With the Wind. Fight’s over, The Avengers. Go back to Hogwarts, Harry Potter. There’s a new #3 movie of all time, and it’s the Indominus-fighting, leather-vest wearing, raptor-training, intelligence-insulting Jurassic World.
It would be easy to label the opening weekend for Ant-Man a failure. After all, it’s significantly lower than the openings for recent Marvel Studios movies and it’s a good $130 million less than the three-day opening Avengers: Age of Ultron had a few months ago. But let’s not be so hasty. Its opening numbers may not have blown anyone away, but Ant-Man’s box office arrival is textbook Marvel.
Universal was already bathing in its Furious 7 and Jurassic World money Scrooge McDuck-style before Minions opened this week. Now the studio is looking at its third truly massive hit of the year, a run that feels nearly unprecedented. Universal already released two of the biggest movies of all time within the past four months, and now it’s looking like it may have three.