(all grosses reported are based on the actual box office figures given by Box Office Mojo on August 18, 2014)
In typical mid-August fashion, this past weekend was jam-packed with three new movies given a wide release. However, August 2014 has already yielded some highly impressive results, and those just kept on coming.
Proving to be one-two combination that not only August needed, but the entire Summer box office needed, last week's two big winners Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy remained in the #1 and #2 spots respectively this weekend. Turtles dropped 56.5% to a three-day total of $28.5 million. Given the inauspicious critical reception and mixed audience reactions, this a fantastic hold – especially given that producer Michael Bay's own Transformers: Age of Extinction dropped 63% over the Fourth of July weekend. With a current domestic intake of $117.8 million, it looks to pass fellow children's cartoon adaptation G.I. Joe: Retaliation's $122.5 total before the week's end.
Guardians eased another comparably light 40.4% to $25.1 million, which brings this Marvel Studios space opera juggernaut to a highly impressive $222.7 million. Considering most box office analysts believed the film would flop just four months ago, Guardians continues to win hearts, minds, and box office receipts. On Saturday, the film already passed Thor: The Dark World's $206.3 million domestic take, and now has 2014's top-grossing Captain America: The Winter Soldier's $259 million in its sights – which should be easily achieved in the next week or so, considering the relatively weak competition next weekend and the continued excellent performances during the five-day week.
In a surprise twist, the highest grossing new release this weekend was low-budget buddy comedy Let's Be Cops at $17.8 million, bowing in third place. This is an incredible feat for many reasons. Primarily, the film had no truly bankable stars, putting New Girl male leads Jack Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. in the forefront. Also, the film burned off a lot of its demand from opening on Wednesday, causing the film to bring in a five-day total of $26.2 million. This isn't fantastic by any means, mind you. In fact, this is about $10 million less than what R-rated comedy We're the Millers did in the same time frame last year. However, that's not a fair comparison, seeing that Millers featured Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in their third pairing. A more comparable title would be 2010's R-rated August comedy 30 Minutes or Less, which only made around $13 million in its first weekend. Still, with the lukewarm audience reception, it's hard to imagine the film will stick around too long, which would still be fine since Cops has already made its production budget back.
The Expendables 3, on the other hand, proved to be exactly that. In fourth place, with a three day total of $15.9 million, which is down about 44% from Expendables 2's domestic debut, it seems like the action ensemble featuring aging action icons has grown old. There are many popular theories as to why the film was, well, expendable. The most popular theory revolves around the film's PG-13 rating, which was quite a controversial decision among die-hard fans of the first two films (which were both R rated). Also, a pristine pirated copy of the film has been available online for going on two weeks now, which many analysts believe attributed to the film's demise.
But let's be honest. Regardless of these two factors, The Expendables had been skating by on a cheap-thrill gimmick for six years now. The schtick was bound to wear thin eventually. Combine that with continually strong showings by Guardians and Turtles, one incredibly strong new franchise and one surprisingly strong reboot, a third helping of 80s nostalgia doesn't seem as appetizing.
In fifth place, The Giver gave its best with $12.3 million. With its comparatively modest budget, this isn't exactly devastating by no means, but it certainly isn't a strong debut either, given the success of more recent franchises The Hunger Games and Divergent. Lois Lowry's novel of the same name bowed over 20 years ago, and is regarded as the first dystopian futuristic young adult novel. The biggest problem is that this fact was nowhere in the advertising. Even a “Before The Hunger Games...” line would have sufficed in connecting with the younger audiences who have already connected with the newer franchises. Relying on the book's brand alone often works, but the book is two decades old. Older audiences, who normally flock to stars Meryl Streep's and Jeff Bridges' films, likely had children who would have read the book rather than themselves, and the under-18 crowd would not have known this book existed.
It is possible, however, that distributor The Weinstein Company may not have anticipated big returns, hence the reason for the light ad campaign. Unlike the aforementioned Hunger Games and Divergent, The Giver is not a franchise. Moreso, there wouldn't have been wiggle room to make a sequel had the film taken off. With The Maze Runner, another dystopian franchise aimed at young readers, bowing in a month, it's hard to imagine that, even with a properly executing ad campaign, The Giver didn't have much to give. So, a likely final total between $30 and $40 million would still be adequate enough to recoup the costs of the film, and save it from being considered a technical flop.