Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office Decoded: Elyisum Has Matt Damon’s Best Opening Since ’07 & Comedy-Starved Audiences Embrace We’re the Millers

To see older or more recent box office top 10 breakdowns please go here.

This week, four new movies duked it out for first place: Elysium did okay, We’re the Millers did better (relative to their respective budgets and related expectations), Planes did Turbo-like business on a more manageable budget, and Percy Jackson proved the increasing irrelevance of domestic box office.   With so many new films, there was considerable shake-up in the rest of the top 10, and although it is now outside of the domestic top 10 Pacific Rim continues to kill it in China while hugely disappointing in Japan.  

Let’s run it down:

Top 10 Estimates for the 8/9-8/11 Weekend Box Office (Domestic)



1. Elysium
  • Weekend Gross=$30.4 million
  • Total Gross=$30.4 million
  • Budget=$115 million

Foreign: $10.9 million in foreign gross in a handful of markets in its opening weekend for combined worldwide gross to date of $41.3 million.

Critics were so-so on it (66% on RottenTomatoes), and audiences gave it a B on cinemascore indicating weak word-of-mouth.  However, there was enough interest to make Elysium #1.  Two obvious films to which it can be compared are this year’s Oblivion, another futuristic sci-fi film with a leading man (Tom Cruise) who needed a hit, and District 9, director Neil Blomkamp’s prior film.  Both of those enjoyed mostly identical opening weekends, $37 million for both, and fell off no more than 52% in their second weekend.  However, Oblivion played huge in foreign markets ($197 million overseas) and ended with $286 million worldwide.  Given its meek word-of-mouth, it does not seem likely that Elysium will come anywhere near that kind of business.  However, the $30.4 million opening weekend is the biggest of star Matt Damon’s career since 2007 when his final Bourne film (Bourne Ultimatum) brought in a huge $69.2.  As Damon himself joked on a recent appearance on The Colbert Report, in terms of stardom measured by box office gross one could seriously question his status as a movie star at this point after We Bought a Zoo and The Promised Land under-performed or flat out failed in recent years.  Like Oblivion, Elysium seems highly likely to struggle to reach $100 million domestic.  How well it plays overseas, which is where Oblivion did nearly 70% of its business, as it gradually adds additional markets remains to be seen, but optimism on this one is pretty low.

2. We’re the Millers

We're the Millers Haan Aniston

  • Weekend Gross=$26.5 million
  • Total Gross=$38.4 million
  • Budget=$37 million

Foreign: We’re the Millers only opened domestically with no gross from foreign markets yet.

We reviewed it and deemed it the “kind of okay film of the summer,” but there is nothing “kind of okay” with a $26.5 three-day opening and $38.4 five-day opening for We’re the Millers.  After five days, it has already eclipsed its $37 million budget.  Without accounting for ticket price inflation, this is business pretty much on par with 2011’s Horrible Bosses ($28.3 million on a $35 million budget in its opening weekend, and $36.1 million in its first 5 days).  This is a notable comparison considering Horrible Bosses was from the same studio (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema), featured two of the same stars (Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis), was also R-rated, and also had a similarly long production cycle (it took 7 years for We’re the Millers to finally get made).  Bosses ended with a strong $117 million domestic/$92 million foreign for a combined $209 million worldwide.  Millers could certainly come close to that if not better.  Comedies that people actually like and have no direct competition this summer (see: The Heat and Grown-Ups 2) have enjoyed long lives.  Millers might just do the same, with its A- CinemaScore and no other comedy on the market until the funny-but-in-a-very-very-different-way The World’s End on 8/23.

3. Planes


  • Weekend Gross=$22.5 million
  • Total Gross=$22.5 million
  • Budget=$50 million

Foreign: Planes only opened domestically with no gross from foreign markets yet.

Here’s the story: Planes was originally meant to be a direct-to-video spin-off of Cars.  However, Disney thought the Cars brand and related ancillary market (toys and various tie-ins) sales were strong enough to support Planes as a theatrical release.  As a result, there is a temptation to grade Planes on a curve since it was not designed to be a film worthy of theatrical release.  You know what also was supposed to go direct-to-video before Disney changed their minds?  Toy Story 2, a.k.a., the movie that grossed $485 million worldwide in 1999.  Well, that curve has obviously been wrecked now, huh?

Planes was at one point predicted to beat this summer’s recent animated film blues and overperform with a $30+ million opening.  Instead, it opened about on par with what Turbo did a couple of weeks ago ($22.5 million for Planes vs. $21.3 million for Turbo).  The difference?  Planes only cost $50 million to make (and it really shows) while Turbo cost an insane $135 million to make.  Both of the Cars movies pulled in over $60 their opening weekends, but considering the budget, yet-to-come foreign openings, and likely disgustingly huge toy sales Disney is probably very happy with Planes. They’ve already announced Planes 2: Fire and Rescue for next summer.  It’s worth noting that the $22.5 million is the highest opening for an animated film released in August, but that’s a mostly meaningless record since very few animated films historically are released in August since their core audience (kids) are traditionally gearing up to go back to school that month.

4. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


  • Weekend Gross=$14.6 million
  • Total Gross=$23.4 million
  • Budget=$90 million

Foreign: $9.8 million in foreign gross its opening weekend for combined worldwide gross to date of $33.2 million.

The first Percy Jackson film, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, opened with a strong $31.2 million in its opening weekend and $40.5 million in its first 5 days before falling off gradually and ending with a somewhat disappointing $88.7 million domestic on a $95 million budget.  As a result, one could be forgiven for wondering why it got a sequel.  The performance of said sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, would justify that.  Sea of Monsters opened to a very poor $14.6 million weekend gross and five-day gross of $23.4 million.  It would not appear as if domestic audiences were eagerly awaiting this sequel.  However, the original went on to gross $137 million overseas for a combined worldwide gross of $226 million.  That’s why a sequel was made, and if the studio is to be believed the $9.8 million foreign for Sea of Monsters in limited foreign release is actually better than the Lightning Thief did in those same markets.  You can pretty much just completely ignore this one as far as domestic gross is concerned because they’re pretty clearly banking on it playing well overseas, although releasing an adaptation of a YA novel at a time when kids are going back to school might have been a bad idea (then again, The Lightning Thief opened in February, i.e., during the school year).

5. 2 Guns


  • Weekend Gross=$11.1 million
  • Total Gross=$48.5 million
  • Budget=$61 million

Foreign: At the moment, 2 Guns is pretty much just playing in North America with no reportable gross from foreign markets.

Get ready to see 2 Guns at a video store near you.  Correction – at a redbox near you. It dropped an average 59% in its second weekend, but seems highly likely to continue free falling with plenty of competition on the way.  It has almost made more than Wahlberg’s other 2013 action movie, Pain and Gain and its $49.8 million gross.  Of course, that movie only cost $26 million to make versus the $61 million for 2 Guns.

6. Smurfs 2


  • Weekend Gross=$9.5 million
  • Total Gross=$46.6 million
  • Budget=$105 million

Foreign: $34.6 million in foreign gross this weekend for a total foreign gross to date of $110 million and combined worldwide gross to date of $156 million.  The $34.6 million was the highest combined foreign gross for any film this weekend, ahead of Pacific Rim’s $33 million.

At this point, Smurfs 2 may be to product placement and media tie-in advertizing deals what Avatar was to 3D – the test case that causes a wave of imitation in the wake of its success.  As has been widely reported, Smurfs 2 already made back its production budget and then some with $150 million worth of deals with various companies providing marketing support.  So, yes, it is a box office disappointment, but if you think of them as starting out not $105 million in the hole but with $45 million worth of profit before the film ever came out everything they do from this point forward is just extra.  Granted, that is overly simplistic and film finance is so complex that this is a story which likely feels more true than it actually is.  However, the point remains that just ignore anything and everything you hear about the film’s profits being disappointing – they’re doing fine for themselves on this one, and that sequel nobody wants to see will happen.

7. The Wolverine


  • Weekend Gross=$8 million
  • Total Gross=$111.9 million
  • Budget=$120 million

Foreign: It’s not immediately clear how much of this is specific to this past weekend, but in the past week it has added $35.7 million in foreign gross for a new total of $194.7 million foreign and a combined worldwide gross to date of $306.6 million.

Considering how much we enjoyed The Wolverine around here, this kind of hurts.  Alas, in its third weekend The Wolverine dropped 62.5% after having dropped 59.9% in its second weekend.  It has now fallen from #2 to #7 on the charts, leapfrogged by mother-smuring Smurfs 2.  Audiences are just flat-out abandoning this one.  As a point of comparison, X-Men: First Class only dropped 50% in its third weekend and the smurfing awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine 44.3% in its third weekend.  At one point, it was believed The Wolverine could end up somewhere close to the $146 million domestic total of First Class. Yeeeaaaah, that’s not happening.   However, as is now the new rule of thumb when it comes to box office gross screw North America because everywhere else is where movies do well.  The Wolverine is nearing $200 million in foreign gross, having now surpassed all prior X-Men films other than First Class ($207 million) and X-Men 3: The Last Stand ($224 million) in foreign gross.   It’s a domestic disappointment, and its combined worldwide numbers project to place it as only managing to outgross the first X-Men film (and largely due to the benefit of inflated ticket prices).   However, if you ignore the part where this is an X-Men movie, and see that a Hugh Jackman action film has made $306 million worldwide on a budget of $120 million that’s damn good business.

8. The Conjuring


  • Weekend Gross=$6.7 million
  • Total Gross=$120.7 million
  • Budget=$20 million

Foreign: It’s not immediately clear how much of this is specific to this past weekend, but in the past week it has added $18.6 million in foreign gross for a new total of $47.2 million foreign and a combined worldwide gross to date of $167.9 million.

This one scared the hell out of us, and audiences are still in complete agreement, only allowing it to fall out of the Top 5 in its fourth weekend.  It’s weekend-to-weekend drop of 48.6% is the highest such drop off for it to date.  However, as a point of comparison this summer’s other big R-rated horror movie with bigger-than-expected gross, The Purge, plunged 65.8% in its fourth weekend.  The Conjuring is not just a perfectly marketed film with impeccably timed release window that had a huge first weekend and faded quickly after that.  It is the rarest of rare feats in modern film – a genuinely amazing film which has opened huge and earned strong legs due to well-earned word-of-mouth.

9. Despicable Me 2


  • Weekend Gross=$5.7 million
  • Total Gross=$338.3 million
  • Budget=$76 million

Foreign: $12.2 million in foreign gross this weekend for a total foreign gross to date of $407.5 million and combined worldwide gross to date of $745.8 million.

At this point, what more is there to say?  It is the fifth-highest grossing animated film of all time, domestic, thirteenth after you adjust for inflation.  In non-adjusted dollars, it is the 50th highest worldwide grossing film of all time, a top 50 list that only includes 8 animated films ahead of Despicable Me 2 with Toy Story 3 the highest at #11 on the list.

10. Grown Ups 2
  • Weekend Gross=$3.7 million
  • Total Gross=$123.8 million
  • Budget=$80 million

Foreign: It’s not immediately clear how much of this is specific to this past weekend, but in the past week it has added $9.1 million in foreign gross for a new total of $30.6 million foreign and a combined worldwide gross to date of $154 million.

By the end of its fifth weekend, the first Grown Ups had made $142.2 million domestically.  It’s sequel has only made $123.8 million in a similar amount of time.  There you, go, Adam Sandler haters, Grown Ups 2 is officially a smoldering pile of failure.  Just the biggest stinker to ever come along and ruin Sandler’s career once and for all.  Except for the part where it’s actually done pretty strong business, and is still only just barely opening up overseas where it will end up doing good but not as great as the first movie.


What Left the Top 10?

It was a blood bath out there.  Turbo and Red 2 both left the top 10 in their fourth weekend of release while Pacific Rim left in its fifth weekend and The Heat in its seventh weekend.  Turbo currently stands at $135 million worldwide, which matches its budget.  It has a looooong way to go before it reaches profitability, but unlike many other domestic disappointments it does not appear as if it will be able to make up its losses overseas.  Red 2 is sitting at $93 million worldwide on a $84 million budget.  The Heat is at $198 million worldwide on a $43 million budget, and it still has multiple foreign countries to go.  Pacific Rim is probably going to fail to reach $100 million domestic, but after opening in Japan this weekend its foreign total is up to $247 million for a worldwide total of $344.1 million on a $190 million budget.  It opened to a surprisingly poor $3 million in Japan, but at $76.5 million in China to date is now the highest grossing Warner Bros. film in that market ever.

The Way, Way Back fell way back from #11, where it had been for two weeks, to #17, and Fruitvale Station also seems to be fading, dropping from #12 to #18.  Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine enjoyed a huge surge to finish as the new #11 after it was finally expanded to play in more locations.

What’s Up Next?: 

For the second week in a row there will be 4 movies opening wide, with Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs (the Steve Jobs biopic that kind of looks like the Social Network for dumb people), Kick-Ass 2, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and the Harrison Ford thriller-drama Paranoia all opening on Friday.  Indie drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints also opens, but only playing at 3 locations before gradually expanding in subsequent weeks.

Oy, enough with the numbers already.

1 comment

  1. Unfortunately it lost the studio a ton of money. Foreign box office doesn’t actually count. You don’t get a clear percentage of the box office sales from the foreign box office sales. Only domestic. So, if you don’t at least cover the costs in the American box office then you have done badly.

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