Is everyone on vacation?
That would be one plausible explanation behind the great box office slowdown. Although three new movies opened nationwide, none were able to crack the top five on domestic charts and only two — A24’s satirical slasher “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and Lionsgate’s low-budget, vertigo-inducing thriller “Fall” — managed to infiltrate the top 10.
It’s even more dire that Sony’s action-thriller “Bullet Train,” which claimed the top spot for the second weekend in a row with $13.1 million from 4,357 North American locations, was the sole film to bank at least $10 million in ticket sales. After two weeks on the big screen, the Brad Pitt-led “Bullet Train” has generated $54.4 million at the domestic box office. This weekend marks the first time since Feb. 11-13 — when “Death on the Nile” opened to a weak $12.3 million and Jennifer Lopez’s romantic comedy “Marry Me” stumbled with even less — that only one movie reached at least $10 million between Friday and Sunday.
And the glacial drip, drip, drip of ticket sales is only going to worsen as the box office heads for a near desolate stretch with hardly any new offerings from major studios on the horizon. While movie theater owners brace for the downtrend, they are bowing at the altar of Harry Styles in hopes the pop heartthrob will inspire audiences to return to theaters in droves for director Olivia Wilde’s mind-bender “Don’t Worry Darling,” which doesn’t open until Sept. 23. Until then, exhibitors will have to make do with smaller thrillers and dramas like Idris Elba’s “Beast,” which is coming on Aug. 19; “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” a fantasy romance with Tilda Swinton and Elba (again) on Aug. 26; and the Viola Davis-led historical epic “The Woman King” on Sept. 16.
David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, says there’s still reason for optimism despite the dearth of blockbusters.
“The upside to the thin schedule is that movies are opening on, and holding more screens than before, and they’re playing longer to bigger domestic multiples,” he says. “There’s more room in the market, and each film is benefiting. But there’s no question,” he adds, “the total box office would be bigger with more studio releases.”
In eighth place, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” beat expectations with $3.2 million from 1,290 locations. After kicking off last weekend in limited release, the movie has grossed $3.5 million to date and plans to expand to 2,000+ theaters next weekend. But otherwise, audiences wanted little to do with “Fall” and Diane Keaton’s body-swap comedy “Mack & Rita,” the other movie that debuted over the weekend.
“Fall” just barely landed in 10th place with $2.5 million from 1,548 venues. The movie, centering on two best friends who climb 2,000 feet to the top of an abandoned radio tower and find themselves stranded with no way down, was relatively low risk for Lionsgate as it cost only $3 million to produce and less than $4 million to promote. It won’t take much coinage to turn a profit, and home entertainment will be helpful with that mission.
Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction classic “E.T.” — which debuted 40 years ago — grossed more money over the weekend than Keaton’s “Mack and Rita.” The Gravitas Ventures release premiered in 13th place with $1.03 million from 1,930 screens. Universal’s re-release of “E.T.” raked in $1.07 million from only 389 Imax screens.
As expected, “Mack and Rita” brought out mostly older women, with 74% of ticket buyers identifying as female and 69% over the age of 30. They were not kind to the movie, which landed a “D+” CinemaScore. Reviews were equally harsh, resulting in a bleak 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
With the dismal turnout for most other movies, Paramount’s ever-powerful blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick” swooped to second place in its 12th weekend of release. The action sequel added $7.1 million from 3,181 venues over the weekend, bringing its domestic tally to $673.8 million. That means “Maverick” is roughly $5 million away from dethroning Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” as the sixth-highest grossing movie in domestic box office history.
Elsewhere on domestic box office charts, holdovers like “DC League of Super-Pets,” Jordan Peele’s UFO thriller “Nope” and Disney’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” took slots three through five.
The animated “DC League of Super-Pets” also added $7.1 million from 3,181 theaters in its third outing, a 35% decline from the weekend prior. There’s a chance it could ascend to second place, above “Maverick,” once final numbers are tallied on Monday. To date, the kid-friendly DC Comics adventure has generated $58 million at the domestic box office.
“Nope,” now in its fourth weekend of release, collected $5.3 million from 2,760 locations, down 38% from its last outing. So far, the movie has amassed $107 million in North America, marking the director’s third feature film (out of three) to cross the $100 million mark. However, “Nope” has ways to go to match Peele’s debut feature “Get Out” ($176.1 million) and his sophomore effort “Us” ($175 million) in North American ticket sales.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” grossed $5.3 million from 3,175 locations over the weekend. After six weekends on the big screen, the fourth “Thor” movie has generated $325.4 million domestically, outpacing its beloved 2017 predecessor “Ragnarok” ($315 million). Globally, however, “Love and Thunder” trails “Ragnarok” with $720 million compared to the third entry’s $853 million haul. However, “Ragnarok” played in China and Russia while “Love and Thunder” did not secure a release in those territories.
At the indie box office, the Aubrey Plaza-led heist thriller “Emily the Criminal” earned $668,990 from 473 screens — translating to $1,414 per location. Roadside Attractions bought the movie after it premiered at Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. The film’s backer is hoping that festival fever translates to ticket sales as “Emily the Criminal” expands to additional locations in the coming weeks.
Another Sundance film, Bleecker Street’s coming-of-age drama “Summering” fared worse, collecting just $31,317 in 260 venues, averaging a disappointing $120 per location. The young adult-skewing story follows four best friends as they spend the last weekend of summer together before starting middle school.