Never bet against Denzel, Mamma Mia! audiences go again, Dark Web gets Unfriended, Blindspotting makes that paper, McQueen designs profits, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
Four years ago, Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua teamed up together to turn the 1980’s TV show The Equalizer into an especially dull and wholly generic vigilante action movie in the obvious mould of Taken. If you’d completely forgotten about that, or the fact that it was four years ago, don’t sweat it, most of us had too. Or apparently not, because the sequel that I could have sworn nobody was asking for just won the goddamn weekend in this, the year 2018. The Equalizer 2 pulled off a surprise upset, closing with $35.8 million, just above the $34.1 million the original took in, making it Fuqua’s biggest opening weekend ever and Denzel’s third-biggest behind American Gangster and (really) Safe House. Apparently, the general public loves themselves seeing Denzel, one of his generation’s very finest actors, sleepwalking through instantly forgettable action slop vastly beneath his considerable talents. Shit like this is why “regular” people perplex the crap out of me.
“Sequels I could have sworn nobody was asking for” turned out to be a recurring theme this weekend, befitting the chart featuring 8 sequels in its Top 10 for the first time in history. The other big opener was Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, a hybrid prequel-sequel to the previous adaptation of the world-conquering reason why your parents own a very dusty copy of ABBA GOLD on CD that they refuse to get rid of. Heading into the weekend, certain people, not naming names, figured the sky might fall in ABBA-shaped patterns with the decade-later sequel going all Godzilla on the rest of the Box Office. And whilst that thinking is somewhat understandable given the $14.7 million opening day and Universal’s rampant overpromotion of the thing, Here We Go Again had to settle for a very tightly-fought second place of $34.3 million. Still, that does make the sequel the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for a musical – potentially the third should Actuals push it over the $60,000 separating it and Enchanted – and easily the biggest non-Disney musical opening, besting the original Mamma Mia! because time in Hollywood is a flat circle.
Elsewhere, Blumhouse Tilt continue to smash their head against the glass ceiling of sub-$5 million opening weekends to ill effect as Unfriended: Dark Web – the stand-alone sequel to 2015’s moderately successful laptop-based found-footage horror, this one shot in secret and only revealed back in March at South by Southwest – got shut down hard; ninth place and $3.5 million. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade continued to shake down all-comers in Limited Release, expanding to 33 theatres and tripling its still-year-best takings from last weekend with a haul of $794,370; the accompanying per-screen average ($24,072) being the best-bar-one of the entire weekend. Runaway smash-hit documentary Three Identical Strangers continued its run as distributor Neon’s most-successful non-Wide movie so far by adding another 166 theatres (for a total of 332) and still growing its weekend takings to a current PB of $1,431,800. (It also lets me plug Kyle Turner’s take on the film which is worth a read.) Meanwhile, Disney seem determined to get Black Panther over the $700 million Domestic mark despite the whole “it’s been on Home Media for months” thing, putting the film back into 154 theatres in its 23rd week for $25,000, taking the total to $699,931,862.
Moving onward to Limited Release openings and we begin with Blindspotting, the passion project of writer-stars Daveed Diggs (from a little-known piece called Hamilton) and Rafael Casal. As proof that, hey, maybe there is enough oxygen in the world of film for more than one critically-acclaimed zeitgeist-capturing Black film at a time despite the beliefs of studio execs and White film critics looking to get as much mileage out of the phrases “this year’s Get Out” or “the next Spike Lee” as possible, the dramedy got off to a great start with $332,500 from 14 screens. Matching it in terms of per-screen averages ($24,322 to Blindspotting’s $23,750) was McQueen, Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s splendid documentary about the fashion visionary Alexander McQueen which is finally playing overseas and continuing this super-successful year for docs so far. From 4 screens, it took $96,928 for a weekend-best aforementioned per-screen average.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Full List After Midnight)
US Box Office Results: Friday 20th July 2018 – Sunday 22nd July 2018
1] The Equalizer 2
$35,825,000 / NEW
Who keeps showing up to Antoine Fuqua movies?! And who keeps having such a rip-roaring Better Than Sex good time that they give his films “A” Cinemascores?! Who are these people?! Why aren’t they seeing more, better movies?!
2] Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
$34,380,000 / NEW
On Tuesday, I get to perform recon on this for one of my friends who despises ABBA in all forms but has an extreme weakness for Cher, so I have to report back on how much Cher the film contains and how many songs she sings. Or, as it turns out, she can just skip the film entirely and buy that inbound Cher album of ABBA covers in what I am certain is the universe’s attempt to force real-life Mark Watney into buying an ABBA album.
3] Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
$23,150,000 / $91,089,268
I am apparently getting a Sly Cooper TV series next year being made by the folks who did the Sonic Boom TV series. This is a development that pleases me greatly, but it is contingent on three things. Thing 1] the character designs be less off-putting than the ones featured in both PlayStation Move Heroes and the cancelled Rainmaker film teased back near the start of the decade (shelved after Ratchet & Clank bombed). Thing 2] that it not be shit. And, most crucially of all, Thing 3] that I get a brand-spanking new PS4 instalment by Sucker Punch after they put out Ghost of Tsushima. I’ll even settle for a Ratchet & Clank-style ground-up streamlined remake, just give me more Sly games please!
4] Ant-Man and the Wasp
$16,126,000 / $164,624,292
A friend of mine messaged me today (yesterday if you’re reading this at post-time) and, inspired by that Uncharted fan film that’s doing the rounds, stated her belief that Paul Rudd should play Nathan Drake in the actual full-sized film should they ever make it; a casting choice that grows more perfect the more I think about it. She then later messaged to say that Claudia Black should get to retain the role of Chloe and that the film should actually just be all about and starring her, which made me launch non-existent money at my phone’s screen.
5] Incredibles II
$11,520,000 / $557,335,440
…good not great. Gonna go into more detail in this week’s What I’ve Been Watching – which I have now forced myself into honouring by mentioning it here – but whilst I did have fun and was especially in awe of the animation and the setpieces, I became quickly deflated basically as soon as the end credits started rolling. It feels like a sequel everybody needed to make rather than something they wanted to make, if that makes sense? Very inessential despite some very high points, and I can’t help but having expected better in a follow-up to one of the best superhero and animated movies of all-time after 14 years of waiting.
$11,005,000 / $383,904,505
Legendary’s Grumpy Middle-Aged Dad Monster-verse has seemingly decided to skip straight ahead to the “fuck it, let’s just have them all fight each other cos it’ll be awesome” phase and I am HERE FOR IT!
$10,960,000 / $46,749,120
Bruce Willis has officially decreed, once and for all of time, that Die Hard IS NOT a Christmas movie! Finally, the man’s on the correct side of history about something! Now all of your goddamn Film Bro pedants can stop derailing serious debates and pledge your allegiances to the one true and correct answer in this vital conversation: Muppet Christmas Carol.
$4,980,000 / $60,191,395
As promised, I pulled my brain out of the junkyard and forced it to finish my review of The First Purge, the result of which went live yesterday. It’s very long, kind of spoiler-y, probably a mess, and almost certainly not a particularly good read, but don’t let that stop you from clicking over anyway. I’m not going to be writing (semi-)regularly for much longer so savour my Hot Takes whilst you still can!
9] Unfriended: Dark Web
$3,495,000 / NEW
Reportedly, this film has two different endings depending on which cinema you go and see it in, a fact that now just makes me want to go and watch Clue again instead. In fact, bear with me a moment, I’m gonna go find out how much an import of the Blu-Ray costs…
10] Sorry to Bother You
$2,823,000 / $10,252,204
…this is never getting picked up for UK cinema distribution, is it? Racist-ass UK cinema system.
Dropped Out: Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Uncle Drew, Ocean’s 8
Callie Petch could sing, knew how to move everything.