Crazy Rich Asians, The Happytime Murders is DOA, Searching data mines top dollar, and Other Box Office News.
Note: a version of this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
During my slacking over the past couple of weeks in providing you all with Box Office Reports – the blame, as with most problems in one’s life, can be laid squarely at the feet of professional wrestling – I had appeared to miss two full-on Box Office phenomena, one that I called from miles away and another that I don’t think anyone honestly did. The first opened two weeks back when The Meg promised audiences the site of Jason Statham fighting a 75ft shark and $45 million worth of people responded, “I will gladly have me some of that!” The second opened last week as Crazy Rich Asians offered Asian-American audiences across the country the chance to watch a rom-com specifically about their identity and starring an entirely Asian-descended cast; the results of which absolutely decimated the rest of the chart across its five-day opening, making its budget back immediately and topping the charts with $26 million for the weekend, fending off the latest Peter Berg/Mark Wahlberg circlejerk nobody asked for.
But the US Box Office is a cutthroat land that, much like the shark Jason Statham punches in the face several times, must constantly move forward in order to survive. So, even with it now officially being the doldrums of late-August and nothing on the horizon for multiple weeks, there was every reason to suspect both films may have been flashes in the pan whose success would wane by the time I pulled my finger out and did some actual reporting. Very pleasantly, that’s turned out not to be the case for both films! Crazy Rich Asians has not only repeated at the top of the charts in its second weekend, it’s done so with (at time of writing) almost the exact same weekend taking, dropping a miniscule 5% for a $25 million sophomore haul. Meanwhile, The Meg has been holding firm at #2 across both weekends with extremely respectable drops, this time shedding just 38% for a $13 million finish, also making it the 17th film of 2018 to pass $100 million domestic. That, however, is nothing compared to its performance in China where it has been gobbling up the dollars left right and centre; opening to $50 million two weekends back and, in stark contrast to most Western blockbusters that have received a Chinese release this year, holding strong in its second weekend for an additional $30 million.
The big takeaway from all this? Warner Bros. need to invest all their efforts into mid-tier August genre fare that most other studios have forgotten to make and/or market. Like, now.
Despite those slices of headline news, brand new films were released this past weekend because it’s only the doldrums of late August and not Labor Day weekend. Leading the charge with a mound of puppet jizz in one hand and criminal wasting of a golden premise in the other was The Happytime Murders, the fruits of Brian Henson’s decades-long quest to provide an answer to the question, “What if The Muppets but sex? And drugs? And violence? And ‘fuck?’ Lots of ‘fuck?’” Befitting Happytime supposedly being no Sausage Party, the Murders were savagely stabbed to death by audience indifference, just barely scraping $10 million for third place. But it wasn’t the only Wide new release film of the weekend, believe it or not! No, there was also something that my notes are telling me was called A.X.L., a film I had genuinely never heard of until about three hours ago. Hang on, let me do a quick bit of Wiki-based research… …ok, apparently in-film the robot is called “A-X-L” and not “A.X.L.” like the title lists it as which is all the proof I need that this film is a goddamn mess. Nobody saw it, in any case, landing in ninth with just under $3 million and barely beating out the third weekend of the friggin’ Slender Man movie.
Meanwhile, in Limited Release, Sony debuted the rarest of beasts: a Screen Gems production that doesn’t completely suck! Searching, the John Cho-starring screen-based thriller that’s been taking critics and festivals by storm in the run-up to its release – and which, for the record, I have already seen, reviewed, and really liked until its ridiculous and terrible ending came around but maybe I just need to give it another shot – kicked off its run in limited release with 9 theatres. And, buoyed on by strong word-of-mouth and the fact that I am pretty sure it’s been running one-off preview screenings every weekend for months like that hometown band about to break big who keep playing “secret” shows at every pub every single goddamn weekend when you just want to get a pint in relative peace, it’s doing pretty excellently, already banking $360,000 (a $40,000 per-screen average) ahead of its wide release next weekend. Oh, and Bleeker Street did a remake of Papillon starring Charlie Hunnam for some reason? If this is the first you’re hearing of it, you’re not alone: $1,150,750 from 544 theatres. They really suck at releasing movies.
There was no wrestling this weekend, that’s why you get a Full List.
US Box Office Results: Friday 24th August 2018 – Sunday 26th August 2018
1] Crazy Rich Asians
$25,010,000 / $76,817,947
Cannot wait to give this one a try. Prior to its American release last weekend, Warner Bros. had pushed the UK release all the way back to mid-November for no adequate reason – the cinemas may be overflowing with films right now, due to catching up from The Football, but that doesn’t mean those releases are any good or doing well – which had me all set to rage. But then, by the Sunday morning, they had conspicuously moved the release back up to mid-September, which is still needlessly too wide a gap for my liking but I’ll take what I can get. Please, God, give me a great rom-com! I haven’t had one in… well, a year because The Big Sick happened. STOP RUINING MY POINTS, FACTS!
2] The Meg
$13,030,000 / $105,300,646
Warner Bros. continuing to invest way too much money into intentionally ropey B-level schlock, so of course I dug the heck out of this! I pretty much agree entirely with Cameron Howe’s review, but am ultimately warmer than he is on the film anyway. Too much backstory? Too many characters? Too much nonsensical scientific gobbledegook to try and dress up “shark but REALLY BIG?” Inability to decide just how cheesy or self-serious it wants to be? Dead to rights on all accounts, but they’re also core tenants of this kind of B-movie nonsense and I would have been actively disappointed if this turned out any other way. I had real fun, which is something that too few films in 2018 have provided me with up to now!
3] The Happytime Murders
$10,020,000 / NEW
Will be seeing this on Wednesday/Thursday, but it still hurts to hear that this just isn’t very good. I mean, I think we all called it when we saw the UK release was a Monday – Fun Fact (That’s Not Really a Fact): if a film opens in the UK on any day other than Friday or maybe Thursday at a push, it’s probably garbage since critics can’t run reviews until day of release and it inflates the opening totals with previews – but it still hurts. “Roger Rabbit but for puppets and rated-R” deserves way better.
4] Mission: Impossible – Fallout
$8,000,000 / $193,900,660
The Spy Who Dumped Me was better. Not trolling, I genuinely preferred that to this, maybe because Spy had actual characters, even if it was astoundingly inept at the comedy aspect of its “spy action-comedy” logline. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
5] Disney’s Christopher Robin
$6,340,000 / $77,628,783
You gain no points for figuring out that this absolutely destroyed me. It opened with a full-on recreation of “In Which Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place and We Leave Them There;” there was no earthly way that this wasn’t going to leave me a sobbing wreck! Now, there is admittedly something deeply cynical with regards to the film’s core theme – that, in your darkest and most hopeless moments, one’s childhood will return from the amber it was originally preserved within to help rescue you from despair and depression – being peddled by the Walt Disney Corporation, but the film itself never actually succumbs to or displays any of it. It’s something that’s only apparent in the aftermath when critically thinking the movie over, because the film itself is incredibly earnest, sweet, and thoughtful. It’s a 4-star film that’s a 5-star one in my heart, and currently my favourite film of the year because of course it is! It’s been a full week and I still tear up uncontrollably when I think back to THAT scene at Pooh’s meeting spot! “I’m not a hero… I’m lost.” *wails helplessly*
6] Mile 22
$6,030,000 / $25,170,954
Upside to my being otherwise preoccupied last week meant that you were spared a bunch of terribly-written jokes referencing the karmic comeuppance of Mark Wahlberg’s latest wankpheasant being demolished by Crazy Rich Asians. You know, because of that time Mark Wahlberg committed two violent unprovoked assaults against Vietnamese men, officially declared as hate crimes, which he pled guilty to (and served 45 days of a two-year prison sentence), and then tried to get full official pardons for from 2014 to late 2016.
$5,600,000 / $20,160,574
Sony did eventually get around to making a second trailer for this movie they’ve been fruitlessly shunting around the schedule since last September and it was such a 180 I was left utterly flabbergasted. Seriously, compare that to the original trailer from 2017. This one even has 90s Family Movie Trailer Voice Guy and everything! Autopsies should be held about this absolute disaster of a marketing campaign, particularly since the film itself is actually quite good – allegedly, that’s also a Wednesday/Thursday job.
$5,345,000 / $32,037,540
Did not get screenings in Hull, special previews or otherwise, so I have to make an expedition elsewhere. In the meanwhile, Gavin McHugh has got your review needs covered. Also, remember a few weeks back when I accused UK distributors of being racist because Sorry to Bother You (STILL SOMEHOW) doesn’t have a distributor, let alone a release date? Turns out, straight from Boots Riley’s mouth himself, I was absolutely right about that hunch and I am FUMING RIGHT NOW! The movie industry can get in the fucking sea.
$2,939,356 / NEW
Yeah, whatever. Instead, let’s all talk about how I’m finally going to see St. Vincent tomorrow! Gonna go and lose my mind in the presence of my Queen of the Gays and her cool-ass everything! Wait, where are you going? Come back! Let me talk about me, which is something that only happens… *counts on fingers* 22 times every column!
10] Slender Man
$2,785,000 / $25,403,116
Slender Man, Slender Man. Slender Man hates Bye Bye Man. They have a fight, nobody wins. Slender Man.
Dropped Out: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again