With high-profile releases like Elysium, 2 Guns and The Smurfs 2, the month of August should be a solid end to a record-breaking Summer at the domestic box office. Still, don't expect August to set its own record: the current champ is August 2007 with $920.5 million, and the upcoming lineup probably isn't strong enough to match that.
Typically, the biggest August releases are scheduled towards the beginning of the month; this year is no exception, as The Smurfs 2 and 2 Guns both seem poised to do good business.
Action comedy 2 Guns stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and their interplay has unsurprisingly been a big part of the movie's marketing campaign. Both stars have a solid fanbase, though Washington in particular has a very consistent box office track record. While it is his most comedic turn in a while, Washington's role in 2 Guns still seems to align with the anti-hero persona that helped American Gangster and Safe House each earn over $125 million. While 2 Guns isn't guaranteed to get to the same level, strong support from Wahlberg makes 2 Guns a lock for grosses close to $100 million.
The first Smurfs movie opened around the same time in 2011 and earned $142.6 million, though it's likely that The Smurfs 2 falls short of that figure. That movie is widely reviled by most adult audience members; while that doesn't seem like it should matter for a children's movie, it's important to remember that parents are the ones who ultimately make the buying decision. Those same parents have already shelled out a lot of cash this Summer. When The Smurfs 2 opens, audiences will have already spent $733 million on animated movies this Summer, which is an extremely high figure. None of these issues really matter, though: this should be able to match its predecessor's massive $420 million foreign total, and The Smurfs 3 is already on the 2015 schedule. August 9
The second weekend of August is one of the busier ones this Summer, with four new nationwide releases battling for attention. The front-runner is Elysium, which is director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to critical and commercial hit District 9 ($115.6 million). It also stars Matt Damon, who is the same butt-kicking mode that helped make his Bourne movies such a hit. Unfortunately, with a shaved head and a mechanical exoskeleton, Damon is largely unrecognizable; additionally, audiences have repeatedly shown a lack of interest in dystopian sci-fi this year (Oblivion couldn't even get to $90 million). If Elysium falls short of $100 million, it could mean trouble for Sony, which has already had a few expensive disappointments so far this Summer.
Opening on Wednesday, road trip comedy We're the Millers stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis as part of a fake family that's attempting to bring a massive drug shipment north of the border. Aniston and Sudeikis previously starred together in ensemble comedy Horrible Bosses, which was a major hit in Summer 2011 with $117.5 million. While We're the Millers has an amusing-enough premise, it would be shocking if it got close to that level. Audiences have already spent over $350 million on R-rated comedies this Summer, and We're the Millers could get cannibalized by 2 Guns, which has comedic elements and the exact same U.S./Mexico border setting.
This weekend also has two new options for family audiences who, as previously mentioned, have already spent a ton of money at the box office this Summer. Planes, which takes place "above the world of Cars," was supposed to go direct-to-video, but Disney ultimately decided it was strong enough for a theatrical release. And while the movie does have a lot of appeal, it's opening at a very tough time. There's no precedent for animated movies doing good business in August, and family audiences have already been sucked dry this Summer. For what it's worth, though, Disney is bullish on the movie's prospects: they've already scheduled sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue for July 2014.
Finally, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters opens this weekend. The first movie earned $88.8 million in early 2010, though that was on a major marketing campaign that positioned the movie as a new Harry Potter (director Chris Columbus also worked on the first two Potter movies). Over three years later, the sequel is finally arriving with considerably less fanfare; with the addition of 3D, it's likely that the decision to move forward with this project was driven primarily by overseas potential. The last movie earned over $137 million from foreign markets, and it's fair to expect Sea of Monsters to at least match that. August 16
With all the major releases out of the way already, the August box office should quiet down significantly beginning on the weekend of August 16th. Four new nationwide releases are set to duke it out, though it would be surprising if any of them open above $20 million. Kick-Ass 2 arrives over three years after the first movie rode a ton of hype to a decent $48.1 million total. Supposedly, that movie gained a huge following in the post-theatrical arena, which made this installment financially viable. It's hard to quantify that, though, and most other signs suggests that Kick-Ass 2 won't out-earn its predecessor: the new movie seems to lack the sharp visuals and action of the first, and the real-life teenage superhero gimmick doesn't feel as fresh this time around either. It's entirely possible that Kick-Ass 2 matches the first movie's gross, though anything higher would be very surprising.
Historical drama The Butler—or Lee Daniels' The Butler, to be precise—also opens this weekend, and appears to have the highest upside potential. It's opening at the same time as The Help, which also dealt with the 20th century African-American experience in the U.S. The Butler also has a very impressive cast, including Oprah in her first live-action big-screen role in 15 years. Still, with the exception of last year's Lincoln, political dramas rarely attract much attention, and it's unlikely that The Butler's well-publicized title fight will actually translate in to ticket sales. Ultimately, this movie's success of failure could depend on whether or not it's actually any good, which is a crap-shoot when it comes to director Lee Daniels.
Corporate thriller Paranoia has a solid cast—Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, and Gary Oldman—but seems minor enough that it will likely get lost in the shuffle in August. To combat that, distributor Relativity Media has recently begun an eye-grabbing outdoor campaign that suggests the movie is about a Big Brother state (likely a piggyback on recent privacy concerns raised by the Edward Snowden NSA leak controversy). That messaging doesn't seem to align with the corporate espionage elements of the movie, though, and is unlikely to move the needle in a significant way. Ultimately, Paranoia brings to mind last August's Premium Rush; similar to Liam Hemsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a solid following, but was only able to get the modest thriller to $20.3 million.
The weekend's final release is Jobs, a biopic which stars Ashton Kutcher as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. With its story about the founding of an influential tech company, Jobs is clearly inspired by the success of The Social Network; unfortunately, word out of its Sundance premiere was not very good. Add in the fact that dramatic roles aren't in Kutcher's wheelhouse, and it's tough to imagine this doing much business.