While the Summer box office always cools off during August, it will at least remain hot through the first weekend this year. Playing at 3,025 locations, Denzel Washington/Mark Wahlberg action comedy 2 Guns should take first place with over $30 million. The Smurfs 2 also opens this weekend, though it's burning off some demand with a Wednesday start and should wind up in the $20 million range.
To market 2 Guns, distributor Universal Pictures has distilled the movie to its most essential elements. The pitch has basically been: "Do you want to see Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg shoot guns and crack wise? Then see 2 Guns!" That's an appealing—albeit unoriginal—proposition, and is bolstered by the combined star power of the two lead actors.
At 58 years old, Washington is about as much of a sure-thing as one can be at the box office. Excluding The Great Debaters—a modest drama—Washington has had ten-straight $20 million debuts. 2 Guns has Washington once again working within his wheelhouse as a charming anti-hero, and it's therefore reasonable to expect his fans to turn out in large numbers.
Wahlberg isn't nearly as consistent as Washington, though he's had his share of successes. While he often plays tough guys, Wahlberg connects more with audiences when he's in comedic roles—Ted, The Other Guys, and even The Departed are good recent examples. While 2 Guns features plenty of action, Wahlberg's role does lean comedic, which is another positive sign for the movie.
Universal is expecting low-$20 millions, which seems to be a low-ball estimate. While its tough to match Washington's top openings (American Gangster and Safe House both started over $40 million), it's also hard to imagine 2 Guns opening below $30 million. The Smurfs 2 arrives in theaters exactly two years after the first Smurfs movie, which opened to $35.6 million on its way to a strong $142.6 million total. While it played well throughout its run, that's less a product of word-of-mouth and more a result of a non-competitive late Summer marketplace.
Conditions are a bit different this time around. Family audiences have been sucked dry so far this Summer: to date, over $730 million has been spent on family movies. That's a ton of money, and it has already negatively affected DreamWorks Animation's Turbo, which looks like it's going to have a tough time getting to $100 million.
This wouldn't be a huge problem for The Smurfs 2 if it was following up a widely-liked original: anecdotally, it doesn't seem like a ton of parents are eager to drop cash on another outing with The Smurfs. Sony has at least done a nice job differentiating the sequel by putting The Naughties and Katy Perry's Smurfette front-and-center, which should make this outing fairly appealing to young children. The Smurfs 2 opened at 3,866 on Wednesday, and earned a decent $5.2 million. That's less than Turbo's $5.5 million, which isn't a great sign. Still, The Smurfs 2 will likely play a bit better through the weekend, and could have close to $35 million in the bank by Sunday.
It's worth emphasizing that domestic box office isn't particularly important for The Smurfs 2, considering the first movie earned more than $420 million overseas. It's unheard of for an animated sequel to earn less than its predecessor in foreign markets, and so The Smurfs 2 should be a lock for at least $400 million. It opens in 42 territories this weekend, and could take in as much as $100 million or so.
In limited release, upstart distributor A24 is opening teen romance The Spectacular Now at four locations in New York and Los Angeles. The movie received a ton of praise following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, and it currently has a great 93 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also helps that it's from the writers of (500) Days of Summer, which has developed a huge fanbase following its successful theatrical run in 2009.
So far this year, A24 has scored strong limited debuts from Spring Breakers ($87,667 per-theater) and The Bling Ring ($42,879 per-theater). The Spectacular Now doesn't have the same level of must-see buzz right now, so it should open lower than The Bling Ring; still, its long-term potential is fairly high, and should ultimately exceed Bling Ring's $5.8 million. Forecast (August 2-4) 1. 2 Guns - $34.7 million 2. The Smurfs 2 - $24.2 million ($33.5 million five-day) 3. The Wolverine - $19.5 million (-63%) 4. The Conjuring - $11.1 million (-50%) 5. Despicable Me 2 - $9.2 million (-44%) Bar for Success With Washington and Wahlberg's combined drawing power, 2 Guns should be opening to at least $25 million. While domestic isn't overly important for The Smurfs 2, its five-day start ought to be about on par with its predecessor's $35.6 million three-day debut.