At the box office, there’s horrible — and then there’s the weekend after Labor Day.
It’s hard to get audiences to hit up the multiplexes when they’re consumed with getting kids back to school and gearing up for football season. Eager to avoid the carnage, the major studios are steering clear, opting to stick with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and a grab bag of lesser holdovers instead of launching new films.
“It seems like everybody took the weekend off here,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “This is as bad at it gets. This weekend, you expect the worst and hope for something a little better.”
The only new film entering this wasteland in a major way is “The Identical,” a musical drama from Freestyle Releasing about an Elvis-like character that is pitched at the faith-based community. Earlier this year, the distrib stunned box office watchers when it tapped into the Christian market to push low-budget “God’s Not Dead” to $60.7 million domestically.
That success was one of many. Films such as “Heaven is For Real” ($91.4 million) and “Son of God” ($59.7 million) have amply demonstrated this year that this is a moviegoing population that will turn out in droves if marketed to correctly.
“This is a renaissance for films aimed at faith-based crowds,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “They’re shaking up the way movies are marketed. They’re not doing rush TV spots. They’re doing grassroots appeals to churches.”
Look for “The Identical,” which follows twin brothers separated at birth and stars Seth Green and Ashley Judd, to pull in $3 million across 1,956 theaters. Freestyle declined to give a budget figure, but it reportedly cost $12 million to produce.
Once again, “Guardians of the Galaxy” will benefit from the dearth of competition. The Marvel movie recently became the year’s top-grossing film — the first August release to achieve that feat since 1980 — and will take first place for the third week running. The comicbook adaptation should add roughly $10 million to its total and will likely become the first film this year to hit $300 million domestically in the coming weeks.
Sliding in for second place will likely be “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which should pick up $8 million. Teen weepy “If I Stay” should nab third position with $4 million to $5 million. “As Above, So Below” and “November Man,” both of which opened last week to middling results, should drop steeply in their sophomore weekends in theaters. Expect both pictures to pull in less than $5 million in ticket sales.
“The marketplace needs new blood in a pretty bad way,” said Contrino.