It’s Melissa McCarthy versus Optimus Prime in an Independence Day face-off.
Historically one of the busiest weekends, the Fourth of July frame should see “Transformers: Age of Extinction” retain its B.O. crown with an expected $50 million-plus holiday weekend, although McCarthy’s new comedy “Tammy” will provide plenty of fireworks.
Look for the New Line comedy, which McCarthy co-wrote along with her director (and husband) Ben Falcone, to do north of $40 million in more than 3,300 locations over its first five days of release.
That’s an impressive display of pyrotechnics given that the story of a woman on a road trip with her grandmother cost $20 million to produce, with McCarthy exchanging a lower up-front salary for a piece of the back-end. It will also show that McCarthy is one of the few actors who can “open” a movie, an endangered concept in an era of superhero and CGI stars.
“Tammy,” which starts with late screenings Tuesday, is also expected to blossom despite some dreary reviews. Critics excoriated “Identity Thief” and McCarthy fans still turned out in force.
The week’s other two wide releases, Relativity’s “Earth to Echo” and Screen Gems’ “Deliver Us From Evil” are eyeing more modest debuts. “Earth to Echo,” the story of a group of teenage buddies who discover an alien, cost a scant $13 million to produce. It bows in roughly 3,200 screens on Wednesday and should pull in slightly less than $20 million over its first five days. The studio is putting the range at between $16 million and $19 million.
“Deliver Us From Evil,” which follows a police officer tracking paranormal forces, should deliver roughly $23 million over the five-day period when it debuts on approximately 3,045 screens.
But those films are mere sparklers compared with the blazing Roman candle that is “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Last weekend, the sequel became the first film this year to hit $100 million. Heading into the Fourth of July holiday it will break from the pack in another way, by becoming the only summer release to hold the top spot at the box office for two weeks running. For the past nine weeks, each weekend has welcomed another ticket sales champ, the first time that’s happened in more than 30 summers.
This holiday weekend will blaze less brightly than last year’s $230 million-grossing Fourth, which hosted the debut of animation smash “Despicable Me 2″ (as well as dud “The Lone Ranger”) and fell on a Thursday. With the Fourth hitting so close to the weekend, studios won’t be able to siphon away as many midweek vacationers from beaches and barbecues.
That’s bad news for a summer box office that’s grown frosty of late. Ticket receipts are down nearly 15% from last summer, as this year’s crop of would-be blockbusters such as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ and “Godzilla” have struggled to match the likes of “Monsters University” and “Iron Man 3.” The downward trend will continue through the holiday weekend, analysts say.
“It’s a cyclical business,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak. “We’re coming up every week against very tough comparisons because last summer was a record breaker.”
As for limited releases, the Weinstein Company’s “Begin Again” will try to build on its solid opening in a handful of theaters last weekend by expanding to 175 locations across the top 45 U.S. markets. The drama about an emotionally-damaged record producer and a heart-broken songwriter posted a $30,000 per-screen average across five theaters.
Bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza’s politically charged “America” will also expand to 1,000 theaters after an initial roll-out in Atlanta and Houston.
Other limited releases include Lionsgate’s “School Dance,” a comedy about a high school dance crew, and Magnolia’s “Life Itself,” a documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert.