No third-act plot twist here.
What is tracking to be the slowest summer box office season in over a decade looks to end in perhaps the most anticlimactic manner possible — with no new wide releases.
The most high-profile fresh launch of the weekend is TWC’s long-delayed “Tulip Fever.” The historical drama, set in 17th century Netherlands during the economic phenomena known as tulip mania, was filmed three years ago and underwent a series of release day delays. It’s directed by Justin Chadwick, who also made 2008’s “The Other Boleyn Girl,” and stars Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, and, further down the bill, his “Valerian” co-star Cara Delevingne.
There are a handful of other new releases entering limited run, including Pantelion’s “Do it Like an Hombre” (a hit in Mexico), IFC’s “Viceroy’s House” with Gillian Anderson, “I Do… Until I Don’t” (Lake Bell’s directorial followup to “In a World”), and FilmRise’s James Franco vehicle “The Vault.”
Otherwise, Sony is launching a re-release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at 900 locations this weekend, including 400 PLF theaters. Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi endeavor was originally released in November 1977, so this coming November marks its 40th anniversary.
That all means “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and “Annabelle: Creation” should once again top the domestic box office charts. Last weekend, “Hitman” won the weekend during another absurdly slow weekend with just over $10 million.
This year is currently slumping 5.7% behind 2016, and 14% behind for the summer. The month of August has been particularly slow. The biggest hits of the month are “Annabelle: Creation,” “The Dark Tower,” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” two of which have yet to make $50 million domestically. Meanwhile, “Suicide Squad” set records for the month of August in 2016, leaving the month this year pacing over 34% behind.
After Labor Day weekend, the summer is expected to finish 15.7% behind last year’s benchmark.
As sour as domestic ticket sales have been, international and global box office sales are both pacing higher than last year — the year to date through Aug. 27 is up 2.8% internationally and 0.2% worldwide. That’s in large part due to China. The Middle Kingdom’s release “Wolf Warrior II” alone has grossed over $800 million, and almost none of that was in North America.
Perhaps the only upside to the dismal returns these past few weekends is that audiences seem eager to cash in on “It,” which comes out next weekend. Early tracking show it poised to break records, and estimates since then have — like a creepy, red, helium-filled balloon — only gone up.