With plenty of free explosions, devastation, and embarrassing relatives already on hand thanks to Fourth of July fireworks, Hurricane Arthur, and the holiday weekend, Americans didn’t have to pay for any of those things at the movies—and so they didn’t. Today analysts are falling all over themselves to declare this weekend’s box office “the weakest… in at least a decade” (Variety), “the worst… since 1999” (Box Office Mojo), and according to BuzzFeed, “the lowest grossing… since the 1980s, when adjusting for inflation.” However you want to frame or hyperbolize the numbers, the news is the same: Many people simply chose not to go to the movies over a weekend when that’s traditionally considered some sort of patriotic duty, causing a 43-percent drop from last year’s sales, and setting 2014 on path to be one of the weakest summer seasons in [insert whatever time frame and qualifier makes you feel comfortable].
There are numerous factors being cited for why sales were so slow: the aforementioned hurricane, the continuing allure of the World Cup, Independence Day falling on Friday and shortening the weekend, those damnable Redcoats, etc. But the more obvious explanation is there just wasn’t anything worth seeing. Faced with a choice between two unstoppable forces destroying everything in their path for inscrutable reasons, audiences chose Transformers over Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, though it was a modest victory for Michael Bay’s latest toy-throwing tantrum. Age Of Extinction dropped 64 percent in its second weekend with a domestic take of just $36.4 million, and it’s already destined to be the lowest-grossing movie in the franchise. Not that it particularly matters, of course, seeing as it’s already earned $212.8 million in China, and it’ll overtake Avatar this week as the highest-grossing movie ever there, in the country where studios have at last declared their independence from American consumers.
And while Warner Bros.’ Dan Fellman called Melissa McCarthy’s latest a “strong number two” in an instantly regrettable quote to Variety—one that’s already provided nearly as many snickers as Tammy, judging from its mediocre “C+” CinemaScore from audiences—it isn’t all that impressive. Even with two extra days tacked onto its opening, Tammy’s five-day run is well below the three-day debuts for The Heat and Identity Thief, suggesting that crowds would have preferred at least a hint of a new concept behind McCarthy’s antics, besides just giving her a new ’90s novelty song to dance to.
Speaking of diminishing returns, the slow starts for third-place finisher Deliver Us From Evil ($9.5 million) and Earth To Echo ($8.3 million in sixth place) confirms that audiences may finally be wearying of exorcism and found-footage movies—or, at least, confirms it to producers who have been ignoring those signs over the last few years. Deliver Us From Evil opened well below director Scott Derrickson’s Sinister and far off from last year’s The Conjuring, instead joining The Quiet Ones in a summer of failed attempts at horror counterprogramming that you’ve already forgotten about. And despite a lack of real family competition, Earth To Echo had one of the worst openings for a found-footage movie ever—worse even than Apollo 18, which was the last time found footage was supposedly dead—suggesting that the gimmick may have finally been killed through oversaturation and obnoxious KFC “selfie” commercials. Or maybe audiences just didn’t want to see something that sounds like it’s a Jefferson Starship album.
Finally, an unusually quiet weekend for independent films saw next to nothing of note, save for the expanded releases for Begin Again ($1.3 million in 175 theaters), Snowpiercer ($999,000 in 250 theaters), and Dinesh D’Souza’s America, which went from three theaters to 175, earning another $2.73 million from Americans who spent their Fourth of July angrily retweeting Drudge Report articles. Also worth mentioning is the re-release of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, which milked another $160,000 out of its latest British Invasion this weekend. Of course, America wasn’t putting up much of a fight this time.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.