The summer box office has entered the Dud Zone.
Unless either “R.I.P.D.” or "Turbo" pulls off a major tracking turnaround by July 19, the frame will likely mark the fourth straight week that a $100 million-plus film flops — an unprecedented skid in the Tentpole Age.
This summer will see at least 20 films with budgets over $100 million — six more than last year. With so much popcorn competition, major casualties were a given.
But this run of high-megaton bombs comes at an odd time: Right after record-breaking grosses in May and June that put summer 2013 on pace to be the biggest ever. Since then, it's been an ugly run for would-be blockbusters.
Sony’s $150 million “White House Down” started the slide with less than $25 million the weekend of June 28. Disney’s $225 million “The Lone Ranger” followed with $29 million over the July 4 weekend. Now, Guillermo del Toro's $180 million giant robot extravaganza “Pacific Rim" is tracking to open at around $30 million this weekend.
Early projections have the Jeff Bridges-Ryan Reynolds tale "R.I.P.D." opening below $15 million, a dismal return on a $130 million production budget.
And the outlook isn’t much brighter for “Turbo,” the $135 million DreamWorks Animation family film about a snail with dreams of speed, which opens that same weekend.
The summer's surfeit of tentpole movies drove the box office to record levels in the season's first two months, but the competition is clearly starting to take a toll. "Pacific Rim" will be trying to lure action fans this weekend, but will compete with four big-budget movies of the same genre: "The Lone Ranger," "White House Down," "Man of Steel" and "World War Z" — all of which are still in more than 2,000 theaters.
There are a few bright spots ahead this month.
Sony’s $80 million Adam Sandler comedy “Grown Ups 2” is expected to open Friday at between $40 million and $45 million, roughly the number the original managed. And Fox’s Hugh Jackman action film "Wolverine” is projected to debut with around $70 million on July 26.
Despite the bombs of the past two weeks, the box office remains nearly 13 percent of ahead of last summer. We’ll see where that number is at later this month, but a summer record remains a possibility at this point.
With July sure to come up short of 2012, especially since “Dark Knight Rises” opened to $168 million in that month last year, the key will be August. It looks potentially strong, due more to the number of wide releases rather than a single likely blockbuster.
Here's what's on tap:
Aug. 2: Universal’s Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg action film “Two Guns” is tracking at $45 million and gaining momentum. Sony has “The Smurfs 2” on that same weekend.
Aug. 9: Sony TriStar rolls out the Mark Wahlberg-Jodie Foster sci-fi movie “Elysium,” which is tracking at $30 million and building buzz. The Warner Bros. comedy “We’re the Millers,” Fox’s “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and “Planes” from Disney Animation also open.
Aug. 16: The following week has four wide openers as well. Universal’s action comedy “Kick-Ass 2” is looking at a $25 million opening, according to early tracking. Also debuting that week are Open Road’s Steve Jobs biopic “Jobs,” Relativity’s thriller “Paranoia” and the Weinstein Company drama that may or may not be called “The Butler.”
Aug. 23: Sony’s fantasy drama “Mortal Instrument: City of Bones,” along with the Lionsgate horror movie “You’re Next” and Focus Features’ Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg comedy “The World’s End.”
Aug. 30: The last week of summer will also feature four wide releases: Sony TriStar’s concert film “One Direction: This is Us,” the Weinstein Company’s horror film “Satanic” and two thrillers,”Getaway” from Warner Bros. and Focus Features’ “Closed Circuit.”