It would seem Americans opted not to spend too much time at the movies this past Memorial Day weekend, with the box office showing meager numbers. The top film, Tomorrowland, earned only $33 million. No doubt this is a disappointing figure for the heads at Disney, who were hoping the dazzling visuals would be enough to fill the seats. The only other major release, Poltergeist, took in about $23 million, which is roughly what was expected of it. Personally, I feel reaching that number is an accomplishment given the paltry advertising and negative buzz surrounding the film. The incumbent box office winner, Pitch Perfect 2, dropped a staggering 56% to only $30 million. Meanwhile, the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road maintained a respectable $24 million thanks what must be tons of positive word-of-mouth. Will next week’s box office results be any better? Let’s see what Hollywood has to offer.
San Andreas – (PG-13) 114 min. – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a bona fide movie star. In an age where most audiences are not drawn in by names alone anymore, Johnson is a noted exception. Audiences will flock to theaters for a Dwayne Johnson movie, because they know they are almost always guaranteed a silly, loud, explosive good time. I wonder if San Andreas will have the same pull as other Johnson movies, since it’s ad campaign carries mostly somber tones over footage of natural destruction. The trailers don’t give off a “stupid fun” vibe, but more of a “this is a serious situation and we must treat it as such” one. This may be strategic, however, since they filmmakers probably don’t want to make light of the dangers of earthquakes so soon after the real-life one in the Philippines. Johnson plays a rescue-chopper pilot who, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake (and with another looming overhead), must rescue his estranged daughter. The movie will no doubt feature awe-inspiring scenes of catastrophe, but should feature a fair amount of dramatic heft. I’m skeptical of Johnson’s ability to carry a movie with actual acting. I do, however, think San Andreas made a smart move with it’s run time. At just under two hours, this is a summer blockbuster that won’t eat up your entire day. That might be enough to bring in ticket-buyers.
Aloha – (PG-13) – The only major release to challenge San Andreas is Cameron Crowe’s latest film, Aloha. Don’t expect too much from this seemingly sappy romantic dramedy. Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor that has returned to Hawaii, the home of some of his greatest accomplishments. There, he reconnects with an old love (Rachel McAdams) while also developing new feelings for stern Air Force watchdog assigned to him (Emma Stone). The trailers haven’t done much to make Aloha seem like it must be seen. Also, the fact that the film has come under fire for “whitewashing” Hawaii isn’t a good thing. I expect a very unimpressive box office run for Aloha, who seems to be relying entirely on Cooper and Stone to bring people in. Perhaps they should have cast The Rock instead.
The Bottom Line: This will probably be another disappointing weekend for the box office. San Andreas will get its fair share of audiences, but I question its overall appeal. Aloha will almost definitely be a non-factor. If you have to pick a movie to see, check out San Andreas, because it will at least have some exciting shots of cities crumbling. In all seriousness, though, just go see Mad Max: Fury Road again. For as long as that movie is still in theaters, nothing will be a better choice.