'War Dogs,' 'Kubo,' and 'Ben-Hur' will fall to the DC Comics adaptation

By Joey Nolfi
August 18, 2016 at 09:44 PM EDT
Melinda Sue Gordon; LAIKA / Focus Features; Philippe Antonello

Despite savage critical reviews and one very unhappy Jared Leto, Suicide Squad continues to clean up at the box office, raking in nearly $500 million worldwide as it approaches its third weekend in wide release. With a weak crop of newcomers landing in theaters at the tail end of the summer movie season, just as a number of schools around the country pluck students from multiplexes and back into the classroom, the David Ayer-directed film will likely land atop the weekend box office for the third consecutive time.

Here’s what the Aug. 19–21 box office chart might look like come Sunday morning: 

1. Suicide Squad – $20 million

Yes, the critics hate it. No, Viola Davis does not think she’ll receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in the film. But audiences have nonetheless embraced Warner Bros.’ DC Comics adaptation, Suicide Squad, with their wallets.

Though it’s faced very little competition since its Aug. 5 premiere, Suicide Squad still tumbled significantly (67 percent) from its record-breaking $133.7 million debut, but that wasn’t enough to keep it from notching a second No. 1 finish. Unless one of this week’s new titles overperforms the same way Sausage Party did last weekend, Suicide Squad should win the box office crown yet again as it cools down to the $20-25 million range. 

2. Sausage Party – $18 million 

Very few people anticipated Sausage Party‘s $34.3 million opening weekend, and yet the raunchy R-rated comedy debuted to one of the most astounding debuts for an R-rated animated title in history, one that was less Team America: World Police and more in-step with live action titles like Pineapple Express. The film’s hilarious premise (personified food items fight back against the humans who want to consume them), warm critical response, and effective marketing (its trailer was viewed nearly 183 million times before its release) should carry over into its second weekend, allowing the film to drop between 40-50 percent over its sophomore frame.

3. War Dogs – $14 million 

On top of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. has another wide release vying for box office dollars this weekend: War Dogs, an action-comedy starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. Hill typically performs well alongside Hollywood’s leading men, as proven by films like Wolf of Wall Street and both installments in the 21 Jump Street franchise. Pairing Teller with the comedy star, however, seems an odd match, though the film has received better-than-average reviews from critics thus far. With a production budget in the $40 million range and a slow international rollout planned (the film hits 21 territories this weekend), War Dogs should clear that number within its first month of release, as domestic projections place the film in the $12-$15 million range.

4. Kubo and the Two Strings – $14 million

Major animated titles have dominated the box office in 2016. With $477 million, Finding Dory is the top-earning domestic release so far this year, while Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets trail close behind at $341 million and $340 million, respectively. With glowing critical reaction and an impressive voice cast (Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey), LAIKA and Focus Features’ Kubo and the Two Strings deserves to be seen. The only problem is audiences might be suffering from a bit of genre fatigue, as evidenced by the poor performance of Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course in July. Still, Kubo hits 3,260 North American screens as LAIKA’s best-reviewed film to date, though it’s still projected to earn a modest number in the mid-to-low teens.

5. Ben-Hur – $12 million

On the high end of the studio budget scale, Paramount’s $100 million Ben-Hur remake also finds itself on the low end of box office projections. The studio is more optimistic than industry trackers, however, as they’ve forecasted a debut in the $20 million range, though that seems unlikely given the tepid response from critics and a general lack of interest across social media platforms (the film has just over 200,000 likes on its Facebook page).

Paramount reportedly targeted Christian audiences in its marketing, selling the costly picture as a faith-based foray while also gunning for general audiences with trailers that highlighted the film’s action-intensive scenes. As is the case with most mega-budgeted action films released in recent years, Ben-Hur will likely have to look to foreign territories to recoup its costs. Similar titles like Pompeii ($23.2 million domestic on a $100 million budget) and Exodus: Gods and Kings ($65 million domestic on a $140 million budget) fared better overseas, amassing $94 million and $203 million from global markets, respectively.

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