This weekend’s newcomers had a tough time claiming their places on one of the most lukewarm blocks of an already tepid summer. The top performer among this dainty crop of fresh pictures was Newline and Warner Bros. young adult drama If I Stay . Starring Chloe Moretz, the film is about a girl who must decide which exit to take from a purgatory between this life and the next after she falls into a coma during a terrific car accident. With a production cost of just $11 million the picture’s $16.35 million 3rd place debut is good, though tracking services missed their mark as they had projected a debut closer to the $20 million range. But this was one of the slowest weekends of a slow summer, with a combo of mostly mild weather nationwide and the impending start of the new school year keeping potential viewers outdoors rather than crammed into air conditioned theatres as they have traditionally done during the long and hot days of August.
The next best finisher of this not so convincing gang of new additions was faith-based sports pic When The Game Stands Tall , which closed its opening run with a fifth place $9 million domestic tally. It comes from Affirm Films, established purveyors of religious and inspirational fare such as Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Faith Like Potatoes , and Soul Surfer . With game sequences coordinated by Friday Night Lights’ “ football choreographer” Allan Graff, the picture offers satisfying action for fans of the sport, though its dialogue and thematic content will have a tough time gaining traction beyond the increasingly well catered to deeply religious segment of filmgoers.
As opposed to the modest entries of the previous two titles, Frank Miller’s Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For had an unequivocally miserable time on its debut run in North America. Robert Rodriguez’s star studded black and white (and red) ultraviolent Noir sequel, featuring Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Ray Liotta, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Lady Gaga, among others, earned just $6.5 million and finished eighth in its first domestic weekend. Coming off of a reported $70 million budget, this represents a rather heavy hit for Miramax and Dimension films.
Guardians of the Galaxy , by now the stalwart leader of a thick-skinned crop of late summer holdovers, ran circles around the latest group new releases. A gold-medal $17.6 million domestic total in its fourth weekend pushed the Disney and Marvel Studios comic-inspired action-comedy past Transformers: Age of Extinction and into second place on the year’s US and Canadian table. It now has a $251.8 million North American cumulative, and will in all likelihood surpass the $257 million benchmark set by fellow Disney and Marvel picture Captain America: The Winter Soldier to become the top grossing film of 2014 in its home market before the close of this coming frame. Overseas it finished in second, behind Lucy’s somewhat surprising $34 million, (which includes a massive $6.3 million in Taiwan,) with a tally of $20.7 million. Its foreign cumulative now sits at $237.6 million. With German, Japanese, Italian, and Chinese releases still to come, this figure stands a good chance of a having a very significant spike before the film closes its already successful run.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 , which had shot into first place last weekend following a laudable Chinese debut, finished second overseas with $20.7 million. Not bad for a film that was released at the beginning of June. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended as number two at home on $16.8 million, and sixth abroad with an even $15 million. The Expendables 3 drummed up $16.3 million in an international outing that outpaced its slow domestic debut. The action all-star reunion flic landed in seventh in the US with just $6.6 million in its second weekend.
To end on a positive note, Argentine picture Relatos Selvajes , which premiered at Cannes in May, had a terrific $2.3 million launch in its home country, the biggest ever for a domestic film in the South American nation.
Next weekend we’ll see the launch of Pierce Brosnan’s “I swear I’m not James Bond anymore” spy thriller November Man , as well Universal’s horror pic As Above So Below .