LOS ANGELES – Hollywood’s summertime blues are only going to get worse this weekend as the box office limps toward the end of its weakest summer in at least a decade, in terms of domestic ticket sales.
Box-office revenue in the United States and Canada since the first weekend of May is down 13 percent from the same period last year, according to ComScore, because of a multitude of disappointing films. And there’s little relief in sight this weekend, with none of the major new releases expected to do much business.
The contenders include the Weinstein Co.’s new cartoon “Leap,” Sony Pictures’ inspirational pastor drama “All Saints,” and a martial arts origin story called “Birth of the Dragon,” all of which are expected to open well short of $10 million. That means the path could be clear for Lionsgate’s action-comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” to top the U.S. and Canada charts for the second weekend in a row with about $10 million, which would be about a 50 percent drop from last weekend.
“Hitman’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, opened with a respectable $21 million last weekend. It cost $30 million to make.
“Leap,” an animated adventure about an orphan girl who dreams of becoming a dancer in Paris, is expected to lead the tepid gathering of newcomers with a soft $5 million to $7 million in domestic ticket sales, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
The picture features the voices of Elle Fanning, Kate McKinnon and pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen, among others. Nat Wolff (“The Fault in Our Stars”) voices the girl’s companion, who pursues his own ambition to become a famous inventor.
The movie is supposed to kick-start a new line of business for Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who founded the Weinstein Co. in 2005. This month the company announced the launch of its animated film label, dubbed Mizchief, to compete in the crowded family film market. The Weinsteins, normally known as indie film impresarios, have dabbled in the kids movie space before, with films including “Paddington,” a hybrid of animation and live action released in 2015, and the live-action “Spy Kids” series that began in 2001.
Weinstein Co.’s next animated release is expected to be “The Guardian Brothers,” produced by China’s Light Chaser Animation Studios. That film was released in China last year under the title “Little Door Gods.”
Elsewhere at the multiplex, Blumhouse Productions’ experimental label BH Tilt and WWE Studios will target martial arts enthusiasts with the San Francisco-set “Birth of the Dragon,” about a 1960s showdown between Kung Fu master Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee, before the latter became an international star.
BH Tilt distributes genre movies for niche audiences and limits costs by focusing its marketing efforts online and releasing the films in fewer theaters than typical studio releases. Movies from the label, which have included “The Belko Experiment” and Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno,” tend to open with $3 million to $5 million in the U.S. and Canada. BH Tilt is hoping for an opening of at least $3.25 million for “Birth of the Dragon.”
That leaves “All Saints,” the latest movie from Sony Pictures’ faith-based division Affirm Films, best known for Christian hits such as “Miracles From Heaven” and “War Room.” John Corbett (“Sex and the City”) plays salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock who tries to save the tiny, struggling church he was ordered to shut down. Sony and independent analysts declined to give box-office projections for the film because it is playing on less than 800 screens.
Evangelical movies sometimes get a boost by marketing directly to the faithful and working with pastors and other influential faith leaders, but they have been hit-or-miss at the box office. The last genuine mainstream hit in the genre was Lionsgate’s “The Shack,” which received a wide release in March. It opened with $16 million in 2,888 theaters on its way to $57 million in ticket sales domestically.
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