December 11, 2023

Box office preview: Can Expend4bles save the September sequels?


The month of September started out with several sequels generally doing okay, but things have been slowing down considerably the last few weeks, so we’ll have to see if “Expend4bles” does any better. Read on for Gold Derby’s box office preview.

It’s been nine years since Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone last assembled their team of mercenaries together for “The Expendables 3,” and this week’s “Expend4bles” reunites them with Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture and with new members of the team, played by 50 Cent, Tony Jaa, Indonesian action star Iko Uwais (“The Raid”), as well as Megan Fox and Andy Garcia rounding out the cast.

The general premise for these movies was a sound one, bringing together so many popular action stars, with earlier movies including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li and wrestling superstar “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The first movie opened with $34.8 million in 2010, going on to make $103 million in North America and $268.3 million globally. Two years later, the sequel, “The Expendables 2,” opened slightly lower and made slightly less domestically, but made over $300 million worldwide. Two years after that was “The Expendables 3,” opening with $15.9 million and making only $39.3 million domestically, but it made over $209 million including overseas money. That last bit is probably why they decided to make a fourth movie, despite “Expendables 3” barely being profitable. (These movies cost roughly $100 million, probably a lot of that going to the talent.)

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The problem is that “Expend4bles” is literally a star-driven movie where you won’t be able to have any stars out there doing promotion due to the strike, and even director Scott Waugh (“Need for Speed”) doesn’t have the name draw to instill confidence in the doubters.

That takes us back to Statham and Stallone, the former who was just in “Meg 2: The Trench” over the summer, which made over $300 million globally. Other than a tiny role in James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3” earlier this year, Stallone hasn’t really been seen on the big screen in a major way since pre-pandemic, but 2019’s “Rambo: Last Blood” only made $44.8 million domestic. His appearances in the “Creed” movies opposite Michael B. Jordan fared much better, but it feels like Stallone may be on the verge of a resurrection with a new Netflix doc called “Sly” having just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Essentially, Lionsgate should have just moved this to 2024, because the movie is going into the weekend with very little of the promotion it needs for anyone to even know the movie exists, and after the showing for the third movie, one wonders if anyone cares. And yet, it should still bring in enough business to be the #1 movie with between $13 and 15 million, but that’s only because neither “The Nun II” nor “A Haunting in Vegas” will make more than $10 million themselves.

SEE Box office: All time domestic top-grossing movies

Neon will release Bishal Dutta’s horror film, “It Lives Inside,” into roughly 1,800 theaters this weekend, months after its South by Southwest premiere back in March. It’s a somewhat rare PG-13 horror movie about a teen girl named Samidha (Megan Suri), who starts experiencing supernatural terrors in the form of a flesh-eating beast from Hindi mythology known as the Pishacha. This gives “It Lives Inside” quite a unique spin on the horror films we’ve seen in recent years, although the question is how many Americans will be interested in learning something new, even in the form of a horror movie?

Neon’s most recent wide release horror film was Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool” in late January, and that only opened with $2.5 million in roughly the same number of theaters, though that had name stars like Alexander Skarsgaard and Mia Goth, which “It Lives Inside” doesn’t have. Even so, that PG-13 rating means younger teens can go see “It Lives Inside” with their friends, unlike all the R-rated fare currently in theaters. We’ve also seen a growing interest in films from Bollywood, a la the recent hit “Jawan,” so that’s another positive for “It Lives Inside,” although I still think it’s only good for around $3 million this weekend or slightly more. Oddly, that might be enough to finally bump “Barbie” out of the Top 5, though that might be helped by its IMAX release.

Opening in about 273 IMAX theaters across North America is the 1984 Talking Heads concert film, “Stop Making Sense,” directed by the late, great Jonathan Demme, coming off a fantastic IMAX Live Experience preview event last week that reunited the band and set a new record for such an event. It should do fairly well this weekend, but it will be sharing those IMAX screens with “Barbie,” now that “Oppenheimer” has relinquished them, but it might be able to squeak into the Top 10. “Stop Making Sense” will get a release into more theaters on Sept. 29 also via A24.

Sony’s “Dumb Money” will expand into roughly 200 theaters ahead of its wide release on Sept. 29, but that probably won’t be enough to get it into the Top 10 based on its platform release this past weekend.

“Once” director John Carney’s new movie “Flora and Son,” starring Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will get a quick one-week release following premieres at Sundance and the recent Toronto fest before streaming on Apple TV+ next week.

Check back on Sunday to see how the movies did.

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