ZAMM.COM: August Action

By Martin Grove,

August action: With one more month of great summer playing time remaining, Hollywood's putting something for everyone on megaplex screens throughout August.

New wide releases targeted to fanboys young and old, families and females of all ages will compete for moviegoers' time and money as summer winds down and officially ends Labor Day. August got off on the right foot last weekend with a blazing $27.4 million launch for the R-rated action crime comedy 2 Guns.

Last weekend also saw the $20 million R-rated horror thriller The Conjuring reach a highly profitable $108.6 million after just three weeks in theaters.

Meanwhile, the PG-13 Oscar contender drama Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett, continued dazzling in limited release. Expanding from six to 50 theaters, it took in a huge $2 million, bringing its cume to $3 million. Overall, last weekend's ticket sales were up nearly 16 percent from a year earlier.

Here's a look at what to expect for the rest of August:

This week's jam-packed with four new wide releases, two of which will hit theaters Wednesday to get a jump on the weekend.

Tracking reports have men heading to the R-rated sci-fi action adventure Elysium, from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, opening Friday. It's a double digit first choice for 25-plus males and its next best scores are from under-25 males. District 9 was a big sleeper hit for Blomkamp, opening Aug. 14, 2009 to $37.4 million and getting to $115.6 million in domestic theaters.

In the film, set in the year 2154, only the super-rich live on the space station Elysium. Everyone else lives on an overcrowded, ruined Earth. The ruthlessly anti-immigration Government Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster) can't stop those on Earth from trying to get in. Then one man (Matt Damon) takes on a dangerous mission that could bring equality to these two polarized worlds.

The PG-rated 3D fantasy action adventure Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid director Thor Freudenthal, opening Wednesday, is based on the novel by Rick Riordan. It's tracking best with under-25 females and next best and with women over 25 and under-25 males.

The franchise's first episode, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, opened Feb. 12, 2010 to $31.2 million and did $88.8 million domestically.

In the movie, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), son of the Sea God Poseidon, journeys with friends to the uncharted waters of the Sea of Monsters--aka the Bermuda Triangle--to reclaim the mythical Golden Fleece and prevent the return of the ancient evil Titans.

The R-rated comedy We're The Millers, opening Wednesday, is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. It's tracking best with under-25 females and next best with women 25-plus.

The story revolves around a pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) who creates a fake family and hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife to help him smuggle a large shipment of weed out of Mexico.

The PG-rated 3D animated comedy adventure Planes, featrung the voices of Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Teri Hatcher, opening Friday, is directed by Klay. It's tracking best with 25-plus women, the moms-with-kids demo that animated features need to attract.

In the film, Dusty, a crop dusting plane, hopes to compete in a big aerial race, although he can't get past his fear of heights. But with a little help from his friends, Dusty's ready to realize his dreams.

The following week will feel even more crowded since all four new wide releases are arriving Friday, Aug. 16.

The R-rated action comedy Kick-Ass 2 is directed by Jeff Wadlow. As you'd expect, it's tracking best with men of all ages. The first Kick-Ass opened Apr. 16, 2010 to $19.8 million and wound up grossing $48.1 million domestically.

In this follow-up to the 2010 hit Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) are being hunted by the evil Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Also on board: Jim Carrey as born again ex-mobster Colonel Stars and Stripes.

The high stakes PG-13 thriller Paranoia, from director Robert Luketic, is tracking best with men and women over 25.

Set in a deadly world of greed and deception, two powerful tech billionaires (Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman) are bitter rivals out to destroy each other. When a young entry level employee (Liam Hemsworth) is seduced by their unlimited wealth and power, he becomes trapped in a life-and-death game of corporate espionage.

The biographical drama Lee Daniels' The Butler is directed by Lee Daniels. It's tracking best with 25-plus women.

In the film, Forrest Whitaker stars as Cecil Gaines, who in his long career as a White House butler has been an eyewitness to private events during eight presidential administrations. Among the historical characters portrayed are: Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Mamie Eisenhower (Melissa Leo), John F. Kennedy (James Marsden), Jackie Kennedy (Minka Kelly), Lyndon B. Johnson (Liev Schreiber), Richard Nixon (John Cusack), Ronald Regan (Alan Rickman), Nancy Regan (Jane Fonda) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nelsan Ellis).

Meanwhile, the PG-13 biographical drama Jobs, directed by Joshua Michael Stern, istracking best with 25-plus women.

The film stars Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs in this look at the late Apple chief's life.

August's next week will be crowded with four more wide releases, three of which go head-to-head Fri., Aug. 23. The one early arrival on Wed., Aug. 21 is the PG-13 action adventure The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, directed by Harald Zwart and based on the best-selling novel by Cassandra Clare.

The film focuses on Clary Fray (Lily Collins), an ordinary New York teenager who discovers she's descended from Shadowhunters, secret half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After her mother (Lena Headey) disappears, the struggle takes Clary to an alternate world hidden within our own of demons, warlocks, vampires and werewolves.

The R-rated horror thriller You're Next, directed by Adam Wingard and starring Sharni Vinson and Nicholas Tucci, is a new twist on home-invasion horror. It's not on tracking reports yet, but should do best with under-25 females, the core audience for most horror films.

In the film, a gang of masked, ax-wielding murderers descend upon the Davison family's reunion, the hapless victims seem trapped--until an unlikely guest proves to be the most talented killer of all.

The R-rated sci-fi action comedy The World's End is directed by Edgar Wright and stars Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman.

Set 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them is eager to do another drinking marathon to try to reach the fabled pub, The World's End. In doing so they realize their real struggle is for the future--not just their own, but humankind's. Reaching The World's End is actually the least of their worries.

The PG-13 action drama The Grandmaster is directed by Kar Wai Wong and stars Ziyi

Zhang, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Chen Chang. The movie takes a look at the life of martial arts master Ip Man, who trained Bruce Lee.

The following week will see the R-rated crime mystery drama Closed Circuit open Wed., Aug. 28. Directed by John Crowley, it stars Rebecca Hall, Eric Bana and Ciaran Hinds.

In the film, lawyers and ex-lovers Martin (Bana) and Claudia (Hall) find themselves in danger after joining an international terrorist's defense team.

Three other wide releases arrive Fri., Aug. 30, including the 3D music documentary One Direction: This Is Us, directed by Super Size Me helmer Morgan Spurlock.

The documentary is an intimate all-access look at life on the road for the global music phenomenon One Direction tells the remarkable story of the boys' meteoric rise to fame--from humble hometown beginnings to competing on The X-Factor to conquering the world.

Given One Direction's huge popularity, One should generate late August box office heat and will be well positioned to perform over Labor Day weekend, the summer's last big holiday weekend.

Talking recently to Morgan Spurlock about making the film for a column that will run here later this month, he told me this was a project he didn't have to think twice about signing on to direct:

When the studio called and said, 'Have you ever heard of this band One Direction?' I was like, 'Of course, I have. They're like one of the biggest things out there.' And they said, 'Do you want to come meet with us about making a movie?' I was like, 'Absolutely, yes, I do.'

The PG-13 action thriller Getaway, directed by Courtney Solomon, stars Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight. 

In  the film, a former race car driver Brent Magna (Hawke) desperate to save his kidnapped wife, commandeers a custom Shelby Cobra Mustang, taking its unwitting owner (Gomez) on a high-speed race against time at the mysterious kidnapper's command.

August will end on a horror thriller note with Satanic (formerly titled Random). Directed by OIiver Blackburn, it stars Ashley Greene, Lucas Til and Haley Bennett.

The story revolves around a college coed (Bennett), who is alone on campus over Thanksgiving vacation--and is targeted by a group of outcasts whom she must manage to outwit.

Bottom line: Hollywood's had its ups and downs this summer, but overall ticket sales have boosted comparisons to this time last year. With revenues now almost flat with last year, strong August action can put 2013 in the lead.  

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