ZAMM.COM: Mid-Summer Movies

By Martin Grove,

Mid-summer movies: Depending on your point of view, the summer is either half-over, or we still have half the season to enjoy.

Like most summers, this one's had its share of big hits, such as last weekend's $73 million opening of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the late-June launch of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which has grossed $209 million domestically to date.

As summer hits its mid-point, three new and very different wide releases are arriving this weekend to compete for moviegoers' time and money. While it will be a crowded weekend, it won't be quite as busy as it was this time last year when four new films came into the mid-summer marketplace.

This year, there's less intense competition between similar genre films. The three new wide releases are quite different from each other, which should help them find their audiences.

The weekend's new 3D animated family film is the PG-rated adventure comedy Planes: Fire & Rescue, directed by Roberts Gannaway. Its voice talents include Mae Whitman, Lucy Hale and Timothy Dalton.

Planes faces less direct competition for family audiences from the 3D PG-rated  animated comedy hit How to Train Your Dragon 2, which by then will be in its sixth week. Last year, Turbo had to contend with Despicable Me 2, which was only in its third week.

The first Planes opened Aug. 9, 2013 to $22.2 million and ended up doing $90.3 million in domestic theatres.

In Planes, world-famous air racer Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) learns his engine's been damaged and his racing career's over. Dusty turns to aerial firefighting, joining up with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his Smokejumpers team of all-terrain vehicles. Together, they battle a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.

Planes is tracking best with women over 25, which is to say moms-with-kids, the perfect audience for animated features. It's tracking nearly as well with men over 25, so moms can drag dads along, too.

The weekend's other two arrivals are both rated R, but for different reasons, and are both targeted to young adults. Last year, Conjuring was the only new R-rated film coming into the marketplace that weekend.

The R-rated comedy Sex Tape is directed by Jake Kasdan and stars Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and Rob Corddry.

Tape reunites Kasdan with Diaz and Segel, who starred in Teacher, which opened June 24, 2011 to $34.6 million and did $100.3 million domestically.

Segel says in the film's production notes that he, Diaz and Kasdan have a shorthand familiarity that made making a risky and risqué project like Tape seem much safer and saner.

"I’ve known Jake for 15 years now--he directed the pilot of Freaks and Geeks, so we’ve been friends for a long time," Segel noted. "We had a great time on Bad Teacher, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was a no-brainer to reteam the two of us with Cameron. There’s so much intimate stuff in the movie, that I think the fact that the three of us are so comfortable with each other gave us the opportunity to up the humor."

Diaz, too, enjoyed reteaming: "I was hoping for the opportunity to work with Jake and Jason again. The experience of Bad Teacher was so much fun, but it happened so fast. It was one of those films that had to be done very quickly--there was no time to play. This film was very different, and a very intimate experience for the three of us because of the content and the humor."

In tracking reports, Tape's doing best with women over 25 and nearly as well with under-25 women. It's tracking only slightly less with 25-plus males. So it's a potential three quadrant film in Hollywood marketing terms, which is very encouraging.

The film tells us that when Jay (Segel) and Annie (Diaz) first got together, their romantic connection was hot, but 10 years and two kids later, it's cooled down. Trying to fix it, they shoot a three hour video for their own viewing on their iPad, showing them trying every position described in The Joy of Sex. When they wake up the next morning, they find their very private video's somehow no longer private. Worse yet, it's readily available for viewing by lots of other people they know through the Cloud. Their race to reclaim it leads to a night they'll never forget.

The horror thriller The Purge: Anarchy is rated R for violence and language rather than for sex or nudity. It's from The Purge writer-director James DeMonaco and its producers include Michael Bay and Jason Blum.

It's the sequel to the 2013 hit The Purge, which opened June 7, 2013 to $34.1 million and wound up grossing $64.5 million domestically.

In the new episode, as before, citizens are getting ready for the country's annual 12 hours of sanctioned anarchy, during which all crimes are legal and all emergency services are suspended.

Anarchy's tracking best with under-25 females, the audience that typically turns out for horror thrillers. It's tracking equally well with men under-25 and could turn out to be a young adult couples choice.

Bottom line: Not having to contend with a fourth new wide opening, as was the case this time last year, will help all three new arrivals. But they'll also have to deal with a 600-pound gorilla in the movie marketplace--the PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi action drama Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is likely to enjoy a very strong second weekend that could keep it in first place.

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Ends March 7, 2017

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