In case you haven’t been paying enough attention — which, given the ticket totals these days, you haven’t — Hollywood has been drunk-stumbling through its release slate post–Guardians of the Galaxy. That is, it was another embarrassing weekend at the box office. If there’s a worse weekend than Labor Day at the box office, it’s typically the weekend after Labor Day, when the overwhelming need to buy school supplies or file our taxes late keep us all away from the multiplex. But much like an OkCupid date who takes you to Chipotle, the movie business managed to disappoint even by those immensely lowered standards. With only one new wide release — faith-based film The Identical — the domestic box office tumbled 20 percent from last year. The cumulative $64 million isn’t just the lowest box-office weekend of the year: It’s the lowest weekend in more than a decade.
Of course, with most of Hollywood in the great white north gobbling up the Toronto International Film Festival’s awards-bait smorgasbord, everyone could avert their eyes from the disappointment and focus on the gourmet poutine at The Equalizer after-party. That’s right, Hollywood, just stare at Denzel Washington’s hypnotic gaze and this will all be over soon enough. Just look into his eyes; no, don’t look over there at Box Office Mojo. That’s not important anymore. Just lap up Denzel’s smile and remember those golden days when Tom Cruise could open a movie about a white samurai. But if you must know the winners and losers on this deserted battlefield …
Winner: Guardians of the Galaxy
Yet again, Guardians of the Galaxy trounced the far-from-formidable competition to add another $10.2 million to its nearly $295 million total. It also gets the coveted box-office Grand Slam: It’s spent four weekends at no. 1, putting it in the rarefied company of The Dark Knight, Avatar, and The Hunger Games—the only movies to pull that off in the past decade. And at $586 million, it has now surpassed the original Iron Man’s global total and it still hasn’t opened in China or Japan.
PS: Guardians passed Man of Steel’s $291 million. Yes, a talking tree with a three-word vocabulary is a bigger draw than Superman. That also makes Star-Lord a bigger hero than every other cookie-cutter studio superhero out there, with the exception of the holy trinity: Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. Get ready for Blue Swede covers in every superhero trailer for the foreseeable future.
Winner: The Rest of the World
While we Americans turned our noses up at Hollywood’s distinctly un–farm fresh offerings, the rest of the world continues to gobble up our cultural Big Macs. The top 10 studio films internationally made 18 percent more this year compared to last. Even Hercules and The Expendables 3 managed to make some more scratch and take some of the sting off their poor domestic box-office totals. Of course, as those sober realists at The Wall Street Journal love to remind everyone, box-office grosses — international ones especially — don’t give you the real picture when it comes to studio revenues. But at this point, Hollywood will take any dollar, euro, yuan, or conch shell it can get.
Loser: Fake Elvis
This weekend, even God couldn’t save the box office. The only new wide release, The Identical — the faith-based double-Elvis movie to end all faith-based double-Elvis movies — slipped on a fried peanut butter–and-banana sandwich and skidded out of the top 10. In less fraught times, it wouldn’t be a shocker that a film that uses the age-old question of “What if Elvis’s stillborn twin had survived and found his life’s purpose impersonating his brother?” as metaphor for the state of Israel grossed a minuscule $1.9 million on a $12 million budget. But with the $62 million success of God’s Not Dead and When the Game Stands Tall’s modest $23 million, even secular-minded Hollywood watchers wondered if the underserved Christian moviegoing public, enticed by a cast that included Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, and Seth Green, would come to the rescue this weekend. But despite opening in close to 2,000 theaters, The Identical wound up in 11th place. On the plus side, you now know that Elvis had a stillborn twin. Do with that what you will; just don’t try to make a movie out of it.
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
Whatever grief Jennifer Lawrence must endure over that pesky nude photo controversy, at least she can drown her sorrows in her new Guinness World Record. Thanks to the $1.5 billion earned by the Hunger Games series so far, Lawrence is now the highest-grossing movie heroine of all time. Download that, Internet pervs!
Winner: Other Heroines Not Named Katniss Everdeen
And she’s not alone. In an attempt to find something good to say about the box office these days, the New York Times points out that over the past year “female-focused mega-movies” (that is, Gravity, Frozen, Maleficent, and The Hunger Games) have taken in $3.6 billion worldwide. In other words: Strong, indomitable women are a box-office draw. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise considering women comprise a loyal 52 percent of moviegoers, and it’s far from shocking to those of us with Frozen-obsessed young nieces who still lose it every time you show them the Let It Go/High School Musical mash-up. But seeing as it’s so hard to pull a mega-profit these days, this whole women-at-the–box office thing might become a trend: The long-salivated-over Ghostbusters 3 has now become a reboot with an all-female cast, and Disney,1 looking at Maleficent’s $749 million worldwide gross, has already started working on Maleficent 2. If female-centric remakes of ’80s blockbusters actually become a thing, here’s my no. 1 wish: Beverly Hills Cop with The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams.
Your Sad Weekend Top Five, for the Record
Disney owns Grantland
1. Guardians of the Galaxy, $10,160,000
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, $6,500,000
3. If I Stay, $5,575,000
4. Let’s Be Cops, $5,400,000
5. The November Man, $4,200,000