This isn’t quite a conventional box office report, but it will have to do. Since we aren’t talking about either the intended release of Minions: The Rise of Gru (pushed to next July) or even Russell Crowe’s Unhinged (pushed to July 31, 2020), the closest thing to a notable opening weekend for the holiday frame is the $282,000 domestic debut in 69 drive-in theaters (nice?) for IFC’s Relic. Natalie Erika James’s well-reviewed haunted house movie, written by James White and Christian White and starring Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcoate, is by default the biggest opening weekend we’ve had at least since at least April.
Presuming we count whatever Trolls World Tour unofficially earned in limited theatrical release on the weekend of April 10 (concurrently with its PVOD launch), the Relic is the biggest opening weekend for a new movie in almost three months. But if we count movies that actually reported box office totals, then Relic is the biggest opening since the weekend of March 13, when The Hunt ($5.3 million), Bloodshot ($9.2 million) and I Still Believe ($9.1 million) gave us what for now was the last weekend of conventional nationwide theatrical moviegoing. Becky’s $205,957 opening weekend (which placed second to The Wretched’s sixth frame) in early June is no longer summer’s biggest opening weekend.
What’s interesting is that it’s not available to rent or buy online at the moment. The film will expand to available conventional theaters and VOD on July 10, but for the moment it’s only playing in the aforementioned drive-ins. Whether that contributed to the (comparatively) high opening weekend I can only speculate, but it obviously didn’t hurt. I have not seen the film yet, but I have seen the terrific 1997 Peter Hyams-directed The Relic that is currently streaming for free on Amazon AMZN +0.7%. That golden oldie, starring Penelope Anne-Miller, Tom Sizemore and Linda Hunt, is a terrific big-scale monster movie, featuring a terrifying creature that (when finally revealed) looks a lot like Snuffaluffagus.
So if you want to watch Snuffy kill an ungodly number of folks in a Chicago museum and be reminded of a time when Hollywood briefly reacted to the success of Jurassic Park by throwing real money ($60 million in this case) at old-school giant monster movies (Species and Deep Rising come to mind), you can pair up James’ slow-burn horror movie with Hyam’s aggressively grindhouse spectacular for an ideal double feature. Anyway, I’ll catch up with Relic either on July 10 or earlier if I can grab a screener. But in a summer without new “big” theatrical releases, Relic is the closest thing we’ve got to an Independence Day smash.
In terms of the VOD charts, the situation is slightly more complicated. Rod Lurie’s The Outpost (which I have seen, natch) was supposed to get a nationwide Fathom Events premiere on July 2 (one day after the initial opening date of Unhinged) before circumstances scuttled that. I don’t have numbers for its limited theatrical run at the moment, but I can say that it was the top movie of the weekend on iTunes and (at least) the top new movie on Google Play and FandangoNow over the holiday. That may be arbitrary (since we don’t have actual numbers to dissect), but it’s a relative win for a very good movie that clearly picked the right opening weekend.
Directed by the journalist and film critic-turned filmmaker responsible for the likes of The Contender, Nothing But the Truth, The Last Castle and the 2011 remake of Straw Dogs, the Scott Eastwood/Orlando Bloom actioner is based on Jack Tapper’s non-fiction book detailing the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan. The film has a grounded, procedural vibe and is paced like a disaster movie, complete with “hints” (early attacks) and “clues” (tragically dismissed warnings) about the coming perils. There’s even an early beat where Eastwood explains how he would attack the base if he were doing so, in a scene that feels like James Cameron’s “let’s use computer animation to explain how the ship is going to sink” beat in Titanic.The second half contains a stunning 40-minute action scene, horrifically chaotic and arbitrary yet always coherent and geographically specific, as Taliban forces descend en-masse toward the base (inconveniently located at the center of a deep valley). Lurie, a West Point graduate, balances the line between being respectful and being patronizing. The phrase “Thank you for your service” is used as a grim punchline among the troops, and a reoccurring theme is that the mission is merely “to survive.” The action is truly immersive in a way that will frankly make you regret not seeing this in a theater. Still, it’s worth the rental fee and I’d suggest an HDTV instead of a laptop. It’s one of Lurie’s best films.
In terms of other platforms, Patriots Day is still the top movie on Netflix NFLX +4.8%, even though Desperados is now close behind and thus their top “new” movie. The rom-com caper, starring Nasim Pedrad (The New Girl, Aladdin, Saturday Night Live) as a woman who brings her friends with her to Mexico in order to erase an incriminating email sent to a new boyfriend, isn’t quite “good,” but it gets better as it goes along and successfully changes course right when all hope seems lost. It’s oddly similar to the recent David Spade/Lauren Lapkus comedy The Wrong Missy, even though the characters this time around are less cartoonish. At the very least, it’s 3,472% sexier than 365.
Oh, and to the surprise of absolutely no one, Hamilton is the top movie on Disney DIS -1%+. It must be nice for a Disney movie to be the top trending title as opposed to re-runs of The Simpsons, but I digress.