Back in July, The Dark Knight Rises continued an amazing summer season of box office records. Throughout August, many new titles stepped up to the plate and tried to be the next big summer blockbuster…all failed. But what was surprising was the sheer amount of new films that were released during the month.
A remake of Total Recall and a reboot of The Bourne Identity franchise both tried their hand at becoming August’s big hit. Both have seemingly under-performed, done in by the sheer glut of new releases that took over theaters. Even The Expendables sequel and The Campaign, last month’s big comedy, still haven’t made back their budget. The month’s big success stories ended up coming from the most unlikely of places. The documentary 2016: Obama’s America (originally released back in June) and the Bollywood action title Ek Tha Tiger became sensations.
In the end, the films released in August 2012 are more notable for their missteps and failures. Spike Lee’s latest, Red Hook Summer, was supposed to be a return to form for the director, but was panned by critics and went largely unnoticed. Whitney Houston’s swan song performance in Sparkle got good reviews, but the film didn’t, and subsequently never found the audience it was expecting.
With August closing out, the summer season of Blockbusters is officially gone. We now move into an arguably more respectable season of films vying for awards attention. Still, it’s strange to look back at the month of August and wonder what went wrong for so many films. Here is what you need to remember about the movies in August 2012:
Biggest Hit: The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) [Still] Even though the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises was marred by the theater shooting in Colorado, the film still took in a comfortable $547M by the end of July. By the end of August, that number had risen to $966M. None of the films released in August came anywhere close to those numbers. Even The Bourne Legacy, last month’s smallest failure, brought in only $143M against a perceived $170M budget.
Biggest Flop: The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (G) There was a kamikaze blitz of advertising plastered all across the web for this children’s film. Even quadrust.com festooned itself with an expensive-looking template inlay promoting the movie. Its grand total for opening day was only $102K, which wouldn’t be too terrible, until you factor in that it was a wide release, opening in over 2100 theaters. That’s one epic failure! The Apparition also tanked thanks in part to an almost nonexistent advertising campaign. Opening in 12th place with $2.8M in its first week out, The Apparition closed out the month with a total take of $3.6M, even after many cities never saw the film open in any of their theaters (as was the case here in D.C.).
Biggest Surprise: 2016: Obama’s America (PG) Given a wide release to coincide with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary criticizing President Obama has become a hit among conservative moviegoers. The film struck a nerve with Republicans, who haven’t had many films marketed to their interests. Champions of the film have heralded the director as the Michael Moore of conservatives. Whether or not that’s a compliment or a criticism is all based on your point of view.
Biggest Animated Film: ParaNorman (PG) Not making the kind of money that a Pixar film would, ParaNorman bolstered great reviews and was the only animated film to be released in August. Sadly, the film only garnered $51M worldwide by the end of the month. Maybe not exactly a triumph, it still has a little while longer in theaters to make its money back.
Surprise Indie: 2016: Obama’s America (PG) When the film was released two months ago, there was no indication that it would be the kind of sleeper hit that it’s become. Critics didn’t like it, but it became one of the first conservative films to find the audience it was searching for. Headlong into election season, it was the right film at the right time.
Foreign Cinema: Ek Tha Tiger (NR) Quickly becoming of one of the highest grossing films of all time in India, this action-romance from Bollywood might be the country’s biggest film of the year. Other well-received foreign films from July 2012 are: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Long men fei jia), Chicken with Plums (Poulet aux prunes), Neighboring Sounds (O som ao redor), Meet the Fokkens (Ouwehoeren) and Beloved (Les bien-aimés).
Teasers & Trailers: Seven Psychopaths (R). From the director of the hit indie In Bruges comes this strange new film about a screenwriter who gets caught up in the world of dog-nappers. It looks promising, as a bizarre story and a great cast was what made the director’s first film so special. Other notable trailer releases include: The Company You Keep, The To Do List, Butter, Passion, The Paperboy, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, That’s What She Said, Red Dawn, From Up on Poppy Hill, Trouble with the Curve, My Uncle Rafael, The Barrens, Frozen Ground, The Impossible, Unconditional, Stolen, The Last Stand, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Long men fei jia), Keep the Lights On, Deadfall, Great Expectations, Tai Chi 0, Playing for Keeps, Liberal Arts and Paranormal Activity 4.
Documenting Real Life: 2016: Obama’s America (PG) Given a limited release back in June, 2016: Obama’s America has grown in popularity to become one of the highest grossing documentaries of the year. The film saw a wide release into over 1500 theaters on the final day of the month, easily making it the most popular and widespread conservative film ever made. Other notable documentaries from last month include: Samsara, Hollywood to Dollywood, Side by Side, Wild Horse, Wild Ride, Teddy Bear, Meet the Fokkens (Ouwehoeren), Death by China, The Green Wave, It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl, You’ve Been Trumped, The Ambassador and Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D.
Biggest Story: Tony Scott’s suicide (June 21, 1944-August 19, 2012) It was both sad and unexpected when it was learned that director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Unstoppable) jumped from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles, CA. Although he left two suicide notes, no reason was ever given to the public. The upcoming miniseries ‘Coma,’ which he executive produced with his brother Ridley Scott, will premiere in early September.
Next Year’s Razzie Contender: The Apparition (PG-13) The Razzie Awards, celebrating the worst films of the year, are always keeping an eye out for potential nominees for next year’s bash. Warner Brothers’ horror film The Apparition received almost no positive reviews from critics. It didn’t fair too well at the box office either (see Biggest Flop section) Another smaller but equally reviled film was The Babymakers. They really need to stop making comedies that revolve around sperm. How many semen jokes can there possibly be?
Comedies: The Campaign (R) Comedies fared better in August, with many receiving strong aggregate review scores from critics. The election-themed comedy starring Zack Galifianakis and Will Ferrell earned $75M worldwide by month’s end. The indie films For a Good Time, Call… and Sleepwalk with Me also kept audiences laughing.
That’s Still Playing?!: There’s nothing like watching a film on the big screen, and even though the following movies are out on home video or On Demand, you can still catch these titles playing in some cinemas: Born to Be Wild, The Hunger Games, Bernie, Hubble 3D, Under the Sea 3D and Monsieur Lazhar, Snow White and the Huntsman (out 9/11) and Goats (out 9/11).