Weekend Box Office: Sept. 9-11 (Serving the Under-served)
Photo Credit: S & A
Box Office , Film

Weekend Box Office: Sept. 9-11 (Serving the Under-served)

“When the Bough Breaks”

Sometimes good things happen by accident. Take for example Sony/Screen Gems’ domination of what used to be a dependable Hollywood staple. And by Hollywood staple I mean, the usually all-white cast Hollywood erotic thriller genre. During the 80’s and 90’s, Hollywood studios were cranking them out regularly: “Fatal Attraction”, “Basic Instinct” and “Indecent Proposal” to name just three.

These films started to outstay their welcome, as they started to look all-too similar, and studios began making less of them; it became difficult to be original, and A-list movie stars were increasingly reluctant to play roles in those kinds of movies.

But Screen Gems, by accident (with Lionsgate joining in later), stumbled into a goldmine when they released “Obsession” with Idris Elba and Beyonce in 2009. True, it got terrible reviews, but it didn’t matter. It made a mint for Screen Gems (relative to its small budget), and that’s when the light bulb went off.

They realized that there is a huge untapped market of black female filmgoers who are starved for content featuring black women in a variety of roles. It’s more or less the same thing that happened recently with SFX and their comedy “Bad Moms” which has grossed over $107 million to date. The studio discovered, to their shock, that there were a lot of white female filmgoers who weren’t interested in the comic book movies that began to dominate studio filmmaking at the highest level, and just wanted to see themselves on the screen.

Call it serving the underserved. Movie goers who feel shut out by the bulk of movies released in theaters, especially at the studio level; and what’s out there is aimed primarily at males, 12-35. Screen Gems discovered that there were a lot of black women movie goers eager for some kind of on-screen recognition beyond the Tyler Perry (and Tyler Perry-esque) movies that were popular at the time (Something that Lionsgate figured out years earlier with those same Tyler Perry films); essentially what they described as films in which black women were “empowered” or were the heroes. So they began churning out other films similar to “Obsessed,” like “No Good Deed” and “The Perfect Guy,” while Lionsgate released titles like “Addicted.” These movies are always released in early Sept, after the summer season movies have played themselves out of theaters mostly, and there’s a lull before the fall films come in.

And these black, or “urban” if you prefer, erotic thrillers have other benefits as well. They’re cheap to produce, and you don’t need A-list stars to lead them. You can get actors on they way upm likes Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba were leading up to “No Good Deed,” or well-known but affordable actors like Morris Chestnut, who has a ton of credits to his name, but has never really been able to crack the A-list ceiling; and Regina Hall, who has never played the central, lead role in a film before, and would likely welcome the opportunity to do so in a film that may not be good, but could raise her profile a bit (especially if the film is enough of a hit), and may lead to other starring roles.

So it should be no surprise that Screen Gems released their latest addition to the genre this weekend, “When the Bough Breaks,” staring the ever reliable Chestnut, Hall and Jaz Sinclair, an unknown looking for a potential big break. The reviews have not been great. Variety, for example, said the film “comes across as a Lifetime cable movie that got lucky and won a lottery offering theatrical release as first prize.”

But they’re missing the point. Films like these are critic proof. Fans won’t stop seeing them because they get bad reviews. Black filmgoers, especially the women who films like these are being targeted to, enjoy their B-movies just like every other audience group, especially when the characters aren’t slaves, poor, struggling, selling drugs or dysfunctional.

So how did “Bough” do this weekend? It did OK; but not as well as some others films of the sub-genre. It came in second place, opening with $15 million, which is good, especially for a film that cost only $10 million to make. But “The Perfect Guy,” which was made for $12 million, opened with $25 million, and went on to gross $57 million, and could be one reason why Sanaa Lathan has recently seen an uptick in role offers.

Meanwhile “No Good Deed,” with a $13 million budget, opened with $24 million, and went on to make $52 million total.

So what happened with “Bough”? Have audiences grown tired of the sub-genre? Was it just more of the same in the eyes of audiences? Or something else entirely…

In first place this weekend was the Clint Eastwood/Tom Hanks film “Sully” which chronicles the experiences of airline flight captain Chesley Sullenberger, who saved the lives of his airplane passengers when he landed in the Hudson Rover, after an engine failure.

In third place, holding very strong, is the Screen Gems’ thriller “Don’t Breathe” with $66 million so far, and with another $20 million from international grosses. To date, it has become a real solid money maker for Sony.

The animated family film “The Wild Side” was a big loser for Lionsgate, and one of the few animated titles to be total busts at the box office this year.

Meanwhile, the modestly budgeted Disney film “Pete’s Dragon” is turning out to be a nice late summer surprise for the studio, with overseas numbers adding another $33 million so far.

The top 12 box office winners for the weekend follow:

1) Sully WB $35,505,000

2) When the Bough Breaks SGem $15,000,000

3) Don’t Breathe SGem $8,210,000 Total: $2,426 $66,833,158

4) Suicide Squad WB $5,650,000 Total: $307,407,853

5) The Wild Life LG/S $3,400,000

6) Kubo and the Two Strings Focus $3,230,000 Total: $40,847,680

7) Pete’s Dragon BV $2,938,000 Total: $70,016,653

8) Bad Moms STX $2,830,000 Total: $107,526,266

9) Hell or High Water LGF $2,600,000 Total: $19,823,734

10) Sausage Party Sony $2,300,000 Total: $93,182,579

11) No Manches Frida LGF $2,150,000 Total: $7,368,782

12) War Dogs WB $2,030,000 Total: $39,804,718

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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