Forecast: Thanks to massive debuts from Man of Steel, Monsters University and World War Z, June 2013 is on pace to be the highest-grossing June ever at the domestic box office. On the last weekend of the month, newcomers White House Down and The Heat are hoping to ride this positive wave to strong grosses. The movies each have appeal with recently-neglected female audiences, though it's unlikely either winds up high enough to takes first place away from Monsters University.
Opening at 3,222 locations, White House Down is the second "Die Hard in the White House" movie this year; the first was Olympus Has Fallen, which has earned $98.6 million since opening in March. On the surface, this would seem like an issue—why would audiences want to pay for essentially the same movie twice?—but historically that hasn't been the case.
A good example occurred way back in 1998 when Deep Impact and Armageddon opened two months apart. Deep Impact debuted first and took in $140.5 million, but with bigger names and better effects Armageddon ultimately wound up on top with $201.6 million. This is not to say that White House Down is guaranteed to earn more than Olympus Has Fallen; instead, it's merely an acknowledgement that opening second isn't a death sentence.
Sony's marketing effort for White House Down has, first-and-foremost, emphasized the talent involved. Stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are arguably at the peak of their popularity right now: Tatum is coming off a 2012 in which he starred in three $100 million movies, while Foxx just had the biggest hit of his career with Django Unchained ($162.8 million). Director Roland Emmerich also has a great box office track record, though it's debatable whether the fact that he directed The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 is a real selling point with audiences.
Content-wise, the marketing had a bit of an identity crisis early on. By highlighting an explosion at the Capitol Building and the downing of Air Force One, the first trailer positioned White House Down as classic Emmerich fare (i.e. iconic locations are destroyed). However, that's small-scale compared to Emmerich's past work—he was blowing up entire cities two decades ago—and the marketing quickly shifted to portraying the movie as a Tatum/Foxx buddy action comedy that happened to be set at the White House. While that's an appealing-enough set-up, it doesn't put the movie on track for blockbuster-level grosses initially.
Sony is expecting around $30 million for the weekend, which would be nearly identical to Olympus Has Fallen's $30.4 million start, but would be a step down for Tatum, Foxx, and Emmerich.
At 3,181 locations, buddy cop comedy The Heat looks like it may actually open higher than White House Down. Similar to White House Down's campaign, The Heat's marketing has emphasized its two top stars and its director. As an uptight FBI agent and a foul-mouthed Boston cop, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy both seem to be operating within their comedic wheelhouse here. That's good news, considering both have a strong box office track-record: Bullock's last comedy, The Proposal, opened to $33.6 million, while McCarthy is coming off a $34.6 million debut for February's Identity Thief.
Equally important is the fact that The Heat was directed by Paul Feig, whose last movie Bridesmaids earned an excellent $169.1 million and has gone on to gain an even bigger following in its post-theatrical window.
All of these elements suggest the movie will have big appeal with women, who have been seriously neglected over the past few months. It doesn't hurt that there's not a lot of competition right now: This is the End will bring in around $10 million this weekend, but otherwise there's nothing out there for comedy audiences.
R-rated comedy Ted opened against a Channing Tatum movie on the same weekend last year and took in $54.4 million. While The Heat's buddy cop premise isn't nearly as appealing as Ted bong-smoking teddy bear, it should still be in for a strong debut. Fandango is reporting that The Heat is leading all advanced ticket sellers, and is selling 50 percent more tickets than Bridesmaids at the same point. If that bears out for the weekend, The Heat will earn over $35 million (Fox is hoping to at least get to $30 million).
Forecast (June 28-30)
1. Monsters University - $44.8 million (-46%)
2. The Heat - $42.2 million
3. White House Down - $38.3 million
4. World War Z - $31.7 million (-52%)
5. Man of Steel - $20.3 million (-51%)
Bar for Success
Olympus Has Fallen opened to just over $30 million; with a Summer release, more star power and better visual effects, White House Down must open higher than this. If it hits $40 million, it will be in good shape. Meanwhile, The Heat is a winner if it can match Identity Thief's $34.4 million start.