A pair of new movies shows little promise of unseating last weekend's surprise horror hit "Don't Breathe" from the top of the domestic box-office charts, as Hollywood's rocky summer blockbuster season limps to its quiet close.
"Don't Breathe," the $10-million home invasion thriller from Sony Pictures' Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films, debuted with an impressive $26 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales and is likely to extend its reign with about $13 million in additional grosses Friday through Monday.
That leaves Australian-set romantic drama "The Light Between Oceans" and science-fiction thriller "Morgan" to inject some last-minute life into the summer box office during Labor Day weekend. But neither is expected to generate big numbers at the multiplex — less than $10 million apiece — according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys.
Industrywide summer ticket sales are expected to hit $4.5 billion May 6 through Labor Day in the U.S. and Canada, virtually tied with last year, according to ComScore. Although studios have enjoyed some massive hits like "Captain America: Civil War" and "The Secret Life of Pets," they've also been bruised by pricey flops, including Paramount's "Ben-Hur," Disney's "The BFG" and Fox's "Independence Day: Resurgence."
"This definitely is the last gasp," said Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst at ComScore. "This is traditionally one of the quietest weekends at the summer box office. You're typically not breaking records over Labor Day weekend."
Of the new wide releases, the likely victor appears to be "The Light Between Oceans," based on the novel by M.L. Stedman and starring real-life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. The two play a husband and wife living on a remote island of Australia's coast in the years after World War I. There they adopt a baby who mysteriously washes ashore, and things get even more complicated when a grieving mother (Rachel Weisz) enters their lives.
The $20-million film, distributed by Disney under its Touchstone Pictures label, is expected to gross a modest $6 million to $9 million, despite its highly respected cast and popular source material.
"The Light Between Oceans" represents the final DreamWorks Pictures movie to get a release from the Walt Disney Co. under their expiring distribution pact. Movies produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks will now be released by Universal Pictures under an agreement signed last year by Amblin Partners, a consortium of companies that includes DreamWorks, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One. DreamWorks' mid-budget adult dramas had become less of a focus for Disney as the Burbank entertainment giant turned its attention to franchise-based juggernauts including Marvel Studios, Pixar Animation Studios and LucasFilm.
Meanwhile, low-budget sci-fi thriller "Morgan," distributed by 20th Century Fox, is expected to gross about $6 million in its opening. In the directorial debut of Ridley Scott's son Luke Scott, Kate Mara (known for Netflix's "House of Cards") plays a risk-management professional forced to make the decision whether to destroy an artificially created being, played by Anya Taylor-Joy of this year's indie horror hit "The Witch." Luckily, "Morgan" cost just $8 million to make.
Elsewhere in cinemas, the neo-western hit "Hell or High Water" from CBS Films and Lionsgate will expand to 1,200 theaters in an attempt to build on its box-office momentum. Bolstered by positive reviews, the R-rated crime drama starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges has taken in $8.4 million so far in its limited run. "Southside With You," the indie film about Barack and Michelle Obama's first date, is also expected to expand slightly after grossing a solid $2.9 million last weekend from 813 theaters.