'The Hitman's Bodyguard' wins a lazy weekend box office as the 'Logan Lucky' experiment fails

The hitmans bodybuard lionsgateLionsgate‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard.’

The summer movie season is limping to the finish line as this August features no major blockbuster releases from any of the major studios. That has opened the door for midsize and independent distributors to show off what they can offer.

Sadly, it isn’t anything that is going to scare off the majors.

Despite a lot of hype in how he was releasing his first feature film in four years, Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” opened in theatres with only an estimated $US8 million, according to Exhibitor Relations.

The auteur released the heist movie — which stars big names like Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig — through his own company and controlled the distribution (Bleecker Street handled the nuts and bolts of the release) and marketing for it. It was the first time Soderbergh has been able to have that power.

But the plan of releasing the movie wide on over 3,000 screens with a small marketing campaign that focused more on the midwest and south instead of New York and Los Angeles seems to have backfired. Soderbergh said an opening at $US15 million — a modest figure seeing the number of screens it was released on — would be a win. But the movie couldn’t even crack double digits.

That led to Lionsgate’s conventional release of its action comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, to run away with the weekend. It blew away all titles with an estimated $US21 million opening, according to The Wrap.

Soderbergh and Bleecker Street must be scratching their heads on what they did wrong.

“Logan Lucky” has a much stronger Rotten Tomatoes score (93% compared to 39%), placed perfectly on the release calendar where it went up against zero studio fare, and arguably had a more eye-catching cast compared to “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” but it still came up short.

The silver lining here is because the movie got most of its production budget ($US29 million) in pre-sales of the movie, a big studio isn’t taking a cut of its box office receipts, and much of its $US20 million marketing budget may be intact (only 15% of it was gone three weeks out from its opening). So the movie may not be looking at a major loss.

However, the “Logan Lucky” experiment isn’t going to inspire other auteurs to take on the releases of their movies, which is pleasant news for big studios and distributors.

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