LOS ANGELES — Without a superhero movie or new studio sequel in play, this weekend provided an opening for two smaller films to shine. But as the weekend drew to a close, one was beaming brighter than the other.
That title goes to Lionsgate’s R-rated action comedy “Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which fired off to $21.6 million during its opening weekend at 3,377 locations. That’s a solid opening, especially during a painful summer for the movie business and sleepy month of August. The final tally was fueled by an aggressive marketing push, and a trio of stars at the center — Samuel L. Jackson as a notorious hitman, and Salma Hayek as his equally threatening wife, and Ryan Reynolds as a bodyguard. The film comes courtesy of director Patrick Hughes (“The Expendables 3”) and writer Tom O’Connor.
“‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is generating great word-of-mouth among moviegoers,” said Lionsgate’s distribution president David Spitz. “It has a clear runway in the weeks ahead, and we expect it to play well right into September.”
Meanwhile, “Logan Lucky” — a critical darling from Steven Soderbergh and Bleecker Street — is sputtering. The heist comedy, which relied on an unconventional production and marketing strategy, looks to make $8.1 million this weekend from 3,031 theaters. The film was partially funded through foreign presales and partnering with Amazon for streaming rights. The story — penned by Rebecca Blunt, who likely doesn’t exist — centers on a trio of siblings played by Channing Tatum, Riley Keough and Adam Driver, who attempt to pull off a massive robbery. It’s set at the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.
Of the two, “Logan Lucky” fared better with critics, earning a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to “Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which has a 39 percent. But the roles are reversed when it comes to audience reception — “Hitman’s Bodyguard” has a B+ CinemaScore as opposed to “Logan Lucky’s” B.
In the end, “Logan Lucky” will end up in third for the weekend behind the second frame of “Annabelle: Creation.” The latest in the “Conjuring” universe from Warner Bros. is targeting $15.5 million from 3,542 locations. And “Dunkirk” will land in fourth behind “Logan Lucky” with an estimated $6.7 million. The same studio has more cause to celebrate as “Wonder Woman” crosses $800 million worldwide.
“Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” rounds out the top five this weekend with $5.1 million.
Overall, the lackluster summer continues: This season’s box office has slipped to 13.3 percent behind last year at this point, according to data from ComScore, which also reports the 2017 box office is now pacing 5 percent behind 2016.