Guardians of the Galaxy hits $300m but won't save 2014's limping US box office

Guardians of the Galaxy

The sixth Marvel Studios movie to cross $600m (£370m) worldwide was dethroned by the Idris Elba thriller No Good Deed, but we all know which one will live longer in the collective consciousness.

Guardians of the Galaxy now ranks third after seven weekends and crossed $300m in North America to reach $305.9m, consolidating its status as the highest ranking North American release of the year to date. At this stage in the calendar, it’s a likely bet to become the biggest North American release of 2014, while Transformers: Age of Extinction – far less potent in its country of origin – will round out the year as the top film worldwide on $1.1bn and counting. 

These are impressive numbers in isolation, but in the grand scheme of things will probably not save the 2014 box office from dropping against 2013. But watch as 2015 bounces back to become the biggest of all time, thanks to what on paper looks like an unbeatable stack of movies. These things are cyclical and the Hollywood trade press likes to forget this in its stampede to rustle up a little drama on a slow late-summer weekend. Meanwhile, international theatrical box office keeps on swelling. That is good news until it, too, eventually slows down.

The Drop hits the middle

The Drop, a crime drama starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini in his last film role, earned critical approval at its world premiere at the Toronto international film festival (Tiff) last week, yet nobody (except possibly the film-makers) would argue it set the festival alight. That rather muted reception translated into a middling $4.2m from 809 theatres that couldn’t compete with Idris Elba, dolphins, Guardians and ninja turtles, and The Drop placed sixth. There are four big releases this week and The Drop will do well if it’s still in the top 10 by the end of Sunday. Such is the way of box office these days: the market is so crowded that distributors – and the dreams of the content creators who have often devoted two years or more to their movie – tend to live or die by the first two sessions.

Eleanor Rigby remixed

There are three iterations of Ned Benson’s skilfully assembled relationship drama floating around. Companion pieces The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her, which tell the story of a break-up from the POV of the man (James McAvoy) and the woman (Jessica Chastain), premiered at Tiff 2013. Then there is the recut version, Them, which Harvey Weinstein got into Un Certain Regard in Cannes earlier this year and just opened at the weekend. It’s not entirely certain which versions he’s going to push for awards but he is going to push some type of Eleanor Rigby on voters, even though his main focus will be the Tiff audience award winner, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Them got off to a good start, earning $77,200 from four venues, a rather spiffing $19,300 per venue.

Toronto acquisitions

Each year, buyers head to Canada looking for treats and this year there were few available gems that hadn’t already been snapped up by distributors. Tiff 2014 was not a vintage year either for awards season fodder (the festival’s main role is as a launchpad for the North American awards season) or for box-office prospects. A lot of deals were done in the second week but the scent of desperation hung over the transactions as buyers scrambled to make up for a dismally slow opening weekend bereft of trade. Watch as most of these movies go on to undistinguished box-office careers within the next year – so often the fatal flaw in buying movies at festivals. The biggest deal of the lot was for Chris Rock’s comedy Top Five. This was the most surefire commercial prospect of the festival, which is why Paramount allegedly ponied up $12.5m for world rights. It will do big bucks, even if most of the revenue comes from transactional or subscription VOD deals via iTunes and Netflix. And when the distributors announce digital box-office results, nobody will be able to check the numbers because this is a notoriously opaque area. Just how Hollywood likes it.

The latest YA adaptation

These days it seems as if Hollywood has fallen into the pattern of another month, another YA adaptation. Audiences, however, are more discerning than studio executives give them credit for: not everything works as well as Twilight or The Hunger Games. Divergent, for example, got off to a cautious start, although it would appear to be a cash cow, given that Shailene Woodley’s broad appeal spells good news for future instalments as familiarity with the property kicks in. So what of The Maze Runner, which opens this week? Fox made a big splash at Comic-Con in July and the footage looked formulaic: imperilled children must summon the courage to overthrow a dystopian world order. It’s based on a 2009 novel and has no stars, which means it won’t have cost Fox a lot of money outside of effects. Lack of big names is no bar to success and so far the trade reviews have been mixed, so it’s anyone’s guess how The Maze Runner will perform. Which is pretty much how Hollywood operates week-in, week-out anyway.

North American top 10, 12-14 September 2014

1. No Good Deed, $24.5m

2. Dolphin Tale 2, $16.6m

3. Guardians of the Galaxy, $8m. Total: $305.9m

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, $4.8m. Total: $181m

5. Let’s be Cops, $4.3m. Total: $72.9m

6. The Drop, $4.2m

7. If I Stay, $4.1m. Total: $44.9m

8. The November Man, $2.8m. Total: $22.5m

9. The Giver, $2.6m. Total: $41.3m

10. The Hundred-Foot Journey, $2.5m. Total: $49.4m

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jeremy Kay, for theguardian.com on Monday 15th September 2014 12.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010