LOS ANGELES, Aug 14 — Is everyone on vacation?

That would be one plausible explanation behind the great box office slowdown. Although three new movies opened nationwide, none were able to crack the top five on domestic charts and only two — A24’s satirical slasher Bodies Bodies Bodies and Lionsgate’s vertigo-inducing thriller Fall — managed to infiltrate the top 10.

It’s even more dire that Sony’s action-thriller Bullet Train, which claimed the top spot for the second weekend in a row with US$13.1 million (RM58 million) from 4,357 North American locations, was the sole film to bank at least US$10 million in ticket sales. After two weeks on the big screen, the Brad Pitt-led Bullet Train has generated US$54.4 million at the domestic box office. This weekend marks the first time since February 11-13 — when Death on the Nile opened to a weak US$12.3 million and Jennifer Lopez’s romantic comedy Marry Me stumbled with even less — that only one movie reached at least US$10 million between Friday and today.

And the glacial drip, drip, drip of ticket sales is only going to worsen as the box office heads for a near desolate stretch with hardly any new offerings from major studios on the horizon. While movie theatre owners brace for the downtrend, they are bowing at the altar of Harry Styles in hopes the pop heartthrob will inspire audiences to return to theatres in droves for director Olivia Wilde’s mind-bender Don’t Worry Darling, which doesn’t open until September 23.

Until then, exhibitors will have to make do with smaller thrillers and dramas like Idris Elba’s Beast, which is coming on August 19; Three Thousand Years of Longing, a fantasy romance with Tilda Swinton and Elba (again) on August 26; and the Viola Davis-led historical epic The Woman King on September 16.

In eighth place, Bodies Bodies Bodies beat expectations with US$3.2 million from 1,290 locations. After kicking off last weekend in limited release, the movie has grossed US$3.5 million to date and plans to expand to 2,000+ theatres next weekend. But otherwise, audiences wanted little to do with Fall and Diane Keaton’s body-swap comedy Mack & Rita, the other movie that debuted over the weekend.

Fall just barely landed in 10th place with US$2.5 million from 1,548 venues. The movie, centring on two best friends who climb 2,000 feet to the top of an abandoned radio tower and find themselves stranded with no way down, was relatively low risk for Lionsgate as it cost only US$3 million to produce and less than US$4 million to promote. It won’t take much coinage to turn a profit, and home entertainment will be helpful with that mission.

Elsewhere, Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction classic E.T. — which debuted 40 years ago — grossed more money over the weekend than Keaton’s Mack and Rita. The Gravitas Ventures release premiered in 13th place with US$1.03 million from 1,930 screens. Universal’s re-release of E.T. raked in US$1.07 million from only 389 Imax screens.

As expected, Mack and Rita brought out mostly older women, with 74 per cent of ticket buyers identifying as female and 69 per cent over the age of 30. They were not kind to the movie, which landed a “D+” CinemaScore. Reviews were equally harsh, resulting in a bleak 26 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

With the dismal turnout for most other movies, Paramount’s ever-powerful blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick swooped to second place in its 12th weekend of release. The action sequel added US$7.1 million from 3,181 venues over the weekend, bringing its domestic tally to US$673.8 million. That means Maverick is roughly US$5 million away from dethroning Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War as the sixth-highest grossing movie in domestic box office history. — Reuters