June 18-20 Box Office Predictions

F9 is likely to give us the biggest box office premiere since late 2019 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker… but that’s not coming until late next week. For this weekend, we could see another frame like this latest one where no picture reaches the teens. We have one newcomer and that’s action comedy sequel Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek reprising their roles from the 2017 original. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Box Office Prediction

Bodyguard opens on Wednesday and I’m projecting its five-day count gets it high teens. That likely means low double digits for the traditional Friday to Sunday frame. That should be enough for it to open at #1 due to the disappointing returns for In the Heights this past weekend (more on that below).

We could see a showdown for the runner-up slot between A Quiet Place Part II and Heights. Both should experience declines in 30s range (there’s certainly the chance that the latter doesn’t fall that far due to solid word-of-mouth). Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway may stay in fourth position after its lackluster start and that would put The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in fifth.

So as we await the return of Vin Diesel and his space bound vehicles, here’s how I have the top five shaking out:

1. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $12.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $17.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

2. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $7.9 million

3. In the Heights

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million

4. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

5. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

Box Office Results (June 11-13)

In a surprise development, A Quiet Place Part II returned to the top spot in its third frame with $12 million (ahead of my $9.4 million forecast). I had it pegged for third and the soft debuts of the newbies prevented that. The critically acclaimed horror sequel made some history along the way by becoming the first feature in the COVID era to reach $100 million. Its current total is $109 million.

Back to those disappointing newcomers as In the Heights came in on the very lowest end of expectations with $11.5 million… or not even half of my $26.8 million projection. Despite mostly glowing reviews and awards buzz, Heights simply didn’t come close to maximizing its potential. There’s plenty of theories as to why (including the fact that its streaming on HBO Max and the challenge of audiences going to theaters for non-sequels), but it’s tricky for Warner Bros to spin this. As mentioned, its best hope is for sturdy legs in the weekends ahead.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It dropped from 1st to 3rd with $10.3 million compared to my $8.7 million prediction. The 57% drop isn’t too shabby for its genre and it’s taken in $44 million during the first ten days of release.

Family audiences didn’t hop to the multiplexes for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. It placed fourth with $10.1 million. I was far generous at $15.9 million. Considering the 2018 original took in $25 million out of the gate, this is another hard one for its studio to explain away.

Lastly, Cruella rounded out the top five with $6.7 million (I said $6.3 million) for an overall tally of $55 million.

And that does it for now folks! Until next time…

The Woman in the Window Review

The deeply troubled agoraphobic Anna Fox (Amy Adams) has a habit of avoiding reality in The Woman in the Window by chugging a bottle of wine and distracting herself with classic old movies. This is her way of not dealing with the story unfolding around her. There are times where I could relate as those vintage pictures would provide a better escape than what happens here for the most part.

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour), Window is based on a 2018 novel by A.J. Finn. It features quite a list of Oscar winners (Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore) and actors you may think have won them (Adams, Jennifer Jason Leigh). The screenwriter Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer winning playwright. With that  level of talent involved, one would think Window would rise above the histrionic Hitchcockian “homage” that it is. Mentioning Mr. Hitchcock might be too complimentary. This shares many similar plot points to 2016’s The Girl on the Train, which was also based on a book meant to be read on an airplane or the beach you rush to after the flight. You could easily call this The Girl on the Painkillers.

Dr. Fox is a child psychologist whose condition has kept her confined to her Manhattan apartment. In addition to her binge drinking/movie watching, she spends most of her day spying on neighbors. The new ones across the street are the Russell family – businessman Alistair (Oldman), wife Jane (Moore), and teen son Ethan (Fred Hechinger). Or maybe not. After the wife and boy visit her, Anna suspects some abuse is occurring in the household. The mystery deepens when Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up as Alistair’s spouse. Maybe the abundance of Anna’s medication is causing hallucinations. Our voyeur tries to enlist the NYPD, led by Brian Tyree’s Henry detective, and her basement tenant (Wyatt Russell) to assist with her amateur sleuthing. There’s also the matter of Anna’s only family. She’s separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie) and they have a young daughter. They turn up in flashback form and saying much more would enter spoiler territory.

The Woman in the Window contains plenty of twists that might have worked in paperback form. The treatment by Wright and Letts is a tonally frantic one. This is primarily a melodrama that begs to be taken seriously from time to time. Some of the performers seem in on it as Oldman, Moore, and Hechinger got the memo to overact wildly. Yet this never reaches its apparent goal of being a genuine guilty pleasure. That’s too bad because the behind the camera personnel and cast in front of it deserved better. Many of those examples are contained in Anna’s cinematic collection in her brownstone where less spellbinding developments are transpiring.

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

The Tribeca Film Festival, cofounded by Robert De Niro and celebrating its 20th year, kicked off this weekend with the premiere of one of 2021’s highest profile documentaries. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain recounts the life and tragic 2018 death of its chef, author, TV host, and renowned traveler title subject. The film comes from Morgan Neville and he’s had a hit or miss relationship with Oscar voters.

Neville’s 20 Feet from Stardom from 2013, which told the tale of background singers working for musical legends, won Best Documentary Feature at the big show. His two follow-ups were both acclaimed and each missed the final five nominated selections from the Academy. 2015’s Best of Enemies, focused on the relationship between political commentators William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, was shortlisted for the category but didn’t hear its name called on nomination morning. In 2018, one of the biggest snubs was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? not garnering attention.The director’s bio about the legendary Mister Rogers was a box office smash as far as docs are concerned. It was considered a shoo-in for a nod with a chance to win. Yet that never materialized.

Early reviews for Roadrunner indicate that Neville has fashioned another engrossing look at a familiar television presence. However, trying to guess what the Academy’s branch of documentary voters will do is consistently a tricky proposition. Expect this pic to be on the radar screen for inclusion, but whether it makes the cut is uncertain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Blockbuster Is Back: A Not So Quiet Return

When my intense interest in all things movies (including box office returns) began at a young age, the concept of the blockbuster was a fairly rare thing. Many classified it as a feature earning over $100 million domestically. When I became a teenager in 1992, there were only seven pictures that reached the milestone in that calendar year. When I turned 16 in 1995, there were six. The list expanded to 11 in my 18th year.

$100 million being a significant benchmark isn’t what it used to be. In fact, if a MCU extravaganza only grossed that number, it would be considered a massive flop. The number of films blasting past nine digits in recent times speaks for itself. In 2015, there were 29. 2016 brought 30. There were 33 in 2017 and 34 in 2018. The 2019 number was 31.

And then… COVID-19 happened and that previous consistency fell by the wayside. Theaters were shuttered or open in limited capacity for the bulk of 2020. That meant the number of domestic releases last year that topped $100 million were… 2. Both premiered before the coronavirus changed our world as we know it: Bad Boys for Life and Sonic the Hedgehog. 

Studios occasionally put out big movies that otherwise would have surely reached the mark like Warner Bros with Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984. However, the challenges affiliated with the virus prevented that.

Over the last several weeks, we see the country opening back up in lots of different ways. We will see an important example occur tonight. A Quiet Place Part II is poised to become the first movie in a year and a half to gross $100 million. Godzilla vs. Kong is sitting at $99 million and could also achieve that designation by the weekend. In short order, the number of blockbusters will have matched what we saw in 2020.

As the summer box office rolls along, there are other contenders that should or could do the same. F9 (which is over $200 million already overseas) and Black Widow are obvious ones. In the Heights, out today, is garnering Oscar chatter and glowing reviews and it could ride that buzz to hefty grosses. There’s also The Suicide Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Jungle Cruise, and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. 

The September-December frame brings other surefire contenders and possibilities: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Dune, No Time to Die, Halloween Kills, Eternals, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Top Gun: Maverick, Encanto, West Side Story, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Matrix 4, Sing 2 among them.

Bottom line: there likely won’t be 30 plus $100 million makers in 2021. Yet the eventual number will far exceed what we witnessed in 2020 where multiplexes were a quiet place. Not anymore.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Box Office Prediction

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (rolls right off the tongue… doesn’t it?) hits multiplexes on Wednesday, June 16th. The comedic action sequel brings back Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek with Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hopper, Antonio Banderas, and Morgan Freeman joining the party. Patrick Hughes return to direct.

Originally slated to debut in August 2020 before its COVID delay, this follows up on the 2017 original which was a solid late summer performer. It opened to $21 million nearly four years ago with an eventual $75 million domestic take. At that time, Mr. Reynolds was hot off 2016’s Deadpool and that may have contributed to Bodyguard‘s success.

I genuinely wonder if audiences are clamoring for this to be a franchise and lean toward meh. The original achieved a B+ Cinemascore (which is decent but not great) and Reynolds doesn’t have the benefit of coming off a smash. Even with the expanded five-day rollout, I’m not even sure it reaches $20M+.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard opening weekend prediction: $12.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $17.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

June 11-13 Box Office Predictions

The two week spell of horror sequels topping the box office charts should be broken this weekend with the release of the musical adaptation for In the Heights and kiddie follow-up Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

In the Heights Box Office Prediction

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Box Office Prediction

I look for multiplexes playing Heights to not be a quiet place and I’m projecting a mid 20s rollout for what should be a #1 opening. This is despite Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-creation also playing on HBO Max as the pic is the first real Oscar buzz contender of 2021. I anticipate a healthy female and Latino turnout.

The Rabbit sequel may not match the $25 million achieved by its 2018 predecessor, but I do think it’ll conjure up a mid to high teens posting for what should easily be a second place debut.

As for those horror sequels, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It premiered on the higher end of expectations (more on that below). The previous direct predecessor, 2016’s The Conjuring 2, fell a precipitous 63% in its sophomore outing. Devil will probably suffer a similar decline and that could put it in a third place showdown with the third frame of A Quiet Place Part II. I actually believe Place could edge out Devil for that slot, but it should be awfully close. Disney’s Cruella will round out the top five.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. In the Heights

Predicted Gross: $26.8 million

2. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Predicted Gross: $15.9 million

3. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $9.4 million

4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $8.7 million

5. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $6.3 million

Box Office Results (June 11-13)

I was too generous to the holdovers and too miserly with the newcomers this past weekend as The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opened at #1 with $24 million. My prediction of $19.8 million was off the mark and I had it placing second to A Quiet Place Part II. Oops. The return of the Warrens and their supernatural investigations premiered on the higher end of expectations, but well below the $40 million plus starts of its two predecessors. That said, considering it’s also on HBO Max, it’s a solid haul.

A Quiet Place Part II slipped to second with a 59% decline and $19.2 million. I was far more optimistic at $28.4 million. While I was off, Paramount has to be pleased. The sequel has generated $88 million in ten days.

Cruella was third in its sophomore outing at $11 million (I projected more with $13 million). The Disney live-action remake stands at $43 million.

DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed was fourth with $6.1 million, galloping past my $4.4 million forecast. While I was more skeptical, this is about where it was anticipated to land.

Raya and the Last Dragon was fifth with $1.2 million (I said $1.6 million) and it’s up to $53 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Annabelle Comes Home Review

The first Annabelle spinoff in 2014 felt like a cheap and quick money grab after the success of The Conjuring the year before and I’d say it stands as the worst experience in this cinematic universe. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation managed to slightly improve on its predecessor as it told the 1950s set backstory of the demonic doll. Some horror aficionados felt it was a significant improvement, but I wouldn’t go that far. Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place about a year after the events of The Conjuring, accomplishes what very few trilogies can. I think this is the best of the trio and about on the level with The Conjuring 2 as far as effectiveness. That means it’s nowhere near the quality of the film that kicked the whole shebang off, but it’s well-crafted and feels like some effort got put into it.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and they basically bookend this latest haunting. The real focus is their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) as she deals with that supremely creepy looking title doll. Her parents have recently acquired Annabelle and locked her in a case that explicitly warns others to keep it closed. When the Warrens go off somewhere investigating what will probably be a Conjuring flick someday, Judy is left in the care of high school babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins the party and is curious if there are evil spirits lurking in the Warren household. She’s also desperate to connect with her recently deceased father.

As we know, Daniela has found the right house to do just that. Her actions unlock a whole lotta spirited occurrences which come with the franchise’s now well-known and precise sound effects editing. Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle‘s and The Nun (he also penned both It pics). This walks a sometimes pleasurable line between the terrorized babysitter premise while being steeped in Conjuring lore. We briefly see several other spirits awakened and that includes a dog who’s a bad boy and a board game with a mind of its own.

Yet Annabelle Comes Home never turns into Ouija or Cujo. Most of the focus is on Annabelle. And despite her still scary appearance, no Conjuring sequel/spinoff has quite nailed the key objective: being consistently scary itself. With the exception of Annabelle’s first 2014 starring role, they look good and sound really good. They’re also far cries from what started it all.

**1/2 (out of four)

Ranking the Saw Movies

As of this week, I have now completed my rewatch of the Saw franchise from the 2004 original through this year’s Spiral. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen more grisly traps, body parts flying, endless flashbacks, and more tape recorders than a Radio Shack in the 1980s than I care to remember.

Of course, my reviews of this ennead was brought on by the release of Spiral, Chris Rock’s foray into a reboot. I was hopeful that it would stand as one of the bright spots in this dark group of bloody tales. It wasn’t to be. With each placement on this list, you will find my longer post.

Opinions are varied on the overall placement of the Saw pictures in terms of quality. There’s not much debate that the first is the best and it’s a sentiment I certainly share.

After that we see plenty of debate. I still maintain that the first three (in which Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is alive though not well in health or mind) stand above anything that followed. There are ardent admirers of part 6, but I feel IV-VII represented a considerable dip in quality and the sixth is not immune to that criticism. 2017’s Jigsaw was more successful in rebooting the films than the recent Spiral, though it has plenty of flaws.

And with that, here are my rankings in the Saw cinematic universe:

9. Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

8. Spiral (2021)

The Jigsaw Files: Spiral (2021)

7. Saw IV (2007)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

6. Saw VI (2009)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw VI (2009)

5. Saw V (2008)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw V (2008)

4. Jigsaw (2017)

The Jigsaw Files: Jigsaw (2017)

3. Saw III (2006)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

2. Saw II (2005)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

1. Saw (2004)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Box Office Prediction

After hopping around the release calendar at least half a dozen times due to COVID-19 delays, the hybrid live-action/animated comedic adventure Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway hits theaters June 11. Will Gluck returns to direct with James Corden again voicing the title character and Margot Robbie reprising her behind the mic work as Flopsy. Live-action participants include Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, and David Oyelowo. Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne, Sia, and Sam Neill are among the voice cast.

In 2018, the first Rabbit premiered on the high end of expectations with $25 million and legged out nicely to a $115 overall domestic haul. Part 2 shouldn’t fall too far off that mark, but I do believe it’ll have trouble reaching that number. This won’t have anything to do with reviews. The 2018 pic had a mixed critical reaction with 63% on Rotten Tomatoes while the sequel is currently perched at 71%.

The Runaway has already opened in Australia and the United Kingdom to decent results. More than three years after the original, there could be a falloff of some youngsters not clamoring to see the followup. That said, a gross of $20 million is feasible. I’ll put it a few million below that figure though.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opening weekend prediction: $15.9 million

For my In the Heights prediction, click here:

In the Heights Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Spirit Untamed

In 2002, the horse drawn animated adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron managed a Best Animated Feature nomination (ultimately losing to Spirited Away). Nearly two decades ago, the pic received mostly positive reviews with a 70% Rotten Tomatoes rating and decent box office. Since then, a Netflix series focused on the main character led to Spirit Untamed, which opens in theaters today. It features the voices of some familiar faces like Jake Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore

So how are its odds to race to awards voters ballots? Not good. Untamed has mostly stalled with critics and its Tomato meter is a mere 44%. We already have solid contenders to make the final cut (Raya and the Last Dragon and The Mitchells vs. The Machines) and there’s plenty more on deck for the second half of the year including the soon to be released Luca from Pixar.

Bottom line: I can’t imagine Dreamworks Animation will mount a spirited campaign for this one. Gyllenhaal’s only equestrian related Oscar contender should remain Brokeback Mountain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…